Security of the Believer

A.  The Issue
In Christian circles, there is theological debate about the security of the believer.  The core issue is whether or not a Christian, once saved, can ever return to a position of not being saved.

At one end of the spectrum are those who believe that once a person receives Christ, it doesn’t matter how he lives—he is secure.  The more common view is that if a person does not live a holy life, he was never saved in the first place.  At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe a Christian never possesses full assurance, since his status is dependant upon his obedience at that time.  The two positions can be labeled as “once saved, always saved,” and “trying hard but never sure.”  We do not believe that either of these positions reflects the full teaching of Scripture.

B.  The Biblical Teaching
The Bible emphasizes two truths regarding this issue.  The first is God’s ability to sustain the believer.  Salvation is a work of God’s grace.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)

God resurrects the dead soul and places us into his family.
[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:5)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
(1 John 3:1)

He places His Holy Spirit within us as a seal, guaranteeing our future inheritance
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you
were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption
of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

He works to bring to completion the work He began in us.
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 1:6)

He is faithful to provide us a means to overcome temptation.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond
what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13).

He shields us with His power and refuses to let anything separate us from His love.
Who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
(1 Peter 1:5)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ
Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

He will not lose those who come to Him
And this is the will of him who sent me that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
(John 6:39)

The second truth that brings balance is man’s responsibility to walk in faith.  We who have received Christ must continue to live in Him, being strengthened in the faith.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, (Colossians 2:6).

Living by faith, or abiding in Christ, is essential for bearing fruit, for the fruitless are cut off from Christ, who is the Vine.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that
does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to
you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear
fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such
branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:1-6)

You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of
unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not
spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you,
provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.  (Romans 11:19-22)

Adding Christ-like character to our faith makes us effective and productive and keeps us from ever falling.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-
control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to
brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective
and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind,
and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your
calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal
kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-11)

While God provides help to defeat temptation, we can reject it and become entangled and overcome by sin, making us worse off than before we knew Christ as Lord and Savior.
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it
and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have
known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed
on to them. (2 Peter 2:20-21)

We have a responsibility to not only watch ourselves, but also to encourage fellow believers so that none are hardened by sin’s deceitfulness and turn away from God
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one
another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to
share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:12-14)

We must rescue those who wander from the truth, which many will do in the latter days
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a
sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by
demons. (1 Timothy 4:1)

Two parallel passages reflect both truths:
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.
(Jude 24)

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and
free from accusation if you continue in your faith. (Colossians 1:22-23)

C.  Conclusion
The eldership concludes with these statements regarding the issue of eternal security:

1.Eternal security is a not a primary doctrine; that is, what one believes about it does not determine whether or not he is a Christian.  God will still save whom he chooses regardless of our position on the issue.  Within the church there is room for differing viewpoints.  One of our guiding principles is that in matters that are non-essentials, we advocate liberty and love.  In other words, we can disagree and still maintain unity.

2.While those within the church may hold to differing views, the position that will be taught by the leadership is that we will emphasize the security of the believer who is walking in faith.  We will teach both God’s ability to sustain the believer and our responsibility to continue to grow in faith.  God promises to provide us with everything we need to grow.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his
own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

Yet, we have to make use of those resources.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-
control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to
brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective
and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

God’s plan is not simply to get us into the kingdom, but to enable us to be productive in our relationship with Christ.  As leaders, we are responsible to praise those who are growing in their faith and admonish those who are unproductive.
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one
another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share
in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:12-14)

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a
sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20).

3.The ultimate test of whether or not someone is a Christian is faith that bears fruit. On one hand, those who hold to “once saved, always saved” conclude that a fruitless “Christian” was never saved in the first place.  Those who believe he was truly saved understand him to have fallen away.  Either way, the person lacks security.  On the other hand, both views agree that the professing believer who walks by faith and bears fruit has full assurance of his salvation.  His confidence is not based on anything he has done, but instead is based in whom he has placed his faith.  As Paul said,
I know whom I have believed, am convinced he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)

4.While we believe it is possible for a believer to turn away from Christ, or to fall away from grace this does not happen easily.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I
declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be
justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:2-4)

The hardening of the heart comes after continuous refusal to heed the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the providence of the
Lord in times of temptation.  Jesus warned that life’s worries and riches can cause a person who has begun spiritual growth to
be choked.
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the
deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)

When a believer sins, he must acknowledge that sin before the Lord in order to keep his heart from hardened because of sin’s deceitfulness.

[Approved: November 1999; Updated: March 2009]