Thoughts

Once Saved Always Saved?

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.  (Phillippians 2:12-13)

I was chatting with someone recently about the spiritual development of Christians in church today and how we could help to encourage it.  I went on to say how important this was to me, and that I believe nearly more (i.e. influence, guidance, teaching) is required of believers after a person has made a commitment to Christ than before.

Why?  I believe it’s possible to fall away.

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.  (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)

Apostasy is defined as “the abandonment of a person’s or a people’s religion or faith; turning away”.  See also 1 Timothy 4:1.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)

Let’s look at the vine and branches story that Jesus talks about in John.  We all know when we accept Jesus we are in a way grafted into the vine – adopted into God’s family.  Maybe I’m using this out of context (and feel free to tell me) but who exactly are the branches that are cut off and burned?  Are they previously grafted branches?  If we stop bearing fruit, are we no longer disciples of Jesus?

Jesus explains a few different scenarios in the Parable of the Sower where the seed starts to take root, “but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful”.  The truth is, people come to Christ with a lot of baggage.  Sometimes it is real heavy baggage.  God wants to release us of that baggage, but some people find it hard to let go.

What you find is that some people start off their new Christian life still strapped to a lot of their baggage – possibly choking any growth potential.  Can fellow Christians help people in this situation?  Can we help to guide them through the ground weeds to the sunlight above until they are strong enough to survive the terrain?  Or is this out of our hands?

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  (John 10:27-29)

I know God gives us a lot of assurances as believers, and I wholeheartedly believe them.  God gives us a gift and He will not willingly take it back.  But since God has also given us free-will, we have the freedom to hand it back in reality.

You can see with the opening verse that as Christ followers we need to continue to work out our Salvation with fear and trembling.  What does that mean?  I’m guessing it means that Salvation is more than one Sunday ten years ago.  It’s a continuous process (or discovery) throughout our lives.

I believe we’re saved from the moment we accept Christ but we must always be on our guard and be on the look-out for others in trouble.  The enemy (can I say devil?) is out to deceive and I don’t need to tell you that everyone is prone to deception if they don’t keep their focus on Jesus.

I was going to end this post with a reference to Romans 14:1 where Paul kind of talks about not perplexing people with discussions in theology that don’t really matter (in the big picture).  However, the context of the passage is actually referring to weak believers, and I don’t want to come across in any way that I think I have this topic all worked out.  I do not.

This post is just what I think right now. I’d love to know your thoughts on it – and why?  Tell me here.

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7 thoughts on “Once Saved Always Saved?

  1. Dave says:

    Brother – I too have been contemplating this a bit myself lately and the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. I think Scripture has a lot to say about this throughout the New Testament. Matthew 7 talks about a tree and its fruit, the wise and foolish builders, and the many who will cry out Lord, Lord yet did not do the will of the Father. Paul tells us to “press on” and finish the race (Phil 3) and then in Col 1:22-23 we read about those reconciled by Christ through his death – if you continue in your faith. We know that works in and of themselves are rubbish, but the outworking of our faith through works is “living faith”. Perhaps the worst thing that Christians are guilty of is complacency – as 2 Thess 3:13 states “never tire of doing what is right” especially when we testify of the light within us to the world around us. John Piper has some great resources on his website http://www.desiringgod.org regarding the perseverance of the saints and eternal security. God bless you and your family Alastair.

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  2. Wow, yeah that’s a tough one. Many a church has split over this one. That said, not sure I have completely wrestled this one down in my own faith either. On the topic of salvation, I would always ere more on the side of grace and eternal security. Obviously, the Bible has a lot to say about holiness and remaining obedient to the word of God, even to death. But, it also has a lot to say about God’s grace, His covering and His ability to hold on to what was lost. The cross was no joke. God will not let that one go to waste, in a manner of speaking. I don’t think we will ever fully understand the power of the blood of Jesus.

    In regards to the scripture from Phil 2, I’m not so sure that I would apply this content to the issue of potentially loosing your salvation. I think the point that Paul is trying to get across here is to continue the process of becoming Christ-like, the work of sanctification, which is a life-long process as opposed the instantaneous work of justification. If you begin from the beginning of chapter 2, it is apparent that Paul is advising us of how to pursue this process. Also, the next verse, verse 13 regards this process as the “work of God” in you. In other words, this is a God thing, and God will carry His work to completion.

