Summary: A two-part series on the subject; based on passages in the gospel of John and Hebrews.

There are many benefits in preaching through an entire book of the Bible. One is that the preacher is not able to “avoid” the difficult passages – the controversial passages; those passages the sincerest of believers may disagree on.

This morning we will delve into such a passage. Our prayer is that God will direct our study, and give us grace to understand.

The doctrine of “unconditional security”, “once saved, always saved”, “eternal security”, or the “security of the believer”; however you may hear it referred to, is an issue the church has debated for hundreds of years. The topic holds at its core two fundamental questions:

1. Does man play any role in obtaining salvation, or is it entirely God’s doing?

2. Is it possible for one to lose his salvation?

These questions are not easy to answer, but they are worth investigating. That is what we will do over the next two weeks. We will look to the Scriptures to discover [1] if man plays a role in his salvation and walk with Christ, and if [2] there is reason to believe that one can lose his/her salvation. Having drawn some conclusions then, we will propose a solution to man’s dilemma.

A man whose wisdom I respect greatly, once said, “Brethren, great men of God have debated the issue of the security of the believer for over 1500 years, and have not come to agreement. We must not divide on this matter.” That advice is good for us in this study.


A. Revelation can sometimes bring about a change of heart on a given issue, and so I must qualify my remarks this morning. I believe that scripture casts doubt on the concept of unconditional security. This belief is based on [1] knowledge gained through careful study, [2] my limited human understanding, and [3] prayerful consideration of the text.

B. Having said that, let us begin with the text. Turn with me to John 15.


A. Jesus as vine, we are the branches, and God as the gardener

1. The picture is clear; each of us can visualize it. Any good gardener knows two things about healthy plants. [1] One must remove dead branches, and [2] prune (or cut back) healthy ones in order to produce more. A fruit-bearing branch, when pruned properly, will bring more fruit. A branch that produces no fruit robs the vine of nutrients while producing nothing of value.

a. Here is an allegory of the spiritually dead; [1] the unfruitful Christian, claiming the name of Jesus Christ while living in willful sin; OR [2] those who pretend to be religious, never receiving Christ as their savior.

2. God provides the fruit; but only through healthy branches. Is man responsible to bear fruit in order to maintain a healthy relationship between branch and vine? The text suggests that he does; there is a distinction in the two acts of the gardener.

B. “You are already clean…remain in me and I will remain in you”

1. Jesus is not criticizing the disciples (vv.1-2), but encouraging them. They are clean (play on words – pruned and clean can be the same Gk. word) because He has made them clean. Their task now, is to remain in Him so they continue to bear fruit.

a. They cannot bear fruit unless they remain in Him (v.4)

b. You are clean; now, stay clean!

2. Jesus emphasis on “remain” is intentional, and it is not lost on the evangelist. This word remain (Gk. men’o) occurs 102 times in the NT; 33 times in John’s gospel!

3. There is a deliberate inflection of man’s responsibility in Jesus’ words. If man has no role to play in maintaining his relationship with Christ, there would be no reason to instruct the disciples this way.


A. Verse six causes problems for those who support the idea of unconditional security. BIG PROBLEMS… the problem arises in the language Jesus uses. It is harsh; it prophesies judgement; it promises destruction by fire to those who do not remain in Him.

1. The fact is, many of us don’t like the hard sayings of the Bible. They make us uncomfortable. They cause us to wiggle (or “rooch”) in our seats and start looking out the window. For some, it causes them to twist and turn the text to suit their theology, instead of matching their theology to the text.

a. Robert Shank, in his extraordinary book Life in the Son, says, “those who advocate the doctrine of unconditional security have found themselves hard pressed to interpret John 15:1-6. Reading their comments on this brief passage one is continually reminded of the words on the sign over the old ironsmith’s shop: ‘All kinds of fancy twistings and turnings done here’.”

b. Alexander Maclaren, the famed British Baptist expositor put it this way; “Dear brethren! Be on your guard against the tendency of this generation to blot out the threatenings of the Bible, and from its consciousness, the grave issues that it holds forth. One of two things must befall the branch; either it is in the vine or it gets into the fire. If we would avoid the fire, let us see to it that we are in the Vine.”

B. Does man have a responsibility? Can he lose his salvation? Consider the text and its context…to put it simply, “If you ain’t in the vine, you’re in the fire” (sorry for the poor English, Mom).


A. Hebrews 10:26,27 – If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire.

1. Read all of ch.10 this afternoon; notice it was written to “brethren”, meaning believers

B. 2 Peter 2:1,15 – There will be false prophets among the people...who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them…bringing swift destruction on themselves. They have left the straight way and wandered off

1. Peter is talking about believers!


A. Salvation is a gift from God that brings together Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.

1. Jn.1:12 – But as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the children of God. It’s God’s power, given only to those who receive it

2. Ro.10:10 – It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Another example of the role human responsibility plays in salvation.

B. Remaining in Christ involves human responsibility, too. If man can (and must) willingly and consciously pursue his salvation in order to receive it, we must also conclude he is responsible to maintain his relationship with Christ.

C. There is good news.


D. Next week, we will examine the roadblocks that put believers in harm’s way, and the biblical cure for “falling away”.