In an earlier post I pointed out why I believe in the doctrine of eternal security. Having said that, I also recognize that this doctrine encounters some difficulties in Scripture, as does the opposing view. This post is meant to deal with some of the most common objections raised against the doctrine. Hope this helps you as much as it did me!
(I found the following summary of the doctrine of "Eternal Security" on the following website: http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/eternalsecurity.htm. I figure, "Why reinvent the wheel?" The work's been done, so I'll point everyone to the source. The following is a portion of a study on this doctrine from the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, copyright 1994):
Now to some of the passages most frequently used to undermine Eternal Security:
MATTHEW 7:21 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." This has nothing to do with a believer losing his salvation. The main point of the verse is that false converts exist in the Church. Then Jesus contrasts the false convert with a true convert. To do the will of the Father is certainly not the way to Heaven. It is the evidence of genuine faith in Christ; it is the proof of regeneration.
MATTHEW 8:11-12 "And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." The “children of the kingdom” here are the Jews in the nation Israel. One of the key teachings of the Gospels is the rejection of Jesus Christ by His own people, the Jews. Time and again Christ warns and rebukes the Jews and their leaders, but most of them reject him. The first half of Matthew, in particular, documents this fearful situation.
MATTHEW 25:1-13 "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." The parable of the ten virgins is given in the context of Christ’s coming and of the establishment of the kingdom of God in Israel (see Matt. 25:31-34). The foolish virgins are not true believers but are unbelievers who knew about Christ’s return but did not act on it. (1) They didn’t have any oil (vv. 3,4), but the oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. (2) They wait until it is too late to obtain salvation (v. 9). In light of everything the New Testament promises to the child of God, the foolish virgins MUST be those who are unsaved. To interpret this otherwise is to throw multitudes of clear Scriptures into confusion.
MATTHEW 25:14-30 "For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (1) The man’s concept of the Lord shows that he is a lost man. He considered the Lord “an hard man” who reaped where He had not sown. It is obvious that he did not know the blessed Lord Jesus Christ! The Lord is exactly the opposite of how this man described Him. He is gracious and merciful and patient and meek and lowly in heart; He gives us MUCH more than we deserve. The fact that this man is called a servant does not mean necessarily that he is saved. The Jews are called the Lord’s servants, but they were not all saved (Is. 43:10). (2) The man’s destiny also shows that he is a lost man. He is cast into outer darkness, which is a description of hell (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13). Nowhere in Scripture is a child of God said to be in outer darkness. The Bible says believers are children of light and are not of darkness (1 Thess. 5:5). (3) Further, the weeping and gnashing of teeth are associated with eternal damnation and Hell (Matt. 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; Luke 13:28). It is not wise to establish doctrine upon parables. The parables have one central point, and if you try to push every detail of the parable you can have all sorts of doctrinal problems.
JOHN 15:6 "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." This passage does not say that a true believer will be cast into Hell; it says that the person who proves not to be a true believer will be cast into Hell. Those who teach that this applies to a true believer read that interpretation into it. The rest of John’s Gospel makes this matter very plain. Consider John 1:12,13; 3:14-18,36; 4:14; 5:25; 6:37,40,47; 10:27-30; 11:25; 17:2,3; 20:31. Whatever, therefore, the meaning of John 15:6 in reference to the child of God, it CANNOT mean that the true believer will be rejected and cast into Hell. That would make the promises of Jesus Christ to the believer into a lie. Christ is referring here to the difference between sincere and insincere, true and false believers. He mentions such a thing in other passages in John’s Gospel. Consider John 2:23-25 and 6:64. John 15 is a warning that the evidence of true faith in Christ is to bear fruit for His glory.
ROMANS 11:19-23 "Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again." Consider the context: Paul is not addressing the subject of personal salvation. He is addressing the matter of the Jews and their place in the program of God. Paul is speaking in a general sense of Gentiles and of the Jewish nation. Today God has turned temporarily from the Jews and is calling a people for His name from among the Gentile nations. The day will come when God will again turn to the Jewish nation to fulfill His promises to them. Verses 24-26 make this plain. Paul is speaking in a general sense, not in a personal sense. A careful reading of this chapter illustrates this.
1 CORINTHIANS 9:27 "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." The context here is not Paul’s salvation, but his Christian service. Paul was concerned that he would be castaway in the sense that he would be put on a shelf in this life or that his service would be rejected or disapproved at the judgment seat of Christ. The same Greek word is translated “rejected.” Paul was not afraid that he would be lost. In the same epistle he taught that Christ preserves the believer (1:7-9). What he feared was falling short of God’s high calling for his life. The context makes this plain. He is talking about running a race and winning a prize. To confuse this passage with salvation is to misunderstand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not a reward for faithful service. The Bible plainly states that salvation is by grace, and grace is the free, unmerited mercy of God (Eph. 2:8-9). Anything that is merited or rewarded, is not grace (Romans 11:6). On the other hand, after we are saved by the marvelous grace of God, we are called to serve Jesus Christ. We are created in Christ Jesus “unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). If a Christian is lazy and carnal, he will be chastened by the Lord (Heb. 12:6-8), and if he does not respond, God will take him home (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 11:30; 1 John 5:16).
