Eternal security?

A Surprising God reader sent this question: What does Trinitarian, Christ-centered theology say about eternal security? Or asked another way, Can one lose one's salvation?

In answering, Trinitarian theology begins with the all-important question, Who is Jesus? The Bible answers that Jesus is the permanent union of God with all humanity. On the basis of this truth (this personal union) we can answer our immediate question: Can one lose one's salvation?

Unfortunately, salvation often is viewed as a transaction with God -- a sort of bookkeeping exercise in which we give God our faith, and in exchange he grants us forgiveness and justification (salvation). But what the nature of the incarnate, crucified, risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ tells us is that salvation is a relationship -- it's about fellowship not transaction. Moreover, we are shown that this relationship-fellowship between God and humankind has been established and occurs in and through Jesus himself as the permanent union of God and all humanity.

On this basis, our question becomes this: Can one lose one's relationship (fellowship) with God?  Dr. Mike Feazell (formerly GCI vice president) answers in a letter. Here is an excerpt:
Salvation is about being in fellowship with God. God's love never ceases, and Christ's love in us, ministered by the Spirit, for the Father and for others never ceases. We can participate in that fellowship in which God has included us in Christ, or we can resist it. However, the relationship exists whether we embrace it or resist it. In that sense, all humanity is elect in Christ and saved in him. It isn't therefore a question of losing one's salvation, but a question of participating in the salvation we already have. If we don't participate in it, it is akin to not having it, and in that way, not enjoying its fruit. But we do have it, whether we participate in it or not.
It helps when we stop thinking of salvation as a sort of moment-in-time reward that can be won and lost, and start thinking of salvation as being in loving fellowship with the God who made us, sustains us, loves us and dwells in us. In other words, salvation isn't something we "have," per se; it is something we participate in. Maybe we could compare it to "having" electricity. But to "have it" is meaningless, unless you plug in a light or an appliance and actually use the electricity. This is not a perfect analogy, but perhaps it is helpful.
To not remain in Christ is thus not to participate with Christ through the Spirit in the Father. This participation is what salvation is. So not to participate in it, is like not having it.
We participate in faith, trusting Christ to be for us who he says he is for us. As we trust, the Spirit works in us, transforming us into the image of Christ. The Spirit also works to bring us back when we don't trust, because God is always faithful in his love for us even when we are not faithful.
So from God's side, Christ came into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:16-17), and that is what he did—save it. From our side, we can trust him and participate in that salvation, or we can not trust him and ignore or resist that salvation (which means to ignore or resist our fellowship with him). Either way, God saved us in Christ, but only if we embrace that grace can we participate in the joy of knowing the Father, Son and Spirit.

[Updated 5/5/2021] 


Jerome Ellard said…
I'd add, as a further answer to the question Ted posed "Can one lose one's relationship/fellowship with God?":ONLY if the union of God and humanity in Jesus could be disrupted or ended. In other words, only if the Incarnation could be ended, voided, or cancelled. But God has committed to humanity by joining humanity with God in the person of Jesus PERMANENTLY - Jesus will always be 100% God AND 100% human (a glorified human, but human nonetheless!). Our DNA is his DNA. I could deny my relationship with my earthly father, but a DNA test would show that I am only deceiving myself. In the same way, we can deny our relationship with God through Jesus, but the reality of our connection does not change. Participating in the reality of our true connection to God, our fellowship with God, is salvation, is heaven. Denying that relationship, that connection, is being lost, is hell. Our choice is NOT to make salvation occur, but whether to participate in what only God can do and has done through Jesus Christ.
Anonymous said…
Yes, who is Jesus? This is an exciting question that opens up many positive thoughts about God and our standing with Him. As Peter says,

2 Peter 1:17--For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (NIV)

So, God the Father deals with Jesus Christ as His Son. Furthermore, He does so with love, respect, and complete acceptance found in the Father/Son/Holy Spirit relationship. However, this is hardly the relationship that is pictured in much of Christianity. This other relationship, concocted from misunderstandings and misapplications of various pre-cross events and instructions, is one of abuse and conditional acceptance. Simply put, it is a dysfunctional relationship.

Furthermore, this dysfunctional relationship is reinforced in the minds of many with the idea that Jesus is no more than a multiple life temple animal that must be killed over and over again for our sins committed under the law. In other words, God is rather upset by our sins, and because we keep committing them, Jesus gets hammered by God over and over again to appease His wrath.

However, God is quite pleased with His Son and His successful rescue mission to save us all. And, since Jesus is our dear friend, the Son's success is our shared success. In addition, one death for us is all that is needed, as the writer of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 9:24-26--For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (NIV)

The point is that Jesus is the apple of God's eye, and by believing in His name (meaning the presence of Jesus within us) we can see this. It is all part of who Jesus is in the grand relationship He has with the Father.

All the best!

J. Richard Parker
Pastor Paul said…
Great post. The problem with many people understanding this Theology is their concept of 'hell'. They ask as they read this, "But what about hell fire?"

I have a current blog at my blog site that answers where our modern Western Christian Theological " misunderstanding " of Hell comes from. Check it out at:

Blessings to all.

Paul Kurts
Ted Johnston said…
Regarding Pastor Paul's comment about hell, T.F. Torrance writes concerning the sacrifice of Christ on behalf of all humanity that, "it is an act of pure, incredibly loving acceptance, through God's taking upon himself entirely our rejection. Therefore if a sinner... goes to hell, it is not because God rejected them, for God has only chosen to love them, and has only accepted them in Christ who died for them and on the cross consummated the divine act of love in accepting them and in taking their rejection upon himself. If anyone goes to hell they go to hell, only because, inconceivably, they refuse the positive act of the divine acceptance of them, and refuse to acknowledge that God has taken their rejection of him upon himself, so acknowledging that they deserve to be rejected."
Unknown said…
For all the wordy wordiness supplied here. I'd just like to type a little about the image of Jesus and the fallen laborer.
I read some where that 35% have to produce for the rest. Rest being: retired, children, disabled, Ect. Every time a Christian sees someone doing work, a prayer should go with the person, that somehow the work will end serving Jesus.
Gary said…
Many Christians have said the following to themselves during a very difficult period in their life: “Am I really saved?” Here are the thought processes on this issue for an Evangelical and a Lutheran:

The Evangelical's Assurance of Salvation:

1. At age ___ I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. At that moment I asked Jesus to come into my heart to be my Lord and Savior and to forgive me of my sins.

2. But since I am currently questioning my salvation, maybe I didn't "do it" correctly. Maybe I didn't fully understand what I was doing. Maybe I didn't fully repent. Maybe I didn't really have complete faith. Maybe I did it just because my friends were doing it. Maybe...

3. I don't know...maybe I should "do it" again, just to be 100% sure.

The Lutheran's Assurance of Salvation:

1. Have I been baptized into the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, thereby receiving God's promise of the forgiveness of my sins, salvation of my soul, faith, and eternal life?
Answer: Yes.

2. Have I outright rejected Christ as my Lord and Savior?
Answer: No.

3. Am I living a life of ongoing sin in willful disobedience and defiance of my Lord?
Answer: No.

Therefore, I KNOW I am saved!

When your assurance of salvation is based on what GOD did and not what you did, it makes all the difference in the world!