The doctrine of having an eternal security is worthy to be examined and debated. Biblical salvation does offer an assurance that is granted to individuals who subscribe to the faith. It must be understood at the onset that eternal life is discovered only in Christ, and apart from him there is no promise. The apostle so stated in 1 John 5:11-13:
“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (NKJV)
In the selfsame Epistle, John revealed six distinctive characteristics of assurance that I will note.
1-There is no salvation apart from knowing and believing in Christ, as noted in the above passage.
2-One has assurance that he as eternal life if he is honoring Christ as Lord of his life: “And now by this we know that we know him, [if] we keep his commandments. He that says, “I know him”, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (2:3-5)
3-One has assurance that he as eternal life if he has a single eye towards the Lord: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. [If] any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (2:15-17)
4-One has assurance that he as eternal life if his lifestyle exhibits one of holiness: “Little children, LET NO ONE DECIEVE YOU (emphasis mine), He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil…”(3:7-8)
5-One has assurance that he as eternal life if he loves the brethren: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (3:14-15).
6-One has assurance that he as eternal life because he has the witness of the Spirit: “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (3:24)
Believing that one has security in Christ is not the sole issue. The question arises from the basis of how this security is granted. We all know that eternal life is found in the Son; however, the contention arises when people promote the guarantee of an [unconditional] eternal security apart from the inheritee’s actions.
The presumed stumbling block appears from the understanding that if we have [eternal] life, then how can it be forfeited? The answer is discovered in the foundation laid from the beginning – that life is found only in the Son. We do not have eternal life apart from Jesus; hence, where the son abides, there will be life. And as noted above, he will not abide in a heart that does not submit to Him.
The Scriptures reveal to us the conditions for obtaining eternal life. The avenue of repentance, faith and obedience are necessary factors to the one who is to benefit from this promise. The Scriptures emphatically warn believers of the peril of not continuing in the faith. Please note Hebrews 3:12-14.
“BEWARE, BRETHREN (emphasis mine), lest there be in any of YOU an evil heart of unbelief in DEPARTING FROM THE LIVING GOD; but exhort one another daily…. Lest any of YOU be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ [if] we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.”
A clear warning of apostasy has been cited, and the author has encouraged the saints to exhort one another to continue in the faith from which they had been established. To water this down or outright reject this passage is completely unwarranted. True faith reveals itself in continual obedience to Christ’s conditions for salvation. Unbelief manifests itself in continually disobeying these conditions. His conditions for discipleship have not changed.
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed in Him, ‘[If] you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31).
“Most assuredly, I say to you, [if] anyone KEEPS My word he shall never see death” (John 5:51).
“[If] anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6).
Let us embrace the totality of Scripture, without rejecting the message that we may disagree with. There is an ongoing theme that is revealed within both the Old and New Testaments through consistently conveying the message of repentance, faith and obedience as conditioning factors to salvation. From Adam onward, we find that God has always demonstrated that His relationship with man would be laid on the foundations that; salvation belongs to Him, and it is on the basis of man’s cooperative (free will) response and ongoing submission to Him, that He will be God to that people. To reject the condition of obedience to God is to reject the nature of faith and grace itself, and the entire basis of our relationship towards Him.
I will conclude with a citation from “A Manual Grammar of the Greek New testament.”
“Every time Jesus asked a person to follow him he used the … present imperative. ‘And he says to him, Follow me’ (Matt. 9.9). That is, begin now to follow me, and continue doing so. When the present imperative is used, it denotes continuous or repeated action.”