Is eternal security a license to sin?

Is the belief of eternal security a “license to sin”? Many opponents of the eternal security doctrine claim that if Christians cannot lose their salvation, it therefore allows them to go and live any kind of life they want. Is this the case? No, it is not. Why? A believer will not desire to live after their flesh, but to live after the spirit:

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” – Romans 8:1

When a believer is “born again” (John 3:7) and born of God (John 1:12-13), they are made a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). This transformation is known as regeneration. It is defined as the Holy Spirit’s work changing a person’s orientation from rebellion against God to under God’s will and lordship. Would a regenerated person continue to live in a state of unrepentant sin? No, they won’t. Consider:

“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” – 1 John 2:4–5

Someone who claims to believe and follow Christ but doesn’t keep His commandments is not a true believer. Christians are created unto good works:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

Will a true believer have good works to show for their faith? Consider what James wrote:

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” – James 2:17–18

Do Christians sin?

So if a professing believer doesn’t keep the commandments of Christ all the time, does that mean they are not truly saved? Consider 1 John 2:

“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” – 1 John 2:1

John tells us that if we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. There is no question that Christians are guilty of committing sins. Every human being sins (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8). So if Christians still sin, what is the difference between a Christian and an unbeliever? When a Christian sins, they know it. They regret it. The life of a Christian involves a constant struggle with sin. Look at what Paul wrote about his own struggle:

“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” – Romans 7:14–25

The above Scripture is lengthy, but it demonstrates that even the Apostle Paul struggled with his sinful flesh. Christians today are no different. The difference between a Christian and an unbeliever is the struggle: the Christian wars with their sinful nature, whereas an unbeliever does not.

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Is eternal security true?

Eternal security, also known as “once saved, always saved,” is the teaching that a believer, once they have attained salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, will never lose their salvation. The believer may subsequently fall into sin, but their soul is eternally secure. Is there any biblical basis for this teaching? Let’s take a look at a few verses:

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” – John 6:37–40

As we read these words of Jesus, what is He saying? Let’s break it down by points:

  • All believers are given to Jesus by the Father.
  • All believers that are given will come.
  • Jesus will not cast out all who come.
  • Jesus came not to do His will, but the will of the Father.
  • So what is the will of the father? That Jesus will not lose one that was given to Him, but raise him up again at the last day.

If Jesus were to lose one that was given to Him, then it means that Jesus failed at doing the will of the Father. Since Jesus never fails to do the will of the Father, we can conclude that Jesus will not lose one that was given to Him.

Look at John 10:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” – John 10:27–30

Jesus tells us that He gives His sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish. If someone became one of Jesus’ sheep at a point in time and then later perished having fallen from grace, this would contradict Jesus’ words. He goes further to say that no man will be able to pluck His sheep out of His or His Father’s hand.

What about Matthew 7:22-23?

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” – Matthew 7:22–23

Jesus says that many people will say “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” And Jesus will reply “I never knew you.” Jesus is not going to say “I knew you at one time, but you fell away from me.” No, Jesus will say “I never knew you.”

The Irreversible Transformation

What happens to a person when they become a believer? The Scripture tells us of a life-changing transformation that occurs. A believer is “born again” (John 3:7), born of God (John 1:12–13), and made a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). Additionally, the believer receives and is sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13–14; 1 Corinthians 6:19), becomes one with Christ (Romans 8:10; Colossians 1:26–27), and becomes an heir to an inheritance (Acts 26:18; Colossians 3:22–24; 1 Peter 1:3–5).

Are these changes reversible? Are they something that can be undone? Can a person be “unborn” or “unmade” as a new creature? No, they cannot. Some argue that a person’s spirit can die, but how can that be considering the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and seals them unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30)? How can a believer eternally perish when we are in Christ and He is in us?

The Circumcision Made Without Hands

Colossians 2 talks about a circumcision “made without hands”:

“And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” – Colossians 2:10–15

Paul tells us that we are complete in Christ, in whom we are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands. Being made without hands, this is a spiritual circumcision where our sinful body of flesh is cut away from our soul. We are “risen with him” through faith and have been forgiven of all our trespasses.

Is circumcision a reversible action? No, it is not. Flesh cannot be reattached after it is cut. The same holds true of our “circumcision made without hands” (i.e. the spiritual circumcision). God does not reattached our flesh to our soul dependent upon our actions. When God looks at a believer, He is not seeing them as a sinner. Rather, He sees them with the imputed righteousness of Christ (Romans 5:18–19; Colossians 3:3–4; Hebrews 8:12).

1 Peter 1:5

Many who oppose the doctrine of eternal security believe that one’s salvation is dependent upon “how good” they can be. If someone slips up and sins, their salvation goes bye-bye until they can clean up their act. Is this what the Bible teaches?

Personally, if my salvation were dependent upon me keeping it, then I am destined for hell. Every single person on Earth, including myself, fails God on a daily basis through sin. But are we kept by our own power?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3–5

Peter tells us that it isn’t by our own power that we are kept, but rather by the “power of God.” God holds onto us, not the other way around.

Arguments Against Eternal Security

I’d like to take a moment to address other verses that relate to eternal security. First, we must understand that the Bible never contradicts Itself, as God never contradicts Himself. So what is to be said about many verses used to argue against eternal security?

If there ever appears to be a contradiction in Scripture, it is only an error in our understanding. We must go by what we know, and then interpret the rest consistently. Furthermore, it is important to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) to understand what Scripture applies to believers today and what does not. It is clear from John 6, John 10, and a plethora of other Scripture that believers in Christ will never perish, so we must interpret the remainder of Scripture consistent with John 6, John 10, etc.

Recommended Further Reading

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” – John 5:24

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” – John 14:16–17

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” – John 17:11

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” – Hebrews 7:25

“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:1–2

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” – 1 John 5:13

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” – Jude 24–25


Updated: 02/12/2018