ETERNAL SECURITY vs. CONDITIONAL SALVATION
When the Lord Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, one of the last phrases He uttered is “it is finished”. That cry has been on the lips of true born-again believers down through the centuries as they look back to the day when the Son of God poured out His life blood for fallen mankind. The Christian realizes that the penalty for his sin has already been paid long before he was born. Nothing can be added to it, or taken away. The Greek word for “it is finished” is TETELESTAI. A more accurate translation in this context would be “paid in full.” According to Roman law, if a person was convicted of a crime, a certificate of debt was prepared which listed his offenses and the prescribed penalty. This would be fastened to the door of his
cell until the day when, having paid his debt to society, he was set free. The magistrate would then take this paper and write TETELESTAI across it, denoting that (a): justice had been satisfied and (b): the person could never be re-convicted for the same offenses.
In the same way, God has written TETELESTAI across the certificate of debt of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote: “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;” (Col. 2:13,14).
How many of our sins were nailed to the cross with the Lord Jesus? The answer is all! How many of our sins were future when the Lord Jesus died? The answer again is all! There are, however, those today who would agree to all of this, and yet teach that it is possible for a true born-again believer through sin, backsliding, or some other means, to lose his salvation. It is true that the Bible never uses the phrase “eternal security” as such. It does however use some better terms like: eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12), eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9), and everlasting life (John 3:16).
The main objective of this study is to defend the doctrine of eternal security, presenting sound scriptural reasons why it is an important and necessary Biblical truth. Four major topics will be examined in order to accomplish this. Romans chapter 8 presents the calling, justification, and glorification of the believer. Believers are also kept by the power of God. Finally, believers are sealed until the day of redemption, and have the absolute assurance that their sins are forgiven. Other areas, such as sin and holiness, will be covered.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the
image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom 8:28-30).
The salvation that is provided through the Lord Jesus Christ also includes glorification. Our God who foreknew us, predestined us, called us, and justified us, has also glorified us. Glorification takes place in heaven but in God’s eyes it is past tense — already as good as done. The justification that God provided takes care of all our sins: past, present, and future. God also makes us a new creature and brings us into right relationship with Himself. The believer in Christ is secure because he can rest on the fact that God foreknew him, predestined him, called him, justified him, and glorified him. God continues in the next verse: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not
his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32).
God who paid an infinite price for our salvation is not going to lose any of those whom He has saved. The salvation provided was not incomplete or dependent on our works either before or after our salvation.
God is for us therefore who can be against us? Since God foreknew us, predestined us, called us, and justified us, then who can prevent God from glorifying us? Is there a higher court than God whereby the Christian can lose the justification provided by the blood of Christ?…No! Who can accuse the Christian? Who can tell him he is lost if God is for him?
“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33-34). These verses ask the question that since God has justified us and Christ has died for us then who will condemn us. Will God do it?…No! Will Christ who died, rose ,and now intercedes for us, condemn us?…No!
Who can separate us from the love of Christ and God’s salvation? Romans 8:38,39 answers that question. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
According to these verses nothing can separate us from the love of God and our salvation. Men are unable, angels are unable, demons (principalities) are unable, death and life are unable, and the conclusion is that nothing is able to separate us from God and His love. Within the list everything possible is listed that might
separate us from God but nothing is able to do it.
Now for those readers who say “that’s true…but what about ourselves?”. Paul answers that when he said: “nor things present, nor things to come,…nor any other creature”. Any other creature would include mankind and it would also include the individual Christian who thinks he can lose his salvation. To repeat, the thrust of Romans 8:38,39 is: nothing…nothing…nothing…can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This section concludes simply by stating that salvation is not salvation unless it includes glorification. That is the way salvation is presented in Romans chapter 8. Therefore, the Christian can be assured that he will never be condemned: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom.8:1). Also, the Christian will never be forsaken: “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb.13:5). “Teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt.28:20).
