I came across a blog post promoting the concept of eternal security, or “once saved, always saved,” and I wanted to share my response with our readers. I gave other biblical evidence to support what I believe to be the true biblical position on this topic here.
I think a lot of the verses you mentioned do indicate that a person must abide in Christ in order to remain saved. Just as entering into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ requires a choice on our part to give our hearts and lives to Him, each day we must choose to remain in that relationship much the way a married person must choose each day to remain in that relationship and honor the vows they made on their wedding day. It’s a commitment which lasts a lifetime, so long as both people choose daily to honor the commitment.
Consider Christ’s use of the vine and branches in John 15 as an analogy of our lifelong relationship with Him. I pose that all the branches who are connected to Him are saved. How can a branch who is drawing his or her life from the Vine, Jesus Christ, be anything but saved? Indeed, Jesus says in verse 2, “Every branch IN ME that does not bear fruit, He [the Father] takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” Thus the people who are branches are people who are *in Him.*
And yet, even though they were once saved – connected to the Vine – Jesus says,
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” John 15:5-6.
What does abide mean if not to remain in Him? And we me must already be in Him in order to remain in Him. Once we are saved/connected to Him, we still have a choice: remain in Christ, or don’t remain in Christ. If we choose not to abide in Christ, we are cut off from the Vine, apart from which there is no life as per John 15:6.
Consider also Romans 11, in which Paul uses the imagery of the grafting in of branches into an olive tree to talk about salvation (verses 17-23):
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.
Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Paul said we were grafted in (saved) by our faith (this is the same concept of righteousness by faith taught by Paul in Romans 3:22, 24-25, 28). “Do not be conceited, but fear,” Paul warns. He’s saying, don’t be haughty, don’t be presumptuous, but fear – for “if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either”; if we do not “continue in His kindness,” we will be “cut off”. If we later lose our faith in Christ, we will *not* be spared. This shows a clear picture of how a saved person can choose to stop abiding in Christ, to separate him/herself from His kindness, and in so doing, lose his/her salvation. For there is no salvation apart from Christ.
This does not mean that just because a saved person makes a mistake and falls, that they have lost their salvation. It’s only if they abandon the faith and start living a life of habitual sin with no more regard for Jesus’ commandments, and they completely grieve away the Holy Spirit, that their name can be blotted out of Christ’s book. If we taste the best that God can give, if we partake of the heavenly Gift, and then fall away (not meaning stumbling and getting back up, but again, meaning abandoning the faith), Hebrews 6:6 says “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance”, for “ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.” (Hebrews 6:7-8)
Lest anyone misunderstand, the Bible does teach that we can have assurance of our salvation. But we have no assurance of salvation apart from Christ. We must ABIDE in Him, and as long as our very lives are as intimately dependent on Jesus Christ as the life of the branches depends on the Vine, the Root of that divine tree, we have full and complete assurance of salvation. We just can’t trample Jesus underfoot (Hebrews 10:29) by abandoning our faith in Him and returning to an unrepentant life of brazen, abandoned, habitual sin and claim to still have salvation in Him. To say that because we once verbally accepted Christ we can now never be lost is tantamount to saying the same thing that the Jews said in Jeremiah 7:9-10:
“Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’–that you may do all these abominations?”
The obvious answer is, of course not. Salvation is not a license to sin. And although I know that wasn’t your premise, can it honestly be said that the doctrine of eternal security doesn’t lead down a slippery slope that ends with just such a license?
What do you think?
(Note: The author of the above site deleted my comment without responding to any of my points.)