Many passages of Scripture support the belief that once a person has attained salvation he can never lose it. There are also many scriptures that appear to support the position that once a person has attained salvation he can lose it.
Two issues are at stake:
So let us turn to the Scriptures and see what they say. We will first examine various passages that support eternal security, and then some that appear to support conditional security.
We'll begin by using the AMC's declaration as a framework.
What is meant by eternal security is that no believer will ever lose his salvation no matter what, but will possess it for all eternity.
Jude 1:1: Jude, a servant of Messiah Yeshua, and brother of James, to the ones called in God the Father, having been set apart, and having been kept [by, or for, or in] Messiah Yeshua:
Also, 1 Peter 1:5: believers are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
The words translated kept are different, but one common meaning is guarded. God guards, secures, keeps the believer saved in Messiah - not temporarily - but unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time, that is, until he is home with the Lord in Heaven.
The general meaning of the term is self-evident, but two things must be noted:
18. [I pray...] that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the
saints, 19. And what [is] the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power
~ Ephesians 1:18-19 ~
It is the great and mighty power of God that keeps our salvation secure, not feeble and faltering human effort. Can there be any insecurity when guarded by almighty God?
The new birth produces the new creation in Messiah Yeshua (2 Corinthians 5:17). A naturally born baby is born of corruptible seed, and will die because of the transmittal of the sin nature through that seed; but one regenerated in Messiah is born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever (1 Peter 1:23). He will never die spiritually because he is born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.
According to Galatians 4:6, the Holy Spirit indwells every believer from the moment of salvation: And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
According to John 14:16, the Spirit abides in the believer forever: And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever...
If the Spirit abides in the believer from the moment of salvation until the end of eternity, then there is not a moment of time in which he is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Can a believer indwelt by the Spirit - and the Spirit within him - be cast into Hell? Will God cast Himself into Hell?
2 Corinthians 1:22 says, And He [God] has sealed us and having given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
Also, Ephesians 4:30: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you are sealed until the day of redemption.
And Ephesians 1:13-14:
13. in whom [Messiah] also you, hearing the Word of Truth, the gospel of our salvation, in whom also believing, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,14. who is the earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
The Holy Spirit seals the believer in Messiah until the day of redemption, which is the resurrection or translation of the body at the rapture. The Spirit sees to it that the believer will never fall out, break out, or be kidnapped from being in Messiah. The Spirit is also the earnest, the down payment, that God has placed on us until He takes us home, body and soul, to be with Him on that day.
4. Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, so that as Messiah was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father; even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5. For if we have been joined together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection; 6. knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin. 7. For he who died has been justified from sin. 8. But if we died with Messiah, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9. knowing that when Messiah was raised from the dead, He dies no more; death no longer has dominion over Him. 10. For in that He died, He died to sin once; but in that He lives, He lives to God.
Galatians 2:19-20: 19. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20. I am crucified with Messiah: nevertheless I live....
These passages bring out the following:
2. Sanctification and Spiritual Growth Will Be Carried Forth to Completion
Paul assured, He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Messiah Yeshua (Philippians 1:6). The word translated perform means to carry forward to completion.
Also, 1 Corinthians 1:8: He [God] shall also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Messiah
These declarations are ironclad. A clearer, more straightforward, more absolute assertion of God's intent to complete what He began in the believer until they're home with Him can hardly be imagined.
14. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15. That whosoever believeth
in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
~ John 3:14-16 ~
John 5:24: Truly, truly, I say to you, He who hears My Word and believes on Him who sent Me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death to life.
27. My sheep hear My voice, and I
know them, and they follow Me. 28. And I give to them eternal life, and they shall never ever perish, and not anyone shall pluck them out of My hand. 29. My Father who gave them
to me is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand.
~ John 10:27-29 ~
In none of the above declarations is eternal life presented as probationary. Quite the contrary:
They should not perish, but have everlasting life.
They shall not come into condemnation.
