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 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.