Once Saved, Always SavedThe Problem: Since Christ died once for all, and since Christ's blood is effective, many Christian denominations believe that saying the unScriptural sinner's prayer and accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour assures salvation. Martin Luther himself taught that one might commit adultery 100 times and still be saved, for God will forgive those who accept His Son, and put Him on as a cloak of righteousness. Some agree with Luther, others argue that the elect can be known by their works, i.e., "By their fruits, ye shall know them," implying that a true disciple of Christ would never commit adultery or other heinous sin. That could be true, but how does one KNOW whether or not s/he will commit heinous sin sometime in the future? If I don't know the future, I can't know I am saved now, for I may give the lie to my "guaranteed" salvation by committing that sin next week which I abhor today.
The Truth: Every person can and must maintain the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. However, free will is inherent and freedom to act present as a gift from God in every person at every moment. Any person might freely choose to reject God's saving grace through deliberate thought or action against, or deliberate failure to act in accordance with, God's wishes, thereby stripping from themselves the ability to enter into the Beatific Vision. Thus, we cannot presume to know our own salvation anymore than we can know the salvation of any other person; rather, we must work out our salvation by a constant, positive response to grace, in fear and trembling, with our face turned always towards the hope who is Jesus Christ.
1 Jn 5:13 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved...
Salvation is, in a sense, a completed action in the life of all who have been baptized. (cf. Matthew 16:16, Romans 6:3, Galatians 3:27) However...
1 Cor 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Mt 10:22 But he who endures to the end will be saved
Justification is spoken of in the past, present and future tenses.
1 Cor 4:4-5 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.
Paul acknowledges that he himself cannot make a judgment on whether or not he will be saved.
Phil 3:11-12 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Even though Paul is a possession of Christ, still he does not have the resurrection of the dead as a sure prize.
1 Cor 9:25-27 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; 27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Indeed, he fears losing this prize. Are you a better Christian than Paul?
Acts 8:13,18-24 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.... Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20 But Peter said to him, "Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." 24 And Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."
Simon Magus believed, was baptized, travelled with Phillip, but still nearly lost his salvation.
Rom 11:22-23 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even the others, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.
Repentance is always possible, but is not guaranteed. Salvation can be lost if kindness is lost, if belief is lost. And both can be lost.
Col 1:21-23 And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, 23 provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Why persevere if we are saved no matter what we do?
Heb 6:4-6 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.
Heb 10:26-29 For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?
Both of the above passages indicate not only that we can be lost, but that, once we turn our backs on Christ after having accepted Him, our guilt and punishment is much, much worse. Peter agrees.
2 Pet 2:20-21 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
Heb 3:12-14 Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end...
1 Cor 15:1-2 Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, 2 by which you are saved, if you hold it fastunless you believed in vain.
Salvation can be lost. You will only be saved if you hold fast and do not let go.
Mt 5:19-30 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' 22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; 26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.
27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Eph 5:5-7 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not associate with them...
1 Cor 6:9-10 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Notice that Paul does not except those who have already "accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour." Anyone, believer or not, who does the things he lists will not inherit the kingdom. Period.
Sir 5:1-7 Do not set your heart on your wealth, nor say, "I have enough." 2 Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart. 3 Do not say, "Who will have power over me?" for the Lord will surely punish you. 4 Do not say, "I sinned, and what happened to me?" for the Lord is slow to anger. 5 Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin. 6 Do not say, "His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins," for both mercy and wrath are with him, and his anger rests on sinners. 7 Do not delay to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and at the time of punishment you will perish.
Perserverance is emphasized and re-emphasized as very important - but how could perserverance be important if praying the sinner's prayer is enough to assure ourselves of salvation?
1 Tim 2:3-4 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
God wants us in heaven, but we have free will. We can choose hell.
1 Tim 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
2 Tim 2:11-13 The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; 12 if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.
Mt 10:22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Jn 15:6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.
Rev 2:10-11 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who conquers shall not be hurt by the second death.'
Rev 3:5 He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.
Revelation shows that Christ will not erase some names, but implies that He will erase others.
Mt 10:33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Lk 12:9 but he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God
Mk 13:13 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Mt 24:13 But he who endures to the end will be saved.