They shall never ever perish.
Not anyone shall pluck them out of My hand.
No one is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand.
If we can believe Yeshua, then we can believe what He stated emphatically in different ways, that the believer will never ever
4. Yeshua Is Our Intercessor and Advocate Before God the Father
1 John 2:1: My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Messiah Yeshua the righteous.
Also, Hebrews 7:25: Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
The very purpose that Yeshua intercedes for us is that we may be saved to the uttermost.
The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible renders to the uttermost as to the end completely. That ought to be "uttermost" enough for anyone.
For Messiah has not entered into the Holy of Holies made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).
5. The Assurances of Romans 8
The broad sweep of Romans 1-7 is that all are guilty of sin, and that eternal forgiveness may had through Messiah (3:23; 6:23). Paul concludes Romans 7 by saying, 24. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25a. I thank God through Messiah Yeshua our Lord!
Romans 8 continues in the train of that worshipful exclamation, extolling the assurance of the salvation that is in Messiah. Here are some of the highlights:
1. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Messiah Yeshua.... 2. for the Law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has made me free from the law of sin and death.
The believer will not be eternally condemned even though he still sins, for he has been set free from the law of God that demands eternal death because of sin, For He [the Father] has made Him [Yeshua] who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [Yeshua] (2 Corinthians 5:21).
15. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father! We need no longer fear eternal judgment. We have been adopted into the family of God.
29. For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son. God has predestined the elect to be conformed to the image of His Son.
Can the predestination of God be undone even by the elect themselves? Not a chance in eternity! That is why Paul said so emphatically,
38. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to
come, 39. nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.
~ Romans 8:38-39 ~
Nothing and no one in all of eternity - not even the believer himself - will be able to separate him from the love of God which is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.
By conditional security is meant that believers retain eternal life only upon meeting certain conditions or avoiding others. This position does not necessarily hold that the power of God is not involved in the retention of eternal life, but that God may withdraw His keeping power if the believer does not meet those conditions. (We have already seen that believers are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time [1 Peter 1:5]). Surely a more appropriate term than conditional security can be found, as the term is an oxymoron. How can one's salvation be secure this side of heaven if it is conditional? Nonetheless, this observation neither proves nor disproves what the Bible says on the matter.
Louis Sperry Chafer declared, "As many as eighty-five passages are listed by those holding the Arminian view as establishing the doctrine of conditional security" (Major Bible Themes, p. 220. See endnotes). We are not going to examine eighty-five passages! but we will examine those that seem to be the strongest and most commonly used; but first a word about human observation and judgment.
It is not only the apparent meaning of certain passages that cause many to believe in conditional security, but also observation and experience. Many of us have known people who seemed to be zealous for the Lord and then forsook Him, plunging headlong into a life of sin. It is these kinds of observations that have caused many to conclude that a believer can lose or throw away his salvation. However, it cannot be stated emphatically enough that human observation or experience must never be used to determine Biblical truth. The Scriptures are given to judge our observations and experiences, not the reverse! Our interpretations of our observations and experiences are often faulty, incomplete, biased, or just plain wrong. It is precisely because the Word of God is infallible and unbiased that it, and it alone, must be the light and the standard by which we judge and interpret our observations and experiences.
We have already examined passages that uphold the doctrine of eternal security. Let us now examine passages that appear to uphold conditional security.
Yeshua said to His disciples, But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13).
The verse seems to say that believers who do not endure to the end of their lives spiritually will lose their salvation. The problem is, the verse is not referring to believers at all, nor even to eternal salvation. Verses 3, 14 and 15 show that the context is the Great Tribulation, and verses 15 and 16, in particular, indicate that Yeshua is referring to Jews. Zechariah 13:8-9 and Ezekiel 20:38 state that, during that terrible time of "Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7), the Great Tribulation, God will kill the rebels of Israel, who will constitute two-thirds of the nation, by the armies of Antichrist; and that the one-third remaining, those receptive to spiritual truth, will endure unto the end of the Great Tribulation - physically - by the protection of God. They will then be saved spiritually by the sovereign outpouring of the Spirit among them (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1).
