The Eternal Security Debate

Within his 2014 blog post titled “Three Major Arguments Against ‘Assurance of Salvation’” Joe Heschmeyer states the following[1]:

I am frequently asked by Protestants why we Catholics don’t teach “assurance of salvation,” the belief that those who are currently saved are guaranteed ultimate salvation, no matter what. Someone cannot be temporarily saved and ultimately damned. Calvinists and many Evangelicals affirm this doctrine (under different names: assurance of salvation, perseverance of the Saints, “Once Saved, Always Saved,” etc.),

He goes on to state:

From a Catholic perspective, we can be assured that if we are faithful, we will be saved. But we have no guarantee that we will be faithful: that is, while we can be assured that God won’t reject His faithful people, we have no assurance that we won’t reject God.

Most Christians, those who call themselves Protestants or Evangelicals, would cringe at what they just read.  That gutt-wrenching reaction certainly should occur when they reach the word “if” (his emphasis and not mine) within the paragraph above.  Mr. Heschmeyer goes on to state:

Broadly, there are three major reasons why we Catholics can reject “Once Saved, Always Saved.” First, the passages that allegedly teach this doctrine are actually conditional upon us not turning away from God (and Scripture tells us this); Second, Scripture explicitly teaches that those who are saved can reject their salvation (and gives specific examples); and finally, assurance of salvation provides only illusory assurance, due to the insurmountable problem of “false assurance.”

Three main points are raised by Mr. Heschmeyer as to why it is that a Christian, in this case he equates Catholics as being Christians, can lose their salvation.  The third point, titled “False Assurance,” we will dismiss since its focus is upon a televangelist that walked away from the faith and then a paragraph commenting upon Calvinism.  Neither are necessary for this discussion.

Mr. Heschmeyer’s first two points, however, take the matter straight to Scripture and that is where our focus must be.  He begins stating his case with the following sentence:

Many of the passages in Scripture are conditional, in that they apply unless something changes.

It should not surprise you that within this assertion, Mr. Heschmeyer is correct – many passages within Scripture are conditional.  The problem is that the only Scripture references that Mr. Heschmeyer provides are from Jonah chapter 3 and Ezekiel chapter 3.  Both are Old Testament books written by Jewish prophets with a focus upon the nation Israel.  No Christian should be attempting to develop their doctrine from Old Testament books.  One must realize that all of the Bible is written for us, but not all of the Bible is written to us.  Mr. Heschmeyer’s error should be obvious to the average Christian, but there is still much that we can learn from his blog post:

In Acts 8, a magician named Simon sees the miracles of St. Philip. We’re told explicitly that he believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13), which is the formulation for salvation (Mark 16:16). So Simon is saved. But then, he attempts simony (the buying of spiritual goods, a sin which bears his name) by trying to buy the ability to perform the Sacrament of Confirmation (Acts 8:19). Acts 19:20-24 reports the aftermath:

Mr. Heschmeyer is actually on to something here…  Internally, he recognizes that there is a contradiction within the theology that he has been taught against that with which he is reading.  Is the “formulation for salvation,” or the gospel that saves you, believe and be water baptized (Acts 8:13, Mark 16:6)?  This is where we must apply our questions of why, what, who, how, where, and when as it relates to salvation.  Was Simon saved?  In that short statement, Mr. Heschmeyer has just made a very large leap, an assumption, which is based upon tradition and what he has been previously taught. Let’s explore further what Mr. Heschmeyer has to teach us:

St. Peter opens the second chapter of 2 Peter by warning that “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1). That’s a strong claim: Peter is saying that these false teachers were ransomed by Christ, their Master, but then denied Him, and brought destruction upon themselves. That’s exactly what perseverance of the Saints claims can’t happen. At the close of the chapter, speaking of this same group, Peter says:

Mr. Heschmeyer is actually doing a fantastic job of recognizing that there is a conflict within his theology, but his conclusions for why those conflicts exist and what the solution must be for those conflicts are tragically in error. Finishing his point, Mr. Heschmeyer moves to the end of 2 Peter 2:

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

2 Peter 2:20-22

Mr. Heschmeyer, in closely reading the above passage, reaches a correct conclusion concerning what the verses actually say, but then his erroneous theology envelopes the contradiction he points out and then leads him to incorrect conclusions.  He states it this way:

Sometimes, this second passage gets explained away, by saying that these teachers weren’t ever really Christian, but just associated with Christians. If that’s the case, it’s hard to see in what way they “escaped the defilements of the world” or “have known the way of righteousness” or turned back (since they apparently never had a faith to turn back from). And it doesn’t even remotely explain why Peter would think that Christ ransomed them.

