What is the Doctrine of Eternal Security?
I will let H.A. Ironside, a profilic preacher who taught this doctrine, answer this question:
"When we speak of the eternal security of the believer, what do we mean? We mean that once a poor sinner has been regenerated by the Word and the Spirit of God, once he has received a new life and a new nature and has been made partaker of the divine nature, once he has been justified from every charge before the throne of God, it is absolutely impossible that that man should ever again be a lost soul. Having said that, let me say what we do not mean when we speak of the eternal security of the believer. We do not mean that it necessarily follows that if one professes to be saved, if he comes out to the front in a meeting, shakes the preacher’s hand, and says he accepts the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, that that person is eternally safe. It does not mean that if one joins a church or makes a profession of faith, is baptized, becomes a communicant, and takes an interest in Christian work, that that person is forever secure. It does not mean that because one manifests certain gifts and exercises these gifts in Christian testimony, that that person is necessarily eternally secure."
Now the popular version of this doctrine in today's Christianity whose mantras include phrases like "Don't judge!", "There is no condemnation", "God has already forgiven you all your future sins as well as your past sins" and so on – the popular version is that if you believe in Jesus then you will make it to heaven no matter how you live, because you have something called "saving faith". It may be a "faith without works", but it IS able to save you, because as we all know "salvation is not by works" and "there's nothing we can do" and so on and so forth.
This latter version of the doctrine is pretty easy to refute from Scripture. But the definition given by Ironside, and by many of the more serious Calvinists today, is not so easily refuted. You see, Ironside is saying that you can be a Christian worker, you can cast out demons, you can prophesy and still never have truly been regenerated. But if you WERE truly regenerated, you could never be lost. He then proceeds to try to dismantle the objections that are often raised against this position.
First of all, I'd like to say that this doctrine could not give a thoughtful person much comfort. How do YOU know you are truly regenerated according to this definition? How do you know YOU will not be like so many who seemingly start with God and then fall away? People like Demas, who apparently even the apostle Paul could not recognize as being "false converts" until they forsook the work of God for the world.
By the way, I do believe a person can know that they are born of God. Firstly, the Spirit of God tells us we are, when we are. Secondly, a person truly born of God will have the marks of a true believer. They will be aiming to know God, and to forsake sin. They will be growing in their experience with God. They will be learning to love as Christ loves.
I believe that careful examination of the facts reveals that many do begin with God like this in truth, but they do not "ABIDE IN CHRIST". They don't stick. They WERE in Christ, but they don't ABIDE with Him. They are therefore cut off, gathered together and cast into the fire. See John 15. Theologians can say what they will, but Jesus talks about branches IN HIM that are later separated from the vine and cut off. Paul warns the Romans about the severity of God in Romans 11:20-22
"Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. 22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off."
The words of the apostle Paul could not be clearer and should end all argument. But human nature is to argue against the plain statements of Scripture in favor of a man-devised system of religious arguments and traditions.
I will be looking at other Scriptures which give the lie to the doctrine that it is impossible for those who are truly regenerated by God to ever be lost. For now though, I would counsel you with the words of Paul, in Romans 11:20 – "Be afraid". And to this I would add the words of Jesus to his own disciples in Matthew 10:28
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."