KEPT BY GOD
When the Lord Jesus said “it is finished” on the cross, that meant our salvation was complete and there is nothing anyone can do to add to it or take away from it. This section deals with the fact that God our Savior, keeps, so that none is lost. John writes about God’s will: “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” (John 6:39).
What the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, He did totally apart from any work or effort on our part. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;…For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12,14).
Therefore the Christian can be confident because God gives the promise: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6). Also, in 1 Cor. 1:8 “Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Notice, it is God who does the keeping of the believer.
God’s salvation is complete and when God does something it lasts forever: “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him” (Eccl.3:14). When a person trusts Christ and is born again, it is not conditional or temporary. God recreates that person’s spirit and he is an eternal, new creature. Romans 11:29 says: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance”. This verse means that God will not save a person today and tomorrow change His mind and take it back. The believer is secure and and can depend on the faithfulness of God. In John 11:27-29, the Lord Jesus states that the believer will never perish; “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”. When the Lord Jesus uses words like, “never perish”, and “no man is able”, this indicates that God will use His power to keep the believer. Also
the Lord Jesus gives eternal life and not partial life.
When the Lord Jesus Christ saved us, He did it to the uttermost. “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). Being saved to the uttermost means we are kept at the point of salvation through to heaven and glory without any being lost. The last part of the verse states that the Lord Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us. The Lord Jesus constantly prays for His own and His prayers never fail.
Another good example of the fact that God keeps the believer can be found in the upper room. Here the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father that all who believed on Him would be kept and that they would see Him
in heaven in His glory. “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….Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:11,24). When the Lord Jesus prays do you think His prayers get answered? Of course they do, and the Lord Jesus prayed for all believers to be kept and to make it to glory.
Therefore, how is the Christian kept? Is it by his walk after salvation or is it by God’s power? Peter answers this: “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 Pet.
1:4,5). Jude also answers by saying: “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called,…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” (Jude 1,24). Again notice that the Christian’s preservation, security, and keeping is not dependent upon himself, but upon God.
It is good news that the Christian is kept by God’s love and power and that salvation is complete apart from the works and merits of the believer. This section has shown that the Christian does not keep himself, but rather it is God who keeps each believer by His power. Nowhere in the Bible is the Christian given the responsibility of keeping himself saved and maintaining, (under penalty of loss), his salvation. To say that a believer can lose his salvation is a direct insult to the ability of God to fully save and keep His own. It is
also an affirmation that God did not provide a complete salvation but a partial one which must be merited by good works after salvation. To believe in conditional salvation is to believe in gross Biblical error
concerning what God has said is eternal and permanent.
When God seals a person it is a permanent seal which no one is able to break. What God has sealed man cannot break. This section will show that when a believer trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior at that moment he is permanently sealed by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for sealed in the New Testament is SPHRAGIZO which means: to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation (literally or figuratively); by implication, to keep secret, to attest. (Strongs Concordance). The word for sealed in the
Greek implies security and preservation.
The Bible says that the Lord Jesus Christ is sealed: “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father SEALED” (John 6:27).
In Revelation Ch. 7 the 144,000 are sealed (SPHRAGIZO) with God’s seal and in Ch. 14 all of them are with the Lord Jesus Christ and none of them is lost.
In the Old Testament there is an example of a sealing when Daniel was thrown into the den of lions: “Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel” (Daniel 6:16,17).
These verses about Daniel show that the seal was given “that the purpose might not be changed…”. Another example of sealing is when the Lord Jesus was buried in His tomb. The Romans sealed the tomb and no man was to break that seal.
When a seal is given in the Bible it is given with a purpose and is unchangeable. Now if the seal of a mere man is given with a binding, unchangeable purpose, how much more when God seals something? Can men break God’s seal?
The Bible also says that God seals each person with His Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation: “Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also SEALED us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor 1:21,22). “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were SEALED with that holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:13). It is good news that when a person is born again he is sealed, because God can and does protect that which He seals.
