There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered
into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. —Hebrews 4:9-11
The subject this quarter deals with the theological issue of eternal security or “once saved always saved.” The doctrine of eternal security is one of the primary tenants of Calvinism. The opposite perspective would be one of Arminianism. These two theological camps are divided on God’s sovereignty, man’s depravity, election, Christ’s atonement, grace, man’s will, and perseverance. These subjects are interwoven as one affects the other. Rather than detail all of the various interpretations of scripture, because of the space constraint, I had to deal very directly with the scripture in a brief summary. While I believe Arminianism is generally more correct than Calvinism, our guide should be the scripture, not the teaching of a certain theological persuasion. Often there are bits of truth on both sides that can be neglected by a theologian’s pursuit of drawing a distinction between the two.
“Once saved always saved” as a concept is clearly not from God and can give people a false sense of security. It is a dangerous doctrine which opens the door to the permissibility of sin using grace as a covering umbrella. While the doctrine is not Biblical, there are many foundational scriptures used by Calvanists that are vital to a clear, rounded understanding of God’s plan for mankind. God has called His children to a life of holiness without the moral sins which separate mankind from God. There is still much room for growing in the Lord and for perfecting holiness. If we are not careful, the Church of God can place so much emphasis on works that people begin to find their identity and security in those works. While works are an outflow of true salvation, works neither save us nor can works keep us saved. We are saved by God’s grace and through the atonement of the blood of Jesus. There is security that comes in knowing God is more willing to forgive and restore than to cut off. Self-righteousness is often a consequence of people overemphasizing the concept of works.
Salvation is a work of God that frees us from the power of sin. Teachers of eternal security often point to the fact that those who do not believe in it are minimizing the power of the blood and God’s grace. I believe it is more accurate to turn that around. Is it not crediting the blood of Jesus and God’s grace with greater power to believe they are strong enough to keep us from going back to sin? The greater power is the sustaining, keeping power of the blood and grace rather than a continual atonement for continual sin. Our job is to maintain faith in the keeping power of God and to obey His word by His enabling grace.
The scripture is clear that people can leave their faith and lose eternal life if they do not maintain fellowship with God. Hence, the doctrine of eternal security is wrong; but we are not interested in teaching a false doctrine of eternal insecurity either. The beauty of true salvation is there is a rest which belongs to God’s people when we cease from our own works. I am thankful to be eternally secure in God’s love and grace. May we ever stay faithful and choose that security above the things of this world.
Michael W. Smith