Eternal Security: 6 Questions We Should Ask

What if only 99.9% of our sins are confessed?

Only Two Possibilities:
Eternally Secure
Eternally Neurotic

Eternal security is one of those issues you can’t ignore.

It involves salvation and, more specifically, whether or not you can count on it when you need it most, at death.

Some people believe once you’re saved you’re always saved. You can never lose it so there is no need to worry about keeping it. Others think there is no guarantee. It can be lost by any qualifying misstep, although there is debate as to where that line is drawn.

Settling the issue isn’t easy. You can throw out a few verses to prove whichever side you take but for every verse you quote there are plenty of reinterpretations to confuse things.

So I’ve decided to come at this from a different angle. I think much of the confusion can be cleared by taking an analytical/philosophical approach and that is the point of this post. I want to ask and answer pertinent questions. What you learn from this process is that once you ask one relevant question it opens the door to another and then another and eventually you have an avalanche of un-answerables.

When you do this for both sides you realize that one side fairs much better than the other.

Those of us who believe in “once-saved-always-saved” (yes, I’m one of those people) are very happy that it’s true. Those who don’t believe it have a lot of questions to answer most of which are not directly addressed in the Bible.

That fact alone should give you pause. If you have questions about how to keep your salvation intact – a very serious issue indeed – but you don’t have specific answers, then how can you be certain?

It doesn’t make sense that God would give us a salvation we could lose and then refuse to give us very clear, obvious, easily accessed and straight forward instructions on how to keep it.

Living with that uncertainty everyday would be enough to induce a nervous breakdown. Would a loving God be so cruel?

Thankfully, the opposite, eternal security (once saved, always saved), is a lot easier to live with and enables more productivity. You don’t need to worry about keeping your salvation so energy can be channeled into better less selfish pursuits.

You’re secure. You can relax. God will take care.

Sounds too good to be true, I know, and it doesn’t parallel life as we experience it but we are talking about something that doesn’t claim to parallel life. It is impossible without God. Every theory about salvation is too good to be true. Eternal security just happens to be the most rational choice.

But, as I said, thinking you can lose salvation raises many questions that the Bible just doesn’t answer. Let’s take a look.

If we could lose salvation . . .

At what point would salvation be lost? Where do we draw that line?

Or in other words, How bad must a sin be? For example, let’s assume murder can cause you to lose salvation. Is it only first degree murder that counts or is name-calling (the emotional equivalent of murder) enough to put us in the negative?

And that same question applies to many other issues. How much must one steal before it qualifies as bad enough? How big a lie must you tell?

If only the really bad sins cause the problem, then we need to know which ones qualify as really bad? The Bible doesn’t stipulate.

Because of that, and in order to be safe, maybe we would have to consider any sin on any level serious enough to put us out of sync. And then, whatever we must do to right the pathway would be done every day, several times a day. We would spend a lot of time trying to keep track of our sins and then make amends to keep our salvation.

And that creates even more dilemmas.

If You Can Lose It How Is Salvation Renewed

Even if you could define clearly the point at which salvation is lost you’ll still need to answer several more questions.

  • If you lose your salvation can you ever get it back?
  • If you can get it back how many times can you get it back? Is there a cut off point?
  • If you can get it back what must one do to make that happen?

These are important questions. We can only speculate about the first two but most people think “confession” is the answer to that last question and I agree. If salvation can be restored (assuming you can lose it), confession would be the means. What else could you do?

The Apostle John did mention confession:

If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

That’s a great promise but we need to ask what he’s talking about. Is he talking about renewing your salvation or just your focus? Are we confessing to get saved again or to make lifestyle adjustments?

If he’s talking about salvation then we need to ask if he’s talking about first salvation or subsequent salvations. If it is subsequent we could have a problem with timing.

What If You Forget To Confess Or Die Before You Do

Let’s say the average person sins 10 times a day and each time they lose their salvation. But, thankfully, they can confess and be renewed to salvation. It would work something like this:

  • You name call a driver who cuts you off in traffic.
  • You’re hurriedly shopping for last minute supper items so you swear under your breath as a fellow patron fiddles with a hand full of change to pay the cashier, taking far more time than is necessary.
  • You ruminate over unkind words spoken to you at work, thinking vengeful thoughts about the person who said them.
  • You imagine sexual encounters with people you work with or pass on the street or see on the TV.

