"Having obtained eternal redemption for us" states the Scriptures in Hebrews 9.12. Implicit in the expression "eternal redemption for us" lies the truth of eternal security for every believer. The word 'eternal' is used in the Bible to describe the quality of the life imparted to believers in Christ, as well as the nature of the Godhead. The salvation we have obtained through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is eternally ours from the moment we first believed. No power on earth, in Hell or in Heaven, can dispossess true believers of their salvation. It is as perfect and permanent as God Himself. Yet there are some professing Christian groups who seriously teach the notion of forfeiting salvation through sin and unfaithfulness. There are some dear saints, evidently saved, who become depressed by doubts about their salvation, and the devil encourages such thoughts. It is timely, therefore, to remind ourselves of basic Gospel truths. The teaching that a genuine believer could be lost (the 'falling away theory') undermines the whole doctrine of the Gospel, and is plainly heretical. Consider the implications of this heresy.
It Denies the Grace and Sovereignty of God
If salvation depends on the sinner, then it is no more of grace. Grace is 'unmerited favour' in the absolute sense, and law-keeping, works and rituals are all irrelevant. Law demands the fulfilment of conditions for blessing, but grace announces that Christ has fulfilled all conditions. Works and grace are mutually exclusive principles (Rom 11.6). Good works proceed from salvation, but do not produce it. "By grace are ye saved through faith … not of works" (Eph 2.8-9); "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us" (Titus 3.5). Good character, conduct and conversation are never the cause, or condition, of salvation; they are the results, for the grace that saves teaches us "that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (2.12).
Furthermore, this evil doctrine impugns the sovereignty of God. Our salvation emanates from the eternal counsels of God: "he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1.4). Accordingly, when we believed, we were placed in Christ, never to be displaced. We became members of His body, the Church, and numbered among the elect of God, assured of "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places" (v 3). What infinite grace to unworthy sinners! In divine purpose we are glorified already, and nothing can thwart His counsel (Rom 8.30). Conditional salvation, on the basis of good works and rituals, lies at the root of all false religion. It is "the way of Cain" (Gen 4.3-8; Jude v 11).
It Dishonours the Person and Sacrifice of Christ
In denying the grace and sovereignty of God, this erroneous doctrine gives credit to the flesh, and denies its total depravity. If God has not saved us perfectly and permanently, we would have to depend upon the flesh to maintain our faith to our last dying breath. Such a 'salvation' is like a bridge over a chasm, broken at the far end. It makes a saviour of our works and faith. Our salvation does not depend on our love for Christ, but on His love for us; not on our hold of Him, but on His grip and grasp of us. If we were not saved eternally when we put our trust in the Lord Jesus, then we were not, nor ever could be, saved at all. Thank God we "are complete in him" (Col 2.10). We are integrally linked with Him; the new Man, the last Adam.
To lend support to their false theory, some allege that only past sins can be forgiven, and future daily sins have to be constantly confessed if there is to be any hope of Heaven. But, at our conversion, we met God as our Judge in relation to all our sins; we admitted our guilt, confessed our sins, and were instantly saved from sin's penalty. We passed out of the realm of death and judgment, into a new realm of "grace wherein we stand" (Rom 5.2). We were "born again" (1 Pet 1.23) into the family of God, with "access … unto the Father" (Eph 2.18); a new relationship completely. We are no longer dealt with as guilty sinners, but as children of our heavenly Father. As His children we might incur His displeasure and deserve His discipline, but the family relationship abides. We must distinguish between our relationship with God, and our communion with the Father. The former is the unconditional result of the new birth, but the latter is conditional on our behaviour. They are distinct lines of truth which must not be confounded. If the daily confession of our sins were truly necessary for salvation, no one could be saved. It is impossible to confess all our sins every day to God, for we are not conscious of them all. The folly of saying only past sins are forgiven is apparent, because, when Christ died, all our sins were future. The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is equal to them all.
It Distorts the Word of God
Scriptures, including Hebrews 6.6 and 2 Peter 2.20-22, are taken out of context to provide support for the theory, and plain statements of Scripture such as "they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (Jn 10.28) are ignored. Full weight must be given to the plain texts, and the unclear texts will fall into place in due course. Moreover, Scriptures that refer to Israel, like Matthew 24.13, are sometimes applied to the Church.
Romans 3.24 points out that we are "justified freely by his grace". The word "freely" is translated as "without a cause" in John 15.25. Justification is an accomplished fact for the believer, as the past tense indicates in Romans 5.1. It means more than acquittal from guilt; it pronounces the believer righteous in the sight of God. The faith that justifies is born out of true repentance and heartfelt faith in Christ (Rom 10.9), and the soul is instantly fit for Heaven, saved forever. It is not that there is any merit in faith itself, but rather in the object of our faith, the Lord Jesus, in whom alone salvation is found.
The truth of eternal security was attacked early in the apostolic era, because the natural mind found it hard to accept the concept of 'grace'. Hence, there were those who insisted "Except ye be circumcised … ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15.1). This is exactly the proposition of the 'falling away theory': unless you maintain your salvation by good works, or by being baptised, you cannot be saved. The testimony of the apostles banishes this idea: "we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved" (v 11). The Epistle to the Galatians was written to combat this error, and a careful reading of the letter will establish the heart with grace. To revert to works and ritual makes "Christ the minister of sin", ourselves transgressors (Gal 2.17-18), and renders the death of Christ in vain.
It Deprives the Gospel of its Glory
The person who accepts this flawed doctrine cannot say with any certainty that they are saved, for haply they may fall away. It destroys all assurance and hope and, as a result, the Gospel is robbed of its peace and joy. The glory of the Gospel is that any sinner can be saved in a moment of time, because God acts in grace and not in judgment. A new nature is imparted (2 Cor 5.17; 1 Jn 3.9), as a result of being "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet 1.23). "The gift of God is eternal life" (Rom 6.23), but it ceases to be a gift if works are involved. It is plain that the eternal security of the justified sinner is an elementary tenet of our faith, and the portion of every believer in the Lord Jesus. Let us "lay hold on [grasp the reality of] eternal life" (1 Tim 6.12) and beware of any other doctrine. "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ" (4.6).