Eternal security

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Eternal security, also known as "once saved, always saved", is the belief that from the moment anyone becomes a Christian, they will be saved from hell, and will not lose salvation. Once a person is truly "born of God" or "regenerated" by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, nothing in heaven or earth "shall be able to separate (them) from the love of God" (Romans 8:39) and thus nothing can reverse the condition of having become a Christian.

Eternal security is prominent among Reformed Christians (Continental Reformed, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Reformed Anglicans, and Reformed Baptists) due to the doctrine of Perseverance of the saints, but is also affirmed by the Plymouth Brethren, as well as in Free Grace Theology, which is held by many independent fundamental Baptists (though the Reformed, Plymouth Brethren and Free Grace traditions teach different versions of eternal security). In contrast, conditional security are taught in Catholicism, Lutheranism, Orthodoxy, Anabaptism, Pentecostalism and Methodism.


One of the last works made by Augustine addresses the Gift of Perseverance. In the work Augustine notes that persons cannot know whether or not they have received that gift from God.[1] Since Augustine accepted the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is received at water baptism producing regeneration (salvation), he tried to explain why some regenerated babies continued in the faith while other baptized infants would fall away from the faith and even live immoral lives in debauchery. Both groups possessed the Holy Spirit, so how can one account for the difference? Augustine concluded that God must give a second gift of grace called perseverance. The gift of perseverance is only given to some baptized infants.[2]

Augustine did not believe that his doctrine of perseverance was a new invention, thus Augustine also claimed that Cyprian taught a similar doctrine concerning persevarance.[3][4] Augustine argued from quotes of Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's prayer that he also saw perseverance as a gift of God.[4]

Jovinian (died: 405ad) was an early church theologian often seen as a proto-Reformer in the 4th century, he believed that a person who was once regenerate could never be subverted by the devil. Thus his teaching has similarities to what Augustine and John Calvin taught, as he limits the impossibility of relapse to the truly regenerate.[5][6][7][8][9]

Gottschalk (808 – 868) believed that all of the elect are eternally secure and cannot fall from salvation.[10]

Augustine mentioned that some people in his day believed that even if a Christian did no good works he would still be saved but have temporary punishments.[11]


Theology affirming the doctrine of eternal security[edit]

The traditional Calvinist doctrine teaches that a person is secure in salvation because he or she was predestined by God and therefore guaranteed to persevere, whereas in the Free Grace or non-traditional Calvinist views, a person is secure because at some point in time he or she has believed the Gospel message (Dave Hunt, What Love is This, p. 481).

Reformed Christianity[edit]

In Reformed Christianity, eternal security is a logical consequence of the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, according to which true Christians will persevere in good works and faith. Because faith is God's perfect gift it will inevitably produce perseverance in faith and good works. Thus condemnation to hell because of sin, unbelief, or apostasy is not possible for true Christians.[12] Reformed theology holds that one's continued belief in Christ and good works are evidence of one's saving faith and that if one does not bear this fruit, he/she was never truly regenerated to begin with.

Plymouth Brethren[edit]

The Plymouth Brethren affirm eternal security as long as a Christian believer continues to have faith in Jesus.[13] In the Plymouth Brethren view "a true believer in Christ will continue in his faith."[13] Those who do not bear good works, as with Judas, never experienced the New Birth. [14]

Free grace theology[edit]

Free grace theology says that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ will go to heaven regardless of any future actions—including future sin, unbelief, or apostasy—though Christians who sin or abandon the faith will face God's discipline.[15]

Free Grace doctrine views the person's character and life after receiving the gift of salvation as independent from the gift itself, or in other words, it asserts that justification (that is, being declared righteous before God on account of Christ) does not necessarily result in sanctification (that is, a progressively more righteous life). Charles Stanley, pastor of Atlanta's megachurch First Baptist and a television evangelist, has written that the doctrine of eternal security of the believer persuaded him years ago to leave his familial Pentecostalism and become a Southern Baptist. He sums up his deep conviction that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone when he claims, "Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy… believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation."[16] For example, Stanley writes:

Look at that verse [John 3:18] and answer this question: According to Jesus, what must a person do to keep from being judged for sin? Must he stop doing something? Must he promise to stop doing something? Must he have never done something? The answer is so simple that many stumble all over it without ever seeing it. All Jesus requires is that the individual "believe in" Him.

