by Matt Slick
It is the policy of CARM to maintain a neutral stance on debatable issues of Christian theology while teaching Christian orthodoxy. Our goal is not to cause division in the body of Christ but to try to promote unity. However, the issue of eternal security has become more important lately, and we felt it was time to defend our position. Please understand that if you do not agree with eternal security, we are not condemning you. That is not our goal.
Not a license to sin
Nevertheless, CARM holds to the eternal security of the believer. This position is not a license to sin because those who are truly Christians are also truly regenerate (John 3:3-8, 2 Corinthians 5:17), have the Holy Spirit living in us (Romans 8:9-14, Galatians 4:6) and are made new creatures who naturally war against our sin (Romans 7:18-25). That is what Christians do. This fact is often overlooked by the critics of eternal security who frequently misrepresent the position by saying that it is a license to sin when it is not. And, when we offer correction to that attack, it is almost always ignored, and the attacks continue.
Keep salvation by being good?
We could, on the other hand, raise an important objection to conditional security. If it is possible for a person to lose his salvation, then we have to ask if that person is keeping his salvation by his good behavior--whether by being good or by being faithful. This is important because the Scriptures teach us that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone so that "being good" cannot be part of keeping salvation. It is the result of it--not its cause nor the glue that keeps salvation in place.
- Romans 3:27-28, Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
- Romans 4:1-5, What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,
As far as being faithful goes, we are certainly commanded by God to believe. But again, we have to ask if a Christian says that he maintains salvation by being faithful, is that a correct Biblical position? Of course, we affirm that we should remain faithful. But, we are asking a question as to whether or not someone who claims to follow Christ is, in effect, maintaining his salvation with God based on his ability to do the good work of believing. After all, God tells us to believe in Him. It is a command, and we should believe in Him. But, Scripture has some interesting things to say about our belief.
- John 6:28-29, "Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (NASB)
- "Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (ESV)
- "Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (NIV)
- "Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (KJV)
- Philippians 1:29, "For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake." (NASB)
- "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake." (ESV)
- "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." (NIV)
- ""For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." (KJV)
I posted multiple versions of these two sets of Scripture for the sake of clarity. It is God who works believing in us (John 6:28-29) and who also grants that we believe (Philippians 1:29). God should get the credit even for our believing because, well, that's what the Scriptures teach. Nevertheless, there are Christians who take credit for their initial act of believing and who say that it was their own wisdom that led them to respond to the gospel message when it was presented. Yet, we are told that God grants that we believe. We don't grant it to ourselves. Is this important? Yes, because this is what Scripture says.
As Christians, we are supposed to demonstrate love for one another (John 13:35), and we are not to pass judgment upon the opinions of fellow Christians in debatable issues (Romans 14:1). However, the command to love one another and to not pass judgment seems to fall upon deaf ears with so many Christians who pronounce judgments upon those who disagree with whatever position they hold on this topic. They need to repent.
In light of this, CARM has been attacked for its position that we are eternally secure in the work of Christ and told that we are false teachers and promoters of sin. All these accusations are false. So, since we get so many questions about this topic and verses related to it, we decided to address it.