Eternal Security ≠ License to Sin

As Baptists, we believe that the Bible teaches that once someone has truly been saved they cannot then lose that salvation (e.g., John 10:24-30; Romans 8:35-39). Because of this, we are sometimes accused of providing people with a “license to sin.” In other words, some people believe that the doctrine of eternal security allows people to behave however they wish while treating the grace of God like fire insurance.

Come to think of it, there may be some basis for this accusation as I have known many “saved” church-going Baptists whose lives are no different than those of the non-believers around them. Keep in mind, however, that this is not in line with our understanding or teaching of the Bible.

Paul writes:

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21, KJV).

Far from granting us a license to sin, the Bible actually teaches us that those who persist in a lifestyle of habitual, unrepentant sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (I’ll discuss this particular list in a later post.) This does not mean that Christians lose their salvation if they sin; it means that continuing in sin is a sign that the aforementioned “Christian” never had salvation to begin with.

“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him” (I John 3:6, KJV).

The Greek word “hamartanei,” here translated as “sinneth,” is in a tense that indicates an ongoing action (Let Us Reason Ministries). The bottom line of this verse is that children of God do not live in sin.

This confirms the teaching of the above passage in Galatians. The word “do” in Galatians 5:21 comes from the Greek word “prasso.” Prasso means a practice, habit, or lifestyle (Mickelson). This is contrasted with the Greek word “poieo,” which indicates “a single act” (Mickelson).

God’s Word teaches us that, even as Christians, we will occasionally sin (Romans 7:15-20; I John 1:8-2:1; James 1:2). But when we do, we should confess our sin and repent of it–rather than wallow in it (I John 1:9).

On the other hand, if we live our lives as though the grace of God gives us a license to sin we ought to take a second look at our salvation: we may not have ever had it.

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  • Let Us Reason Ministries. Does the Bible teach (in 1 John) we no longer sin when we become believers? (2009). http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp132.htm.
  • Mickelson, Jonathan. Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries. The Word, 2008.
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