- Love and Liberty
We Must Abide In The Vine
The matter of the Christian’s security in salvation has been a debated topic for centuries upon centuries. It is evident that what one believes about the condition for salvation is a major determining factor in what one believes about a Christian’s security. People arrive at different conclusions on this topic because people have different starting points.
Some believe that man has no part in his salvation to begin with; man is like a dead corpse that can respond to nothing, therefore God must make him alive through regeneration, and only then is man able to obey God. Those that are not chosen by God to be a recipient of his regenerating work will not, indeed, cannot be saved. Since God alone causes the salvation of a person, based on nothing the person does or does not do, his security is based on the same premise. God causes him to persevere in obedience, and his final salvation is guaranteed.
Others believe that God offers salvation to man, and man must simply ask for or accept the gift. No forsaking of sin is required, no submission to Christ is required, and no obedience is necessary to maintain salvation. When he accepts the gift, he is regenerated, and obedience is possible, but not inevitable, and not necessary. Faith is an intellectual acceptance of the gift of salvation, and if man even thinks he must be obedient to the Lord, he is rejecting the gift and depending on his own works. Obviously, these individuals believe man cannot alter his standing with God by his behavior, for one moment of belief or trust guarantees his final salvation and his behavior has no bearing on his standing whatsoever. He can even become an unbeliever, yet his salvation is secure, so it is claimed. He can become a murderer, or a fornicator, or a drunkard, but his salvation is secure because of a legal declaration by God when he once believed in Christ. The first group and others may say this describes a person that was never converted to begin with, which could be true, but is it the only explanation possible?
Yet another group agrees with the condition for salvation believed by the second group, but they believe a person can become an apostate by ceasing to believe, or by ceasing to mentally depend upon Christ as their substitute when he died on the cross. The question is not so much about how a man lives, but whether he continues to believe in Christ intellectually. If he ever ceases to believe in Christ, he can be lost because he is no longer a believer.
Another group believes that salvation has been made possible for all, but man must cooperate with God as God calls men to repentance. To repent, to be converted, to turn to Christ, to make oneself a new heart, is regeneration. It is influenced by God, but it is an act of man as a free will agent. To become a believer, he must forsake his sinful way to follow Christ as Lord, he must become a disciple of Christ, and he must continue in Christ in order to remain saved. He can make shipwreck of his faith through sin and/or unbelief and become an apostate.
The question is: which group is right? Actually, the question is: what does the Bible teach? My doctrinal affirmations on salvation and security have been influenced by men such as John Wesley, Charles Finney, Robert Hamilton, Michael Saia, and others, who find that the Bible teaches conditional security. I believe the Bible teaches the eternal security of the follower of Christ. But I do not believe in the unconditional eternal security of the believer. I believe the Bible teaches that a follower of Christ can forsake Christ and be lost. It must be clearly understood that over against unconditional eternal security I am not arguing for eternal insecurity, but for conditional security.
The follower of Christ will never perish, but the person that does not abide in Christ will be severed from the Vine.