The verse cannot be used to support conditional security. It has to do with unbelievers enduring physically, not believers enduring in their faith or in the quality of their walk.
John 15:6 is often interpreted as meaning that believers who do not abide in Messiah will be cast into Hell. Let's examine the verse.
4. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of
itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5. I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth
much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered. And they gather and cast them into the fire, and they
~ John 15:4-6 ~
Yeshua is teaching his disciples by means of allegory. The purpose of an allegory is to make a main point, and caution must be exercised in interpreting the details. The point that Yeshua is making is that His disciples need to abide in Him for fruitfulness; and we must beware the pitfalls of assuming that the branch cast into the fire means that the unfruitful believer will be cast into Hell, and that the exhortation to abide in Him means that he needs to hold on to his salvation by continuing in fruitfulness.
One sound hermeneutical principle is that the unclear needs to be studied in the light of the clear. The figure of the branch cast into the fire must be studied in the light of a clear declaration of some other passage dealing with the issue of fruitlessness. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 is just such a passage:
11. For any other foundation can no one lay than the one being laid, who is Messiah Yeshua. 12. And if anyone builds on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, 13. each one's work shall be revealed. For the Day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try each one's work as to what kind it is. 14. If anyone's work which he built remains, he shall receive a reward.15. If anyone's work shall be burned up, he shall suffer loss. But he shall be saved, yet so as by fire.
The passage makes it plain that the believer who leads a fruitless life will receive no reward; yet, he will still be saved. Therefore, the figure of the branch cast into the fire cannot refer to an unfruitful believer being cast into Hell. It may simply emphasize the ministerial worthlessness of a fruitless believer. By extension, the exhortation to abide in Yeshua cannot mean that the believer needs to continually exercise his will to remain saved. It must mean that he needs to avail himself of those means that the Lord has provided him for fruitfulness: prayer (Acts 4:39), meditation in His Word (2 Timothy 3:16), trust (Proverbs 3:5; Matthew 28:18), and action (Matthew 28:19-20).
In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says, But I beat my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. The word translated castaway in the King James is rendered disqualified or rejected or disapproved in other translations.
Here, again, some say that the passage shows that a believer may lose his salvation; but what is Paul actually saying? Once again, we'll look at the verse in context:
16. For though I preach the gospel, no glory is to me. For necessity is laid on me; yea, woe is to me if I do not preach the
gospel!... 24. Do you not know that those running in a stadium indeed all run, but one receives the prize? So run that
you may obtain. 25. But everyone striving controls himself in all things. Then those truly that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. 26. So I run
accordingly, as not uncertainly; so I fight, as not beating air; 27. but I buffet my body and lead it captive, lest proclaiming to others I myself might be disapproved.
~ 1 Corinthians 9:16, 24-27 ~
Paul is comparing his solemn charge to preach the Gospel to running in a race or fighting in a boxing match in which only one receives the prize. His reference is to the earning of rewards, the incorruptible rewards of the gold, silver, and precious stones of 1 Corinthians 3:12, not the retention of salvation. He disciplines his body and makes it his slave so that he would not be like the loser in an athletic contest who does not win the prize.
To become a castaway or reject, then, in the context of one who believes, has nothing to do with the loss of salvation, but the loss of rewards.
The concept of falling from grace is found in Galatians 5:1-4:
1. Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Messiah has made us free, and do not again be held with the yoke of bondage.... 2. You who are justified by Law are deprived of all effect from Messiah; you fell from grace.
Some interpret falling from grace as loss of salvation; but a look at the very next verse renders that interpretation invalid: 5. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness out of faith. The ones who fell from grace are among those who are waiting through the Spirit. Now, it is impossible for an unsaved person to do anything through the Spirit as he does not have the Spirit. Therefore, those who fell from grace are still saved, and falling from grace must mean something other than the loss of salvation.