And with each sin you lose your salvation. But, not too worry, you confess it right away and all is well. Salvation is restored. All of that sounds good so far.

But, what about the time you were busy and distracted so you failed to confess immediately and forgot about it later? What then? Will a general confession beforehand do?

Please, Lord, forgive all the sins I will forget.

Or must we confess in graphic detail after the fact?

Or maybe before you got around to confessing you had a heart attack and died? Or if you didn’t die immediately but went into a coma and died later? What then?

That may sound silly but remember, we are talking about something very important: salvation, eternal life, where you go when you die and getting it right is imperative.

If we can lose salvation we need to know exactly how that works.

There are two problems with the “confess sin get salvation back” theory. One is you would never stop confessing. You would constantly be stressed with the need to keep track of your sins, making sure you know exactly when you have sinned, and getting fessed up right away. An all consuming endeavor.

Would there be time or attention left for much else? I’m not so sure.

The second problem is the fact that it is possible to commit a sin and die before you confess it. And then we must ask this next question:

Is it possible to confess 99.9% of your sins but die before you confess that last one and lose it all? Can that possibly be right?

That is a scary possibility to entertain. And then . . .

Does Confession Have A Procedure? Is Penance Required? Is It Done In Public?

The list of questions about the “lose-it-confess-it” approach is endless:

  • Does confession have a procedure or a formula to follow? Must it be accompanied with some type of prayer?
  • Must we confess out loud, to people, or can it be done quietly to God?
  • If out loud, must we confess only to qualified people, e.g., a priest?
  • Is confession alone enough or must I do something afterward to prove my sincerity?

The Bible does not answers these questions. Some churches try to suggest answers but it is all very speculative.

One thing for sure though. If we teach salvation can be lost and then renewed, what we’ve done is traded “Eternally Secure” for “Eternally Neurotic!” Any sensible person would see it as hopeless and just give up.

With these dilemmas in mind a good question to end with is:

Why then would anyone believe salvation can be lost? What motivates this kind of thinking?

The answer is simple.

The Idea Is A Good Way To Keep People In Line

Think about it. Convincing people they can lose their salvation puts a lot of pressure on them to behave. It becomes a protective device, a way of controlling the actions of others.

That isn’t biblical and I don’t think it works but it is a motive and it sure stirs the water.



  1. gary says

    By the way, I believe that Jesus was a very real first century Jew. I just cannot find any evidence that proves that he is a supernatural Being who walked out of his grave and is the Ruler of the Universe, seated on a throne in the outer realms of the universe.`

  2. gary says

    You had a very intense emotional religious experience. Muslims and Hindus make the same claims. Why believe your experience was from the Creator but theirs’ are simply emotions?

  3. gary says

    Here is my story: I grew up fundamentalist Baptist. I repented of all my sins and accepted Jesus Christ into my heart to be my Lord and Savior at age nine…and again in my early teens…just to be sure. In my early 20’s my family moved to another state where we attended a non-denominational, evangelical mega-church (which taught Baptist doctrine) for several years. In my mid to late 20’s I stopped going to church because I didn’t “feel” God inside me and he didn’t seem to listen when I prayed.

    I remained unchurched until I was married in my forties. I started attending liberal churches. When we had children, I started looking again at more conservative/fundamentalist churches, something closer to what I had believed as a child and teenager. We joined a conservative, orthodox Lutheran church. I became very involved in the church. I was happy and content in my orthodox Christian belief system. I read the Bible and prayed regularly.
    One day I was surfing the internet and came across an atheist’s website. He was a former fundamentalist Baptist/evangelical pastor! I was shocked! I started to engage him in conversation, and also tried to bring him back to the Faith, to belief in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
    However, this man pointed out to me some very big assumptions in my Christian belief system which I had never thought of, such as:

    1. Just because there is evidence for a Creator does not mean that the Creator is the Christian God, Yahweh.

    2. Our current Bibles contain thousands of scribe alterations, most of them inconsequential, but a couple of them are shocking. Why did God allow scribes copying the original Scriptures to change, delete, add, or alter his inerrant, Holy, Word?

