The new birth is permanent. It is irrevocable. Jesus said the believer “will not perish” and “will never die” (John 3:16; 11:28). If a believer could perish or die, then Jesus could not have made those promises because they would be false.
By analogy, God warned Adam that he would die if he ate the forbidden fruit because dying was possible. By contrast, Jesus assured believers they would never die because dying is impossible.
Suffice to say, if a born-again believer could lose his salvation, Jesus would never have said “never.”
However, people sometimes wrestle with reconciling the truth of eternal security with the fact of free will. They ask, “How can you freely believe to receive eternal life, without also being free to reject it later? Shouldn’t free will work both ways?”
That’s a good question. What’s a good answer?
Well, have you ever gone skydiving?
You’re free to choose to jump out of the plane, and once you’re in the air you don’t lose your free will. However, as you plummet to the ground, you might regret having jumped. But can you choose to transport yourself back into the plane? Of course not! That’s no longer an option. You can still choose to scream, cry, or pray, but you can’t choose to stop falling or to turn back the clock. Your choice had a consequence that you can’t undo no matter how much you may want to. Free choice concerns reality as it is, not as you want it to be. (Thanks to Tim Nichols for the illustration.)
We all know what that’s like.
Have you ever said something you regretted as soon as the words left your mouth? Maybe you said something hurtful or revealed a secret you shouldn’t have. You would have given anything to take those words back, but you couldn’t. You were free to say them, but you weren’t free to erase the consequences of saying them.
Well, believing in Jesus has permanent consequences, too—except really good ones!
Once you believe, certain things happen to you that you can’t undo, even if you wanted to.
At the moment of faith, you were born again, justified, forgiven, reconciled to God, at peace with Him, and adopted into the Father’s forever family.
And if that’s not clear enough, Jesus promised you will never perish, never hunger, never thirst, never be judged, never be cast out, never be snatched away, and above all, never ever die. As Baptists say: once saved, always saved.
You might regret that fact later (although it’s hard to imagine why!). You might start believing in something else or in nothing at all, or your life could take a wrong turn so you experience one or more moral falls. But whatever you freely choose to do next, you can’t take back the consequences of what you did before. And one of the very good consequences of believing in Jesus is that you are eternally secure.
I find that extremely comforting, don’t you?
I find it comforting to know that the God of love made salvation as easy as possible for the men and women He loved.
God put the bar of salvation so low because He values Jesus’ finished work so highly.
Since Jesus’ death for you was perfectly sufficient, you can be eternally saved by something as insufficient as believing in Jesus for just a moment. That’s all it takes because your role is to receive, not to attain. That way, Jesus gets all the glory because He did all the work, and you have nothing to boast about (Eph 2:9).
But the good news gets even better, for after you believe and are born again, all your fickleness, faithlessness, and fluctuating faith can’t undo His unmerited favor. That’s why we call it salvation by grace.
So, can eternal security and free will go together? Of course. Are they incompatible? Not at all.
Thought for the day: Free will is about freedom in reality, not freedom from reality. And the reality is eternal life is forever.