We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Monday, December 18, 2017

Once Saved, Always Saved?


There are some different views on whether once a person has been saved by faith in Christ, if he can lose his salvation.  Calvinists say that since God chooses who to elect for salvation we have nothing to say in the matter and therefore will always be saved.  Meanwhile, other groups like the Church of Christ say one can become entangled in sin and lose salvation until they’ve repented and rejoined the assembly.  Catholics declare that if you’ve committed a “mortal sin” and have not confessed it to a priest and received absolution prior to death, then you have lost your salvation.  Some people (e.g. Calvinists) say if YOU chose to accept Christ by faith, then you can also choose to leave the faith. So what is the truth—can one truly saved lose his salvation?  I say “no.”

What I believe the Bible teaches is that once someone truly by faith accepts the fact that Jesus died as an atonement for our sins, and that he arose from the dead as proof that his sacrifice was accepted, that person is saved and always will be; he will not walk away from it because he knows how very serious the faith is and wants to live his life the best he can for the Lord.  However, there are a great number of people who accept such facts intellectually and consider themselves saved but never accepted the faith in Christ into their lives, and when things don’t go in their lives as they think they should, then they turn their backs on the doctrines of the Christian faith and deny their necessity. They didn’t lose their salvation—they never were saved! 

If falling into sin caused a loss of salvation, then how does one account for King David’s sin of adultery and murder being forgiven by God and restored to fellowship? And how does one account for the fact that we all sin daily? And how does one then account for the fact that Christ died for ALL our sins, not just the ones we committed before we became believers?

Some people  even claim that “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) theology gives a license to sin, but my answer to that is Romans 6.

Let’s look at some passages which I believe substantiate my belief, and then we can look at some passages which are used to say that salvation can be lost. (All passages will be from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)

First, I have to say that there are numerous passages which specifically state that salvation is available to ALL (not just the Calvinist’s “elect”), and many of those are noted in my article about Calvinism.  Not a single one of those passages say that it is a salvation you can lose once you’ve accepted it, and I think if that was a possibility then at least one or two would have such a warning!

Matthew 13, the parable of the sower.  Jesus describes three types of soil on which the seed fell and what the result was.  

The first important soil for this article is the rocky ground: This is the person “who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy.  Yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived.  When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” The man was not truly saved; he accepted it intellectually but never took it to heart and left the faith when persecution or pressure became too tough. 

The second important one is the seed falling among the thorns. “this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and so it becomes unfruitful.”  I once had a very good friend who I invited to the Navigators Bible studies when I was a new believer, and he became on fire for the Lord and accepted the faith.  I “knew” he was a Christian, but then after so many months he was seduced into transcendental meditation and decided that was where the truth was. He was never saved, just took the word and had it choked.  I’ve known others who claimed to have accepted the faith and become Christians but their lifestyles never changed as they were more and more seduced into sexual immorality and hedonism, all the while still intellectually agreeing that the Christian faith is true. I know a young woman who said she had accepted the faith at an AOG assembly, but there was so much mistreatment that she strayed until she became involved with the American Indian culture and marrying into it, and then syncretized Christianity with American Indian spirituality; she still talks all the same “Christianese” and claims to be saved, but it is obvious that she has no real understanding of the word, having it all chocked out by mistreatment in the Church and acceptance of pagan spirituality. I’m sure just about everyone has heard stories of people who “grew up in the faith” and believed themselves to be saved, even speaking of going down for altar calls, but then things happened in the church which turned them sour on it, or things happened in their lives which they think should never happen if one follows God, etc, and they leave the faith, saying that they discovered it wasn’t what it claimed to be; these people may have accepted the Christian teachings intellectually, but never took them to heart. They didn’t lose their salvation—they never had it.

Romans 10:9…if you confess with your mouth , ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Not “you might be saved,” but “you will be saved.” But notice it says to believe in your heart, not just intellectually.  Believing it in your heart means you accept it as bonafide truth, and no one would leave such a faith knowing it is true.

Romans 11:16-25:  A lengthy passage so I’ll let you look it up.  Again, it is not talking of loss of salvation, rather it is speaking of those who have not fully accepted the faith while claiming to be part of the Church — they will be pruned off!

1 John 5:12-13:  “The one who has the Son has life.  The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life.  I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you man know that you have eternal life.”  Notice that John says, “so that you may know you have eternal life.”  Know you already have eternal life, not that you might have it if you don’t walk away.

At this point I can’t think of any specific passages demonstrating that salvation is forever, except as I noted above with the myriad of passages of which none warn you can lose what you get.  So let me look at the “if” passages used to deny that one is always saved if they really were saved.