PHILIPPIANS 2:12 "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." This verse does not say that the child of God must work FOR or work UP his salvation; it says he must work OUT his salvation. These are very different things. To work up or to work for my salvation would mean that I have a part in my salvation and that unless I do my part, I will not be saved. On the other hand, to work out my salvation means God has given me eternal salvation as a free gift in Jesus Christ, and it is His will that I obey Him, not in order to save myself or in order to help God save me, but BECAUSE I am already saved. Verse 13 makes this clear, that it is God who provides the complete salvation. Obedience, holy living is the evidence of salvation. The Christian life is a miracle of God that is wrought from within. The power of the Christian life is the indwelling Holy Spirit, but the Christian is not passive. He is to be controlled by the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), to be led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14), to walk after the Spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 6:25), to mind the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5).
PHILIPPIANS 3:9-14 "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." How do we know that verse 11 is not referring to gaining one’s salvation through diligent effort? (1) The context is referring not to Paul’s salvation, but to his calling. He endeavored to fulfill God’s perfect will for his life. Verses 10 and 14 leave no question about the meaning of the passage. To divorce it from the context, claiming that Paul was unsure that he possessed eternal salvation, denies the plain teaching of Scripture and throws the Bible into contradictory confusion. (2) Paul said he was trying to earn a “prize” (Phil. 3:14), whereas salvation is a “gift” to be enjoyed (Ephesians 2:8,9). (3) We know that Paul was not stating in Philippians 3 that he was unsure he would be raised from the dead, because in this very epistle and elsewhere he emphasized the certainty of resurrection and the eternal security of the believer (Ph. 2:20,21; 1:6; 1 Cor. 15:51-58).The Lord Jesus Christ promised resurrection to every believer (John 11:25,26). (4) Philippians 3:11 is explained in 1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Peter 1:10-11, which teach that we “lay hold on eternal life” and prepare an abundant entrance into Christ’s eternal kingdom by our service for Christ in this world. It is speaking of rewards and crowns.
JAMES 2:24 "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." Roman Catholics, Cultists, and others who deny the Gospel of the Grace of Jesus Christ, love to run to James 2:24 to “prove” that salvation is not by Christ’s grace alone through faith alone, but that works are necessary. Consider the following three observations:
First, context is crucial in understanding any Bible passage. To ignore context is to fill the Bible with contradictions. James was not addressing salvation; he was addressing the Christian life. Note verse 14 --— “my brethren...” He is contrasting dead faith with true biblical faith (verses 14-17). “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (verse 14). He is saying that true faith is evident by works. Paul, on the other hand, addresses salvation directly in the book of Romans. The sinner must trust exclusively in the grace of Jesus Christ for salvation. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works” (Romans 4:4-6). There is no contradiction if one considers the context of each statement. Paul is addressing the unsaved sinner’s perspective. The sinner must trust Jesus Christ exclusively for salvation; he must reject his own filthy works (Isaiah 64:6) and all self-righteousness (Romans 9:30-33) and lean totally upon the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting wholly in His perfect and complete redemption. James, on the other hand, is addressing the Christian’s perspective. The Christian claims to have faith in Jesus Christ. He is therefore to diligently serve God and to walk in His commandments. Those who live in rebellion and who ignore the Word of God demonstrate that they do not possess true saving faith, that they are deceiving themselves.
Second, James and Paul are addressing two different events in Abraham’s life. Paul, in Romans 4:1-4, refers to Abraham’s salvation which occurred early in his life and which is recorded in Genesis 15:5-6. James, on the other hand, refers to Abraham’s testing which occurred 20 years later (James 2:21-24; Genesis 22:1-18). Abraham was saved by faith without works, but his salvation and his faith were EVIDENCED and DEMONSTRATED by his obedience.
Third, James’ teaching is no different from that of the other Apostles. They all taught that true faith produces works. Consider the classic passage in Ephesians 2:8-10 -- “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” This passage puts faith and works in their proper order. It is faith alone which connects us with the free salvation offered in Jesus Christ. This salvation is a gift. Our works have nothing to do with it, and cannot add to the completed salvation in Jesus Christ. Works, rather, follow after salvation and are the product of it, being created by God in the believing sinner. Consider also Titus 3:4-8; Hebrews 6:9; 10:39; 1 John 3:6; 3 John 11. This is exactly what James teaches. He says there are two kinds of faith: saving faith and false faith. The devils have faith but not saving faith (v. 19).
