Growing up with a Pentecostal background, I heard little support for the concept of eternal security. Having recently begun attending and interning at a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, I have had more exposure to this belief in the past 8 months than in the previous 20 years of my life. I am finding that my preconceived hesitancy toward this belief may actually have more to do with its terminology than actual substance.
The word “security” places focus on one’s eternal rights to grace from God. It is true that regardless of the frequency and degree with which one sins, God is always willing and able to forgive. However, I hesitate to allow that fact to be a central focus of my relationship with him. To do so is to emphasize God’s responsibility to me.
In place of term “eternal security” I offer the term “eternal commitment.” Unlike “security,” the word “commitment” places focus on one’s eternal dedication to God. I have heard proponents of eternal security declare that if one fully accepts the love of Christ, he will be never able to forsake relationship with Him. This phrasing of the concept much easier for me to agree with. Salvation is meant to be a life-long commitment. Similar to the concept of marriage, if one fully enters into relationship with God, that relationship will be for eternity. To focus on my commitment, as opposed to God’s security, emphasizes my responsibility to God.
We can be certain that God’s grace is available for eternity to all individuals. What is uncertain is the strength of each individual’s commitment to that grace. For this reason, I advocate for the term “eternal commitment” as a descriptor of a fully salvific relationship with God.
Many who disagree with the concept of “eternal security” will refer to idea of “backsliding,” stating often through examples that a man can accept grace and later choose to forsake it, thus “sliding backwards” in his spiritual journey. Under the concept of eternal commitment, it can be understood that an individual who seemingly accepts and later rejects grace may not have been fully committed to his relationship with God. In the same way that one might say of a man who divorces his wife, “He may never have been fully committed to the eternal concept of marriage,” one could say of an individual who ends his relationship with God, “He may never have been fully committed to the eternal concept of salvation.”