Eternal Security - Thoughts on the Endless Debate
|. . . that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine . . .|
The original project
In the late 1990s, I felt compelled to write a web site outlining the Biblical arguments for the eternal security of the believer. Motivated by the endless debates and harsh, one-sided conditional-security web sites, I set out to defend the fact that a believer's conversion and relationship with Jesus Christ is forever. After all, I had spent years studying and praying for understanding God's Word on this issue in my own life. I wanted to try and be an encouragement to those struggling with the issue, as I once struggled. So I spent weeks preparing and writing the site. After I finished, it was online for several months.
But eventually, I felt the Spirit of God calling me to take down the site that I had written, and replace it with this message. This isn't implying that the position on eternal security that I hold to is wrong. It's simply to reiterate this: The Holy Spirit is the best teacher there is.
|But the anointing which you have received of Him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.|
-1 John 2:27
No one ever sat me down and taught me 'eternal security'. I never heard a sermon or read a book that formulated the concept for me. The Bible, along with the instruction of the Spirit, alone is the foundation for my eternal security. In fact, it was over two years from my conversion that I discovered it was even an issue. Until that day, I had never so much as heard the terms 'once saved, always saved' and 'eternal security'.
No web site can convince someone of the truth the way that the Holy Spirit can. No lasting assurance on any issue can come from the convincing words of man - it can only come from the Holy Spirit, who promised to teach the Christian everything he or she needs to know as that person reads the Scriptures (John 14:26, 1 John 2:27). He's still teaching me to understand the Bible, and I know I can trust His word. No one can second-guess Him.
So what do I do now?
If you are struggling with the issue of your eternal security, the Bible is your only lasting answer book. Commit to reading and studying it, asking God to teach you. There will be days when you'll read passages that encourage you. There will be other days when verses will scare you and leave you depressed. But in time, when it all comes together (and it will) you'll have an assurance of security that no apologist, no web site, no book, no doubts can ever shake. And that's more than I can ever give you with my own writings on a little web site.
Some have written extensive web sites on eternal security and conditional security. Some have even published exhaustive books with hundreds and hundreds of pages to try and convince the reader that their position is right. But it should be obvious that we don't need books or pamphlets or web sites to teach us the truth. Looking for answers in these places may give short-term assurance, but will always end up 'tossed to and fro' by the convincing opposing ideas of the next 'doctrinal crusader' you encounter.
|But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.|
Learning from web sites and books may seem easy, yielding instant answers. Learning from the Bible is difficult, and it may take months or even years to get the answers you need to understand the truth. But the difference is this - the easy answers are also easily refuted - shallow-rooted and toppled quickly by opposing views. But the sought-out answers from personal Bible study are grounded, rooted firmly, and unshakeable by even the most adept apologist.
Maybe you came here looking for the 'silver bullet' answer to this question. But I believe that assurance isn't assurance unless it's your own, after you've seen it for yourself in God's Word. I can't give you what I have, only God can - through His Spirit and His Word.
What about the books and the experts?
You may ask, "But I saw a web site / book / sermon that claims to prove that (insert any doctrinal issue here) is false, and that it will never be refuted."
Think about it. If someone is so sure that they are right about something in the Bible, why not just encourage people to read the Bible to see it for themselves? Is all the extra carefully-presented information and commentary really necessary? Is there no confidence in the Bible's ability to convey truth on its own? Does it really need all the clarification?
Of course, God has appointed some people, such as pastors, teachers and mentors to help give us spiritual insight. But what happens when you get hundreds of pastors, teachers and crusaders advocating diametrically opposing positions, such as we have with the security issue? Type in 'eternal security' on any search engine and try to find a definitive answer there - it's impossible. Ask your pastor and then the pastor down the street about it, and you'll have the same problem. How are you going to know who is right? With an issue like eternal security/conditional security, there is no clear answer outside of Scripture itself.
It seems to me that the best way to help someone find the truth in this situation is to encourage them to be like the Bereans in the Book of Acts - to read the Scriptures themselves. If someone is so sure they are right, then they should feel confident that the Holy Spirit will lead people in the right way as they read the Word for themselves. We need to have all the confidence in the world in the Bible alone to get the message across.
What happens without the Bible in the picture? People seeking answers turn to books and web sites and listen to sermons, and then base their faith on these things rather than Scripture. Then, when the next person comes along with a very eloquently presented opposing view, they get confused. Why? Because they don't base their faith on solid, irrefutable Scripture. Again, I'm reiterating the advice that if you are struggling with this issue, don't go buy books either for or against eternal security - and especially stay off the internet when it comes to seeking the truth! The internet is a wonderful tool, but when it comes to issues like this, the web is a ruthless hurricane of conflicting teachings that will just keep you going in circles on the rough seas. When it comes to assurance of security, the Bible is all you need.
