The early Christians did not believe in the doctrine
known as eternal security, or “once saved, always saved.” Here are some typical quotations from
We ought therefore, brethren, carefully to inquire concerning our salvation.
Otherwise, the wicked one, having made his entrance by deceit, may hurl us forth
from our life. Barnabas (c. 70-130).
Those who do not obey Him, being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons.
Irenaeus (c. 180).
It is neither the faith, nor the love, nor the hope, nor the endurance of one
day; rather, “he that endures to the end will be saved.” Clement of Alexandria
God gives forgiveness of past sins. However, as to future sins, each one procures
this for himself. He does this by repenting, by condemning the past deeds, and
by begging the Father to blot them out. For only the Father is the one who is
able to undo what is done. ...So even in the case of one who has done the greatest
good deeds in his life, but at the end has run headlong into wickedness, all
his former pains are profitless to him. For at the climax of the drama, he has
given up his part. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195).
Here are the Scripture passages upon which the early Christians based
their understanding of the believer's security:
The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek
Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. 2
The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his
transgression. Ezek. 33:12.
You will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will
be saved. Matt. 10:22.
Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back,
is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62.
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny
us. 2 Tim. 2:12. If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of
the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful
expectation of judgment. Heb. 10:26.
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge
of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome,
the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better
for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to
turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 2 Pet. 2:20,21.
For a thorough discussion of what the early Christians believed
about eternal security, we recommend the audio CD or tape offered below by David
Bercot, editor of the Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.
For an even more in-depth discussion of this subject, we recommend the aforementioned Dictionary
of Early Christian Beliefs, which contains many key passages from the early
Christian writers on the subjects of eternal security, salvation, and free will.