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Assurance of Eternal Security

Introduction

While the believer may gain assurance of his salvation and know that he has been saved, the question may arise concerning the permanence of his salvation. Once genuinely saved by trusting in the merit of Christ’s death on the cross for sin, can the believer lose his salvation? Is there anything we can do to lose our salvation? The answer is NO! Why? Because Scripture clearly affirms the fact we are protected by the power of God through faith. Faith brings us into a grace relationship with God as a gift of God through the merit of His beloved Son. We are saved by His record, not ours.

1 Peter 1:5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast.

The following seven approaches set forth the case for the believer’s eternal security, “buckled up for safety” because of the power of God and the overwhelming sufficiency of the person and work of Christ.

The Trinity Approach

The first argument for the eternal security of the believer stems from seeing how all three persons of the trinity work in concert to make and keep us secure in Christ.

From the Standpoint of the Son

Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “ For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The declaration in Romans 8:34, “Christ is the one who died,” is given in answer to the questions of verses 31-33, and in anticipation to the questions and declarations of verses 35-39. The goal of verse 34, however, is to show the absolute security of the believer. Two reasons are stated in relation to God the Son:

(1) Christ Died as Our Redeemer and Substitute: By His death Christ removed the barrier that separates mankind from God. Man’s sin and God’s holiness, which form a barrier between the sinner and God, were dealt with at the cross so God is free to justify us, declare us righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. The same truth is declared in the following verses.

Romans 3:23-28 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. 36 This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! 28 For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law.

Romans 5:1,8 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, … 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The book of Hebrews states Christ’s death is the only sacrifice which counts and is once and for all time.

Hebrews 9:11-14 But now Christ has come as the high priest of the good things to come. He passed through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, 12 and he entered once for all into the most holy place not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood, and so he himself secured eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Hebrews 9:26-28 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice. 27 And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment, 28 so also, after Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation.

Hebrews 10:12-14 But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy.

(2) Christ Is Risen and Sits at God’s Right Hand. The second argument of Romans 8:34 concerns the resurrection and session of the Savior at God’s right hand. He sits at God’s right hand as our powerful advocate and intercessor to plead our case when we sin or when accused of sin, and to intercede on our behalf by virtue of His finished work on the cross which reconciles us to God.

Revelation 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the ruling authority of his Christ, have now come, because the accuser of our brothers, the one who accuses them day and night before our God, has been thrown down.”

Romans 5:10-11 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? 11 Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.

Hebrews 7:25 So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

John 17:11 I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.

From the Standpoint of the Father

Through the protection of our heavenly Father, whose holiness has been perfectly satisfied by the death of His Son, we are kept by:

His Sovereign Purpose

Salvation depends upon God to bring it to pass, not us. Nothing, not even our sin, can frustrate the eternal and sovereign purpose of God who determined to save us by grace through faith in His Son. Since God’s holiness has been satisfied by the death of Christ, He can be just and the justifier of those who receive His Son by faith.

Ephesians 1:3-6 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. 4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. 5 He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will— 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.

His Love for the Son

We are kept for the sake of the Son and His perfect work for our sin. Believers are “in his dearly loved Son,” the place where God’s love abides, and nothing whatsoever can separate us from the love of God (cf. Eph 1:3-6 above).

Romans 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

His Work of Discipline

The Father’s work of discipline proves we are still sons even when we sin. He does not disown us; He disciplines us.

Hebrews 12:5-11 And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” 7 Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. 9 Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? 10 For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. 11 Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you? 3 For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit. And I have already judged the one who did this, just as though I were present. 4 When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 11:30-32 That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead. 31 But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Sin does not change our relationship to God as His children though it does affect our fellowship, the intimacy of our walk with God, our ability to serve Him, and the rewards we will receive in the future kingdom.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

His Sovereign Power

Nothing or no one is greater than the Father which means nothing or no one can defeat God’s purpose to save us or remove us from His love and care (cf. Rom. 8:31-39).

1 Peter 1:5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Jude 24 Now to the one who is able to keep you from falling, and to cause you to stand, rejoicing, without blemish before his glorious presence,

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away—look, what is new has come! 18 And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.

From the Standpoint of the Holy Spirit

His Work of Spirit Baptism

Spirit baptism refers to the work of the Holy Spirit whereby He places believers into union with the body of Christ and identifies them with Christ’s person and work. If believers could lose their salvation, it would mean the body of Christ could and would be maimed. This is foreign to Scripture. To the carnal church in Corinth, which was full of strife, envy, fornication, and drunkenness, Paul declared, “are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:3). Yet, he affirmed the fact of their salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 3:1 So, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but instead as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:2 to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.

His Work in Regeneration

Regeneration refers to the impartation of spiritual and eternal life which makes us new creatures in Christ. This can never change. First, it is based on the work of the Son, not our works. And second, as physical birth makes one a child of his parents forever, so spiritual birth does the same.