What does it mean to be “sealed by that holy Spirit of promise”? The answer is in John 14:16,17: “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;…” Notice the promise is for the Holy Spirit to dwell with the believer for ever and ever. The sealing of the believer is a permanent, unbreakable seal.
God’s seal also guarantees our salvation because we are sealed unto the day of redemption; “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph.4:30). Now if we are sealed until the day of redemption, does that mean that some will lose their salvation before reaching the day of redemption? No…when God says the Christian is sealed until the day of redemption, He means just that. All born-again Christians will stay saved and make it to the day of redemption because God says so.
In John we are told of the new birth; “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a
man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot
enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:3-7). Here the Lord Jesus says the believer is born of the Spirit and God’s Spirit is eternal.
Not only is the believer sealed but he partakes of the Divine Nature, (which also is eternal); “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Peter 1:4). In 1 John 2:25 God promises us eternal life, not partial life; “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life”.
Since the Christian is chosen from the foundation of the world, kept by God’s power, and sealed with His Holy Spirit, God refers to our salvation in the past tense in 1 John 5:11,13: “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son….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.”
FORGIVENESS OF SINS
How many sins does the blood of the Lord Jesus cover? This section is necessary because in order to deny eternal security one must also deny the believers future sins were paid for by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who believe that a Christian can lose his salvation are saying that past and present sins are forgiven when a person is saved. However, forgiveness for future sins is conditional and is dependent upon the Christian. If a person continues in sin without repentance, there comes a time, (not defined), when he has sinned too much and he loses his salvation and becomes an unsaved, unforgiven sinner again. He is then un-born again and un-adopted by God. There are two schools of thought embraced by those who believe in conditional salvation at this point: (1) Some believe the person is now lost and it is impossible for him to be renewed again to repentance and re-saved. (2) Others believe that if that person repents and turns back to God with all his heart, he can be re-forgiven, re-saved, born again again, re-adopted by God, and restored as a new creature again.
This section will show the error of conditional salvation as it relates to sins, forgiveness, and the righteousness of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The salvation that God provided cleanses from all sins, not just a few. Paul writes in Eph. 1:7 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace”. Also, “…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). These verses state that the blood of the Lord Jesus cleanses us from all sins.
Now how many sins are “all”? Does “all” include past sins? Does “all” include present sins? Does “all” include future sins? According to Websters dictionary “all” is defined as: the whole amount or quantity of; as much as possible; the whole number or sum of. Concerning sins “all” would include the whole amount of sins and exclude none. This means “all” sins would include all the sins of a Christian from birth to death (past, present, and future sins).
The Bible says: “…when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb.1:3). “…but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb.9:26). “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). Notice these verses include all sin, not just a few.
God says that He not only forgives our sin, but he wills not to remember them any more. “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25). “…for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer.31:34). “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb.10:16,17).
The Bible also teaches that God imputes His righteousness to all that trust in the Lord Jesus as Savior. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor.5:21). “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness….But to him what worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness….And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom.4:3,5,22-24).
God has dealt with the sin of the believer because the penalty and all judgment for sin was put on the Lord Jesus Christ at the cross. God now deals with the Christian as one of His children. He deals with His children in discipline and not by judgment and eternal condemnation.
Does the fact of eternal security give the Christian the right to sin and rebel with no call of holiness and righteousness on his life? This section will deal with the lifestyle of the Christian and sin in the Christian’s life.
Firstly, God commands His people to live separated, righteous, and holy lives before a Christ-rejecting world. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the
unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor.6:17). “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet.1:15,16). “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11,12).
However, Christians are not perfect and those who say they have no sin are liars (see 1 John 1:8). When a Christian sins God wants him to do two things: (1) admit he has sinned, and (2) repudiate that sin. God gives a promise in 1 John 1:9; “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Notice that this verse does not say the Christian is to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness of sin is a settled fact through what the Lord Jesus did on the cross. This verse refers to the fellowship of the believer with God. When a Christian sins, a barrier of guilt comes up between the Christian and God. This verse is God’s provision for removing that barrier so the Christian can resume his close walk of fellowship with God. John says that it is not God’s will that His children sin, but if they do, their sin is taken care of: “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).
