Summary: The exegesis of scripture surrounding salvation is perhaps the most important to understand.
"Salvation is God's way of making us real people." - Augustine
The exegesis of scripture surrounding salvation is perhaps the most important to understand. Christology is just as vital. It's important we understand the complexities of what salvation is, how we can have it, and how we can keep it. The highest authority must be the scriptures. This means the entirety of scripture. Not only select scriptures from select books of the Bible. We must understand theology in the light of every book in the Bible, as a full, cohesive theology.
To this end, one must ask: Once we are saved in Christ Jesus, reborn and made new in his love, is there a possibility of losing that relationship, or is that connection unbreakable?
There are two primary views: The eternal security view is the idea that God will force a person to remain saved throughout their lives, no matter what they do.
The second view is that relationship found in Christ Jesus must be engaged in, and lived out; in other words, the believer must remain, or "abide" in the relationship with Jesus Christ.
Today we'll be looking at both views, and scriptures that are levied to defend each position.
The most important is probably Romans 8:38-39 which states: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Those are in fact important and valid scriptures that point to a vital aspect of our relationship with Jesus Christ: There is an active agent on the other end of that relationship guiding us, upholding us, and renewing us in His power.
Though eternal security is a reasonable theological position with decent supporting evidence, I'd like to make the case today that "conditional security" holds more scriptural evidence.
What's most important is the truth about scripture, that's something we can all agree on. What matters most is what is actually true, not our entrenched positions.
I would contend that there is a treasure trove of scripture to back up the idea of conditional security. Again and again in scripture we see phrases like "departing from the faith", "falling away", and "being lead astray.”
1 Timothy 1:4 (ESV) says "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons." One can only depart from a faith they already have.
Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV) says "For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt."
The scenario being described in Hebrews 6 is of one who has fallen away, after being a Christian. One cannot share in the Holy Spirit unless they are a saved Christian, who has then fallen away and effectively moved away from their salvation.
Consider Revelation 2:4-5 (ESV) which states "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent."
This is an example of Christians who did very well in serving Christ at first, but slowly moved in the wrong direction. Jesus warns them; do what you did at first or I will remove your lamp stand from it's place. That would be an example of believers who fell away from salvation.
In John 15:1-15 Jesus Christ describes Christians as branches, who are connected to the vine (Jesus) who are being pruned by the gardener (the Father). In this parable Jesus says that those branches who bear fruit will be pruned by the Father so they bear more fruit. He also says that those who do not bear fruit will shrivel up, and be tossed into the fire. Once we again we see a situation where the relationship between God and man is neglected, and eventually abandoned. Jesus did not lose that person, that person left Jesus willingly.
Erwin Lutzer in his book "Doctrines that Divide" (1998) attempts to point out two defenses against this verse; that those people were never truly saved, or that the fire only represents the fire at the judgement seat of Christ, and does not affect salvation. Both of those defenses are in my view, stretches of scripture, and seem to neglect a plain straight forward reading of John 15.