What If It Were Possible for a True Believer to Be Eternally Lost?
There are those who teach that it is possible for a born again person to be eternally lost. But surely all such must fail to realize the outcome of their teaching. The eternal security of the believer is something more than a theological quibble, it is a vital part of the saints. The final preservation of the saints is something more than a subject for religious controversy, it is a divinely revealed truth for the establishing of the heart in grace.
What we are now contending for,is that which is bound up with the honor of God, the efficacy of the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
We now desire to call attention to some of the fearful evils which are involved in the denial of this truth. If, through sinning, a believer perished—What? Then the promises of God would be valueless. Again and again God has promised in His Word that whoever believes in His Son shall not perish but have everlasting life. If then I have believed in the Lord Jesus and yet should perish, then what?
The Lord Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me shall come to me and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Our Lord was not here giving an invitation to sinners, nor affirming that He never turns away one who comes to Him (which of course is true and taught elsewhere), but He is declaring that He never expels (casts out) any sinner whom He has received. The next verse proves this—”And this is the Father’s will which has sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39).
If then the Father has given me to Christ, and in consequence I have “come” to Him, and He has promised that He will “in no wise” (under no circumstances) “cast me out” and that He will “lose nothing” of the “all” which the Father has given Him, and yet I should be eternally lost—then what? Of what value is His promise? Again, we read, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phi 1:6).
If then God has begun a good work in me and that work is not “finished” and in consequence I am lost—then what? It is not sufficient to say that God is willing to do His part providing I do mine: that God is hindered from finishing His work through my sinful conduct. No such alternative as this was present before the apostle’s mind. He interposed no if’s or but’s or perhapses, but declared: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
If then God has promised to do this and He fails to fulfill it—then what? We reply, then, in such a case, God’s Word would be like fallen man’s—unreliable and untrustworthy; and, in such an event, we should no longer have any sure foundation for our faith or anchorage for our souls. But perish such a thought. Let God be true and every man a liar. If, through sinning, a believer perished—What?
Then the whole plan of salvation would be overthrown. If, as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, my going to Heaven is contingent upon my continued faithfulness and obedience (instead of my faithfulness and obedience being rendered out of love and gratitude because Christ has saved me); if through my failure to remain faithful and obedient I am eternally lost, then my salvation is made to depend upon my works, which flatly contradicts Titus 3:5—”Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.”
Further; if my ultimate salvation is determined by my obedience and faithfulness then I earn and merit it, and therefore, salvation is a reward, a prize won by my endeavors. But that flatly contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9—”For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Again, if my salvation is due in part to my obedience and good works, and Heaven is a reward for my diligence, then God is robbed of at least a part of His glory, for in that case we could not cry, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name give glory, for your mercy, and for your truth’s sake” (Psalm 115:1).
Once more; if my salvation turns upon me holding out faithful to the end and if through failure to do so I should be lost, then I cannot know for certain whether I shall spend eternity in Heaven or Hell until I come to die. I cannot now “rejoice” because my name is written in Heaven (Luke 10:20) and thus salvation would be a future prospect instead of a present enjoyment.
Finally; to preach that a believer in Christ must hold out faithful to the end in order to be saved is to reduce the Gospel to nothing more than an offer to place the sinner on an extended probation; whereas the Lord Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life: he who comes to me shall never hunger; and he who believes on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). No; the believer does not produce the fruit of the Spirit and bring forth good works in order to be saved, but he does do them because he is saved. If there is no fruit, no good works, no letting of our light shine to the glory of God, it shows that such a one is yet in his sins. If, through sinning, a believer perished—What? Then the power of God is limited.
If I had a thousand dollars in bills on my person I should be afraid to carry it around and in consequence would go to the bank and there deposit it for safe keeping. In like manner I am fully conscious of the fact that I am unable to save myself, so I have committed my soul into the keeping of God. Hence it is now solely a question of God’s power. It is true that I am weak, but He is strong. It is true that the world, the flesh, and the devil, are arrayed against me; but God is for me, and “If God be for us, who can be against us” (Rom 8:31)?
Noah was warned of God that a flood would be sent to destroy the wicked. An ark was provided as a shelter from the coming of divine judgment. Into this ark Noah and his family entered. Having entered that ark the responsibility of their preservation devolved upon God Himself. Noah could not leave the ark for “the Lord shut him in” (Gen 7:16). The fountains of the great deep were broken, the windows of Heaven were opened and the rain descended—was the Lord able to preserve those in the ark? It was solely a matter of His power. The question has only to be asked to be answered. In like manner every believer has “fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb 6:18) and it is now a question of God’s power to keep—Is He able?
The reply is: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). And again, “Wherefore he is able also to save them for evermore that come unto God by him” (Heb 7:25). Deny the eternal security of the believer and you limit the keeping power of God. Teach that it is possible for one to be lost who has previously committed his soul into the hands of the Lord, and you deny the omnipotence of the Most High.
If, through sinning, a believer perished—What? Then the intercession of Christ would be in vain. Not only did the Lord Jesus Christ die on the Cross for sinners, but He now lives to make intercession for those who have fled to Him for refuge. After stating that “He [God] is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Christ); the reason for this is given in the words that follow—”seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).
After writing, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not,” the apostle continues, “And if any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
After declaring: “It is God that justifies. Who is he who condemns?” the apostle continues, “It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom 8:33-34). The question then resolves itself to this: are the prayers of Christ on our behalf effectual? The Lord Jesus Himself answered this question when He said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. And I know that you hear me always” (John 11:41-42).
An illustration of the value of Christ’s intercession is seen in the case of Peter. Knowing that Satan desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat, He said to His follower, “I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not” (Luke 22:32). That His prayer prevailed was demonstrated in the sequel. Peter’s self-confidence failed him, his courage failed him, but his faith did not. As soon as the Lord looked upon him after his denial, he went out and “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62) and a few weeks later we find him in the open streets of Jerusalem boldly contending for the faith.
If the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jam 5:16), who can estimate the value of the intercession of the Righteous One? Deny the eternal security of every believer and you repudiate the value of Christ’s present intercession. Declare that through sinning a believer may perish and you discredit the advocacy of our blessed Mediator.
Teach that it is possible for a saint of God to apostatize–and you contradict the plain testimony of Scripture. If, through sinning, a believer perished—What? Then already the believer is robbed of his assurance.
As we have already said, if our ultimate salvation depends upon our continued faithfulness and obedience, and through failure to render these we are lost, then salvation is a future prospect and none can know whether he shall spend eternity in Heaven or Hell until the hour of his death. Hence assurance of a perfect salvation based upon the promises of God becomes impossible.
In such a case the believer in Christ must live in daily fear lest he fail to render unto God the required obedience. No longer can he say, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28), for he knows not but that he may commit some sin which shall cause all things to work together for his everlasting destruction.
He is unable to say, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature [which includes Satan], shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39), for some unfaithfulness on his part may separate him. In a word, he is robbed of all present peace and sense of security, and is in bondage to a servile fear.
How different is this to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures! Much more might be written in amplification of what we have said above, but we trust we have argued at sufficient length to show something of the fearful evils which are involved in and follow from a denial of the eternal security of the believer.
•Were we to close here (as, unfortunately, some do when treating of this subject) we should fail to insist upon the believer’s responsibility; we should be setting a premium upon sin; we should be encouraging loose living, and be in great danger of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.
The sins of the unbeliever will be punished in the world to come: the sins of the believer are punished in this world, here and now. Such was the experience of Jacob, of Moses, of David. They were chastised severely.