Though there are many teachings of the Lord Jesus that we could focus in upon to answer this question, perhaps His teaching known as The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) would be the best of all regarding this controversy. This teaching demonstratively shows the full extent of sin's destructive power in the life of a son of God, the key roles that free will and human responsibility have, the limited protective power offered by the believer's "seal," as taught by Christ Himself and much more. Let's examine it closely.
The teaching starts by focusing in on the younger of the two sons of the father, who asked for and received his share of the estate. Soon afterward, he departed from the father's presence for a distant country of "wild living" (v.13). There he squandered his wealth with prostitutes (v.30). After he spent everything he had there was a severe famine in that country, during which time he personally longed to eat the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything! He then came to his senses, returned to the father repentfully and found complete forgiveness and restoration. Beyond this, the father with no hesitation initiated the "kill the fattened calf" celebration for his homecoming.
Verses 24 and 32 are essential to this parable, controversy and study. Both of these Scriptures, declared by the father, reveal the spiritual condition of the prodigal both BEFORE and AFTER the time of his "wild living." Verse 24 spoken to his servants says, "For this son of mine was dead and is ALIVE AGAIN; he was lost and is found," while verse 32, spoken to the older son says, ". . . this brother of yours was dead and is ALIVE AGAIN; he was lost and is found." The important point the father was emphasizing was the complete reversal of the prodigal's spiritual condition, now that he repented. He went from "DEAD" to "ALIVE AGAIN" which is equated in the same sentence as going from "LOST" to "FOUND." Hence, there is great reason to rejoice over such a sinner that repents, as already mentioned two separate times in this same chapter in the parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin.
Perhaps the words "ALIVE AGAIN" are most revealing. The Greek word from which "ALIVE AGAIN" comes is found five times in the New Testament -- in these two verses just cited, Rom. 7:9; 14:9 and Rev. 20:5. It means LIVE AGAIN or REVIVE. This is easily seen in Rom. 14:9, ". . . Christ died and returned to life. . . ." Here it is stated that the Lord's physical condition went from LIFE to DEATH [on the cross] to LIFE AGAIN [when He arose from the grave]. Similarly, the prodigal's spiritual condition went from LIFE to DEATH [when with the prostitutes] to LIFE AGAIN [when he returned to the father's presence]. Regarding this type of action and the believer's security, one strain of eternal security is perhaps best exemplified by what John MacArthur wrote:
"No matter how convincing a person's testimony might seem, once he becomes apostate he has demonstrated irrefutably that he was never really saved" [John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus (Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 1989), p.98].
The Lord Jesus, in contrast to MacArthur and this position, clearly taught such can occur, by this parable! Also request our tract entitled, He Was Never Really Saved To Begin With for other arguments.
Furthermore, there are many in our hour that unfortunately teach and sincerely believe that the most one could ever lose through sin after initial salvation is their joy of salvation, spiritual rewards and/or position in the kingdom. Jesus, however, very clearly taught otherwise! The Lord taught the prodigal's spiritual condition degenerated to "DEAD," the same as for everyone before initial salvation (Eph. 2:1). Paul stated likewise, after initial salvation, "If you live according to the sinful nature you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live" (Rom. 8:13). This is what happened to the prodigal, that is, he died spiritually because he chose, through his own free will, to "live according to the sinful nature."
Luke 15:13 states "wild living" characterized his behavior when spiritually "DEAD" and "LOST" in his unconfessed and unrepented sins. The word for "wild living" comes from the Greek word meaning EXCESS, as found in Eph. 5:18: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit" (KJV). Hence, the prodigal's behavior, as implied by Lk. 15:13, included DRUNKENNESS and other excesses that go with that kind of sinful lifestyle. This would be a safe assumption anyway, especially since he spent his money with prostitutes! Therefore, among other grievous sins, the prodigal's sins were SEXUAL IMMORALITY and DRUNKENNESS -- two rampant spiritual killers in our day too! Paul wrote about these and other similar sins in Gal. 5:19-21 and 1 Cor. 6:9,10. This former passage, written to Christians in WARNING form, reads: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I WARN YOU, as I did before, that those who live like this will NOT inherit the kingdom of God."
Robert B. Thieme, another influential eternal security teacher of our day, likens the prodigal son to a carnal Christian whom he describes as follows:
"The behavior pattern of a carnal Christian cannot be distinguished from that of an unbeliever (1 Cor. 3:3). As far as God's Word is concerned, you may act like an unbeliever; but if you have believed in Christ, you are still a believer -- a believer in status quo carnality -- out of fellowship. This principle is important in understanding the prodigal. A BELIEVER OUT OF FELLOWSHIP ACTS LIKE AN UNBELIEVER" [emphasis his] [R. B. Thieme, Jr., The Prodigal Son, Houston, TX, 1974, p.7].
WHAT A VENOMOUS LIE THIS IS! Please know the following about carnal Christians as mentioned by Paul: (1) 1 Cor. 3:3 is very clear about their sins being "jealousy" and "quarreling" and nothing as severe as the Prodigal's were. Paul wrote: "You are still worldly. For since there is JEALOUSY and QUARRELING among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?" Furthermore, in the next two verses we see why they were acting like this, that is, some at Corinth apparently favored one Christian leader over another, namely Paul over Apollos and vice versa! (2) In 1 Cor. 6:11, we read, "And that is what some of you WERE. But you WERE washed, you WERE sanctified, you WERE justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." Please note: those "carnal" Christians were NOT drunkards any more or sexually immoral any more, etc., as clearly indicated by the word "WERE" in this verse referring back to verses 9 and 10! This again shows an all important difference between what the eternal security teachers are saying and what God says, as recorded in the Bible. (3) To believe the eternal security teachers regarding carnal Christianity and the behavior of such people would also render meaningless verses such as 1 Jn. 3:10: "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; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." Please note that John's test to know a child of God from a child of the devil was a present-tense behavioral one and not just a testimony of a past conversion experience! See also 1 Jn. 2:3,4.
