Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ONCE SAVE ALWAYS SAVED? – Not according to scripture!

Just as God does not compel anyone to be saved, neither does He compel anyone to remain in His saving grace.
Just as He has given mankind the responsibility of responding to His grace through faith, likewise mankind is given the responsibility of remaining faithful.

Col 1:21-23 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— IF you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

Note that little word with the big meaning: “IF”.
Reconciliation with God through Christ, being presented to Him as holy, without blemish and free from accusation is CONDITIONAL upon our continuing in our faith, being established and firm, not moving from the hope held out in the gospel. If those conditions aren’t met then the promises associated with those conditions are not applicable.

2Ti 2:11-13 Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

Again, there are a lot of “IFs” pointing out conditions.
Be aware that these statements are made to a believer and are inclusive of the writer, Paul. He writes “If WE disown Him He will disown US”.
The reference to God’s faithfulness at the end of this excerpt is NOT saying that He will remain faithful to us no matter how unfaithful we may be to Him.
That statement is to warn us that God remains faithful to HIMSELF, (i.e. He will not go back on His word regarding the disowning of those who disown Him).

1Co 10:11-12 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

This is the first of three New Testament warnings that use Israel’s wilderness experience as a warning to believers. God freed Hundreds of thousands from bondage in Egypt, but due to their unfaithfulness, all but two of the freed adults failed to enter the Promised Land. The rest fell away through disobedience and perished in the wilderness.
Warnings using the same example of Israel’s wilderness experience can be found in Hebrews and Jude.
Paul gives a very strong admonition here to those who may be a little too smug about their assumed security: “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

This is very similar to a warning Paul gives in Romans. Again it relates to the experience of Israel, warning believers that disobedience among believers will lead to the same result as that experienced by the disobedient in Israel.

Ro 11:18-22 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 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 tremble. 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.

This also cautions about the arrogance of assuming our security if certain conditions are not being met. Again Israel’s unbelief is referenced. We need to remember that even though they were God’s elect nation they were not secure from the consequences of continued disobedience and unbelief.
With that example, how can anyone have the arrogance to presume that God will keep THEM secure, guaranteeing the salvation of professing believers, if that profession is not accompanied by active and obedient faithfulness?

1Ti 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers

Here Paul points to the importance of both our doctrine and also the way our life is lived in practice, linking them to our own salvation and also that of those who are influenced by us. The example Jesus gave of a millstone around the neck comes to mind here* – as does James’ warning about desiring to be a teacher**. Not only is our own salvation a concern, but also the salvation of those who are influenced by our life and our doctrine.

Heb 6:4-8 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

I don’t know whether anything could be made clearer. This excerpt is explicitly clear about the possibility of falling away and it also describes the very serious consequences of doing so. What stronger reason could we have for ensuring that we remain faithful to Him?
The wording here is quite interesting when it says someone who has fallen away can not “be brought back to repentance” – to my understanding this suggests that the person themselves will no longer respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and therefore can not be brought back to a required repentant state. They have so hardened their heart and seared their conscience that they have become resistant to conviction.

Heb 10:26-31 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think those deserve to be punished who have trampled the Son of God underfoot, who have treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who have insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Again, this is clearly referring to those who HAVE been believers. There is no way of getting around the description of those who “have received the knowledge of the truth” and again, like Paul, the writer to the Hebrews includes himself in the warning. “If WE deliberately keep on sinning after WE have received”… this makes it undeniable that he is writing about those (like himself) who are believers. It should also be undeniable, considering this excerpt, that those who have at one time been believers can fall from the position of grace they once enjoyed.

2Pe 1:10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble

Another admonition for believers to act and live in such a way that their election is made sure – why the need for such a statement (or indeed any of the others I’ve quoted) if a persons election could never be in doubt, that it was totally and permanently secure?

2Pe 2:20-22 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

Here it could not be stated more clearly. Those who “have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” could be none other than Christians. The rest of the sentence is equally clear when it speaks about those who were Christians becoming re-entangled in and overcome by the corruption of the world. How could they be any worse than someone who had never believed and followed Jesus unless they faced a worse eternal outcome than someone who had never followed Jesus?

I can’t see how anyone can see these many clear references and still deny the possibility of a believer forfeiting their salvation. However, scripture goes further than spelling out the possibility and states that it is a certainty that some WILL depart from their faith.

Jesus Himself said:
Mt 24:10-13 At that time many WILL turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved.***

And note the latter part of that quote that says those who stand firm to the end will be saved. It does not say that those who are “saved” will stand firm to the end, which is the view promoted in the term “Once Saved Always Saved”.

Lk 17:1-2 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble

Jas 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

*** The turning away from the faith predicted by Jesus finds additional confirmation form Paul’s correspondence with the Thessalonians in which a falling away (apostasy) is foretold as preceding the revealing of the man of lawlessness (usually known as Antichrist). This falling away and the subsequent events described by Paul match very closely to those predicted by Jesus so Paul is clearly referring to the same time and the same things.

All bible quotes from Today's New International Version. 1099. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2001, 2005.

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