Some will counter that it is not important how one puts these things together. One man says works follow salvation; another says works are a part of salvation. What is the difference? The difference is ENORMOUS. It is the difference between Saved and Lost, between Heaven and Hell. If I think that my works and my righteousness and my obedience and my law-keeping is a part of salvation, even a tiny part of salvation, I am denying the perfect sufficiency of Jesus Christ and of His Atonement. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). I cannot add one iota to this perfect salvation which is freely offered through Jesus Christ. “Being justified FREELY by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). If works or church sacraments or law keeping are required in any sense whatsoever for salvation, it is not FREE and the Bible is a lie. To add anything to the gospel of the grace of Christ is to bring God’s curse (Gal. 1:6).
1 PETER 1:9 "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." First, let us consider what this verse does not mean. It does not mean salvation is a process or that salvation is uncertain. The context overthrows such teaching. Verses 3-5 tells us that the believer’s salvation is settled and sure. The believer is born again, has a lively hope, possesses an inheritance that is already reserved in heaven, and is kept by God’s power. When the Bible speaks of the believer’s hope, it uses the term differently than the way hope is commonly used today. The believer’s hope has no element of uncertainty. In Hebrews 6:18-19 it is described as “a strong consolation” and “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” The reason the believer has such confidence and security is that his salvation is completely dependent upon Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with his own works. What does the verse mean, then? Two of its wonderful teachings are these: (1) Salvation has evidence (Heb. 10:38,39). True faith works. Salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ without works (Eph. 2:8-9), but salvation also produces the fruit of good works (Eph. 2:10). (2) Salvation has different aspects. There is a past, present, and future aspect to salvation. The believer has been saved from the eternal consequences of sin; he is being saved from the power of sin in this earthly existence; and in his future heavenly home he will have been saved from the very presence of sin. When 1 Peter 1:19 says the believer will receive salvation as the end product of his faith, this is what it is referring to. It does not imply that his salvation is uncertain until the end.
1 PETER 4:18 "And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" The righteous are scarcely saved in the sense that salvation is impossible apart from God’s free gift through Jesus Christ. If judged by our earthly lives, if judged by our works, we will all perish. Even the righteous lives of born again Christians fall far short of the glory of Christ and the holiness God requires of us. Our only hope is the righteousness of Christ which is offered to us as a free, unmerited gift (2 Cor. 5:21). Even the righteousness of the religious Pharisees was insufficient (Matt. 5:20). God requires perfect obedience to His law, and no man can attain to that. Thus salvation must be a gift of God’s righteousness provided through Jesus Christ.
2 PETER 2:20-22 "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." Though this passage is often used to prove that eternal security is not true, it actually says nothing about losing ones salvation. The context is false teachers who promote damnable heresies and deny the Lord (v. 1). It should be obvious that it is not saved men who are the focus on this passage, but hypocrites and deceivers. Any interpretation which says these are saved men who lose their salvation flies in the face of the context. The fact that “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” and “it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness” does not imply that they were saved and now are lost. They were dogs and pigs who were unchanged (v. 22). The fact that they return to their wickedness proves that they were never regenerate. When the context is taken into account, there really is no problem in this passage in regard to the doctrine of eternal security.
HEBREWS 6:4-6 "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." This passage refers to false believers. How do we know? (1) They tasted but they did not drink and eat (contrast John 6:54). (2) Those who fall away cannot be saved again. This shows the error of those who teach that a believer can lose his salvation. (3) The difference between the true believer and the false is the fruit and the evidence (vv. 7,8). (4) Paul plainly states that he is not referring to true believers (v. 9).
HEBREWS 10:26-29 "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" The willful sin in verse 26 refers not to sin in general, but to one particular sin which is described in the rest of the passage. The Bible plainly teaches us that Christians do sin after they are saved (1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2). There is no sinless perfection in the Christian life. Our perfection and righteousness is in Jesus Christ positionally (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21). The sin for which there is no forgiveness is the sin of “counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing.” This means to deny that salvation is by Christ’s blood and grace alone. In the immediate context to which the book of Hebrews was addressed, it refers to the Jews who professed confidence in Christ; but, because of pressure and persecution, returned to their dead religion and thus gave up confidence in Christ. False religion, both then and now, attempts either to replace Christ’s salvation with a manmade system, or to add to Christ’s salvation a manmade system. Catholicism is an example of the latter. It preaches Christ, but it intermingles its own sacraments and priesthood and sainthood with the grace of Christ. This is a false gospel which robs Christ of His glory as the sole Saviour and Mediator. If Christ is not Saviour wholly and exclusively, He is not Saviour at all. If grace is intermingled in any sense with works, the Gospel is perverted, and there is no salvation in a perverted gospel (Rom. 11:6; Gal. 1:6-9).
HEBREWS 12:15-17 "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." To fail of the grace of God does not mean to lose one’s salvation; it means to fall short of being saved. The context makes this plain, as the example given is that of Esau. He was not a believer, though he was born into a believing family. He was a man of the world and cared nothing about the things of God. He thought a bowl of soup was more valuable that his birthright as the son of Isaac.