When one meets the condition of responding to the Gospel with faith and repentance they become included in Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption:
Ephesians 1:13-14-"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth,the gospel of your salvation. When you 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."
So above we find Paul explaining to the Ephesians that we are included in Christ when? "When we heard the message of truth,the gospel of our salvation, and believed it." So when we hear the Gospel of Christ and we allow it to pierce deep into our heart, it produces faith (see Romans 10:17) which redeems us and includes us among the eternal predestined holy people of God. He goes on to explain whether or not we can be "excluded" from Christ at any point saying, "when you 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."So Paul clarifies that once we are included in Christ we are sealed from ever being excluded from Christ, notice we are sealed "until the redemption of those who are God’s possession (into eternity/ the resurrection of the righteous)."
There is a theological perspective formally known as Conditional Security which objects to the eternal security of the believer. Among the objections are a few scriptures that if misunderstood, can seem as though they are saying one can lose their salvation. Let's take a look as some of these.
Hebrews 6:4-6, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”
At first glance this scripture seems to teach that a believer can lose their salvation. The first possible explanation is that the author is using a common argument technique called reductio ad absurdum, in which a premise is disproved by showing that it logically leads to an absurd conclusion. The author is setting up a hypothetical statement saying “IF a Christian were to fall away, here is the absurdity of what would have to happen...” In this case the absurd conclusion would mean that Jesus would have to be crucified again, but we know this is ridiculous because His sacrifice was completely sufficient the first time (Hebrews 9:28). Jesus said "it is finished" (John 19:30). So by showing the absurdity of the conclusion the author disproves the assertion that a true believer could lose their salvation.
Another possibility is that these individuals were Hebrew converts in the process of coming to embrace Christianity but not fully converted at that point. The theology website "got-questions" explains the phrases in this passage that can be misinterpreted to mean that the author is addressing Christians, here is how it is explained:
"This passage is written not about Christians but about unbelievers who are convinced of the basic truths of the gospel but who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. They are intellectually persuaded but spiritually uncommitted.
According to this interpretation, the phrase “once enlightened” (verse 4) refers to some level of instruction in biblical truth. However, understanding the words of scripture is not the same as being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. For example, John 1:9 describes Jesus, the “true Light,” giving light “to every man”; but this cannot mean the light of salvation, because not every man is saved. Through God’s sovereign power, every man has enough light to be held responsible. This light either leads to the complete acceptance of Jesus Christ or produces condemnation in those who reject such light. The people described in Hebrews 6:4-6 are of the latter group—unbelievers who have been exposed to God’s redemptive truth and perhaps have made a profession of faith, but have not exercised genuine saving faith."
This interpretation also sees the phrase “tasted the heavenly gift” (Hebrews 6:9) as referring to a momentary experience, akin to Jesus’ “tasting” death (Hebrews 2:9). This brief experience with the heavenly gift is not seen as equivalent to salvation; rather, it is likened to the second and third soils in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13:3-23), which describes people who receive the truth of the gospel but are not truly saved.
Finally, this interpretation sees the “falling away” (Hebrews 6:6) as a reference to those who have tasted the truth but, not having come all the way to faith, fall away from even the revelation they have been given. The tasting of truth is not enough to keep them from falling away from it. They must come all the way to Christ in complete repentance and faith; otherwise, they in effect re-crucify Christ and treat Him contemptuously. Those who sin against Christ in such a way have no hope of restoration or forgiveness because they reject Him with full knowledge and conscious experience. They have concluded that Jesus should have been crucified, and they stand with His enemies. It is impossible to renew such to repentance." (http://www.gotquestions.org/Hebrews-6.html)
I would even add to this view by pointing out that verse 7-8 says, "For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned." What the author is doing here is drawing a contrast between those who receive God's blessing/salvation (those who bear fruit), and those unbelievers who fall away (those who produce thorns and thistles). In this comparison both crops received rain and nourishment (enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, and shared in the Holy Spirit) but one bore fruit and the other bore useless vegetation. What was the difference? One accepted the Gospel, received a new nature, and bore fruit, and the other rejected the Gospel after being given every possible sign that it was true, leaving no possibility of repentance.
