What does the Bible say about eternal security?

Can you lose your salvation if you don't go through the sanctification process?

By Gloria Small

The issue of eternal security is a controversial one. There are several passages in the Bible that seem to suggest that in order to be saved, you must first accept Jesus as Lord and then choose to go through the process of sanctification. This belief illustrates the importance of the principle of sound Biblical hermeneutics which requires using passages of Scripture in context and not pulling them out and applying them to "prove" a position. For instance, 1 John is a letter written to "little children" or born again believers, but 1 John 2:19 is speaking about apostates who had a "form of godliness" but denied the power of it (2 Timothy 3:5). This behavior is the mark of the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-7) and a warning to believers to be discerning. God knows His own, and if a person is saved and then does not go on to learn about who they are in Christ and what is available to them as a child of God, it is possible for them to remain a babe in Christ and miss out on maturing as a believer. But we have no place to judge their heart, for that is God's prerogative alone (Romans 14:4), and God is able to make them to stand in the day of the bema seat examination.

Every passage that seems to say a believer can lose salvation only does so when taken out of context and used to "prove" a negative. When read in the correct context none of these passages state that a believer can lose their salvation.

- Hebrews 10:26-31: The "no more sacrifices" refers to the Jewish sacrifices that have lost their sufficiency — not the sacrifice of our LORD Jesus, which is once for all. The passage is in the midst of a warning that the old sacrifices are no longer sufficient, and one needs to trust Christ or he will be lost. As you read the rest of this passage (verses 32-39) you see that this does not mean that these people are lost; it is a warning that what they once trusted in cannot add to their salvation now. And once given light, they now need to have patience in the face of the persecution that they face as believers in Christ. There is no loss of salvation to the believer in this passage.

- 2 Peter 2:19-21: This warning is presented in the context of false teachers (2 Peter 1:1-22) and refers to those who listen to these teachers and then backslide due to error. It does not mean that they are not saved, just that they come under the spell of false teachers and fall under error.

- Romans 2:4-11: The context here begins in Romans 1:29 and includes the fact that pagan moralizers, or those who do not trust the LORD Jesus but still operate under morals, are in no better spiritual condition than pagans with no morals. This passage refers to the state of the unregenerate and not those that are born again.

- James 3:13-18: James 3 isn't even talking about unbelievers. The passage, and the chapter, compares a mature believer who has ceded control of his tongue over to the Spirit, which produces wisdom from above and the fruit of righteousness, to one who allows his tongue to rule him. This is a warning to believers not to walk in their carnality — it is not saying believers can lose their salvation.

- Philippians 3:17-19: In contrast, this passages is a warning about the mark of an unbeliever, with which believers should have no unity. The context is Philippians 3:1-21 and the fact that Christ is our standard of unity as believers. It includes a warning about legalism (verses 4-6), a statement about our righteousness in Christ (verses 7-9), a call to experience our fellowship in Christ (verses 10-16), and an appeal for unity (verses 15-16), with a warning not to compromise with false believers for the sake of unity. For example, we must contend for the faith and not negotiate with those who say that love unites and doctrine/teaching divides. Therefore, there is to be no compromise with unbelievers about the truth of God's Word and no unity with those who teach false doctrine. Again, no loss of salvation here.

- 1 John 2:15-16: As mentioned, 1 John is a letter to "little children" or young believers. This passage is not saying that a person can lose his salvation, it is a warning to believers not to love the world or to allow themselves to be "conformed" to the norms and standards of the world (Romans 12:1-2).

- Hebrews 5:9: The context here is Christ as a type of the priest Melchizedek. Christ is the author of our salvation, and the word "obey" in this verse means to listen to, submit to, and accept Him as the authority, choosing to conform ourselves to His authority as Christ. It does not infer that a person once saved can then be lost. Only believers can conform themselves to Christ for only believers have the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

- 2 John 1:9: Nestled in the context of 2 John 1:7-11, this is a description of the characteristics of a deceiver — an anti-Christ. It tells us that this deceiver is one who does not abide in the doctrine or teaching of the truth. This verse does not refer to believers at all.

Regardless of the additional Scriptures that have been used, when taken in context, I assure you none of them teach that a believer, once born again, can lose their salvation. That is completely contrary to the promise of God. Rather, the believer is secure, for God does not count or reckon our salvation upon our actions but as we are IN Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). Believers are sinners saved by grace, and God's Word tells us that NOTHING in this life or the next can separate the secure believer from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39). To interpret Scripture out of context, pulling out texts to prove a position, makes God a liar.

It is true that once we are saved we are to go through a process of choosing to allow God to conform us to the image of Christ. However, this is a personal process, and just because a believer walks in a carnal state or remains a "babe in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1-4), it does not mean that he is not saved. Those who choose to live for themselves and not for the LORD Jesus may suffer chastisement or child training but I assure you, they will be in glory right along with the rest of the "super saints." There are some who may smell, as Old Doctor Vernon McGee has said, "Like they have been through a fire sale," but they are saved, and even in the ashes and coals of the bema seat examination (1 Corinthians 3:10-15), God will determine what reward they receive. Salvation is not a reward, it is a gift of God's grace. Rewards are based on what we believers allow Christ to do in and through us as He builds upon the foundation that He has laid in us.

Therefore, we can be sure that once a believer is born again, God never loses one of His own, and no one and nothing can pluck us out of His hand! His Word warns and admonishes us, and we are to make choices to walk in obedience and grow in faith and grace, but He never leaves or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).

Published 9-24-14