Once Saved, Always Saved, pt. 3

This is a continuation from two earlier posts. You might want to read them first. Just scroll down a little bit for the first two parts. Thanks.

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Eternal Security is the biblical doctrine that affirms the unconditional nature of salvation. Once you’re in, you’re in. God does not kick kids out of his family. Ever. Nor does he permit them to “withdraw their membership.” There is no force or will one earth or in heaven that can separate a Christian from the love of God “which is IN Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39). “In Christ” refers to Union with Christ. Once you’re in, you’re in.

But what about those pesky verses that seem to indicate otherwise? Let me mention a handful of them, the ones my friends most commonly ask me about.

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” Hebrews 6:4-6, NKJV.

Observations:

  1. Let’s suppose that this verse IS teaching that you can lose your salvation. If so, then it is also teaching that once you lose it, you can’t EVER get it back. It’s “impossible.” I have yet to hear or read a conditional-security teacher who deals effectively with this point. All of them that I know of teach that you can return to the Lord and be saved again. This verse is as much of a problem for them as for us.
  2. The verb “fall away” is not apostasia (apostasy), but parapipto (stumbling).
  3. The people here were never saved in the first place. The five descriptors apply to a person who has engaged the gospel, but not fully to the point of salvation. The falling away involves flirting with Jesus and then returning to their first legalistic love: religious self-righteousness. They have dated, and then JILTED Jesus.
  4. The impact of the jilting is a total disrespect for his sacrificial death. They put him to open shame–meaning, they disrespect the value of his death.
  5. The Impossibility in question is this: no outside human influence can change their minds and draw them back to Jesus. You can’t. I can’t. But God can.
  6. To use this verse to undermine very clear statements like Rom 8:38,39 etc., is to needlessly complicate the gospel.

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews 10:26, NKJV.

Observations

  1. The sin is singular, not plural. If the conditional-salvation people have their way with this verse, it puts us all on impossibly shaky ground. One sin, and you’re out. And you’re out for good.
  2. But the sin involved here is not any old sin. It is specific and singular: the sin of understanding the gospel of grace and then rejecting it. That sin.
  3. If you reject the sacrifice of Jesus, then what other sacrifice for sin do you have to offer? Answer: none.
  4. This verse is not teaching that you can lose your salvation: it’s teaching that if you don’t have Christ crucified as your only hope, then you don’t have ANYTHING.

““But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13, NKJV.

Observations:

  1. Context, context, context. The context is Jesus’ sermon regarding the Tribulation and the return of the Lord.
  2. If this verse teaches conditional-security, then it makes your whole life with God a tightrope walk without a net.
  3. The word “end” (telos, in Greek) means “finish line” or something like that.
  4. You always have to ask “what end?” In this case, the finish line is the end of the seven year tribulation, and the salvation is deliverance from physical destruction. Compare this to…

“For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,” Hebrews 3:14, NKJV.

Observations:

  1. Context here includes a comparison. The Jews’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land is like the seeker’s journey from unbelief to faith in Jesus.
  2. The word “end” (telos again) is a specific finish line.
  3. In this case it is the finish line of faith in Jesus as your Savior and only hope. Salvation does not occur until you cross the threshhold of faith, no matter how much you learn, study, debate… no matter how sentimental or emotional you feel. You need an act of the will: a volitional response called FAITH. That is the telos, that is the end, that is the finish line of the PROCESS OF SALVATION.
  4. And once you reach that finish line, you discover it to be a new starting line: one in which you have become partakers (the verb is in the Greek perfect tense, which indicates an action completed in the past with results that abide into the future) of Christ.
  5. If a person investigates Jesus and his claims, but never seals the deal with faith, that person was never saved.

“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.” 2 Peter 2:20, 21, NKJV.

Observations:

  1. Ditto this verse with Heb 6 above.
  2. These people were never saved in the first place.
  3. They have knowledge, but it is not saving knowledge of Jesus. They have flirted with Jesus, but never embraced him by faith. They are not saved.
  4. Their knowledge of Jesus (illuminated by the Holy Spirit) only compounds their guilt and their judgment for not receiving him. Their latter end is worse than their beginning, and their final judgment is more severe.
  5. The true point of this verse is the danger of substituting any religious work, any philosophical system, or any theological correctness for the substitutionary, sacrificial death of Jesus and all that it has purchased for us. We are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and to add anything to that, or to subtract anything from it, or to move away from it conceptually is to distort the gospel, and to merit the judgment of God.

“Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.” Acts 5:5, NKJV.

Observations:

  1. Ananias and Sapphira were husband and wife, a matched set. They sold some property, and brought some of the money to the apostles as a gift to the ministry of the church. So far so good. Their sin was to LIE. They implied that they had brought ALL of their money to the church.
  2. For this deception, God struck them dead. On the spot. (That would be a good time for the altar call, don’t you think?)
  3. They were not struck dead for not giving all their money. God did not require that then, and he does not require it now.
  4. The key passage is: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19, NKJV. You are not commanded to give it all up, or give it all away. You are commanded to hold your money lightly, to enjoy it, and to honor God.
  5. The apostles told Ananias and Sapphira: ““While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? ….”” Acts 5:4, NKJV. They didn’t have to give all their money to the church. That was not their sin.
  6. Their sin was LYING about it: ““While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”” Acts 5:4, NKJV.
  7. Neither of them was ever saved in the first place. We know them because a true child of God cannot be filled by Satan. Yet, Peter asked: “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” Acts 5:3, NKJV.

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;” 2 Peter 1:10, NKJV.

Observations:

  1. This verse is about genuine believers (brethren).
  2. It is about post-salvation, grace-induced diligence for a lifestyle worthy of a disciple of Christ.
  3. Without such a lifestyle, you will stumble. That doesn’t mean lose your salvation. It means to stub your spiritual toe, and hop around swearing for a while.
  4. It also means loss of reward in heaven, as indicated by the next verse: “for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:11, NKJV.

This could go on forever. So I’ll stop here. It’s time to go home. But there are some excellent resources on this topic. I like John Ankerburg’s site and the Grace Evangelical Society. I don’t agree with all they say, but they’re strong on this stuff.

Bottom line: either Christ offers a tight-rope or a bridge. Which is it? It is ironic to me that so many Calvinists (perseverance of the saints or else hellfire) teach their doctrine to Christians in a way that is virtually Arminian (you can lose salvation by your own free will). More “scared straight” stuff.

But here’s the amazing thing: GOD USES CHRISTIANS ON BOTH SIDES OF THIS ISSUE in wonderful, remarkable ways. The debate will continue, but I hope that we have Paul’s spirit: Christ is preached, and I rejoice.

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13 thoughts on “Once Saved, Always Saved, pt. 3

  1. Good comments here, Bill.

    Maybe you could expand on this one:

    ““But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13, NKJV.

    You responded:

    You always have to ask “what end?” In this case, the finish line is the end of the seven year tribulation, and the salvation is deliverance from physical destruction.

    My reaction:

    Isn’t that a little circular in its interpretation? The one who survives the 7 year tribulation will survive the 7 year tribulation?

  2. Ted,
    That’s not what I was saying.
    By endure, Jesus means faithful discipleship obedience to Jesus for those who were already saved.
    By saved, Jesus means delivered from the wrathful complex of judgment outpoured at the end of the tribulation, and will reign with Christ in the millennium without experiencing death.
    It is not cirucular, or redundant, or repetitive. It is a promise to the faithful disciple of Christ who is alive during the tribulation.
    Bill

  3. Overall, I appreciate what you have to say, especially regarding Hebrews, with the exception of one thing–those mentioned in Hebrews 6 as being not true believers. The language does not suggest as you say, but rather, that the ones in view, whether hypothetical or not, have in fact become partakers of Christ.
    φωτίζω (to be made known in reference to the transcendent matters of life, BDAG) and γεύομαι (to experience something cognitively or emotionally, BDAG) really leave no room for understanding the ones in view as being ones who have merely flirted with Christ. If those words are not convincing, then μέτοχος is, because it points to those in view as being sharers or participators in Christ. What do you think?

  4. James,
    Excellent comment. The premise of your question is that the terms that Heb 6 stockpiles refer exclusively to a truly regenerate person. Let me show you why this is not true. Let’s take your terms one at a time.