Lastly, the author confirms to us that he is not referring to those who are genuine Christians by saying in verse 9, "Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation." By referring to them as "beloved" and saying that they are certain of "things that belong to salvation" rather than "things that belong to damnation" the author is clarifying that there is a difference between them (the fruit bearing crop) and those who fall away (the thorn bearing crop). The ones who fall away are not included among those he titles "the beloved" but rather those whom he titles as "worthless, near being cursed, and having an end to be burned." Therefore it is clear from this passage that true believers will not fall away while many who "profess to be Christians" will fall away.
Hebrews 10:26-29- “For if we are willfully sinning after receiving the full knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice concerning sins.”
This is another classic scripture touted as evidence that a true believer can lose their salvation. What some scholars have failed to take into account is the fact that the author was speaking to Hebrew Christians that were undergoing great persecution for leaving Judaism. Among these Hebrews were those who may have been exposed to the Gospel in such a way that they were receptive, but not yet accepting it fully with their hearts. These men would fit into the category of the individuals mentioned in the parable of the sower where the seed was "sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away (Mark 4:17). The author of Hebrews argues constantly throughout the letter that the temple sacrifices have become obsolete in light of the arrival of Jesus as the "Great High Priest." Therefore the author is calling these men to not fall prey to falling away from their desire to convert in the face of persecution, because there "remains no more (temple) sacrifice concerning sins.” The author was emphasizing that Judaism offers no provision for atoning for sin because the temples sacrifices have become fulfilled in Jesus, and Christ became the perfect sacrifice that takes away sin for all time (Hebrews 9:28). Therefore we can see how this verse perfectly fits the context of the author appealing to men who had received a "full knowledge of the truth" but were considering turning back to Judaism instead of trekking forward into a full embrace of the Gospel by faith in Jesus Christ.
In the parable of the sower we find 4 different categories of people with each of the analogies referring to the condition of their heart (See Mark 4:13-20). The first is the path (hard heart), then the rocky soil, then the thorny ground, and then the good soil. The Bible only mentions one category of people actually being considered "saved" (the good soil). In the rocky soil, and thorny ground category the Bible indicates that they "received the word" but it did not take root enough to lead to salvation. Therefore there are many instances in which people can exhibit "Christian behavior" yet the don't actually have a genuine relationship with Christ, this is often the case with passages that are used to teach a Christian can lose their salvation including Hebrews 10:26. Read the words of Jesus & the apostle John:
Matthew 7:22-23-"Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
1 John 2:19- "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."
The strengths of the Doctrine of Eternal Security are that it prevents us from devoting ourselves to God out of a sort of "slavish obedience" only following the Lord because they are afraid that He will revoke grace from us if we make a wrong move. It also gives us a basis for rejoicing and thanking God for the free gift of eternal life, which if there was a possibility of becoming "unsaved" due to a future sin we would not be able to rejoice with certainty in the hope of eternal life as the Bible exhorts us to.
The opponents of Eternal Security argue that it's primary flaw is providing people with a license for immorality. And I would say that depends on how this doctrine is taught, and is something we need to take serious. If people come to the conclusion that Eternal Security gives them a license for immorality I would suggest that they have only been given half of the story. Inherent in becoming one of God's children and being pardoned from sin is also becoming adopted by a Father who disciplines His children. This means that after we become Christians God has promised to correct and discipline us when we commit sin (Hebrew 12:6), and His discipline is not pleasant by any means. So are there consequences for sin after becoming a Christian? Absolutely. But can a Christian sin in such a way that God revokes grace from them? No because the power of the Holy Spirit keeps them from such an end and chastens them back to the place of obedience (1 Peter 1:5, Ephesians 1:13, Hebrew 12:6). Therefore, Eternal Security does not provide a license for immorality, on the contrary it reinforces the reality that we have a New Nature in Christ and loving Father who protects us from being separated from His love and that includes protecting us from ourselves through discipline (Romans 8:39).
The last common objection from supporters of "Conditional Security" is, "since God gives us free will He will not force us to keep our salvation if we later decide we do not want it any longer." The problem with this is that our will changes after being saved. If God causes our will to work for His good purpose then we can trust that our decisions will not lead to a total and final rejecting of Christ. He has "sealed us until the day of redemption (Ephesian 1:13-14)," and Philippians 2:13 says "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." So not only do we receive the Holy Spirit who seals us when we come to know Christ, the Holy Spirit works in us to cause our will to avoid an ultimate decision to relinquish our position in Christ. This is why Jesus could confidently say "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)"
Written by: Kyle Bailey, M.Th.
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