This is a fascinating set of conclusions.  His first point – explaining away that the teachers that Peter is speaking about aren’t really Christian – is incorrect.  These teachers aren’t Christians, they’re Jews…  Mr. Heschmeyer’s emphasis is not upon the religious designation of these teachers, however, his point pertains to their being saved (“escaped the pollutions of the world” and “have known the way of righteousness”) and how they lost the salvation that they once had.  In that point, he is correct.

Is it possible for someone to fall from grace?  Can a Christian lose their salvation?  The issue behind these questions is simple:  the salvation that Jesus Christ offers is either conditional or unconditional.  One such occurrence, not mentioned in Mr. Heschmeyer’s blog post, is found in Matthew chapter 6.  Within Matthew chapter 6, verses 5 through 13, we read what is often called the Lord’s Prayer.  Putting aside the fact that this cannot be correctly labeled as the “Lord’s” Prayer since verse 12 requests forgiveness for sins and Jesus Christ, as God in flesh, never sinned, we must take note of the two verses that immediately follow this prayer that Jesus was teaching His disciples:

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

These two verses provide us an interesting example of a condition being placed upon one’s salvation, just as Mr. Heschmeyer has argued.  Having previously searched the Pauline epistles for the present tense declaration of “are saved” and having looked at a number of verses that indicate that the Christian’s salvation is complete and a present possession, what are we to do with verses like the ones above?  Does the following verse match up with what is being taught by our Lord in Matthew 6?

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32

As a Christian, a member of the body of Christ, I have been forgiven.  My sins are atoned for.  I have been reconciled to God.  Salvation is mine, now.  There is no condition upon my salvation.  Nothing will keep me out of heaven.  I don’t, for salvation’s sake, have to forgive any man their trespasses and I don’t have to worry about whether or not God has forgiven me of my trespasses.  It’s done!  I’m secure!

The argument continues, however, and additional verses, no doubt thought of by Mr. Heschmeyer, are brought into the discussion, advocating for the position that a Christian can lose their salvation:

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;

Hebrews 3:14


For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Hebrews 6:4-6


For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

Hebrews 10:26-27


Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

Hebrews 10:35-39

Though Mr. Heschmeyer did not turn to the book of Hebrews to help state his case, one should be able to easily read through these passages and conclude that indeed, those being addressed within the book of Hebrews can obtain salvation and then lose it.  We must then ask the question, who is the book of Hebrews written to?  Perhaps the name of the book provides us a clue…

The solution to Mr. Heschmeyer’s conflict lies in the fact that the books of Hebrews through Revelation are not written to or about the Church, the body of Christ.  The same is to be said concerning the four Gospel’s – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  This is actually an Occam’s razor situation that Mr. Heschmeyer has stumbled into.  Every time the “Hebrew Epistles” (correctly labeled) talk about salvation, they are talking about salvation in the future tense.  

Consider Peter’s own words … the final written record of his speaking within the book of Acts:

But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Acts 15:11

Shall be…”  Peter is expecting salvation to come in the future which makes perfect sense when we read about “enduring to the end” (Matthew 24:13) and hoping “to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you” at Christ’s Second Coming (1 Peter 1:13).  Israel’s national salvation is a future occurrence and can be read about in Acts 3:19-21. 

The people that John, James, Peter and Jude are writing to do not have salvation.  They do not have a present possession of salvation.  If salvation is promised to a person in the future, that means that they don’t have salvation yet.  What we read in the Bible is that, for the person promised a future salvation, sin is still a potential deal breaker – judgment and death are still options for that person.  Their standing with God may be dependent upon their actions or other events that happen to them.

That is the conflict that Mr. Heschmeyer has stumbled into.  In attempting to resolve this conflict, Mr. Heschmeyer has applied false teachings, wrong conclusions, and a false religion to his analysis and his desire to harmonize these verses.  As members of the body of Christ, we are saved “now”.  What most Christians do not appreciate is that within the entirety of the history represented within the Bible, that standing with God is a very unique position for one to have.  It is a unique position only discussed within the apostle Paul’s 13 epistles.  Rightly dividing the word of truth amplifies and magnifies the enormous grace that has been showered upon us.  For the Christian, living within the dispensation of the grace of God, the adage “once saved, always saved” definitely applies.  We can have confidence in that fact because our salvation is maintained by the Holy Spirit:

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14

What the verses above are stating is simply this:  the first thing that happens in chronological order is that one hears the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation. When one hears the gospel, what does God expect them to do?  He expects them to believe it.  These verses use the word “believe” and they use the word “trust”.  Those two words are synonyms.  After one believes and trusts, they are sealed with the Holy Spirt of promise.  This is a critical point to understand.  When one believes the gospel, they are sealed by the Holy Spirit.  It is described here as “the earnest of our inheritance”.  In other words, it is a down payment, it is an earnest of what is to come.

