Definition of the terms:
Conditional Security: Salvation can be lost or forfeited through a gradual loss of faith, as evidenced by a self-centered, sinful lifestyle. One may or may not turn away from Christianity in favor of a different religion. Primary is a lack of genuine faith in Christ.
Unconditional Security: Salvation cannot be lost. We are eternally secure in Christ; there’s nothing we can do to change our position in Christ. However, true faith will endure because of who we are in Christ as new creations. Further, true faith will be evidenced by a changed life, a sincere devotion to Christ. True salvation produces the fruit of salvation.
Romans 6 and 8 are key chapters as it relates to eternal security. It’s important that we have the right foundational passages to build our doctrines on. In this case, the verses that should form our foundation are the ones that deal with how we acquire salvation, what our salvation entails, and the connection that election has with it. What should not serve as our foundation, are the verses that appear to refer to the possibility of losing our salvation. I believe that is backwards. We first must have a proper understanding of all that is involved in our salvation before we begin considering the verses that indicate salvation can be lost. It makes better sense to first obtain a good understanding of all that’s involved in our salvation, all that Christ accomplished for us (book of Romans is primary). I think only when we’ve done that are we ready to properly interpret the passages that seem to indicate that we can drift in our faith to the point of forfeiting our salvation.
While there are many scriptures we can discuss that reveal unconditional security, I’m only going to discuss the primary ones that convince me that conditional security cannot be what the Bible teaches. I’ve already studied these verses in their context, so I’m only going to provide the central verses under consideration:
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him.10 For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (NET)
To get the full power of this passage, you’ll need to read the whole chapter, but here is what leaps off the page for me:
(Ro 6:9) – 9 We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
I consider this to be one of the most important verses supporting unconditional security. When I first realized what I was seeing here, my jaw dropped. Let me explain the significance of this statement. Paul explains in this chapter that we have died with Christ and have been raised to new life in Him. We have entered into His death and resurrection, and He has also “seated us with Him in the heavenly places” (Eph 2:5-6; Col 2:12-13; Col 3:1-3). That is our position in Christ. Therefore, if Jesus is “never going to die again,” then neither can we ever die again! If we have died with Christ and have been raised to new life with Him, then it’s just as true that we’re “never going to die again.” This is an amazing revelation! We are forever alive in Christ!
Paul also says that “Jesus died to sin once for all.” That means once for all time. Therefore, if Jesus died once for all time, we enter into that same thing. When Jesus died on the cross, He died to sin once for all time. We too, then, have died to sin once for all time. That leaves no room or opportunity to ever die again, to ever lose what we have in Christ. Our old self has been crucified with Him, never to be put back up on that cross ever again. The Bible never presents the idea of us being crucified with Christ, then dying, then being re-crucified with Him again (after someone repents of sin and returns to faith).
The process of salvation is presented in the Bible as a one-time process. Let’s go to Romans 8 and consider the following passage, which describes the process of salvation:
(Romans 8:29-30) – 29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. (NET)
Nowhere in the Bible do we see the idea that we can lose our salvation, and then for the process of salvation to repeat itself (for those who repent and return to faith in Christ). That idea has to be assumed. As I always teach, we can never build a doctrine on assumptions. We have to work with what’s actually revealed.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, (NET)
Consider the words in bold in verse 2: “has set you free from the law of sin and death.” This means that since Christ has “condemned sin” (a death sentence to sin), we are therefore, not condemned (death sentence) ourselves! We’ve been set free from the governing law of sin and death (“sin that leads to death” NLT). Apart from Christ and the forgiveness that we have in Him, spiritual death is the consequence of sin, which leads to eternity separated from God. However, Paul reveals that in Christ we’ve been “set free from the law of sin that results in death.”
Think carefully about what this really means for us as believers. It means that the sins we commit in our lives now, are no longer subject to the “law of sin that leads to death.” That means that there is no sin that we can ever commit that will result in death — the loss of salvation. It’s not even possible. Sin has been “condemned,” given a death sentence, so that we would not be given a death sentence. Sin has been condemned so that it can no longer result in death (loss of salvation).
The idea that we can lose our salvation is contrary to what Paul reveals. We’ve been set free from the only thing that could ever cause that to happen. When we sin as Christians, we’re not subject to “the law of sin and death,” as we once were. In Christ, “the law of sin and death” no longer has any power or authority over our lives. It’s been given a death sentence. It’s been banished from our lives. Since we are in Christ, that’s all that God sees. He no longer sees the law that once ruled and condemned our lives, for it no longer applies to us. We like to talk about being saved, but being saved is more than being saved from eternal punishment—it’s being saved from the law of sin that results in eternal punishment. Therefore, we never ever have to be concerned about losing or forfeiting our salvation. We are completely and forever secure in Christ.
33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. (NET)
Paraphrasing Paul, this is what I believe he is saying here:
“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect (the saved)? Not God, because it’s God who has justified us.”
“Who is to condemn us? Not Christ, because He is the one who died for us and rose from the dead, who is at the right hand of His Father interceding on our behalf.”
In Christ, we can no longer be “charged” with sin, because God has justified us. He cannot charge us with sin and justify us at the same time.
In Christ, we can no longer be “condemned,” because He died on the cross and was raised from the dead for us, providing forgiveness. He cannot condemn us and provide forgiveness at the same time. Also, Jesus sits upon His throne interceding for us, ensuring our salvation. There is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8:1). We can never again be condemned for our sins.
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NET)
Interpreting this passage must be in the context of salvation. Thus, using very descriptive and all-encompassing language, Paul reveals that there is absolutely nothing that can ever “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That includes anything that we could ever do. Our salvation is secure in Christ; we’re never to be “charged” or “condemned” for our sins ever again.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
(Starting with verse 27) 27 Now you are Christ’s body, and each of you is a member of it:
12 For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not a single member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Since I am not a hand, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. 16 And if the ear says, “Since I am not an eye, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. 17 If the whole body were an eye, what part would do the hearing? If the whole were an ear, what part would exercise the sense of smell? 18 But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided. 19 If they were all the same member, where would the body be? 20 So now there are many members, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.” 22 On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, 23 and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, 24 but our presentable members do not need this. Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another. 26 If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If a member is honored, all rejoice with it. (NET)
We the corporate people of God (the Church) are the body of Christ, and we are described that way in this passage. Paul discusses the fact that each member of the body is important for the proper functioning of the body. Therefore, if any member of the body is lost, it becomes an incomplete body. The whole would feel the loss of even one member (vs. 26). It becomes a body without an eye or an ear or a foot, etc. This picture most certainly conflicts with conditional security, that we can lose our salvation.
Beside the fact that our election in Christ secures our salvation, all these scriptures – and the associated theology – convinces me that conditional security can’t be what the Bible actually teaches. It’s out of harmony with what’s been discussed in this study…..and this is only a handful of passages. The purpose of this study is to focus just on the passages that impact my understanding about this doctrine the most.
As the two doctrines are associated, in my next post I will address the question: “Can a Christian Live a Perpetual Life of Sin?” or “Can a Person Be a Christian and Not Live the Life of a Christian?” I won’t make you wait for where I stand on this: I believe the answer is no! Click on the link here.