Over the next couple days in this series I want to look at some of the passages commonly used to defend the doctrine of eternal security.
I’ll start with one of the most important verses in the New Testament: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). I don’t know any Christian, on either side of the debate, who denies this verse. How it is used by the side of eternal security, however, is to say that if we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works, then we have not earned our salvation and therefore cannot lose it by doing bad things. But that is not what this verse is saying. We are saved by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ when we put our trust in him and his work on the cross – in his blood and death, resurrection and ascension. Because of this we can be “born again into a living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). But this says nothing about security in salvation, only that mode by which we receive our salvation – faith. It can also be noted that the next verse refers to the works we were created to do, so it is not as if once saved the Christian is expected to do nothing but “be saved.” Works are an outpouring of our faith – “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18b). You can tell someone is a Christian by the fruit they bear in their lives (Luke 6:43-45). (It also can’t be ignored that James 2:24 says “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone”).
Another commonly used verse is 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Again, I don’t know a single Christian who would deny this verse. When we confess our sins, Christ Jesus does cleanse us through the washing of repentance. However, like the previous passage, this verse says nothing about security. It gives us confidence in our ability to come before the Lord for forgiveness, which is a wonderful assurance in itself. But this does not say that one can never turn away from this forgiveness and return to their life of sin unrepentantly.