    φωτίζω: [photizo, enlightened] “That was the true Light which gives light (φωτίζω) to every man coming into the world.” John 1:9, NKJV. In this case, it is used universally of all people, regenerate or unregenerate. A person can be φωτίζω-ed and NOT be saved.

    γεύομαι: [geuomai, to taste] This one’s a little harder, because the majority of its useages are literal. While the word CAN mean “full participation”, which would support your premise, it can also mean “stopping short of full participation” as in “they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.” Matthew 27:34, NKJV. Some people are given the gospel, taste it, roll it around in their mouths for a while, and spit it out. They aren’t saved.

    μέτοχος: [metochos, partaker, partner, one who shares] The verse says they have become “partakers of the Holy Spirit”, not of Christ, as you suggested, James.

    Coordinate that statement regarding the HOLY SPIRIT of Heb 6:4-6 with this one: “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” Hebrews 10:29, NKJV. It is talking about the same person: one who has partaken of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination (the HS illuminates the gospel to the unbeliever, 1 Cor 2:13,14). That person has a choice to make: believe/receive or reject. A person can partake of the Holy Spirit in this sense, yet not be saved.

    One might be able to argue from Eph 5:7 (do not be partakers with [the sons of disobedience]) that there is a difference between “behavioral partaking” and “ontological partaking” (a partaking of being). In the Heb passage, it is behavioral only–a superficial partaking of the Holy Spirit–and never passes into the ontological (one in which their very being is now entwined with God’s).

    There is no doubt that this verse presents difficulties, no matter what your position is on eternal security. I have reversed my position a couple of times over the years on this one verse (there are maybe two or three in the Bible that do this to me), so I clearly understand the point you’re making. I’ve argued that point myself!

    James is one of our resident scholars. Click his name and visit his websight. Good insights.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  5. (Now that I am no longer at home on my Powerbook, I have to resort to transliteration since my work computer is incapable of unicode) I would like to suggest, without turning this post and its comments into a Hebrews 6 debate, that metochos means “companion.” Yes, Bill, you are right when you say that Hebrews 6 says that the ones in view have become sharers in the Holy Spirit, which is what it says at the surface level. But there is a thread throughout Hebrews that is made in reference to the recipients who are identified as true believers; this thread is metochoi Christou, companions of Christ. As per my suggestion, Hebrews 6 is pointing out ones who have become companions of the Holy Spirit, which is synonymous with the aforementioned thread. It is hard to not see the ones in view in Hebrews 6 as not being saved.

    However, what is of particular interest, and perhaps helps the argument of eternal security, is the fact that the author of Hebrews “pulls the final punch,” as L. D. Hurst likes to say. The author, after having said all of this language regarding the ones in view, says, in effect, “But this is not true of you.” The author is confident that what he has just said is not characteristic nor will it be true of his recipients who are in fact companions of Christ.

    We can take this warning passage to be a hypothetical situation. Or we can take it to be the impossibility of companions of Christ (or synonymously, of the Holy Spirit) since it is not possible to re-crucify Christ. Or we can take it to be hyperbole for rhetorical affect. It is this latter option that is implicit in my post, The Warning Passages of Hebrews in Historical Context. Functionally, the author of Hebrews is using this scenario to persuade his readers to press on in the faith. Apart from its function, it is hard to pin down the passage.

    Therefore, I agree with you in the general terms of eternal security, but I felt it necessary to point out that regardless if Hebrews 6 is taken to be a hypothetical situation, a hyperbolic rhetorical argument, an impossible option for true believers, or any other understanding, it functionally moves the argument to exhort the recipients to perseverance, even though they are metochoi Christou. It has in mind persecution; metochoi Christou do not shrink back in the face of persecution, but rather, they persevere through it.