Romans 11:22:Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity; severity towards those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you—if you remain in His kindness.  Otherwise you to will be cut off.”  This really addresses the rocky and thorny grounds; those people are cut off, so if you don’t want to be cut off, you need to re-evaluate your faith to see if you’ve taken it to heart rather than just intellectually.

1 Corinthians 15:2:  “You are also saved by [the gospel] if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed to no purpose.”  I think this passage is misused for the OSAS debate.  Paul is talking about if the message itself was believed to no purpose because there will be no resurrection; his argument is to prove that without the resurrection our faith is worthless because it is based on a lie.

Colossians 1:22-23:  “But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him—if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast the faith, and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” Again, this is the same concept as Matthew 13.  Accept the faith to the heart and not just intellectually, otherwise it is not a saving faith.  2 Corinthians 13:5 speaks to this very thing—TEST YOURSELF to be sure you are indeed taking the faith to heart and not just intellectually.

1 Timothy 5:11-15:But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when they are drawn away from Christ by desire, they want to marry and will therefore receive condemnation because they have renounced their original pledge. At the same time, they also learn to be idle, going from house to house; they are not only idle, but are also gossips and busybodies, saying things they shouldn’t say. Therefore, I want younger women to marry, have children, manage their households, and give the adversary no opportunity to accuse us. For some have already turned away to follow Satan.” Here we are not talking about people who lost their salvation, but rather have been led into temptation and sin, i.e. “following Satan.”  A Christian man or woman who gets caught up in adultery (whether physical or pornography) has not lost their salvation by following Satan’s temptations, but they are certainly out of fellowship with God and the Church until such time as they repent.

Hebrews 2:1:  “We must therefore pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.”  All this is saying is that one can drift away into being lax in their faith, not drifting out of salvation.

Hebrews 3:6: But Christ was faithful as a Son over his household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.”  Again, check your faith to see if it is real (2 Cor. 13:5)

Hebrews 3:12-14:  “Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start.” Another passage about checking our heart to see if our faith is a true saving faith.

Hebrews 6:4-8:For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, became companions with the Holy Spirit, tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away, because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding Him up to contempt. For ground that has drunk the rain that has often fallen on it and that produces vegetation useful to those it is cultivated for receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and about to be cursed, and will be burned at the end.” Notice he said the individuals were “enlightened” and “tasted” the message, but didn’t fully accept it into their hearts—they were never saved and have rejected the message.

Hebrews 10:26-29:For if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries. If anyone disregards Moses’ law, he dies without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the Spirit of grace?”  This speaks to those who live a lifestyle of sin after proclaiming that they accepted the faith; but notice he says that the received the knowledge of the truth, not that they took it to heart. They have received the intellectual knowledge but their behavior shows they haven’t accepted it into the heart.  It’s a warning to take it to heart if you want to be saved.

James 5:19-20:My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.” I see this as pointing out how to handle one who has fallen into sin, by leading him back to repentance. The death discussed is physical death, which we see has been used by God in the N.T. to punish Christians who were, shall we say, “misbehaving”?  (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 11:30).

2 Peter 2:  This chapter is discussing false believers; false teachers and false prophets.  It is not discussing people losing their salvation.

As for blotting people out of the “Book of Life,” I see that as EVERYONE has their name in the book at the beginning but only remain there if they accept the salvation offered to them.

Again, if one really, truly accepts the Faith to heart, knowing exactly what it means and what it requires, he will never turn his back on it.  He may be sidelined by tragedies, may have some doubts, become ineffective as a worker for the Lord due to temptations, etc, but he will never leave the faith.  When he deliberately sins the Holy Spirit continue to make him feel guilty until he repents and leaves the sin behind, but he does not lose his salvation because of it.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Glenn,

Thanks for bringing up this subject. I have firmly believed in the eternal security of the believer for 35 out of the last 40 odd years. I have recently come to look at it again.

I still believe in the eternal security of the believer, the one who 'goes on believing' to the very end, but what of believer turned unbeliever, the person who clearly abandons the faith they once had? I take your point about arguing they were never saved in the first place, they only had intellectual assent to the gospel. I'm sure that is true of some.

I'm not convinced this covers everyone. I've seen too many stallwarts fall away. My previous argument against the possibility of forfeiting salvation was I couldn't see how this could be true without introducing salvation by works by the back door. I still think this is a good argument!

David Pawson (UK baptist) has written a book with the same title as your post, and he claims there are some 80 places in the NT that warn us not to take our salvation for granted, not to have the 'ticket to heaven' mentality. In essence you are saved by faith, and go on being saved by going on believing.

The bible must be the deciding factor in this, but Pawson has been bothered for a long time by the lax attitude towards sin in so much modern evangelicalism, and in his view a false assurance that something you did 47 years ago - sincerely exercise faith - will automatically keep saving you if you return to a life of sinning.

