Is Eternal Security a ‘License’ to Sin?

The idea of eternal security, that we cannot lose our salvation, does not encourage us to sin without guilt. Instead, it emphasizes our choice to grow in relationship with God and strive to do that which pleases Him not out of a sense of duty, but out of love.

Alyssa Roat
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The Bible teaches us that if we put our faith in God, through His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus, our sins are forgiven.

A clean slate. All forgiven. No matter how many those sins are. This is fantastic news when we become Christians. No matter what happened in our past, we are now redeemed.

Things get a little messy, however, for those who hold to the idea of eternal security. Although this idea is generally rejected by Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Methodist theology, it is important in Calvinist, Reformed, and free grace theology.

According to the doctrine of eternal security, this all-encompassing, forgiveness salvation continues even after we become Christians. This makes some people wary of such doctrine.

This begs the question: If one holds to the belief that we are saved no matter what after becoming Christians, why not just keep on sinning as much as we want? Does the idea of eternal security, that we cannot “lose our salvation,” mean that we can do whatever we want?

The idea of gaining a license to sin with impunity because of eternal security shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to follow Jesus.

Though there may be other issues with the idea of eternal security, the idea of a license to sin can be refuted. Below, we’ll explore what eternal security does and doesn’t mean.

What Is Eternal Security?

In John 10:28-29, Jesus says of His followers, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

The idea of eternal security is based on this principle. Once a person is saved and becomes a follower of Christ, they cannot lose their salvation but are preserved by God to eternal life.

Ephesians 4:30 says that we are “sealed for the day of redemption.” Once the gift of salvation is received, eternal security states that it cannot be lost.

Notably, eternal security does not claim that a person is saved simply for claiming they are a Christian. Instead, it states that those who submit to Christ will be secured, not as a result of their own work in maintaining their salvation, but by the result of God’s work in keeping us.

Biblical Evidence for Eternal Security

Though the aim of this article is not to support or refute the idea of eternal security, the following passages seem to support the idea and will give context to further discussion.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

That everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:15-16).

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy (Jude 24).

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away…And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:37-40).

Why Eternal Security Does Not Give Us a License to Sin

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Whether one holds to eternal security or not, it is clear that our salvation does not depend on ourselves.

It is a gift from God. We don’t have to “earn” salvation by doing good deeds or avoiding sin. We could never do enough to earn our salvation, and we can never be perfect.

However, this does not mean that God has given us a free pass to do whatever we want. There are three reasons we will address here why the gift of salvation is not a free pass to sin.

1. Salvation is about change. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” When we submit ourselves to Christ, we become a new creation. We are dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:2). 

Romans 6:6 says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him [Jesus] so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” By committing to Christ, we are no longer ruled by sin.

Salvation is about more than getting to go to heaven when we die. It is, instead, a complete change, a rebirth, a total surrender of everything we are. It isn’t a meal voucher; it’s a new state of being.

2. Being a Christian is about relationship. Becoming a Christian isn’t just about “getting saved.” The whole purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice, of redemption, of heaven itself, is to dwell in relationship with God.

When a person is in a loving relationship, they do whatever they can to please the other person. Multiple times in the Bible, our relationship to God is likened to a marriage. In a good marriage, spouses don’t just do whatever they can get away with. Instead, they are committed to one another and take delight in doing things that will make the other happy.

If we love God, we know that sin displeases Him. We know that it is an affront to who He is, and that it hurts our relationship. Just because we are still saved doesn’t mean that we will purposely flaunt our disrespect in His face.

We do what is right and honor God not out of duty, but out of love. Just because we can, it does not mean that we will, or we should.

3. Sin has consequences.

Sinning might not condemn our eternal souls, but it does still have very real consequences: Broken relationships, lost trust, physical harm, even societal repercussions. Sin is toxic to our lives and does not lead to lasting happiness.

In the Bible, the Lord has laid out a lifestyle that will lead to the greatest joy and fulfillment. In His infinite knowledge, He knows what is best for our wellbeing. It would be foolish to live in opposition to this.

We Are Made New

We are not the first to ask these questions. Paul devotes the entirety of Romans 6 to refuting the idea that we should use our freedom in Christ to sin.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:1-4).

We may live our lives without fear, knowing that the Lord holds us close and that even if we stumble, He will not let us go.

At the same time, we strive to do that which is right, because being a Christian is not about self-preservation, but about growing in relationship with God, the One who loves us more than we can imagine.

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Alyssa Roat studied writing, theology, and the Bible at Taylor University. She is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., the publicity manager at Mountain Brook Ink, and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing Services. Her passions for Biblical study and creativity collide in her writing. Her debut novel Wraithwood releases Nov. 7, 2020. She has had 150+ bylines in publications ranging from The Christian Communicator to Keys for Kids. Find out more about her here and on social media @alyssawrote.

Originally published June 02, 2020.