  6. So Ananias and Sapphira weren’t saved huh? I always thought they were just being severely disciplined and got taken to heaven pronto.
    I’ve always believed in once saved always saved…mostly because the other is too worrisome (and impossible because if you can lose your salvation I probably do it regularly) for me to deal with.
    This year I came across a situation that made me wonder what you had to believe (have faith in) to be saved. This is picky I know (and may be getting into the whole works thing, like we have anything to do with being saved other than accepting the gift)….I believe Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God and have faith that he died for my sins and was raised again on the third day (among lots of other things). I came in contact with a person who told me they were a Christian and believe Jesus died for their sins, but that He was just a “child of God” like every human is and that his bones were found in that ossuary they talked about in that documentary this spring and that there are many paths to heaven and there is no hell. My comment was that if those were Jesus bones we might as well give up our faith. They took offense that I thought so little of Jesus…..I think I think more of Jesus. They accused me of thinking they were going to hell because they didn’t believe exactly like I did. I didn’t mean to give a “you’re going to hell” impression. Now I’m not sure if I’m just being judgemental in praying for this person’s salvation.

  7. Suzanne:

    “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” 1 John 2:22, 23, NKJV.

    In my opinion, a person cannot get saved while denying the deity/humanity of Christ. A person can get saved not understanding these things, or confused over these things, but not if they deny them.

    You ask what our faith is to be in. It is to be “in his blood”.

    “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–” Romans 3:25, NIV. (I side w/NIV on this verse).

    His blood is his atoning, sacrificial, death and all that it accomplished. Faith in Jesus AS Savior.

    Bill

  8. The Hebrews 6 passage seems to draw a contrast between those who are saved, and those who are not.

    In vs 4, the writer uses the word “those:” “..those who were once enlightened…” In verse 9, he uses “you.” “But beloved we are confident of better things concerning you…” thereby distinguishing between his audience, and the hypothetical 3rd party described in vss 4-8.

    Even stronger, is the continuation of verse 9: “…better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation.” The inference is that the preceding text describes people who have characteristics that DO NOT accompany salvation.

    So, “those” people are not saved. “You” people are.

    I’ve been struggling with this text for a while now. Please let me know if this description makes sense.

  9. My questions and comments are a little different than the thred. I am a friend of one of your new attendies who just moved back from Florida and he does not believe in Eternal Security. I will let the cat out of the bag in quickly showing my view which is T.U.L.I.P. to make things real easy. Thus i agree with you and have discussed with my friend many times on this. I just pray Christ will open his eyes in time as He did me.

    So to my question… Mathew 24.
    I do not agree with your point “Context, context, context. The context is Jesus’ sermon regarding the Tribulation and the return of the Lord. ”
    I would say, Hermeneutics, Hermeneutic, Hermeneutics. The context is in historical context as well as the language use. I would ask this question, who is speaking and to whom is he speaking to? The answer, Jesus to his disciples. In verse 9 when Jesus is saying that “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death and you will be hated by all the nations for my name’s sake.” This is leading into the same quote in 13. This cannot be taken apart from itself. I ask you this, is Jesus speaking to us when he says “you” or is he speaking to his disciples? So then what is this supposed tribulation Jesus mentions? All or most of ch. 24 is dealing with the destruction of Jerusalem, and the “coming” of the Son of Man (24:30) is the exaltation of Christ, the Second Coming of Christ in judgement and the destruction of Jeruselem. If we do some research we find that around 70AD believers went through great tribulation and Rome suffered a great war. The people hid in the hills as war ravaged their city and then reurned after it was done. But a core aspect is the destruction of the Temple which was obliterated and had no stone left to rebuild, yet Christ became the Temple built in 3 days that can never be destoyed again.

    I do agree that it has nothing to do with losing one’s salvation which i do not believe, acording to scripture can be done.

    The biggest issue i am hearing from my friend and from others related to the “once saved always saved” complex is that it gives people a liscense to sin without judgement or discipline or some form of repentance. This is, of course, where the Perseverance of the Saints would come into play and, if you believe that principle, and it might be a good place to go to next. Romans 6:15-23 is really good in dealing with that issue of ‘sinning into heaven.’ And no, works do not save and are not required to save, merely they are an outworking of what has happened inwardly. just as one would shout for joy when their team scores, not when they are scored on, so to do we praise and live for Christ because he has saved us Romans 8:15-17.

    I think a lot of people also misuderstand and miss use the differences of justification and sanctification according to Paul. Explaining the difference could become vitally important. This would also answers the “working out your salvation with fear and trembling” issue that arises from those who believe in works based salvation (ignoring Eph 2 altogether).
    But understanding that now being in Christ we are new creations, like Abram and Sarai being given new names and thus a new coventant that they cannot break (RAH meaning “breath of life”), our very nature is being turned to Christ by the Holy Spirit to now desire righteousness and not the contrary. Thus, one who is saved will not live a life of utter depravity because his/her very nature is being tempered unto holiness. So we do seek forgiveness and change to our sinful ways so that we would reflect back the love by grace that Christ had showed us.