What does it mean? Verses 1 and 2 juxtapose the freedom that is in Messiah with the bondage of being under the Law, and verse 2 declares that those believers who place themselves under the Law as requisite for justification have fallen from grace; they no longer depend solely on the grace of God for their justification, but include the keeping of the Law. To the extent that they have placed themselves under the Law they have placed themselves under a merit system, the polar opposite of the grace of God. In that sense, and in that sense only, have they fallen from grace.
The passage is not speaking of the loss of salvation, but the placing of oneself under the merit system of the Law while yet saved.
This idea comes from a misunderstanding of 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Some also misunderstand the verse as being an evangelistic call to unbelievers. However, 2:1 makes it clear to whom John is speaking, and also declares that the sinning believer has a safety net beneath him in the heavenly advocacy of Yeshua on his behalf: My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Messiah Yeshua the righteous. John is writing to believers as only they have an Advocate with the Father. As has been shown, the Advocacy of Yeshua on behalf of the sinning believer assures his salvation. Therefore, even if a believer dies without having confessed some of his sins - and who could know or remember them all! - his salvation will hold secure.
The confession that John is encouraging here is not confession for salvation; confession for salvation requires only the confession of Yeshua as Lord (Romans 10:9), not the confession of sins. The confession that John is encouraging is for the restoration of quality fellowship with the Lord and for continued sanctification.
This conviction stems from a misunderstanding of Matthew 6:15: but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Unforgiveness is a sin, and Messiah died for all sins, past, present and future (Acts 3:19; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:28). Here, again, the Lord is speaking of the quality of one's relationship with his Father. If one bears unforgiveness in his heart toward a neighbor, then the Lord will withhold the blessing of quality fellowship from him, not eternal life.
The latter situation is the case of the Corinthian man who had illicit relations with his father's wife (1 Corinthians 5). We know that he was a believer, for if he wasn't, Paul would not have been able to deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (to be put to death either by progressive degeneration or an instant blow) as he would already have been in the hands of Satan for that purpose pending the command of the Lord (Hebrews 2:14). It is Yeshua who normally puts believers to death (Revelation 1:18); 1 Thessalonians 4:14 speaks of believers who have fallen asleep through Yeshua. It is because the man was already saved and in the hands of Yeshua for death in due time that Paul was able to deliver him to Satan.
Did the man lose his salvation? No. Paul brought extreme discipline upon the man so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Yeshua (15:5). It was a work that only the Lord could authorize, and we can trust that, even as He authorized this extreme measure to sustain the salvation of the man even had he not repented, He will do whatever is necessary to sustain the salvation of even His most sinful followers.
That statement and others like it are found in Ezekiel 18:
4: The soul that sins, it shall die.
13: He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be on him.
18: even he shall die in his iniquity.
20: The soul that sins, it shall die.
24: in his trespass that he has trespassed, and in his sin that he has sinned, in them he shall die.
26: for his iniquity that he has done, he shall die.
These statements have caused many to believe that believers who commit serious sin or plunge into persistently sinful lifestyles will be condemned to eternal death; but let's examine the chapter.
In every case, the word used for soul is nephesh. In English, soul is normally equated with the immaterial part of a person. However, there are a good many instances in the Tanach (Old Testament) in which the death of the nephesh refers to the death of the physical person. Joshua 11:11: And they struck every nephesh in it with the edge of the sword, destroying them. And he left none breathing. Obviously, swords were used to kill breathing bodies. It is clear, then, that the killing of the souls in Ezekiel 18 could easily refer to the physical killing of people. But was that actually the case?
According to Charles Ryrie's introduction to the Book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel's ministry was to keep before the exiles the sins which had brought God's judgment on them... (The Ryrie Study Bible). The Babylonian exile was a national, temporal, earthly judgment. Chapter 9 prophesied the slaying of Jerusalem's inhabitants, and chapter 22:13-22 prophesied the eschatological scattering of Israel and subsequent judgment upon her in Jerusalem; both of them temporal and earthly judgments. The point is that chapter 18 is bathed in the context of temporal, earthly judgment, not eternal judgment.
