Have you ever had a conversation with a fellow Christian that believes that they are eternally secure after simply accepting Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior? They can usually recount the age they were; the year, month, and day they took the altar call; the city and church that they were in when they accepted Christ. While such an important event should be remembered and declaring Christ as your Lord and saviour is necessary for salvation, that is (to a lot of Christians) the only action they believe is needed to be taken in order to “get saved.” My grandfather, a retired Baptist preacher, holds firm to this belief… while somehow juggling contradicting scripture in the same breath.
My aim here is not to cause contention and argument. I genuinely want those who believe this doctrine to realize how truly evil it really is, and what it means for their eternal destiny.
When the subject of salvation is brought up, most (if not all) protestant Christians will ask if you have “confessed with your mouth.” They are referring to Romans 10:9, but is salvation in Jesus Christ that simple? Is that all that I must do?
Where did it come from?
A man named John Calvin, one of the main players of the Protestant Reformation, was the first person in Christian history to preach this doctrine during the sixteenth century. He was the founder of the Anabaptist denomination, which was the earliest form of the Baptist denomination we know today. He called his denomination the Anabaptists because they baptised a person twice; once at birth and once as an adult. Calvin rejected the sufficiency of infant baptism, but still practiced it, as the Catholic Church had practiced it for 1,500 years before him. As a proponent of sola scriptura, it’s curious to me how/why he missed (probably just ignored) Ephesians 4:5; there is only one baptism. (I’ve also always wondered, why the modern, contemporary Baptist church rejects the saving grace of Baptism [John 3:5-7; 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5; Gal 3:27; Rom 6:3-5], but yet still keeps the name Baptist?)
Common Sense Approach
Without diving into Sacred Scripture head-first, let’s take a look at this from a logical, common sense standpoint. I will try to make the case that someone who professes this belief, doesn’t really believe in it if it is pressed to common sense. The “once saved always saved” doctrine basically comes in two flavors (kinda like Coca-Cola Freestyle with grace!).
The first is, if you believe and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you are saved once and for all. We’ll examine this one first. Imagine if Adolf Hitler at some point in his life had confessed Jesus as their saviour. While he was figuring out the logistics to implement the Final Solution which attempted to exterminate the Jewish population from the face of the earth, according to Calvin’s theology, he was still in God’s good grace. This theology would have you believe that the most ardent atheist, who at one time in his life accepted Christ as his saviour, would still make it to heaven even if he were to curse God on his deathbed. Do you see what I’m getting at here?
The second flavor is even more difficult to juggle. It is that once you “get saved,” and then you sin–that you were never really saved at all. Somehow, by great mental gymnastics, this is still called “eternal assurance.” If this is the case, then how could one ever know that someone is saved at all? How would you know that the person sitting beside you, who just last week made their altar call, after having sinned as everyone does, is saved at all? This is eternal assurance? So, according to John Calvin, one is eternally assured salvation, unless they were never really saved to begin with. My head hurts.
A Scriptural Approach
Let’s take a look at Romans 10:9 again. Paul never said that all that is required for salvation is confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord… that is merely “step one” of a new person in Christ. Shouldn’t we take Holy Scripture in it’s entirety? –after all, it is our eternal salvation at stake here.
A verse usually used to support the idea of eternal security is:
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
If the above verses are taken by themselves, it would indicate that once you are with Christ you cannot be taken from Him–ever. Other verses used to justify this belief is Romans 8:35-39:
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 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.
While Paul is saying nothing can separate you from the love of Christ, he is not saying that you cannot be separated from salvation in Christ. Nothing except your own self can separate you from the love of Christ. Of course, God loves us dearly (John 3:16), and He wants all men, all sinners to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).
The reason I call Calvin’s theology dangerous, is because this doctrine teaches that you are eternally secure regardless of sins you commit. When someone says they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are saying that they have repented of their sins, believe in Him, and accept Him into their hearts. After they have accepted Him and His grace, baptism is in order. Of course, repentance and acceptance of Christ is required of all Christians, but the denominations that hold the belief in “once saved always saved” usually stop here. There is nothing they can do, no sin they can commit, that would remove their salvation. If a Christian who had been saved commits a heinous crime, the conclusion is drawn that they were never saved to begin with.