2 Corinthians 5:17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away—look, what is new has come!

Titus 3:5-7 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”

John 3:3-8 Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:16-18 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. 18 The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.

As mentioned previously, rather than disown a disobedient child, God disciplines his children. At times it may even be to the point of physical death, but believers still remain His children (cf. above Heb. 12:5-12).

His Work of Indwelling

This refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer which was promised by our Lord as a permanent indwelling. The Spirit is given forever and given without conditions other than faith in Christ.

John 7:37-39 On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and 38 let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘ From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.)

John 14:16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

James 4:5 Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”?

The Holy Spirit as a Seal

This is a description of the Holy Spirit from the standpoint of what He is to the believer through His indwelling. A seal in ancient times was a sign and proof of: (a) a completed transaction, i.e., our salvation, (b) of ownership, we belong to God, and (c) of security since only an authorized person could break the seal. In this case it is God and He has promised not to do so.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

2 Corinthians 1:22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment.

As a result, Paul declares that even the carnal Christians at Corinth belonged to God as a result of this finished transaction of their salvation in Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.

The Holy Spirit as an Earnest

This forms another picture of what the Holy Spirit is to believers in Christ. As an earnest agreement on a house is a buyer’s pledge to purchase and pay the full price for the house, so the Holy Spirit is God’s personal pledge and guarantee of our security promising us there is more to come: we will receive the ultimate or eternal blessings of our salvation. The term “down payment” in the following verses refer to an earnest agreement-like pledge.

Ephesians 1:14 who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment.

The Positional Approach

Spirit baptism joins the believer into union with Christ. This becomes the new spiritual position of the believer. Phrases such as “in Christ,” “in the beloved,” and “with Christ,” used over and over again in Paul’s epistles, refer to this concept. This calls attention to the fact the Bible emphasizes we are saved and accepted through our position in or union with Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.

Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.

Ephesians 2:5-6 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!— 6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

Colossians 2:10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

2 Timothy 2:11-13 This saying is trustworthy: If we died with him, we will also live with him. 12 If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us. 13 If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.

This is a place not only of security, but of double security! Our union with Christ is a guarantee of glory.

Colossians 3:3-4 for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him.

The Logical Approach

Simply stated, if God did so much for us while we were sinners, completely alienated and enemies of God before salvation, how much more will He not do for us now that we have been reconciled and stand related to Him as His children who have been justified, declared righteous in Christ?

Romans 5:8-10 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life?

Romans 8:32 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?

God’s Hand Approach

A specific and wonderful promise from the Lord is that no one (and this must include Satan or ourselves) can remove us from either the hand of the Son or the Father. Scripture tells us we are in God’s hand, which is a place of perfect security because He is greater than all.

John 10:28-29 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

The Tense Approach

The use of the perfect tense in a number of New Testament passages would further point to the believer’s security. The meaning of the perfect tense in Greek combined with the context and the analogy of Scripture forms another argument for the security of the believer. The perfect tense refers to action or an event which, completed in the past, has results existing in the present time (i.e., in relation to the time of the speaker). It looks at the present state of affairs. The following passages that use the perfect tense stress the saved state of the believer who has trusted in the Savior.

John 5:24 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life.

Romans 5:2 through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.

1 Corinthians 1:2 to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you are savedthrough faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;

The Grace Approach

This argument is simply this. The New Testament plainly states we are saved by grace through faith in the person and work of Christ, and that salvation is not of human works or works of righteousness which we have done. If, however, having put our trust in the person and work of Christ, we can lose our salvation by what we do or do not do, then in the final analysis, we are saved by works. This is contrary to the theology of the New Testament (cf. also Rom. 4:1-5; 11:6; Rev. 21:6; 21:17).

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so no one may boast.

Titus 3:5 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit,

What Sin Approach

This approach asks the question, “ What sin causes a person to lose his salvation?Sin, any sin falls short of the perfect holiness of God. Every person, regardless of his maturity or relationship with the Lord, is far from perfect by God’s standard. We all have something in our lives which falls short of God’s glory, i.e., some sin though it may be unknown.

1 John 1:8-10 If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.

Where, then, do we draw the line? Those who believe we can lose our salvation categorize sin as though God overlooks some sins while He judges others. It becomes a matter of degrees and the question arises, how bad must we become before we lose our salvation? Which sin does us in? People often categorize sin into various levels, but their categories are usually out of touch with God’s perspective.

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the Lord hates, even seven things that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans,feet that are swift to run to evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies,and a person who spreads discord among family members.

Problem Passages

What about those passages that are often taken to mean the believer can lose his salvation? For this study, we cannot deal with all these passages. Generally, however, we can show that none of these passages teach we can lose our salvation if the immediate context and the context of the entire New Testament is considered, or if the principle of the analogy of the faith is considered.