I do wonder if this kind of assurance is behind the mentality that is enabling so much immorality and abuse in churches. The latter appears to be a problem particularly in calvinist churches, and I wonder if the perserverance of the saints doctrine (I appreciate you differ from this) is part of the problem.

Ken

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Ken,

The problem is that if you say people can lose their salvation by falling away from a bonafide faith, then there is no assurance of salvation for anyone.

It doesn't matter how stalwart a person seems to be in the faith, if they walk away from it they never accepted it to heart. I think that is what the Bible teaches, as I described above.

I think the immorality and abuse in church is due to three things:

1. Liberal theology which really is worshiping another Jesus; faith in a false Jesus never saves, and all you to is look at cults and false teachers to see sexual immorality running rife.

2. Fake conversions such as altar calls where people only learn about salvation from sins but not what it means to be a true follower of Christ and live as a slave to Him.

3. Calvinism, where they claim God chose who to save without the person's choosing for themselves; Therefore, if who are chosen of God then it doesn't matter what your lifestyle is because you will never be "unchosen". There is no way to know if you are saved so it doesn't matter how you live your life: if you were chosen you go to heaven anyway and if you weren't chosen you were destined to hell anyway.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn, thanks for the reply.

I don't think the two sides are as far apart on this as may first appear. Your side of the argument is that the person who has fallen away from the faith never really had it in the first place, and those who maintain you can in the end forfeit your salvation believe just that - you lost it on your own responsibility. But the end result is the same - the individual is lost.

I certainly do not believe in robbing believers of assurance, but perhaps warn them not to take it for granted or think it unconditional.

Funnily enough, Heb 6 is one of the passages that pushed me away from reformed/calvinist theology. It made the warning there hypothetical, and therefore no warning at all. I do actually think the man there is genuinely born again. I used to think it meant you couldn't and didn't need to be 'born again' twice if you came back to the faith after backsliding; you wouldn't need to be baptised again etc. Not 'relay the foundations' of basic Christian initiation. It makes sense.

I'm now inclined to take it much more seriously as a warning - if you do accept the possibility of forfeiting salvation through falling away, it warns very soberly that there is no way back. The passage doesn't absolutely settle the issue one way or the other.

This is a subject that requires robust discussion rather than heated argument, and the former is the spirit in which I have tried to approach it. I looked at your calvinism link, and I don't blame you for refusing to entertain those who want to bash you over the head with their theology. I don't think we really ought to need the 'whole armour of God' to discuss aspects of NT teaching with follow believers. But you could be forgiven for thinking so sometimes !!

Ken

Dr. Tim Gregson said...

Mr. Chattfield,

There is a problem here, as Sola Fide can differ even amongst Protestants. For instance, Luther's Sacramental approach to Sola Fide is essentially more comfortable for Hahn given the role of Sacraments in it. This differs from the Calvinist and Evangelical approach which do not approach it Sacramentally and in fact would consider the Sola Fide of Luther and the Lutherans as works based Salvation. So the issue then which isnt addressed here is "which Sola Fide?"

But besides this, you also have one issue on Galatians, as assuming it does really affirm Sola Fide, it is one where one can fall away. But this is not compatible with the Calvinist Sola Fide or the Sola Fide of some Evangelicals that go OSAS. In fact given Hahn's background as a Presbyterian, the sola fide he was raised with contradicts Paul's dismay at the Galatians for falling away or how the Judaizers are a threat that could spy out the freedom of Christians.

Then there's the issue of the Biblical view of Atonement. Hahn is in fact correct in distancing from the legalist view of it as the entire NT corpus provides different expressions to the Atonement from Ransom, moral examplar to victory over death and sin. So Hahn has the upper hand here. He only fails insofar as the element of legality is completely removed.

Lastly, various verses in the NT speak of judgement according to conduct. Even Paul does it. So there is a big issue here for those who deny the role of Works in Salvation or say it doesnt Save, as even if one is justified by faith, there are moral implications to this justification and thus the importance of sanctification as well if one wants to make distinctions here. But even then there is a problem, as some Protestants dont see sanctification as part of getting Saved at all. And Lutherans can affirm repetitive justification. Repetitive justification can solve this issue, but the problem is, not all Protestants affirm that for justification.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Mr. Gregson,

I am not impressed by your use of the title "Dr" - as if that gives you a better understanding of Scripture than I have. Also, your referencing to various scholars in regards to Sola Fide is irrelevant to the topic of my blog post.

I really don't understand what you are trying to argue, although you seem to be condemning all theological points but Catholicism. I explained my position quite clearly from Scripture, and you haven't demonstrated where I have any error in my position.

Anonymous said...

Since Eternal Salvation is eternal, how could you lose it?

Salvation is indeed eternal, as stated in Heb. 5:9, but please note who receives it:

And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.