— Charles Stanley[16] (p. 67).

In a chapter entitled "For Those Who Stop Believing", he says, "The Bible clearly teaches that God's love for His people is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from the faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand (p. 74)." A little later, Stanley also writes: "You and I are not saved because we have an enduring faith. We are saved because at a moment in time we expressed faith in our enduring Lord" (p. 80).

The doctrine sees the work of salvation as wholly monergistic, which is to say that God alone performs it and man has no part in the process beyond receiving it, and therefore, proponents argue that man cannot undo what they believe God has done. By comparison, in traditional Calvinism, people, who are otherwise unable to follow God, are enabled by regeneration to cooperate with him, and so the Reformed tradition sees itself as mediating between the total monergism of the non-traditional Calvinist view and the synergism of the Wesleyan, Arminian, and Roman Catholic views in which even unregenerate man can choose to cooperate with God in salvation.


One of the points of Molinism is "eternal life", Molinists believe that the only basis for assurance is the work of Christ and that saving faith always perseveres to the end, however persevarance is a promise instead of a requirement.[17]

Theology rejecting the doctrine of Eternal Security[edit]

Catholic, Methodist, Anabaptist, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox theology hold to synergism with respect to salvation and view the doctrine of eternal security as heretical, instead teaching that one's one's salvation is conditional on one's continued faith, good works, sanctification, and avoidance of sin.[18]


In Catholicism, Christians do not have eternal security because they can commit a mortal sin.[19] The Church teach that Christians are subject to the cleansing torment of purgatory before entrance into heaven.


The Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches teach "the conditional security of the believer".[20] "According to . . . all of the Church’s spiritual writers, a man must be humble in order to stay on the right path and attain that for which he seeks."[20]


The Lutheran Churches teach that true Christian believers can fall away from the faith into apostasy.[21]


Anabaptists, such as Conservative Mennonites, teach that "Each member of the church has free will and can separate themselves from the body of Christ and live a sinful life, even if they once were bound to Christ."[22]

Classical Arminianism and Wesleyan Arminianism[edit]

The Arminian view, inclusive of the Classical Arminian position and Wesleyan-Arminian (Methodist) position, opposes any concept of eternal security, holding that a true Christian can fall from grace and be condemned to hell.[23]

Verses used to support eternal security[edit]

Some verses which are used to support the doctrine of eternal security are:[citation needed]

John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

Ephesians 4:30: And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

John 3:15–16: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 8:38–39: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 4:13-14: Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life”

John 5:24: Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life

John 10:27-29: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.

