The contemporary application of the doctrine of eternal security is extremely dangerous, giving many people false hope of heaven. What an utter tragedy that multitudes of contemporary evangelicals, having been guaranteed of heaven, may open their eyes in an eternal hell.
Let me set the outset that I believe that once a person believes in Christ, is justified through the blood of Christ, is born again by the Spirit of God, and becomes a child of God he will remain so forever. I base that confidence on passages such as Ephesians 1:13-14:
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
At the same time, I’m convinced that there’s no room to look down on those who question the security of the believer as theological Neanderthals. One could point to many more passages suggesting that the believer can be lost than those giving assurance that the believer cannot be lost. For example, those believing in eternal security find Hebrews 6:4-8 difficult to explain away:
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. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
Nonetheless, though fewer in number, I finds passages supporting the security of the believer more compelling. That said, however, I find this one of the most challenging doctrinal issues confronting the church. No doubt that is why the church has been historically divided on the issue.
This doctrine is more complex than it first appears, especially in regard to its application. That complexity is revealed in the fact that historically neither Arminians nor Calvinists have taught eternal security, at least not as it is applied by most evangelicals today.
Of course, Arminians have rejected the security of the believer, teaching that one can genuinely be saved but through abandoning his faith and adopting an ungodly lifestyle can lose his salvation. Calvinists have taught the perseverance of the saints, the belief that if one is a genuine believer he will persevere in his faith and godliness, though they leave room for a degree of backsliding. Note that this is not the same as the eternal security taught by contemporary evangelicals. Calvinists was not saying, “Because you are saved you will persevere and be eternally secure,” but rather they are affirming, “If you have genuinely believed you will persevere.” This doctrine leaves the door open to the possibility that the individual has not genuinely believed and therefore he might not persevere. Consequently, it gives him no assurance that he is headed for heaven. Therefore, historically neither Arminians or Calvinists have provided the individual who has made a profession of faith with eternal security.
This reality became especially apparent in its application. In an earlier day if a person who had made a profession of faith fell away, denying the faith and living in ungodliness, Arminians would have asserted that he had lost his salvation while Calvinists would have contended that he never was saved. For the apostate individual the end result would be the same, that is, that he was not saved and headed for an eternal hell.
This perspective differs substantially from eternal security as propagated and believed by contemporary evangelicals. For the most part the contemporary evangelical church assures the person who has made a profession of faith that he is eternally secure, and therefore can have absolute assurance that he will ultimately arrive in heaven, regardless of future choices he might make or the lifestyle he might adopt.
The fact that this position differs from the major perspectives of the past, both Arminian and Calvinists, should at least raise a very large red flag for the contemporary Christian who continues in known sin. If that is your situation you might question the advisability of betting your eternity on a position that differs from the two major schools of historic Christianity. Probably even Lloyd’s of London wouldn’t insure that gamble.