Obviously, eternal salvation is only for those who obey (continuous-tense) Jesus!

This does not mean, however, that perfect obedience or sinless perfection is demanded for salvation (1 Jn. 1:8; Jam. 3:2). But again, we cannot compare the lesser sins such as worry and unthankfulness to sins such as sexual immorality, drunkenness, greed, etc. that will exclude anyone from the kingdom.

Therefore, based on Heb. 5:9, if one doesn’t obey God, he should not think he will enter the kingdom of God one day. The Lord Jesus taught the same in Jn. 5:29:

And come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

See also Rom. 2:7 and Gal. 6:8-10.

One final point, the only time we read of our eternal salvation is in Heb. 5:9, yet when the Once Saved Always Saved people mention our eternal salvation they almost never cite the entire verse which shows who the recipients are!
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Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous

Well, you seem to forget ONE major thing, and that is that Christ paid for ALL of our sins--past, present, and future. A saved person may sin sexually (fornication, adultery, etc) but has not lost their salvation. 1 Cor. 6 talks about these sins and that people who sin this way (i.e.live a lifestyle defined this way) are indeed excluded from salvation, but Paul says that those in his audience were once that way--meaning they left that lifestyle. But those who are save still sin. In your book, it seems that looking at pornography would lose one's salvation because that is sexual immorality (and even adultery if the viewer is married).

If 100% obedience was required for salvation, no one would be saved. Obedience proves that you are saved, of course, but lack of 100% obedience does not prove one isn't saved. The point is, that someone could claim salvation but never leave their sexual immorality behind, and that only proves they were never saved to begin with.

I have no idea what all those characters at the end of your comment mean.

Jesse said...

Hello Glenn,

No offense or disrespect intended, but I believe that a lot of the passages you attempted to exegete in your article speak for themselves.

The inspired authors of the New Testament repeatedly exhort believers to persevere in the faith, guard what has been entrusted to them, and maintain faith in Christ, which seems to contradict eternal security. Conditional statements are also problematical.

The Holy Spirit never seemed to indicate anything to the contrary or make definitive statements on the matter in the New Testament epistles, which is odd since proponents of once saved always saved so heavily emphasize the absolute security of the believer.

I highly doubt that you will be able to find support for the teaching in early patristic literature, either. Eternal security is simply not a scriptural concept.

You seem to imply in your article that conditional security offers no assurance of salvation. But that is an outright misrepresentation of the truth, especially in light of what has been written on my blog.

Salvation is described as both a present tense possession and a hope in the Bible. It is promised to all who believe on Christ and His gospel. We can have great assurance because God is so faithful, gracious, and loving. I agree that Jesus Christ paid for all our sins, but the atonement is applied conditionally by faith. It is by grace alone that we are saved. But it does not follow from that premise we cannot possibly forfeit our salvation in some treacherous circumstance.

It is technically not 'easy' for one to lose salvation. God is patient. In my opinion, this process generally happens over time as the enemy draws a person from the presence of God to the point where he or she no longer appreciates His blessings or ceases caring about spirituality altogether. Notice that God said in the Old Testament of certain Jews that if they continued in their rebellion, He would "love them no longer" (Hosea 9:15). We should never put off repenting. Sure, some people who fall away from the faith may have never been saved to begin with. But there are those cases of apostasy where such an apologetic does not seem consonant with reality.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Jesse,

You are in error. The passages were properly exegeted. What you continue to use as examples of losing salvation has plainly been discussed in the article as people who were never saved to begin with.

You can doubt all you want about early church literature and I don't care one way or the other. I go with what SCRIPTURE says. Early church fathers made a lot of false ideas and taught a lot of bad stuff. Eternal security IS a Scriptural concept, as demonstrated in my article.

I again point you to 1 John 5:12-13. In your book you can never KNOW if you are saved because you just might sometime lose your salvation.

There is only ONE condition for security of salvation -- Faith in Christ as one's savior.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Alan,

You are in serious error, and have twisted the Scriptures to your own destruction. You said you have been a Christian for 42 years, but your understanding of salvation comes from cultic and/or legalistic sources. You need to re-read my article for the truth.

I decided to delete your comment because of the false teachings and the link you provided for your article, which is more false teachings. I do not want to send my readers to your site.

Jesse said...

Man, I don't even have a clue what that person was saying. Those remarks are so confusing. What abut the so-called lost meaning of Christian theological terms?

Jesse said...

What kind of legalistic sources would such strange arguments come from, Glenn? What do you mean by that?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Jesse,

It was too bizarre, wasn't it?

Legalistic groups will often teach bizarre rules of how to be saved and to continue being saved. There are so many legalistic groups that it is impossible to know them all. Sometimes it can be a whole church, or a parachurch ministry, or even just a family unit.