Eternal Security Objection #1


Faith Without Works is Dead

In the first three segments of this study I have shared the three strongest proofs that Eternal Security is taught in the Bible.  Having completed this it is now time to take an honest look at the arguments used by those who reject the idea of Eternal Security.  Many in this camp are genuine believers who believe they can support their position based on the testimony of Scripture.  In this segment and the one to follow I will consider some of their arguments to see how they hold up in light of the Scripture

At the center of this debate is the matter of “fruit and works” in the life of a genuine Saint.  If someone has genuinely trusted in Christ as Savior then we should expect to see changes in their lives that reflect the work of grace in their hearts.

2 Cor. 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  NKJV

This change is described in the Bible as the “fruit” of the Spirit and the “works” of the Saints.  The fact that these are evidence of a genuine Christian can be found in numerous passages of which the following are examples.

James 2:14-24:  James writes that “faith without works is dead.”  If someone says he is a believer but shows no works, his faith is not real but dead. 

John 15:6: Jesus declares that those who are true believers, “abiding in the vine (Christ)” will bear fruit.  If they do not bear any fruit then they are not truly saved and will be cast out to be burned forever in Hell.

Rom. 6:20-23, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.  But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” NKJV

Phil 1:9-11, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” NKJV

At this point both sides are in agreement.  When a person is genuinely saved the Holy Spirit baptizes them into the saving work of Jesus (1 Cor. 12:12-14; Rom. 6:3-6; Rom. 8:9-11) and takes up residence in their hearts.  The result is a changed life as was already shown in 2 Cor. 5:17.

The disagreement between the opposing sides is focused on the true nature or purpose of the “fruit of the Spirit” and the “works” of the Saints.  Those who hold to Eternal Security believe that “fruit and works” are the byproduct of salvation not the means to salvation.  What a genuine believer does or does not do cannot in any way change the fact he is eternally the child of God.  On the other hand those who oppose Eternal Security believe that “fruit and works” are a necessary means to maintain one’s salvation.  If these are neglected by the believer, he proves himself not worthy of salvation and in the process will lose it.

So what is the biblical position on “fruit and works?”  Are they the evidence of a genuine faith or are they necessary to hold on to one’s salvation?  We turn to the Bible for the answer.  Let us note the following points.

1) Salvation is not to be a burden to the Saint.  In Matt 11:30, Jesus compares the difference between those who taught that commandment keeping was necessary for salvation versus His teaching that salvation comes by faith alone. 

Matt 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." NKJV

Those who see commandment keeping as necessary for salvation place a huge burden on their shoulders.  They can never rest for they must be continually on guard least they think and do something that disqualifies them for salvation.  In contrast, when you are resting totally by faith in the saving work of God, the burden is lifted and you find true rest.  If God is caring for my salvation, then when I do fall or fail, I know that I am still a child of God and that God’s love and mercy are ready to forgive me (1 Jn. 1:8-10). 

Note that this does not free me from the responsibility to do God’s will.  However I do so now, not because I have to, but rather because I want too.  The reason I want to is because God’s Spirit has placed within my heart a love for the Lord that motivates me to want to please Him.  John the Apostle brings this truth out in his gospel.

John 8:42, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.” NKJV

John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” NKJV

John 14:24, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words” NKJV

Let me further illustrate this.  When I bought my home I knew I had a bathroom that needed to be totally redone.  In its present condition it was a danger to those who used it.  Now for many this would be chore to tackle because they would see it as a necessary burden.  However for me, it was fun.   I did what others consider a chore but the difference was I love my home and I love to please my family.   So it is with our walk with the Lord.  When we keep His commandments because we love Him, it is not a chore but rather a delight. 

2) There is no standardIf “fruit” and “works” are necessary to keep one saved, why does God not give a measurement whereby we can determine how we are doing?  A measurement to let us know if we crossed the line and forfeited our salvation.  One can search the whole of the Bible but will never find such a measurement.  The absence of such a standard clearly indicates that “fruit and works” do not play a role in the outcome of our salvation.  They are the evidence not the means of our salvation. 

3) God chastens disobedient believers but never casts them away.  The Bible is clear that when believers are not walking as they should that God never removes them from saving grace but instead chastises them to bring them back into right fellowship.  We see this in 1 Cor. 11:27-32, where sinning believers were chastened by the Lord with weakness, sickness, and even premature death.  Paul writes in verse 32, “But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”

This is further driven home in Hebrews where the writer draws the connection between sonship and chastisement.

Heb. 12:5-11, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sonsMy son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?   But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.   Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.  Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” NKJV   

Notice in this passage that those who are sons the Father chastens.  If you are not chastised you are not a legitimate child of God.  So when a believer falls into sin, he is not cast out but rather he must endure chastening.  This sonship relationship also drives home a further point.   As a father, I have a son who was born to me and his mother.  Now my son may choose to live in a manner that totally displeases me however he is still my son.  Nothing can change that fact.  So it is of those who are the sons of God (Rom. 8:16-17).

The truth that a backslidden believer is still a believer is born out in other passages as well.

2 Thess. 3:14-15, “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” NKJV

2 Thess. 3:6-7, “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” NKJV

If there is still some doubt concerning a believer living in a sinful condition but still retaining his salvation, Lot is the perfect example.  He lived and behaved just like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  When the angels came to take him and his family out of the city he offered his two daughters to the crowd to rape and molest them in order to protect the angels.  Yet during all of this, God considered him a righteous man.  This is the reason God sent the angels to deliver Lot before He brought his wrath down upon those wicked cities. 

2 Peter 2:7-9, “And delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) —  then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.“ NKJV

4) Using “fruit and works” as a measure of genuine salvation can never give conclusive results.   The only one who can decide who is a believer with certainty is God Himself as He reminded Samuel (1 Sam. 16:7).  Certainty cannot be determined by human efforts for two reasons.

a) Some who appear to have “fruit and works” are not actually saved.  The following verses I believe demonstrate this clearly. 

Matt. 7:22-23, “Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” NKJV

2 Cor. 11:12-15, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.  And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” NKJV

b) Believers progress at different paces.  Some show great growth immediately whereas others show their growth gradually over a longer time.  Paul addresses this when he speaks of some believers who had not grown as quickly as they ought and had to be treated like they were new believers.

Heb. 5:12-14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.   But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” NKJV

I will continue dealing with objections to Eternal Security in the next segment.  Let me leave you with this thought.  In 1 Cor. 3:12-15, Paul speaks of the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ where He will judge believers not based on their sins but on their works.  He says that some who have worked for Him will receive wonderful rewards but there will also be some who get no rewards for there is no work or fruit.  They will be saved “so as through fire.”  The idea here is that he will be like an individual whose house catches fire and he has only time to escape.  He loses everything but he is still alive.  He will still have his salvation but he will have not rewards to show for it.  Works do not qualify a person for heaven nor do they complete the work of grace.  They do show the measure of a believer’s love and commitment to their Lord.

1 Cor. 3:12-15, “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” NKJV