The question of whether our salvation is eternally secure or not is a hugely important one as a wrong understanding could have eternal consequences. While there are many scriptures that point to “eternal security”, there are also many that state that we must endure to the end. The key to answering this question comes when we don’t engage in an either-or debate but, rather, engage the scriptures as Bereans. When we do, we will find that not only does the question assume a dichotomy, but also that the resolution comes when we understand that both are indeed true.
The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) is one of the most dangerous false doctrines, as it teaches that, no matter what we do, say or think — including denying Jesus, which is contrary to Matthew 10:33 — we can never “lose our salvation”. This doctrine is justified by verses such as Ephesians 1:13 which says that we are “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise”, and John 10:28 which says that no man can pluck us out of Jesus’ hand. Of course, these two reassuring scriptures are true, but — and it’s an important but — we still have free will and can choose to walk away from God, just as Esau did when sold his birthright.
And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:32-34)
As the first born, it was Esau’s birthright to inherit the promises. As born again believers, our birthright is to inherit the promises (Galatians 3:29). Esau rejected his birthright and, as such, he was rejected by God. Likewise, if we reject our birthright we will be rejected by God. As Paul wrote to in his second epistle to the Corinthians:
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
In other words, if we stay firmly in the faith Jesus Christ abides within us, but if we are not in the faith we are rejected (reprobate) and don’t have Jesus Christ within us.
In addition to the OSAS false doctrine is the Calvinist false doctrine of “the perseverance of the saints”, which teaches a slightly different angle on the OSAS doctrine: that all who are true believers will not fall and turn away, only those who were never truly saved. Again, Esau is our example. The birthright was his but he chose to walk away from it.
Further, we have another Old Testament example of those who the Lord brought out of Egypt (saved) with the promise of being given the land of Canaan (kingdom of God) but, due to the hardness of their hearts, he swore they wouldn’t enter the land and, instead, they died in the wilderness (rejected).
While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:15-19)
We discussed the importance of endurance with others in our fellowship in a recent Bible study on Hebrews, chapters 1–3. The following day, I compiled a list of scriptures that show the importance of holding fast to our faith, continuing in God’s word, enduring to the end, and so on. Half of these are from the Book of Hebrews, a book that’s filled with important doctrine concerning faith.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13)
As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:30-32)
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:6)
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:27)
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9)
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; (Colossians 1:21-23)
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. (Hebrews 2:1)
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? (Hebrews 2:3)
But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Hebrews 3:6)
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12)
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; (Hebrews 3:14)
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Hebrews 4:11)
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12)
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (Hebrews 10:23)
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:35-36)
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:38-39)
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James 1:12)
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2:20-22)
Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. (2 John 1:8)
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. (Revelation 2:25)
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. (Revelation 3:11)
We must, therefore, hold fast to our faith and endure to the end to be saved. But the good news is that although we have the freedom to walk away from God and His promises, He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Amen, and Amen!