The chapter contains lists of good deeds which, if people will do, they will live. Similarly, there are lists of evil deeds which, if people will do, they will die. The context of earthly judgment renders it almost certain that the death referred to throughout the chapter is temporal, physical death, not eternal death. Those who sin will die physically because of their sins. Those who do righteously or turn from their sins will live physically. Such judgment had already occurred in Israel as can be seen in the account of Korah's rebellion against Moses. Those who sided with Korah were killed by the LORD; those who sided with Moses were spared (Numbers 16).
To sum up, thus far,
These points render it rather certain that the death referred to in the chapter is physical, not eternal; but now let's look at the passage that controls the discourse of the entire chapter.
1. The word of Jehovah came unto me again, saying, 2. What mean ye,
that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? 3. As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah,
ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. 4. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that
sinneth, it shall die.
~ Ezekiel 18:1-4 ~
The people were complaining that they were suffering because of their fathers, to which God replied through the prophet, ...the soul that sinneth, it shall die (v. 4). What kind of suffering were they complaining about? Certainly not the suffering of eternal punishment. They were still alive! Furthermore, never in Scripture is one condemned to eternal punishment because of the sins of another or of a previous generation. The sufferings they complained about must therefore refer to their sufferings as a conquered and captive people, which included the slaughter of many of their brethren, and will perhaps include some of them.
All talk of death in the chapter refers to physical death, not eternal. Therefore, none of the death verses in the chapter supports conditional security.
1 Peter 1:5 says that believers are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. We have seen that this means that God guards, secures, keeps the believer saved until he is home with the Lord in Heaven; but the verse also tells us how God keeps the believer secure: by sustaining saving faith in the believer's heart. God keeps us through faith just as He saved us through faith (Ephesians 2:8). The one who is saved through faith can never lose saving faith because God sustains it.
A question arises here: It is the believer who must exercise saving faith, not God. How, then, does a sovereign God sustain faith in a believer through faith who must continually exercise it of his own free will? The answer is, the same way He saves a person through faith. In John 6:44, Jesus said, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. God draws a person to Jesus, and that person exercises faith unto salvation of his own free will. Once the person is saved, the Spirit and the Son intercede for him unto the sustaining of his faith.
In Romans 8, in which Paul states so emphatically and in so many ways that the believer will never be eternally condemned or separated from the love of God, he says in verses 26-27,
26. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27. and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Our weaknesses must, of necessity, include every vulnerability imaginable through which we could lose faith or desire to throw it away. The verses, then, tell us that the Spirit intercedes for us so that we would not lose faith. Adam Clark comments on the verses thus: "Our Lord makes intercession for us, by negotiating and managing, as our friend and agent, all the affairs pertaining to our salvation" (Adam Clark's Commentary on the Bible).
The Spirit's intercession for us guarantees that we will never lose faith; and if we will never lose faith, we will never lose salvation. As if that is not enough, the Son's intercession for us guarantees the same. This is illustrated beautifully in the case of Peter, which we will now look at.
This issue is really a subset of what we have just considered. If God has saved a person through faith, He will sustain his salvation through faith no matter what may proceed from his lips.
What did the Lord tell Peter before his threefold denial (Matthew 26:69-74)? 31. Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32. But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not. And when you are converted, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32). If one sees this as saving faith that the Lord prayed for, then He kept it secure via his intercession. If one sees it as faith for continued service, sometimes called living faith, then the loss of saving faith is not an issue, as faith for service cannot exist except on the foundation of saving faith. Whichever the case, Peter's denial did not constitute a loss of saving faith for even a moment. He never became unsaved.