A few boast that they've written books or websites and such that are the most exhaustive proof for their position ever, and that they'll never be refuted. However, I've discovered, and you can too, the most exhaustive proof of the truth - it's called the Bible. And I'm pretty confident that it will never be refuted. And so, I'll let Scipture speak for itself in leu of putting up a big website on the issue - and let you discover the truth that way.
What about the debate?
If you have strong convictions on either side of the eternal security debate, keep in mind that there are many verses in the Bible that give strong indications both for and against eternal security. Both sides honestly can't deny this fact. Because of this, I don't believe it's right to vilify another brother or sister because they aren't on your side of this issue. I'm not saying that both sides are right, what I am saying is that most of the time, both sides are basing their belief in Scripture alone, not because of a 'false prophet', misguided teacher, or irresponsible interpretation (as so many web sites on both sides allege). This isn't like Mormonism or Jehovah's witnesses, where someone came along and started teaching a strange doctrine. If you take a look at Christian history, you'll find this debate has been ongoing nearly all the way back to the beginning of the church. Even legendary preachers John Wesley and George Whitefield were at odds about this issue nearly 300 years ago.
I've reached my own conclusions about eternal security and I believe in it with all my heart. But I don't blame others for disagreeing with me. After all, the Bible has some strong passages that indicate you must be careful about your salvation. However, what I hope that the other side of the debate would realize is that the same is true for eternal security - the Bible has plenty of strong passages to indicate this, too. Since it's possible to draw either conclusion about eternal security just from reading Scripture, it seems to me that calling someone who disagrees with you about eternal security a 'heretic', 'damned', 'deceived', 'of the devil', 'unsaved', 'false teacher' or worse, regardless of what side you are on, isn't fair and maybe even sinful.
So am I saying that it doesn't matter what you believe? Of course not - I believe that your position on this issue dramatically affects your Christian walk. It definately has in mine. What I am saying is that we need to be understanding of why others believe what they do and not crucify them for taking a different point of view if it is drawn from so many places in the Bible. Of course we all know that there are obvious Christian principles that are black and white and 'non-negotiable' (the deity of Christ, the resurrection, sin, salvation by faith alone, etc.). Is eternal security a non-negotiable? I'll be honest with you, I don't know. Again, I believe in it with all my heart, but I'm not sure taking a 'crusader's stand' on it is worth the division it has caused the church to suffer.
Extending the Olive Branch
I'm not going to call a conditional security-believing brother in Christ 'unsaved', 'heretic' or 'false teacher', especially one I have not met and do not know personally. I just think that is unbiblical and simply uncalled for. In fact, I think it is a rather serious, grave thing to accuse anyone of being unsaved or a heretic, especially if they are a sincere, professing Christian who passes all of the Biblical tests of genuine faith but does not agree with you on the issue of security. I think it's a scary thing to find oneself doing. Yes, there is heresy and false doctrine out there that must be denounced, and those instances are clearly outlined in the Bible. But I think the weapon of denouncement has been used carelessly, unfairly and even sinfully in this debate of security against many true brothers and sisters in Christ.
That said, I hope that those on the conditional security side of the debate would treat me with the same mutual respect that I have learned that they and I both deserve as a genuine follower of Christ. I am not 'deceived' or 'of the devil' and don't appreciate anyone vilifying me as such just because I believe my salvation is secure forever. I believe what I believe because the Bible says so, I say without hesitation that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:1-6), I put my trust in Him, and He is working in my life and producing fruit through me. I realize the same is true of many Christians on the conditional security side of things. I will not stoop to the level of trashing or accusing a brother or sister in Christ because he or she does not agree with me about eternal security. I would only ask that others would give me the same courtesy.
I think instead of crusading against each other for or against eternal security, we should focus our energy on winning the lost and serving the Lord. I'm not saying there aren't doctrinal issues worth defending with such vehemence, because there are. But more and more I'm seeing that eternal security/conditional security isn't one of them. I'm tired of arguing, debating and agonizing about this to no end - there's a field ripe for harvest out there...let's put more of our energy into that. It's time to leave this debate behind and rise above it. After you've been out of the 'eternal security/conditional security' war for a while, you'll look back and see just how silly, trivial, fruitless and what a waste of time and resources it really was.
So let's move on and get to work! The time is getting short.
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