In light of God’s provision for sin in the believer’s life, does this mean that the Christian can go out and sin as much as he wants with no consequences? Paul answers the sin question in Romans 6: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?…Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof….What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?…For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death” (Rom.6:1,2,12,15,16,20,21).
In 1 Corinthians Paul gives an example of a believer who got involved in gross sin and would not repent. According to those who profess conditional salvation, that person would be lost. However, the Bible gives the following different outcome: “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor.5:1-5).
Notice that the penalty for the Christian’s rebellion is not the loss of salvation but the destruction of the body that the spirit may be saved. His spirit “may” be saved means that he is saved and will still go to heaven. If there is any question about the word “may”, look at 1 Cor.15:28: “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all”. The word “may” in this verse does not mean, maybe God will be all in all or maybe He won’t. It means He will be all in all, just as the rebellious Christian is saved even thought his body should be destroyed by Satan.
What about great Christian leaders or workers who appear to be saved, but reject their faith and walk away from the Lord Jesus? Is this not an example of someone forfeiting their salvation they once possessed? The Bible answers this question and says that person was never saved in the first place. The proof is the fact they left the Lord Jesus Christ. John writes: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that anti-christ shall come, even now are there many anti-christs; whereby we know that it is the last time. They
went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:18,19).
The final question is about Judas Iscariot. Was he not an example of someone who was saved, but lost his salvation? The answer is No; he never was saved according to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve” (John 6:70,71). When the Lord Jesus washed the feet of the twelve, he said the following: “…He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean
every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who would betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean” (John 13:10,11). Judas had every opportunity to be saved but refused. He was chosen in God’s foreknowledge that scripture might be fulfilled
To conclude, we have shown that throughout scripture the security of the believer is upheld. Only by ignoring God’s promises for justification, sealing, and keeping; or by pulling verses out of context, can the doctrine of conditional salvation be professed. We have shown the fact that God glorifies all that He justifies. We have also seen that God has promised to preserve and keep each believer by His power and faithfulness. It is also good news to know each believer has been sealed by the Holy Spirit, has complete forgiveness and remission of sins, and has been imputed God’s righteousness. In light of all this, the reader must now consider whether he in fact has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. Could it be that some are trusting in their own performance in the Christian life to keep their salvation rather that trusting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross?
It must be emphasized that a “conditional” view of salvation not only denies God’s Word, but it also produces a legalistic, fear-inspiring, and experience-oriented Christian walk. How can one share
the riches of God’s grace to the unsaved when he believes his own acceptance hangs by a tenuous thread?
It is hoped that this study has brought the reader to a better understanding concerning the fact of eternal security. For further, in-depth information an excellent tape series is available by John McArthur Jr. It can be obtained by writing:
Grace to You
Montreal, Que. H4K 2J4
Grace to You
Panorama City, California 91412
To close, the following is God’s simple plan of salvation for those who do not know the Lord Jesus as their Savior and Lord, or who do not have 100% assurance that if they died today, they would go to heaven. The Bible says:
FOR ALL HAVE SINNED: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Rom 3:23).
SIN HAS A PENALTY: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die….” (Ezek 18:20). “For the wages of sin is death;…” (Rom 6:23). “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the s tond death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:14,15).
THE LORD JESUS PAID THE PENALTY: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa
53:5). “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
YOU MUST RECEIVE THE LORD JESUS: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:12).
Lord Jesus, I admit that I am a sinner deserving death. I ask You to come into my life to forgive and save me. I now receive You as my Savior (trusting in You ALONE to save me) and my Lord (making you my Master and committing my life to you).
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 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 5:11-13).
By A. Yusko and E. Prior
THE SEED SOWERS, P.O. Box 2513, Stn. F, Scarborough, Ont. M1W 3P2