What, then, did Jesus mean by when you are converted? Peter already had faith, which is why the Lord could pray that it fail not. Peter's conversion, then, had to do with his transformation from one who runs from trouble, as he did when he denied the Lord three times
(Matthew 26:69-74), to one who stands strong in the face of persecution, as he did in Acts 4:18-20 and 5:27-29.
Denial or renunciation is an outward act, and outward acts are never absolute indicators of what is going on inwardly. As has been discussed, error-prone human judgment is involved here. Just as an actor on stage may confess the Lord with his lips and not receive Him in his heart, one may deny the Lord or renounce the faith with his lips and not truly do so inwardly. Peter denied the Lord to save his skin, but there is no reason to believe that he denied him in his heart. There may be other reasons for outward denial, such as, bad experiences with Christian leaders or to avoid rejection by one's family. Even if a man renounces the Lord because he is angry with Him, or just so he can have a grand old time in the flesh - if he had saving faith to begin with God will sustain it in his heart, as we have seen in 1 Peter 1:5.
The sin unto death is referred to in 1 John 5:16: If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: Here, too, is a verse that some interpret to mean that a believer can lose his salvation.
What is the sin unto death? As we have seen, 1 Corinthians 5 tells of a church member who was living in fornication with his father's wife. He had rejected the preliminary steps of church discipline, and now, in verse 5, Paul instructs the church to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Yeshua. The sin unto death, then, is refusal to accept the preliminary steps of church discipline in such serious matters as described in 1 Corinthians 5, placing the offender in jeopardy of being delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh.
What are we to see here? The man did repent (2 Corinthians 2:5-8); but supposing he did not. Satan would have killed him (destroyed his flesh), but his spirit would have been saved in the day of the Lord Yeshua. His salvation would have remained secure in the Lord despite his lack of repentance. The sin unto death is a sin unto physical death, not eternal death. No believer can commit a sin unto eternal death.
31. All kinds of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven to
men. 32. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world
or in the world to come.
~ Matthew 12:31-32 ~
Blasphemy is insulting, vilifying or showing contempt for God. This statement has caused some to believe that a believer can lose his salvation by blaspheming the Spirit.
Pharisaic theology held that only Messiah would be able to cast out a dumb demon, heal a Jewish leper, and restore sight to a man born blind, all of which Yeshua performed in the course of His ministry. In Matthew 12, Yeshua cast out a dumb demon, causing the crowd of onlookers to exclaim, Is this not the Son of David (meaning, Messiah) (vv. 22-23)? The Pharisees responded, He does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons (v. 24). With that pronouncement, contradicting even their own theology, the religious leadership of Israel rejected the messiahship of Yeshua on the grounds of His being possessed by the Devil. By extension, so did the nation. Not every Israelite rejected His messiahship. He did have followers; but as a national unit Israel adjudged that He was not Messiah. In context, then, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was the national sin that Israel committed in rejecting the messiahship of Yeshua by attributing the work of the Spirit through Him to the work of the Devil.
What about the phrase, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come (v. 32)? The Hebrew that Yeshua used for world to come was olam haba, which is the rabbinic phrase for the Messianic (Millennial) Kingdom, a phrase that this author heard often as a boy from the lips of rabbis. This meaning is also brought out by Strong's Concordance. Strong shows that the Greek word for world is aion, which is properly an age... specifically (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future).
The unforgiveness that Yeshua spoke about had nothing to do with eternal unforgiveness, but of unforgiveness in regards to the Messianic Kingdom. Because of the nation's blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom would not be established at that time (in this age), nor would they be alive to see it in the age to come;" but instead, declared Yeshua, 38. Behold, your house is left to you desolate. 39. For I say to you, You shall not see Me from now on until you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:38-39). Their house (temple) was to be destroyed (70 A.D.), and the nation would not see Him again until they receive Him as Messiah, at which time He will return and establish His kingdom.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was the national sin of Israel attributed and attributable only to that generation (Matthew 23:36), and it is not a sin attributable to individuals. An unbeliever named Saul of Tarsus was part of the nation at that time, and yet, the Lord forgave and saved him (Acts 9:4-6). As blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a national sin and not attributable to individuals, it is impossible for an individual to lose his salvation by committing it: He cannot commit it.