John 11:25-26: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Davis, John Jefferson (1991). "The Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine" (PDF). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 34 (2): 213.
  2. ^ Burnell, Peter (2005). The Augustinian Person. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press. pp. 85–86.
  3. ^ Komline, Han-luen Kantzer (2019-11-13). Augustine on the Will: A Theological Account. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-094882-5.
  4. ^ a b Komline, Han-luen Kantzer (2019-11-13). Augustine on the Will: A Theological Account. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-094882-5.
  5. ^ "Philip Schaff: History of the Christian Church, Volume III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 311-600 - Christian Classics Ethereal Library". Retrieved 2021-12-21. Jovinian’s second point has an apparent affinity with the Augustinian and Calvinistic doctrine of the perseverantia sanctorum. It is not referred by him, however, to the eternal and unchangeable counsel of God, but simply based on 1 Jno. iii. 9, and v. 18, and is connected with his abstract conception of the opposite moral states. He limits the impossibility of relapse to the truly regenerate, who “plena fide in baptismate renati sunt,” and makes a distinction between the mere baptism of water and the baptism of the Spirit, which involves also a distinction between the actual and the ideal church.
  6. ^ Stapert, Calvin (2007). A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-3219-1. Jovinian taught the complete equality between marriage and celibacy and between eating and fasting. He also taught something like the Calvin- ist doctrine of the perseverance of the saints
  7. ^ The Evangelical Guardian. J.M. Christy. 1846. He was also charged with maintaining the perseverance of the saints
  8. ^ Armitage, Thomas (1890). A History of the Baptists: Traced by Their Vital Principles and Practices : from the Time of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the Year 1886. Bryan, Taylor. held the vital principle of regeneration by the Spirit of God , the perseverance of the saints
  9. ^ The Critical Review of Theological and Philosophical Literature. Williams and Norsate. 1897. results of this indwelling led Jovinian in the second place to state a doctrine of the perseverance of the saints
  10. ^ "Gottschalk by Steven Lawson". Ligonier Ministries. Retrieved 2021-11-07.
  11. ^ Augustin ((saint ;); Hippo.), Saint Augustine (Bishop of (1988). On Faith and Works. Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-0406-2.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Pink, Arthur W. (2001). Eternal Security. Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc. pp. 39, 47, 58. ISBN 1589601955.
  13. ^ a b Dunlap, David. "The Battle For Continuing Faith". Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  14. ^ Ironside, H. A. (24 April 1934). "Eternal Security of the Believer". Plymouth Brethren Writings. Retrieved 10 April 2022. People say, “If you preach this doctrine of the eternal security of the believer, men will say, ‘Well, then it doesn’t make any difference what I do, I will get to heaven anyway.’” It makes a tremendous difference what you do. If you do not behave yourself, it shows that you are not a real Christian. I know that a real Christian may fail, but the difference can be seen in Peter and Judas. Peter failed, and failed terribly, but he was genuine, and one look from Jesus sent him out weeping bitterly; his heart was broken to think that he had so dishonored his Lord. But Judas companied with the Lord almost three-and-a-half years and was a devil all the time; he was a thief and was seeking his own interest. He was even made the treasurer of that company and he held the bag, but we read, “He bare [away] what was put therein” (John 12:6), as this has been literally translated. At last remorse overtook him, not genuine repentance, and what was the result? He went and hanged himself. He was never a child of God. There is a great difference, you see, between a Christian and a false professor.
  15. ^ Stanley, Charles (1990). Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure?. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. pp. 81, 116–118. ISBN 0840790953.
  16. ^ a b Stanley, Charles. Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? Nashville: Oliver Nelson, 1990. ISBN 978-0-8407-9095-8 pp.1-5
  17. ^ Lemke, Steve. "Salvation and Sovereignty, by Kenneth Keathley: A Review Essay". Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry.
  18. ^ Peters, Ted (1 August 2015). God--The World's Future: Systematic Theology for a New Era, Third Edition. Augsburg Fortress Publishers. p. 391. ISBN 9781506400419. Justification is not enough for the Methodists. The Christian life cannot get along without transformation as well. Transformation is accomplished through the process of sanctification. "The one [justification] implies what God does for us through his Son, the other [sanctification] he works in us by his Spirit." The spiritual life of the Methodist ends up reiterating what the Roman Catholics had deemed so important, namely transformation.
  19. ^ Marshall, Taylor. "Can You Lose Your Salvation?". The Catholic Perspective on Paul. Archived from the original on 22 May 2019. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  20. ^ a b "Orthodox Church Affirms Conditional Security". Scribd. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  21. ^ Klotz, Joseph (29 June 2015). "Three Examples of How Lutherans Deny Justification by Faith Alone: A Response – Part Two of Two". Steadfast Lutherans. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  22. ^ "Eternal security". Third Way. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  23. ^ Shank, Robert (1989). Life in the Son. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers. pp. 31-48. ISBN 1-55661-091-2.