The Analogy of the Faith

The analogy of the faith is a hermeneutical principle which says unclear passages should be understood in the light of clear ones, not vice versa. It is my conviction that those who believe we can lose our salvation, or who teach Lordship salvation, violate this principle.

They violate this principle in two ways:

(1) They base their understanding of the Gospel on a few difficult or unclear passages rather than the many very clear ones.

(2) They overthrow the correct interpretation of clear passages by understanding them in the light of their faulty views of the unclear or more difficult passages of Scripture.

Categories of Difficult Passages

The problem passages (those used to teach believers can lose their salvation, or used to teach that they were never really saved or they would never do such and such) in reality fall into one or more of the following categories and do not deal with the issue of eternal salvation:

(1) Passages that deal with the Bema (the Judgment Seat of Christ) and are thus warning believers against the potential loss of rewards—rather than the loss or lack of salvation.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

1 Corinthians 9:25-27 Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. 26 So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air. 27 Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified.

(2) Passages that warn against the severity of God’s discipline in this life when believers refuse to respond to His grace.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If someone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, which is what you are.

Hebrews 6:1-6 Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, 2 teaching about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this is what we intend to do, if God permits. 4 For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age, 6 and then have committed apostasy, to renew them again to repentance, since they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves all over again and holding him up to contempt.

Hebrews 10:23-31 And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. 24 And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, 25 not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near. 26 For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27 but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God’s enemies. 28 Someone who rejected the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know the one who said, “ Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” and again, “ The Lord will judge his people.”

(3) Passages that portray the nature of who we are as God’s children, and that which must, therefore, characterize us as children of God. This includes passages that portray the nature and condition of unbelievers as a motivation to godly living or living like the people we have become positionally in Christ. These passages do not threaten us with the loss of salvation nor do they call us to question our salvation. They challenge us to live like the people we are in Christ. For instance, compare Ephesians 5:1-12.

1 Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children 2 and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. 3 But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints. 4 Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting—all of which are out of character—but rather thanksgiving. 5 For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them, 8 for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light— 9 for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For the things they do in secret are shameful even to mention

The Argument of 1 John 3:6f.

1 John 3:6-10 Everyone who resides in him does not sin; everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him. 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Jesus is righteous. 3:8 The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil. 3:9 Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God. 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed: Everyone who does not practice righteousness—the one who does not love his fellow Christian—is not of God.

First John 3:6 occurs in a section where John is giving reasons why believers should not sin. Here he gives one reason after another not to question our salvation but to motivate believers to walk in the light. Does 1 John 3:6b mean the abiding believer, the one who clings to Christ, actually never sins? Such an idea would contradict 1 John 1:8 and 10 and 5:16. Because of our weakness and lack of perfection in this life, even abiding believers sin. So what does John mean?

As an illustration, let’s say a young child steals a pack of gum at the supermarket. When the mother finds out, she says, “the members of this family do not steal. Do you understand that?” Does that make sense? One of them had just done that very thing. What was this mother saying? She was saying that stealing was against the moral standards of their family, and therefore, the little boy had to learn this lesson and refrain from ever doing it again. She wasn’t saying she had gone around and checked and found that none of the members of the family had ever stolen. She was pointing out the standards of their family as a motivation to her son.

John is simply telling us, this is the standard, that we do not sin, and we need to get with the plan. He is not denying that believers sin or that they can fall into the pattern of sinning. To drive this concept home even more, this verse is followed by more reasons and illustrations against sin in the lives of believers.

Another statement for motivation is in verse 9: “Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.” It is not saying believers are incapable of sinning. This would contradict the verses mentioned above.

Most take this verse to mean that John is saying Christians cannot sin or will not sin habitually. Is this what John is saying? No. I do not believe this is his point. “Practices” is a misleading translation. If that was John’s point, the Greek prasso, which John uses in the verses below, could have expressed that more clearly.

John 3:20 For everyone who does ( prasso) evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed.

John 5:29 and will come out—the ones who have done what is good to the resurrection resulting in life, and the ones who have done ( prasso) what is evil to the resurrection resulting in condemnation.

So, what is John saying? The word “cannot” does not always mean incapable. It can also mean unwilling. The following New Testament passages illustrates this:

Luke 11:5-7 Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine has stopped here while on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 Then he will reply from inside, ‘Do not bother me. The door is already shut, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’

Luke 14:20 Another said, ‘I just got married, and I cannot come.’

Mark 1:45 But as the man went out he began to announce it publicly and spread the story widely, so that Jesus was no longer able to enter any town openly but stayed outside in remote places. Still they kept coming to him from everywhere.

Mark 6:3-5 Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here with us?” And so they took offense at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, and among his relatives, and in his own house.” 5 He was not able to do a miracle there, except to lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.

