Falling Away or Eternal Security?
Updated: Nov 22, 2022
Many believers wrestle with the question of whether or not Christians can lose their salvation. Some face doubts about their own salvation because of weakness and failure in their life. Passages like Hebrews 10:38-39, which warn about men who draw back to perdition, strike fear in their hearts. But are they correct to entertain such doubts and fears? Can men fall away and lose their salvation? Or do they have eternal security?
Now I do not question the veracity and applicability of the falling-away passages. They are in the Bible for a purpose. Men do fall away. We see it every day. But the falling-away passages do not teach that true believers (born again and in the book of life) can lose their salvation. They teach that men can embrace evangelical religion for a season and then, like the dog who returns to its vomit, go back to their old ways. They go back because they were never born again. As we read in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us because they were not of us.”
Make no mistake. Those who fall away are not mere backsliders, or Christians struggling with besetting sin, or believers who lose a battle once in a while. They are ungodly men walking away from the Jesus and the faith of the Bible. Sometimes they depart absolutely—the classic apostate. Sometimes they turn to some form of churchianity that says they can live like the devil and face no consequences. But either way, there is nothing in them that seeks restoration, or strengthening, or greater conformity to Christ. There is no exercise of godly sorrow or repentance in their heart.
The believer’s experience is vastly different. Despite his weaknesses and failures, he says with Peter, “to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life.” No matter how discouraged, frustrated, broken, or angry he gets, he cannot turn away from Jesus. This is why Paul writes, “we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
But why is this? How come the believer cannot fall away? What preserves him? What gives him this eternal security? The manifold grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10). The following list, by no means exhaustive, will help you understand the power and extent of grace in the life of the believer.
Eternal life in the heart — Believers have been born of incorruptible, eternal seed (the word of God) (1 Pet. 1:23). As garden seeds bring forth temporal life which will perish, so this eternal seed brings forth a new life (a new birth) in the heart which is eternal and shall never die.
The new birth — 1 John 3:9 makes a profound statement about the new birth. “He that is born of God cannot sin.” This doesn’t mean the believer can’t commit acts of sin. It means he can’t continue indefinitely in a path of indulging sin without remorse and repentance. In other words, he is incapable of doing the very thing he needs to do to lose his salvation.
The keeping power of God — The believer is “kept by the power of God through faith” (1 Peter 1:5). If you grab an exposed live wire, you can’t let go. In a similar way, once our feeble faith lays hold of God, we are held fast by the power of God.
Sealed for the day of redemption — According to Ephesians 1:13-14 and 4:30, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit when we believe on Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the earnest or promise money which guarantees our redemption and inheritance. And it goes without saying that the infinite, omniscient God makes no mistakes in this regard.
Inner strengthening — The believer is “strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16) so he can face his spiritual battles with supernatural strength. Unless we are willing to impugn God, we are forced to assume that this effort is not done in a slipshod manner, but is God-quality work.
The divine origin of faith — Faith is not a mere choice or decision though it involves those things. The Bible teaches that Christ himself is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He starts this work and brings it to completion. This means it is not merely a product of our will and strength, which in turn means its endurance does not hinge solely on us. This is why the Bible can state that faith is the victory which overcomes the world.
The Son is praying for us — John 17:9 informs us that Jesus prays for his church. Hebrews 7:21-25 adds that he is our high priest in heaven, able to save to the uttermost those that come to him, seeing he lives for ever to intercede on their behalf. What an encouragement! We have a man in heaven praying for us—a man whose prayers always procure the end which they seek.
God’s grace — The Lord encouraged his disciples to forgive their brethren seventy times seven times (Matt. 18:21-22). Why are we encouraged to operate in such a spirit of grace? Because this is how he operates. He isn’t harsh with weakness and failure. He is only harsh with willful rebellion.
God’s watchful eye — We read in John 10 that no man or devil can take a believer out of Christ’s hand. For those who insist that believers can jump out, I would point them to the preceding statement, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” This expands the principle of protection to the entire spectrum. You can’t accidentally fall out of his hand. You can’t jump out of his hand in a fit of backsliding. You can’t jump out of his hand in a moment of despair.
I trust that these nine observations will encourage you. The degree and extent of our security in Christ is simply mind-boggling. We are not our own, we are bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). And the Lord spares no effort to ensure the eternal security of his purchased possession.
Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.
Lee William Brainard