There is a belief in Christianity, specifically among Baptists, referred to as “Eternal Security.” The belief is that once you have been saved by Christ, you will never fall away and end up under judgment in hell. This belief is one of the core distinctives of Baptists as a whole. We disagree on some other things such as soteriology, (How someone is saved, specifically Arminianism vs. Calvinism), eschatology, (the study of last things or how we view the end of days/armageddon/judgment), and worship style. The eternal security of the believer has been a distinctive of the Baptist tradition since its inception. I am surprised then at how much doubt there is over this belief in my church, a Baptist church.
I will be up front and say that I whole heartedly believe in the eternal security of the believer. However, I think I understand why there is doubt. Salvation is an awesome and unimaginable gift. This gift is necessary not because we are awesome, but because of how truly terrible we are at our core.
Mankind is in rebellion against its Creator. We enter this world with a nature bent on defiance of a Holy God.(Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23) There is no perfect man, just look at our children. We don’t have to teach them to hit, throw fits, or be disobedient. It comes naturally to them. We have to teach them to behave, not hit, and be obedient. We grow with this nature, and are at war with ourselves and our desires, desperately searching for something we don’t know we are missing and trying to fill it with money, sex, power, approval, experiences, and more. This is where we live out our lives. We are mired in sin, unsure of the problem or the remedy beyond more than our feelings and longings, until we hear the Gospel.
For the christian, at some point we heard the Gospel. That we are in rebellion against God, that we do the wrong things constantly, and that measured against what God demands in his law, we stand condemned. (Romans 3:9-19; John 3:18) The Gospel (literally, good news) is not that we are condemned. We must understand who we are for the weight of the Gospel to be felt. We are helpless in our sin before God. God cannot pass over sin without His justice being satisfied. He is perfect, as such there must be an accounting for our sin. However we cannot pay the penalty ourselves and thus cannot expect the reward.
The nature of the consequence of an offense is in direct proportion to the one offended. If a child lies to his mother he will perhaps be grounded, spanked, or “get a strong talking-to.” If I lie to a court of law, I can be put in jail for years. If then I lie to the One who created me, what then is the sentence for this offense? My sentence is death everlasting, punishment in hell. God is not a temporary court of man who will pass away in time, He is eternal and everlasting. A billion years from now, He still is. When I sin against Him, the One who gave me breath (Psalm 139:13-14; Jeremiah 1:5) I sin against the one and only God of the universe. My penalty then is proportionate to the one sinned against; the only eternal, righteous, holy, prefect, good, and true God.
Then comes the good news for ALL of us in such a terrible state. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, has come to earth to live the life I could not live. (John1:1,14) Jesus obeyed the law perfectly, and died on the cross for our sins. (Phillipians 2:5-11; John 3:16; Romans 5:6-8) The good news, is that God Himself, took on flesh and lived the life we could not live, died on the cross in our place, and was resurrected; defeating sin and death. He then, having paid for the sins of all who believe in Him, offers us life with God if we turn from our sin and believe in Him. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)
Wow. God poured out His grace (undeserved favor) on us in the salvation of our souls through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible specifically says it was not of works. This means you can’t earn it. You can’t do enough good things to outweigh your bad things. You can’t help enough orphans, give enough money, attend church enough, or say enough prayers to earn your way to Heaven. If man could earn his way there would be no need for Jesus Christ. The good news is that God made a way, and it really is as good as it sounds. We turn from our sin, we trust in Jesus, and He gives us a new heart. God does all the work in an outpouring of His love and mercy and grace. We are freed from the bondage of sin, and the judgment of hell, because Jesus paid for our sin on the cross.(Romans 3:21-31) Jesus paid for our sins, and we in turn receive his righteousness. We are seen then as clean before God. CLEAN!
We know what we are saved from, what are we saved TO?
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)
Given the magnitude of the gift, doubt naturally creeps in. (with a bit of a hiss….) “I don’t deserve this. Did God really save me forever? Don’t I have to keep my end of the bargain? Don’t I have to obey him to keep my place in heaven?”
That, is for the next post.