I would like to point out how the word “saved” mostly is used. It is usually used in the past tense, that it is a past event–once and for all saved. Salvation is not only a past event. We were saved, are being saved, and by God’s grace will be saved (if we abstain from sin). Let me explain. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul says:
(1 Cor 1:18) For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are being saved it is the power of God.
The Greek word used for “being saved” is “sōzomenois” (many Bibles such as the KJV translate “saved” in the past tense)… the point here is that salvation is an incomplete work: we are saved and currently being saved. Philippians 2:12 reiterates this:
(Phil 2:12) Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (emphasis mine)
Why should we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” if we have absolute assurance of salvation?
Paul, in writing to the Philippians, did not consider his own salvation to be complete (Phil 3:11-12). If all that is required for salvation is confessing that Jesus is Lord and repenting of your sins, once, don’t you think that Paul would have known his salvation was finished?
11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (emphasis mine)
The question here is, who are you going to believe? John Calvin or Jesus? Our Lord said that you must take up your cross and walk with Him daily (Luke 9:23):
(Luke 9:23) Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
Calvin’s “eternally secure” doctrine teaches that all you must do is confess with your mouth and repent of your past sins. This is clearly an unbiblical teaching, and dangerous because it tells the new Christian, in essence, to “go back to sleep–there is nothing left to do.” That, “there’s nothing you can do to separate yourself from Christ.” If that were true, would salvation be the “narrow path” that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 7:13? Absolutely not!
If Calvin was right, there would be no need for Satan to tempt a Christian as there would be nothing he could do to make the Christian fall. What then would happen to the need to pray–or to worship for that matter–if the race for salvation in Jesus Christ has finished? Can you see the diabolical nature of this teaching? Calvin wanted to do away with the need for the Catholic Church’s sacraments given to us by our Lord in the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. He also wanted to remove the need for good works. In their stead, he replaced with the teaching that one has an assurance of salvation through a simple outward profession of faith in Christ.
It definitely does have an attraction to it though, doesn’t it? I like to call it “pillow theology;” a teaching that makes you feel good and safe, but holds no weight.
Where Does Scripture Say That I Can Lose My Salvation?
Salvation is conditional. It all depends on what you do; if you remain faithful; if you abstain from sin; if you keep His commandments. The natural question that comes next is “where does scripture say that I can lose my salvation?” Consider what Paul says in Romans 11:22:
(Rom 11:22) Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
Paul is writing to Christians who are already in a state of grace, or “saved,” … grace that they could lose, and by that, becoming unsaved! Hebrews 10:26-27 reiterates:
26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.
Over and over, it is written that those who presevere in the faith will be saved (Mark 13:13; Matthew 10:22; Heb 3:14). There are many verses that I did not include, mainly only to spare the length of this post.
The third person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, spoke through the Apostles, who wrote letters and was compiled into what we call today the Holy Bible. John, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote about the different degrees of sin.
(1 Jn 5:16-17)
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.
17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.
Obviously, if there is sin that leads to death and sin that does not lead to death (that is, mortal and spiritual death)–then there are two different “degrees” of sin that the Holy Spirit is referring to through John. This is what the Catholic Church calls “venial” (not leading to death) and “mortal” (leading to death) sin. Mortal sin kills the life of grace in the soul, and venial does not. This distinction between the two is absolutely meaningless for someone that holds to the eternally secure doctrine, because they have been taught that they can commit unrepented mortal sin and still achieve heaven.
We must abstain from sin and fight the temptation of sin, as Jesus prayed in the Lord’s Prayer, “..and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” More importantly, as Jesus told the woman accused of adultery, go and sin no more:
(John 8:11) She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.
Paul, prophetically, destroys Calvin’s “eternal assurance” doctrine in 1 Cor 10:12:
(1 Cor 10:12) Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
In closing, I quote James Seghers in his book “The Fullness of Truth: …”
“A Christian’s security lies in God’s mercy, not in a false guarantee of eternal salvation. God gives us the grace to resist temptation and to remain faithful. Therefore, St. Paul wrote: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10: 13). As a result, we are urged to pray with confidence: Jesus, I trust in you.”