Eternal Security is not Compatible with a Life of Sin… Even if Once “Saved”

I would like to thank my friend Ruben Birle who drew my attention to the teaching of dr. Charles Stanley on the issue of eternal security.  An internet search reveals that Stanley holds some degree of Arminian views in his soteriology (salvation theology), and was involved with the John 3:16 Conference, which was specifically against Reformation Theology.

In the video below he answers the question: “How can a person be saved, backslide into a life of sin, and still be saved for all eternity?”

My critique follows below.

I strongly believe in the eternal security of the saved, specifically the ones who have truly been born-again.  Salvation belongs to our God not to us, and God is the One Who completes His work toward our glorification, a process in which we fully participate.  The issue in this video comes down to whether the ones living in sin are saved or not.

The views expressed in this clip are not biblical because the entire discussion hinges on the term “life of sin.”  The term is present in the question and Stanley references it multiple times in the video.

It starts off with identifying the person who receives the gift of salvation but “lives pretty much like everyone else” (0:38).  He calls this backsliding, but it is much more serious.  These persons are not even saved because they have not experienced the new birth which is evident as that radical change in their life when they exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  So how can an unsaved person have eternal security?

Is it possible for a saved person then to live a “life of sin” since this is what the video is addressing?  This answer is a resounding no!  Therefore that person does not have eternal security.  They are lost until they experience the new birth made possible by the Holy Spirit (John 3).

The Bible is firm about any “saved” person who lives a “life of sin.”  These individuals are not saved.  Dr Stanley says that it is possible to experience salvation AND live a “life of sin” and just lose your reward, but not your salvation.  Wrong!  The biblical evidence against dr Stanley’s false teaching in insurmountable!

1 John 3:6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him… 

1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God

1 John 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

Ephesians 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

2 John 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God

…and many, many more verses…

Despite what the Bible really teaches, Dr Stanley persists on the idea that one can be “saved,” then live a “life of sin” and still have eternal security, with the stipulation that he will lose his reward. This, my friends is false teaching!  Anyone who continues to live in sin has never been born again!

7 comments on “Eternal Security is not Compatible with a Life of Sin… Even if Once “Saved”

  1. I would not call Charles Stanley a false teacher… I would say he is a wonderful teacher… And the issues of sin in John’s Epistle is referring most likely to something different than our daily sins since we all sin daily and then we all will go to hell… Obviously, John’s Epistle needs to be interpreted in its context and not dogmatically. I honestly don’t believe C.S. is a promoter of living in sin, he is only explaining how living in disobedience to God (and we all do more or less) does not take our salvation away since salvation is granted on the basis of faith alone. Yet, I doubt that C.S believes that faith is faith if there is no evidence of it.

    • I am very disappointed in the way CS explained eternal security in the context of “life of sin.” He may be a great teacher, but he did a poor job on explaining this issue.

      There is a clear distinction between living in sin and undergoing a cycle of sin-repentance-restoration. At minute 0:38 CS talks about that individual who continues to live like everyone else after his conversion. This shows that he was not born-again, and his faith was not a saving faith.

      There are many little clues from the video where serious statements are made like “going back into a life of sin,” “separated from God,” “waste away their life.” These things are not consisted with a born-again individual. We’re not talking about “small” sin, we are talking about persistence in sin, a life in sin.

      I do not believe those individuals ever experienced true saving faith, much less eternal security.

      I do not hold the position that salvation of a born-again Christian is lost… I am pointing out that the ones who live a “life of sin” are not born-again to begin with.

      • I did not listen to this message, but knowing him, it’s surprising to hear that… oh, well, we all can hold or/and say off-the-wall things….

      • Chris, I agree, he’s very clear in his claim that people can pretty much live any way they want and be saved, life just won’t be as pleasant that way. Interesting how he takes John 10:28 out of context. I would think the part in verse 27 about His sheep who follow Him being the ones who get eternal life might be slightly relevant.

        It seems to me that the church would be better off talking about a hope of salvation rather than talking about eternal security, telling people to strive as though they have not obtained it yet, and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

        I think we miss a key point when we feel a need to talk about eternal security. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might. When we love anything in that way, we will pursue it regardless of the reward. In other words, the kind of person we all think of as truly saved is the kind who will serve God because of who God is, not because of what He gives to me. Ask the average ‘Christian’ if they like the idea of spending an eternity serving and worshipping God, and you will probably be disappointed with the responses you get. 

      • Good points Matt. How many of us would have the courage of the Moravian missionaries… as opposed to serve God because there is something in it for us? Remember the call of the Moravians before they said goodbye to sell themselves as slaves… ” may the Lamb who was slain receive the reward for His suffering.” It’s always about Him not us.

  2. We’re all concerned that Christians live holy lives. I know many people on each side of the aisle. If you had a week or two, I could introduce you to a thousand wonderfully godly friends [in churches in 7 states where I’ve lived] who live the kind of life we all want them to live. They are not sinless, but they have learned to live through the power of the Holy Spirit.
    Theologically they believe that their salvation does not depend on their faithfulness and obedience to Christ, but they’ve lived to please Him all their lives. Some of them are children, others are young parents, others have already stored their tombstones in the garage; but they are living proof that the doctrine of once-saved-always-saved does not lead inexorably to a license to sin.
    You would find these folks delightful. And each one could probably introduce you to a couple hundred other folks who believe in this “eternal security” thing.
    Thanks for reading this. Would love a reply.
    I’ve also written a simple book, “Answering 123 NT Verses About Eternal Security.”
    And boy! am I ticked off about sloppy Christianity on both sides of the aisle!

    • Thank your for your comment. I too believe in eternal security (1 Thess 5:23-24). What I do not believe in is the idea that people who are not born-again, people who do not have the conviction of their sin by the Holy Spirit can have eternal security.

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