    Just some of my humble thoughts. No pun intended.

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  3. Dave says:

    Alastair – As far as what I believe to be held to by Scripture is that indeed once saved always saved. John 10 deals with the I AM (YHWH) of the gate, the good shepherd and Christ speaks of those who will try to steal including Satan from the pen, but Christ the good shepherd is there keeping watch and in verse 28 staes that He gives eternal life and no one can snatch the flock from his hand. Once a sheep always a sheep (baah as Gary once stated in his blog). There are definitely those who are dressed as sheep, but do not hear the shepherd’s call and I believe that refers to those who have never truly surrendered to the Lord. This is also, I believe those who “have fallen away” in Scripture. They never were part of the fold to begin with, but they no doubt were in the church in Paul’s day trying to stir up strife and wrong doctrine within the church, and just as many are in it today bewitching the body with lies. Hebrews 5-6 also speaks of those who have fallen away and they too were never believers and will hear in that day ” I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers” Matt 7:23. These are just some additional thoughts and I appreciate your honesty and openness to others. God Bless. – D

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  4. Hi Dave, thanks for your comments – keep them coming! It’s funny you should mention Hebrews 5-6 because I have been reading over it as recently as last night.

    However, to me it seems fairly clear that Hebrews 6:4-6 refers to those who were once saved.

    “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”

    And then in verses 7-8 it goes on to talk along similar lines (story of the vine, cursing of the fig tree, etc.) of the consequences of not producing fruit.

    “For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.”

    I believe there is a difference here between someone’s accidental slip, or even a period of ‘back-sliding’. I think to fall away to this magnitude involves a definitive decision on our part.

    What do you think?

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  5. Dave says:

    Alastair – Please bear with me. I am not a theologian, but just like you rely on the full counsel of Scripture. This particular passage is a sticky one for many and will no doubt be up for debate for a while, but here goes. To keep chapter 6 in context with the rest of the text it is important I think to go back to 5:7 through chapter 6. The 2 previous chapters have dealt with those descendants of Abraham who have tragically rejected the full revelation that God had given them concerning the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews was written primarily to those Jewish-Christians who had made a clean break from Judaism to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. There were however those Judaizers amongst the believers who had been “intellectually” convinced of the validity of Christianity but had not made a true commitment and were still hung up on some of their traditions. This passage I believe is another warning to this group as had been done previously in Heb 2:1-4, 3:7-4:13, and later in 10:26-31 and 12:25-29. They had gone through all the stages preliminary to salvation, but had never experienced it. The Hebrews were spiritually ignorant and growing more calloused to the things of God and could no longer discern good from evil (5:11-14). A new foundation needed to be laid leaving the Old Covenant for the New Covenant assured through the blood of Christ, God’s chosen Passover Lamb. They were enlightened (in fact some were eyewitnesses), but not saved; they had tasted, but not eaten; they had partaken in the Holy Spirit for he leads us to repentance, but did not fully possess Him. Christians cannot fall away (Jude 24). Lee Strobel, author and apologist, was himself an example of one who intellectually understood, but had never received the gift completely prior to his conversion.

    I too believe that there is a definitive difference between backsliding and in this case being hardened to the truth. Some believed and brought forth fruit because they were thriving, maturing from the nutrients supplied through the apostles’ teachings and God’s Word. They were attached to the Vine. Those which brought forth briers and thorns, works of righteousness (ie. Pharisees, Judaizers and the like), were never abiding in Christ the Vine.

    I think it was appropriate that after the stearn rebuke in the previous verses there was the hope in verses 9-12 for those who have made the commitment to follow Christ – being imitators of Christ – Christians if you will who will inherit the promises of God. Just as the Old Testament saints faith was completed in Christ, so too those under the New Covenant who have received and digested it are made complete. A bit longwinded and there are others who could no doubt distill this done better than I, but I hope this makes sense and I appreciate your comments. See you at NHC – Dave

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