How long is the Christian sealed with the Holy Spirit?  The answer to that question is provided later within the book of Ephesians:

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

During the dispensation of the grace of God[2], one can pick a point anywhere within its nearly 2,000 year history and, according to Ephesians 1:13-14, they are filled (sealed) with the Holy Spirit at the time of belief in the gospel that saves during that dispensation[3].  According to Ephesians 4:30, a person is saved until “the day of redemption”.  What is the day of redemption?  The answer to that question is found within the book of Romans:

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Romans 8:23

When one believes the gospel, they are sealed by the Holy Spirit and they are sealed all the way through the passing of time until they are placed in their new, resurrected, body at the rapture of the Church[4].  This proper understanding should give every Christian comfort.  A Christian cannot lose their salvation because they are sealed by the Holy Spirit and for them to lose their salvation would mean that the Holy Spirit would have to fundamentally fail in the job that God gave the Holy Spirit to do.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13

A Christian is spiritually baptized into the Church at the time of belief in the gospel.  The Church of today, the Church that exists during the dispensation of grace, is called the body of Christ.  You are placed into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit because you are spiritually baptized into it:

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Romans 6:3-5

When a person believes in the gospel, they are sealed by the Holy Spirit at that moment in time.  They are sealed until the day of redemption, which is adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  One is spiritually placed into the body of Christ, and they are spiritually baptized into Christ’s death. All of these things take place at the moment of belief.  What that means is this – your salvation is not something that you maintain because of your continued faithfulness – it is something that is maintained for you because the Holy Spirit places you into the body of Christ, baptizes you into His death, and you are sealed until the day of redemption.  That means that you don’t need to worry about losing your salvation.  The Holy Spirit is the one that takes care of that for you.  You can’t lose your salvation.  It would require the Holy Spirit to fail at one of His assigned tasks and that is not going to happen.  Salvation is instantaneous and it cannot be lost.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Romans 5:1

Notice the tense of verbs within the verse above.  “Therefore being justified by faith”  In other words, you already possess justification.  You are not waiting for it.  Justification means to be declared righteous.  “being justified” means that you have already been declared righteous.  You are not waiting for that to happen in the future.  God has already declared you righteous if you believe the gospel that He has instructed you to believe.  “we have peace with God” and we are not waiting to obtain that peace with God in the future.  If you believe the gospel of your salvation, you already have it because you’ve already been justified.  You are not waiting for God, in the future, to forgive your sins – He’s already forgiven them.  He treats you as being righteous from the moment you have faith.  

Unfortunately, many who call themselves “Christian” worry about things they don’t need to worry about. They worry about losing their salvation.  They will ask questions like, “Have I done enough,” “Am I really saved,” “How can I be saved if I really have these thoughts,” “How can I be saved if I really behave this way,” “Why don’t I feel saved?”  These are all questions that Mr. Heschmeyer no doubt asks himself on a frequent basis.  Scripture wants the Christian to have confidence and it wants the Christian to have peace concerning these things because salvation is instantaneous at the moment one believes in the clearly understood gospel message and there is no way for that person to lose their salvation.  A Christian should live their life in confidence and not in fear.  That is how God wants you to live.

In order to accurately understand the Bible, we must rightly divide the word of truth[5].  The primary division within the Bible is between prophecy concerning Israel[6] and the mystery of the body of Christ[7] discussed only within the apostle Paul’s writings.  Failure to recognize this distinction will only lead to confusion and your applying instructions intended for others to your daily walk with the Lord.  That is precisely what we are seeing with Mr. Heschmeyer’s blog post concerning eternal security.  Failure to recognize the distinction between prophecy and mystery within the Bible will cause you to question your salvation while applying verses and passages of Scripture that do not apply to the Christian living within the dispensation of the grace of God.  Let’s understand this further by taking a closer look into when it is that salvation happens for Israel.



[1] Three Major Arguments Against “Assurance of Salvation,” Joe Heschmeyer, January 28, 2014

[2] Ephesians 3:2  If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

[3] 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

[4] 1 Thes 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:51-58: Titus 2:13; 2 Tim 2:17-18

[5] 2 Timothy 2:15; Philippians 1:9-10 (The KJV rendering “approve things that are excellent” is a poor rendering – it is better understood as “testing or discerning the things that differ”)

[6] Acts 3:21  Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

[7] Romans 16:25  Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,


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