The Necessity of Eternal Security

Recently I have been dealing with the shock of hearing that several pastors on the mountain where I live do not believe in eternal security.  I have had to struggle with the idea that I have always held but never proved to myself, that this doctrine is an essential part of the gospel message, and without believing it you do not have salvation.  I would like to share my research with you so you can know and understand that what I found was that this idea I have long held is Biblical and true.

We understand that salvation is by faith in the message authoritatively preached by God’s true messengers. (Gal 3:1-6)  Note the last line of that passage, “…just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’?”  Therefore salvation is based on believing God (or put another way, trusting His promises), and doing that alone with no works added for salvation. (Rom 3:28; Eph 2:8-9, etc.)  Well, what did Jesus promise?

As we look at the most commonly cited salvation verse (John 3:14-16) we see He promised ‘Eternal Life.’

 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:14-16, ESV)

So here, we have two mentions of eternal life, the first a promise that whoever believes in the Son of Man, who was lifted up, will have eternal life and the second a purpose clause explaining the reasoning behind the previous verse.  In both cases, the term ‘Eternal Life’ (ζωὴν αἰώνιον) is the direct object of a subjunctive verb.  Since this is not an equative clause, or a clause that declares things are equal, the adjective is not likely to be a predicate one, but rather an attributive adjective,[1] making eternality  an attribute of the life gained by the one with faith.  Just as one grammar text says of this sort of adjective, “Attributive structure in Greek involves the direct attribution of qualities or characteristics to a substantive.[2]

Since this is the case, then Jesus is asserting that the life you gain by faith has the quality or characteristic of being αἰώνιον, or stated another way, a life that has the quality of being “…of unending duration, without end….”[3]  If this is the quality promised, and salvation is based on believing God’s promise, then failing to believe it is eternal is failing to believe the gospel message.  Eternal life is the promise, and if it is not eternal, you have not believed the promise of salvation.

Now all of this ignores all the other positive verbiage in the New Testament about eternality, because this is the heart of the matter.[4]  As for those verses that might be read to say you can lose your eternal life, well all other passages must be interpreted through this lens as Scripture can and must never be used to contradict itself.  The promise of salvation is for a life with the attribute of being eternal; if you have believed that promise, your life will be such and you will not face the second death.  Such a view is the most basic tenet of Biblical interpretation.

Therefore, we see that the promise of security is built into what we must believe to be saved by Jesus Himself and the words He chose to use.  We must be clear that life without end is what you get by faith; that is the promise we believe.  If it is without end, it cannot be lost.  This is not some doctrine added to Scripture, but instead something that comes from the very mouth of Jesus.  The grammar Jesus chose to use says that any interpretation that claims eternal security is false is simply calling Jesus a liar.

This being the case, I encourage all of you, find out what your pastor teaches; even if you think you know, ask!  I was shocked when two pastors I knew said they did not believe it…  If I can be shocked, so can you.  Please ask, and do not let them give a smoke screen.  Directly ask if they believe that there is no way we can lose our salvation once we have faith.   Both of the pastors I spoke to tried to dodge the discussion and hide their belief; they had to be directly asked what they believed before they revealed it.  Please check, even if you think you know.  My brothers and sisters, this is a gospel issue.

[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics – Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999), 311.  More than the likelihood of thios interpretation, this phrase is the idea that this is the result of some other action, and so it is a package and not something that can be divided.

[2] Stanley E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament (Sheffield: JSOT, 1999), 116.

[3] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 33.

[4] The other verbiage includes direct and clear statements that agree with this position, such as Rom 8:31-39, which includes this favored portion of Scripture…  “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39, ESV)