    Please forgive the length and i appologize if i am invading on terf here, it is only my intent to help a friend and to show him that it is good for him to be where he is with your church. Very few would provide a platform for this discussion, let alone disciple and hold their members accountable to the truth of scripture. I thank you for that. I know your Eschatology is different than mine so feel free to refute. I probably will not make it back here and it is not related to the purpose of this thread much anyway.

    -God bless
    Mike Means aka DJ Guardian
    Tampa, FL

  10. Hey paster Bill u had some good points but i can’t agree with something that i don’t belive i’ve been on fire for god since the trip i took to mexico spring 2006. I got into watching John Hagee and Kirk camaron check out their website wayofthemaster.com. I just came back from fl I went to a pentacostal assembly of god church check out their site riveroflifenorth.org. I talked to todd on this subject on the way home from yourself he says that if u ask jesus in your heart say one lil prayer and never have to repent again and you would go to heaven. I love your ministry i really do but this theory. I have a question what if u theory is wrong and the people who belive that say that one lil prayer and live their life the way they plz and god sends them to hell. Remember in Marks ministy deny yourself take up your cross and follow me. those who stand firm to their faith to the end shall be saved not saying one prayer and going thr the motions one day. God wants your whole life. Todd says i can’t really get involved in the church unless i buy into the once saved always theory. I talk to god thru prayer,my consience and his word and how he’s revealing the word to me its not connecting. I belive you must get to the finish line and not how u start but how u finish. We deserve hell and the grave but because of god’s grace and his sufficient grace and by only his blood we are saved. But does our life show jesus in us. I want to really help out on sunday’s like be a usher and be on the prayer team i believe in a strong alter call. I got the tv job i start tommorow praise god. One day we will have to go to lunch and bring our bibles and have a conversation on this.
    God bless
    dan friedemann

  11. I have an interesting view on once saved always saved. I don’t know. I have searched and studied and I wont even teach on it because I am uncertain. You(blog site administrator) make a strong case along with the other bloggers. You can see my view on it at http://bluecollarblogger.blogspot.com/
    It is not byesst or leaning toward one way. It is a heavy topic to me and I will not just teach what I think people want to hear but I will not teach you are not always saved because I just don’t know 100%. Great blog though!

  12. This discussion betrayes what people think regarding salvation and it also betrays what people think about the application of scripture in context.
    For example Hebrews was not written to Christians. Nor to non christians. it was written as the title suggests to the Hebrews. (Both believers and non believers) So while there are some passages that apply to believers there are other passages that apply to no believers. Great care needs to be excersized in the application of Hebrews verses.
    The same point is true for James but this is mouch more focused. This Letter of writen to the twelve tribes of Israel. Now as we know there are not twelve tribes today. But soon – in the kingdom there will be twelve again and then it will apply in all its force. There will be parts that may be applied today but mostly it is prophectic.
    Great great care needs to be taken to not apply things regarding Israel to the church. The Church is under grace whereas Israel was and will be (in the kingdom) under law.
    To Israel the Lord says – ‘Blessed are they that hear the word of God and do it’. This is pure law.
    But under grace, Christ said ‘He that heareth my word and believeth – hath everlasting life’. This is not on the basis of Merit at all but on the basis of the kindness of God in which he gives his blessing unmerited and unrecompenced.
    The most significant passage to me in Romans is – But NOW a righteousness has been revealed apart from the law.
    Salvation is on the basis of the Grace of God. It is recieved by Grace Lived by grace and it is by grace that the Believer enters Glory.
    All the blessings of Paul nationistic religion has been put on the dung heap.
    Phil 3v8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
    So the question is not can the Christian sin? (The answer is yes of course)
    The Question is can the Grace of God fail?
    Can Gods saving power and promises to the believer fail? NO!
    Christ put it like this…
    John 10v27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
    Its not a question of can a christian loose their salvation Its rather a question of can Christ loose his sheep?

    Steve

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