    3. How do we know that the books of the New Testament are the Word of God? Is there a verse that tells us? Did Jesus give us a list? Did Paul?

    4. Do we really have any verifiable eyewitness testimony for the Resurrection or is it all hearsay and legend?

    5. Modern archaeology proves that the Captivity in Egypt, the Exodus, the forty years in the Sinai, the Conquest of Canaan, and the great kingdoms of David and Solomon are only ancient Hebrew fables.

    At first I fought him tooth and nail. I fought him for four months. At the very end I had to admit that there are no verifiable eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus in the Bible or anywhere else. All we have are four anonymous first century texts full of discrepancies and contradictions. The only thing I had left to attach my faith to was the testimony of the Apostle Paul: why would a devout Jewish rabbi convert to a religion he so hated unless he really saw a resurrected dead man on the Damascus Road?
    But after studying the five Bible passages that discuss Paul’s conversion, I had to admit that Paul never says he saw a resurrected body. All Paul says is that he saw a light…and that this event occurred in a “heavenly vision”. Visions are not reality…not in the 21st century nor in the 1st.

    And as for the improbability that a Jewish rabbi would convert to a hated religion, there is a Muslim cleric in Israel today who not too many years ago was an ardent Zionist Jewish settler and rabbi, intent on ridding the Muslims from Jewish land.

    Strange conversions occur. They do not prove that the new religion is true and inerrant.

    I was broken-hearted, but I saw my Christian Faith was nothing more than an ancient superstition that had been modified in the first century by Jesus, a good man, but a dead man. There is zero evidence that this first century Jew is alive and the Ruler of the Universe.

    • says

      Hey Gary. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your story, even though I found it a bit surprising.

      It really isn’t so easy to dismiss the historical Jesus. Many have tried and even claimed success but were proven inconclusive in the end.

      But for argument sake, let’s say a person could come up with apparent factual evidence to deny Jesus. Even in that case there is one piece of personal evidence that can’t be so easily overcome. That is personal knowledge of Christ.

      I’ve never seen Jesus nor have I audibly heard His voice, but I’ll never forget the moment of my salvation. I can’t show you a picture of what happened in that moment but I can’t deny it either. It is the foundation of faith for every genuine believer.

  4. says

    Wow! Long comment. Thanks for the visit and taking time to share your thoughts.

    Your arguments are clear but for me there are just too many uncertainties. It is very difficult to clearly define “practicing” and without clarity it leaves one constantly guessing.

  5. Stuart says

    It is a risky proposition to wax philosophically about a doctrine without citing some scriptural support because although it may sound logical, it may not be biblical. Having said that, what does Scripture actually say about this subject? First we know that we all sin and if we claim to be without sin, the truth is not in us [1 Jn 1:8,10]. But the pertinent question is does God automatically forgive us when we do sin, or are there conditions that we must abide by in order to receive His forgiveness. 1 Jn 1:7 states that the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin IF we WALK IN THE LIGHT. This is a conditional – not an unconditional statement regarding the cleansing of our sins. So conversely if we are not walking in the light, we have no assurance that the blood covers our sins. Then v. 9 states if we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive and purify us from all unrighteousness. From this passage we can gather that as long as our lives are characterized as walking with the Lord or abiding in Him then we have confidence that our sins are forgiven upon repentance. No such assurance is had if we walk in darkness by engaging in habitually sin.
    This is consistent with what the Apostle John writes in the rest of his epistle where he warns of the consequences habitual sin. ” Everyone who makes a PRACTICE OF SINNING also practices lawlessness; 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 keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” [1 Jn 3:4-8]. From this we can conclude that even when we walk and abide in Christ, we still sin but sin is the exception rather than the rule in our lives and when we repent, God forgives us. However if we practice sin so that our lives are characterized by habitual sin, then we are not eternally secure.

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