A number of passages in the Book of Hebrews certainly do seem to say that believers can lose their salvation. Here, perhaps, are the two most convincing:
4. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the
Holy Spirit, 5. and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come, 6. and who have fallen away; it is impossible, I say, to renew them again to repentance,
since they crucify the Son of God afresh to themselves and put Him to an open shame.
~ Hebrews 6:4-6 ~
26. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, 27. but
a certain fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28. He who despised Moses' Law died without mercy on the word of two or three
witnesses. 29. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy of punishment, the one who has trampled the Son of God, and who has counted the blood of the
covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
~ Hebrews 10:26-29 ~
Once again, let's look at the passages in their historical and biblical contexts.
The letter was written to Jewish believers in Jerusalem during the Roman siege prior to the judgment of 70 A.D. Concerning that judgment, Yeshua warned and instructed His disciples, 20. And when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that its destruction has come. 21. And let those in Judea flee to the mountains. And those in its midst, let them go out (Luke 21:20-21).
His followers were not to remain in the city, but to flee. This proved to be a tremendous test on two fronts. The first was the pressure put on all Jewish believers in the Land, through persecution, to forsake Yeshua and return to rabbinic Judaism. The second was the expectation of all Jerusalem Jews by the Zealots, who were in control, to join the armed resistance against Rome. The believers had no qualms about fighting the Romans, but the Lord did tell them to flee; so here they were, caught in the middle. The Book of Hebrews was written to strengthen their resolve to obey the Lord; to not return to rabbinic Judaism, but to flee to the mountains. Every warning of judgment in the Book had to do with the impending judgment of 70 A.D., not with eternal judgment. If they remained and returned to rabbinic Judaism, they would be slaughtered. If they made a clean break with it and fled, their lives would be spared.
The Book had its intended effect. In the Lord's providence, He opened a window of time for obedience. In 66 A.D., the Romans lifted the siege as they needed their troops elsewhere. The Jerusalem believers fled across the Jordan to the mountains, and found refuge in Pella. In 68 A.D., the Romans resumed the siege and, in 70 A.D., destroyed the city and the Temple with a great slaughter.
None of the warnings of judgment in the Book of Hebrews had to do with eternal judgment, but with physical judgment. The repentance in the Hebrews 6 passage had nothing to do with repentance unto salvation, but with repentance unto obedience to the Lord's command to flee; and no more a sacrifice for sins was a reference to the Mosaic Law under which there were certain sins, such as, adultery and murder, for which no sacrifice could be offered, but which necessarily incurred capital punishment. No more a sacrifice for sins also had a more immediate reference in that not even the Lord's crucifixion would save them from physical judgment for disobedience, but that they would need to pay with their physical, not spiritual, lives.
None of the Hebrews passages, therefore, support the idea that a believer could lose his salvation.
We examined what seem to be the strongest and most commonly used passages in support of conditional security, and saw that not a single one stands the test of hermeneutical scrutiny. We also saw definitive declarations of eternal security, and explanations of various ways that the Lord keeps His believers secure.
We have discovered no evidence that Scripture contradicts itself, and can rest assured in the trustworthiness of all that it truly says, such as,
I give to them eternal life, and they shall never ever perish. (John 10:28)
The believer need not serve the Lord for fear of losing his salvation, but for joy in the salvation that is eternally his by the grace of God. As it says of Yeshua, for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2).
Let us so serve Him!
"What must I do to be saved?" was the cry of the Philippian jailor. (Acts 16:30)
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved," was the reply of Paul and Silas.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
"And, brothers, I declare to you the gospel.... that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Jesus implored His listeners, "Believe the Gospel". So we humbly implore you.
Please let me know if you've just begun to believe.
God bless you!