Friday, February 22, 2013

Once saved?

Every once in awhile I'm asked what I think about the topic of "once saved, always saved."
If you've ever wondered about this, or have a loved one you are talking to about it, you may find this interesting.  

I've thought through this subject of "eternal security" several times and after searching through the Bible, I've found several passages that reveal people can lose their salvation through their own will:
II Pet 2:20-22 "20 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 overcome, 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. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

  • Notice, after escaping the world, Peter clearly says if people fall back into sin their last state is worse off.  Peter doesn't say "if it were possible" to fall away, he is indicating clearly the fate of those who do fall away.  He is not setting up a straw man.

Gal 5:2-5 "Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness."

  • Paul makes his point very clear: If you as a Christian depend on circumcision (that is the Old Testament law system of sacrifice and obeying the Law), for securing the forgiveness of sins, then you will fall from grace.  Look again at 5:4.

I Tim 1:18-20, "18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme."

  • Paul warns Timothy that people who don't hold to the faith, or faithful people who reject the truth, ruin their faith and end up separated.

Rom 11:20-24, "20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 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 they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree."

  • Paul points out the Israelites who were the original recipients of God's covenant fell away because of their unbelief, namely this would be their rejection of Jesus as Savior.  Paul makes the point, if the original children of God were cast away, you who are not the original family of God can be cast away too.

I Cor 9:27, "But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

  • Paul certainly felt he had to be consistent, lest he loose his salvation; Paul indicates he was open to the idea his faith could be jeopardized too.

Matt 6:15, "but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

  • Jesus clearly places conditional restrictions on our salvation here.  If you don't forgive others, God won't forgive you...


JN 15:1-6, "“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned."
  • Continued obedience and service is part of our obligation.  Jesus says an inactive faith is not possible...  If we decide to quit bearing fruit, we will be cut off.  
  • Notice, Grace is opposed to earning, not effort!  Compare to Eph 2:8-10.  Our good works can't save us, but we are created for good works!
Matt 10:32-33, "32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."

  • Who is Jesus warning here?  His followers.  He makes the point if we deny our allegiance to Him, perhaps to save our hide in times of persecution, He will deny us...

Luke 8:13, "And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away."  Mk 4:17 "And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away."

  • Jesus is clear in His parable on the four soils: those who received His word, believed, but then were pulled away, fell away from faith.  This is consistent with what Jesus says in the 2nd half of JN 8:31, "IF you abide/remain in My word, then you are truly My disciples."

The clearest of all Biblical passages on this topic, I think are in the book of Hebrews:
Heb 3:12, "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God."

  • If falling away isn't are real possibility, then the Hebrew author is deceiving us here!

Heb 6:4-6, "For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt."

  • The Hebrew author once again, would be deceiving us if falling away was impossible, look closely at 6:6 as he talks about believers falling away...

Heb 10:26-31 "26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

  • Here the Hebrew author warns that continual lifestyles of sin for Christians will be punished more severely than those who broke the Jewish laws...

We have the wonderful assurance that no one can ever snatch us from God, JN 10:28-29, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."  
And, if a Christian lapses in their faith, they can be restored, James 5:19-20, "19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."

But, that doesn't remove our free will to abandon Jesus, John 6:66, "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him."


Bob Schlessman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Schlessman said...

Craig, once again you have done a wonderful job summarizing an issue about which I get many questions. Having all of these Scriptures in one list will simplify my answering questions in the future.

I have often referred to the Hebrews passages. I think they offer the clearest statement that it is a lifestyle of sin that matters, not the occasional transgression. We all should strive to live a holy and righteous life but the truth of the matter is if we could walk a perfect walk, then there is no need for Christ. Christ came for all of humanity, not just the ones who are unable to avoid sin 100%, since they don't exist. We must realize that we are still sinners and without the Holy Spirit the sinful nature will take over.

The tension between living a sin free life or cheapening the grace given us is one that will always be a challenge, but as I said above these Scriptures do help to clarify the issue.

Craig Cottongim said...

Hey Bob, as always, your comments encourage me! You are such a blessing in my life, thanks for reading my ramblings, and responding so kindly!