Remember earlier I said that our eternal security is only as certain as our turning to God. Following Christ is a sure way to get to heaven, for that is where He is! But if we for a second think we can follow after our flesh, sin, and the world and end up at the pearly gates, we are seriously deceived.
Paul said in the letter to the Hebrews (in my opinion, the single most sobering passage in Scripture).
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY “ And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-31)
Therefore, willful sinning after turning to God gives us plenty of confidence that we await a “terrifying expectation of judgment.” The doctrine of unconditional eternal security was foreign to the New Testament writers and the early church.
However, Scripture does speak of conditional eternal security. In John’s first epistle, he states: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13). “These things” refers to the actual contents of the letter. Interestingly, a condensed version of this verse is used in a very popular evangelism program to prove that we can be confident in un-conditional eternal security, with absolutely no reference to the contents of the letter itself. This is very deceptive.
So what were the “things” John wrote that would assure us we have eternal life? Here are some excerpts from the letter. Notice the conditional (“if/then”) statements:
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 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. (1 John 1:6-7)
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6)
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:4-10)
So what are some of the conditions John covered “that we might know we have eternal life?”
• Walk in the light, not darkness
• Keep Jesus’ commandments
• Walk as Jesus walked
• Do not love the world or anything in the world
• Do the will of the Father
• Abide in Christ
• Practice righteousness
• And cease from sin
Did anyone go through this list with you when the “gospel” was presented to you?
Careful scrutiny reveals that this is simply the Gospel according to Jesus all over again; that is: repent and follow Him! Therefore, the only condition for eternal security is repenting and following Jesus. It’s really that simple. Unfortunately it has been replaced by “believe in Him.”
– Marc Carrier