It is my contention that as water is to fire, so the teaching of eternal security is to the fear of God, as evident by eternal security teachings such as these.
Please note: unlike what some of the eternal security teachers would say, based on a faulty interpretation of Col. 2:13, the prodigal's future sins were NOT automatically forgiven, because if they were, it would have been impossible for them to bring about his "DEAD" and "LOST" spiritual condition! "He forgave us all our sins" (Col. 2:13), can only refer to "all" of our PAST sins getting forgiven at the point of initial salvation. If not, there would be no need to confess sins committed after salvation for forgiveness, as shown in 1 Jn. 1:9. In addition, many other Scriptures would be meaningless if all our future sins were automatically forgiven also at the point of initial salvation! In contrast to Scripture and reason, another eternal security teacher (June Hunt) said,
June: "Well, technically, Carl, a person who has truly entered into a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, let me ask you this, how many of their sins were forgiven once they entered into that relationship with Him?"
Carl: "Well, I believe all of mine have been."
June: "Yes, because that's what Scripture teaches."
Carl: "Past, present and future."
June: "And future. So the issue is, all of our sins are already forgiven" [June Hunt, tape: "Suicide or Survival," #9114] (emphasis ours).
While some heavily rely upon Jesus' promise stated in Jn. 10:28,29, that is, that no one will "snatch" his sheep from His hand or the Father's hand, please note that this doesn't exclude the apparent possibility of a "sheep" walking off due to his own personal free will to a lifestyle that will result in spiritual death, as exemplified by the prodigal son! No one plucked the prodigal out of the Father's hand, but the Father let him walk away! Also, the wonderful promise of John 10:28,29 holds true ONLY for those who "follow" [continuous tense in the Greek] Jesus (v. 27)!
Also, many read into the believer's "seal," which Paul wrote of, as a spiritual protection that is an assurance that will, most definitely, mean our future entrance into the kingdom no matter what. However, Jesus' teaching on the prodigal son also refutes this faulty interpretation, for that "seal" didn't prevent the prodigal's "dead" and "lost" condition from coming about! The same can be emphatically stated from James 4:4b regarding anyone who would "choose to be a friend of the world" and consequently become an "enemy of God." Enemies of God will be consumed by raging fire (Heb. 10:27)! This too shows the "seal" won't prevent their spiritual death.
Furthermore, in light of Heb. 13:5 which states that God will never leave or forsake us, please note the prodigal left and forsook the father and the father let him walk off! Besides, Heb. 13:5,8 is a quote from Deut. 31:6,8, which shows by Deut. 31:17 that God will "forsake" us because of sin! [If you have a copy of our book refuting the sinister teaching of eternal security, please refer to pages 74 and 75 for a full explanation.]
Many eternal security proponents try to weaken such truths as these and others taught in the parables by saying things like: Parables weren't given for doctrine or parables teach only one truth and not several! Regarding the latter, Charles Stanley wrote in his monthly magazine:
"Jesus told the story of the prodigal son for one reason, to portray God's unconditional love. (Luke 15:11-32)" [In Touch, September 1994, p.7.]
Both of these objections are categorically false! Parables were taught by Christ as a means of revealing the secrets of the kingdom to believers and concealing the same secrets from the unbelievers (Matt. 13:10-13). Since doctrine is one and the same as teachings, obviously parables are for doctrine. For example, the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector (Lk. 18:9-14) clearly teaches the doctrine of INSTANT JUSTIFICATION for all, who like that tax collector, sincerely and humbly pray directly to God asking for forgiveness. Furthermore, a second basic truth is clearly taught in the same parable -- namely, one must first be aware of his own personal need of forgiveness before he will receive it. The self-righteous pharisee lacked this insight and went home unjustified and unforgiven! Hence, both objections raised by eternal security proponents, against the use of parables, are clearly refuted here!
Finally regarding the prodigal son, let us all rejoice that the father QUICKLY and JOYFULLY took him back after he repented. In other words, we know from this that a person can get saved MORE THAN ONCE based on this teaching and a corroborating one by Paul, the true grace teacher, in Rom. 11:19-23: "You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.' Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. DO NOT BE ARROGANT, BUT BE AFRAID. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in AGAIN." [This passage from Rom. 11 seems to be tailor-made and customized for this controversy over the believer's security. Clearly, it causes much trouble for the eternal security proponent, that is, if he even knows it exists!]
Other passages given by Jesus which refute eternal security are: Matt. 6:14,15; 10:22,33; 24:13; 25:26-30; Lk. 8:13; 12:45,46; Jn. 15:6; Rev. 2:10,11,26; 3:15,16.
COME ON HOME MODERN-DAY PRODIGALS. God will likewise accept and rejoice over YOU! Don't think you have sinned too much to return. The prodigal Jesus taught about, likewise, knew ONLY "wild living" for an undesignated period of time -- perhaps many years. God wants you home in his presence, too -- "alive again" and no longer "lost." Come while you still can.