1 Corinthians 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot take part in the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

First John 3 is saying we must be unwilling to sin because we were born of God’s nature. This is much like Romans 6:1-10 which follows the declaration of 5:20-21.

Let’s say a doctor tells a smoker with throat problems, “You cannot smoke again.” This doesn’t mean the person is incapable of smoking but that he must not because of the physical consequences to his body.

It is clear from the life of King David, who is called a man after God’s own heart, that believers can and do fall into serious sin and for long periods of time. For believers in Christ (with all that they have in Christ) to live under sin’s reign like the unbelieving world is an illogical and contradictory position. It carries with it very serious consequences including the possibility of the sin unto death as God’s divine discipline to stop the pattern of sinning.

1 Corinthians 11:27-32 For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead. 31 But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.

1 John 5:16-17 If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not resulting in death.

The Consequences of Carnality
(Living with Known Sin in the Life)

Key Passages:

Psalm 66:18 If I had harbored sin in my heart, the sovereign Master would not have listened.

Psalm 32:3-4 When I refused to confess my sin, my whole body wasted away, while I groaned in pain all day long. 4 For day and night you tormented me; you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer.

1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth.

(1) Loss of fellowship with the Lord plus loss of the control of the Holy Spirit and His fruit in the life (cf. 1 Jn. 1:5-7). Sin grieves and quenches the Spirit (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). Sin affects our prayer life (Ps. 66:18), our witness (Acts 1:8), Bible study (1 Cor. 2:10-16; Eph. 3:16f), i.e., all the ministries of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives. The Holy Spirit’s ministry is turned from enabling to convicting, etc.

1 John 1:5-7 Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not extinguish the Spirit.

Psalm 66:18 If I had harbored sin in my heart, the sovereign Master would not have listened.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. 13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Ephesians 3:16-19 I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, 18 you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

(2) Misery, loss of joy, because we are controlled by the sinful nature.

Psalm 32:3-4 When I refused to confess my sin, my whole body wasted away, while I groaned in pain all day long. 4 For day and night you tormented me; you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer.

(3) Dissipation or wastefulness of our spiritual, mental, and physical resources.

Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit,

(4) Production of the works of the flesh with their awful consequences.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another.

(5) Divine discipline, the heavy hand of God on our lives to turn us around.

Hebrews 12:5-10 And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. 6 “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” 7 Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. 9 Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? 10 For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness.

1 Corinthians 11:29-32 For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead. 31 But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Psalm 32:4 4 For day and night you tormented me; you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer.

(6) Broken relationships and pain to those around us, especially to our families.

Galatians 5:15 However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.

(7) Loss of our testimony in the world and dishonor to the Lord.

1 Peter 2:12-15 and maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears. 13 Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether to a king as supreme 14 or to governors as those he commissions to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do good. 15 For God wants you to silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.

1 Peter 3:15-17 But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. 16 Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.

1 Peter 4:15-16 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or thief or criminal or as a troublemaker. 16 But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear such a name.

(8) Loss of rewards at the Bema seat of Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.

Consequences of
Continued and Open Rebellion

In addition to the above the following apply:

(1) Increased discipline from the heavy hand of God.

Psalm 32:4 4 For day and night you tormented me;
you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer.

Hebrews 12:6 “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.”

(2) Continuation in sin may require the church to take action even to the point of excommunication (1 Cor. 5).

2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 6 But we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition you received from us. 7 For you know yourselves how you must imitate us, because we did not behave without discipline among you, 8 and we did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead, in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this command: “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.” 11 For we hear that some among you are living an undisciplined life, not doing their own work but meddling in the work of others. 12 Now such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and so provide their own food to eat. 13 But you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing what is right. 14 But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.

(3) Divine discipline to the point of physical death.

1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead.

1 John 5:16 If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that.

Certainly, believers are secure in Christ and cannot lose their salvation, a salvation accomplished by the finished work of the Savior who sits victoriously at God’s right hand to plead our case. But reality, and Scripture shows us, unless believers abide in fellowship and deal in faith with the sin in their lives, they can fall into serious conditions of sin just like David. Such can happen because the person was never truly saved, but quite often the real cause is a failure to abide in the life and power of the Spirit of God.

It is our hope that this study on the eternal security of the believer has been a help. The goal of understanding our security is an assurance that motivates to godly living, never careless living or taking the Lord for granted. Remember, God is our heavenly Father who, in love will discipline His children to draw them back to himself.

The Apostle staked his faith on the trustworthiness of God’s grace. Though some understand this to refer to God’s deposit of gifts in Paul, I believe that which he had entrusted, literally, “the deposit,” was his personal faith in the finished work of Christ as the basis of his salvation. Paul was confident that this would be preserved until all the dangers and failures of life would be past with the coming of the Lord.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Assurance