Always Saved?



Once Saved Always Saved?

Can a person be lost once he has accepted Christ as his Saviour? Only in the consistency of God's Word can we find an answer to this question.

The Bible Speaks For Itself

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. ... For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." Hebrews 10:23, 24, 26.

Nowhere does the Bible teach that our responsibility ends when we become a Christian. God's Word is clear: "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." 2 Peter 2:20-22.

Again, in Ezekiel 18:24 it says: "But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die." Paul also reminds us, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12. 

In Hebrews 6:4-6 we find another striking statement: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."

I think it would be very difficult to describe more fully a person who had been born again but who later rebelled against God and rejected Christ and spurned the Holy Spirit. He has placed himself out of God's reach by his own actions. Therefore, there is no possibility that such a man can be saved as long as he continues to crucify Christ by his disobedience.

Even Paul Castaway?

Paul depicted the constant struggle of the true Christian when he said: "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. ... But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27  Even the great apostle Paul did not have an absolute unquestionably guaranteed place in God’s kingdom!

The Condition of Abiding

The Bible does not teach that entrance into God's kingdom is tied to a momentary - or even temporary - faith experience of the past. Christianity is more than one single decision. Jesus said that our salvation is based on the condition that we continue to abide in Him (John 15:4). And the apostle Paul said, "I die daily." 1 Corinthians 15:31. This means that he chose on a daily basis to deny himself and follow Jesus. The Lord Himself said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23.  Salvation is a dynamic, growing relationship with the only One who has eternal life to bestow. It requires continuing contact in order to receive it. The very life of God can be shared with men but never apart from a living union with Christ! "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." 1 John 5:12.

Just as the constant creative energy of God is necessary to sustain the universe and to hold atoms together, so His divine power is constantly needed to maintain spiritual life in the soul. When a person willfully chooses to separate from God, the contact is broken, and the spiritual life ceases to flow. God will not violate the will of anyone in making that choice either. John 15:1-6 teaches very clearly that Christians can lose their connection with Jesus and be lost.  There, Christ explains one of the great mysteries of eternal life. "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." Verses 5, 6.

Notice that the secret of continued life is continued abiding. If a person does not abide in Christ, he withers, dies, and is finally burned up. This proves that the relation of a believer to Christ is never a static thing based only on a past experience. It is a current, mutual sharing of a common life which is drawn from Him "who is our life" (Colossians 3:4). When the branch is separated from the vine, the source of life is gone, and only death can result. These words of Jesus are too clear to be misconstrued. Even believing, trusting Christians who are connected to the living vine may choose to separate from the vine.  When they do, they die and will be cast into the fire and burned. Nothing can wither and die that has not previously been alive.

Jesus taught the same solemn truth about losing eternal life in the parable of the sower. In explaining the seed which fell among the thorns and the rocks, Jesus said, "Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away." Luke 8:12, 13.

There are several things to note about this parable. First, only one class will finally be saved - the ones who brought forth much fruit. The groups represented by the wayside and rocks will not be saved. In verse 12, the wayside hearers did not have a chance to "believe and be saved," but in the next verse the stony ground hearers do "for a while believe." What kind of "believing" is this? According to verse 12, it is the kind that saves. So the ones who believed for a while were saved for a while, but in time of temptation they fell away. Eventually, of course, they were lost along with all the others, except the fruit-bearers. Here is an unequivocal teaching of our Lord that people can have a saving faith for a while, and yet lose it and be lost.

To The Very End

We can be confident that if we continue to follow, He will continue to lead and will never let go of the hand placed willingly in His. "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." Matthew 24:13. This statement is clearly saying the inverse too—that if you don’t endure to the end, you will not be saved.  Otherwise why say it?



An Eternal “If”

All these verses are really saying the same thing. Willful sin shatters the relationship by which eternal life is obtained. There is an eternal "if" in every consideration of eternal security. "IF we walk in the light . . . the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1 John 1:7. "IF that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father." 1 John 2:24. "IF any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." Hebrews 10:38. "IF a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch." John 15:6. "IF a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." John 8:51. "IF thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." Romans 11:22. "IF ye do these things, ye shall never fall." 2 Peter 1:10. "For we are made partakers of Christ, IF we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." Hebrews 3:14. "IF we endure, we shall also reign with him: IF we deny him, he also will deny us." 2 Timothy 2:12 (RSV). "IF we sin willfully . . . there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." Hebrews 10:26. "IF any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1 John 2:15. "Ye are my friends, IF ye do whatsoever I command you." John 15:14. "IF ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." Romans 8:13.

No Man Can Pluck Out--A Slave To God?

Finally, I think this text has probably been quoted more than any other to support the doctrine of eternal security. Jesus said, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." John 10:28, 29.

This is a tremendous promise for each of us! At first glance, it does seem to guarantee some sort of immunity against spiritual loss, but the problem is that we must read the entire text. Verse 27 is an integral part of the thought, and it lays down a specific condition for the fulfillment of the promise in verses 28 and 29. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life."  It is only God's true followers who nestle safely in His protecting hand. He gives eternal life only to the faithful sheep who hear and follow Him. It is this hearing and following which provides immunity against being plucked away by the devil or his agents. The protection is from enemies without who seek to carry off the sheep, but not from unfaithfulness of the sheep who might choose not to follow any longer. No one can pluck them out of the Father's hand, but they may choose to jump out at any time.

God never even hints that He will interfere with the freedom of choice of His followers. Christians can choose to be lost just as surely as sinners can choose to be saved.  To believe that once we are saved we cannot be lost is to believe that God takes away our greatest freedom--the freedom of choice. On the other hand, God does want us to have assurance that He will finish the work He has begun in our lives. "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6.

Saved - Past, Present and Future

Perhaps, this illustration by Glenn Fillman will help explain it:

Bill Jones is fishing several miles out in the ocean. His boat capsizes and sinks to the bottom. He is unable to swim to safety. Just then, another fishing boat comes along, but it is so heavily loaded that it is impossible to take on another passenger. Because they want to rescue the doomed man, however, the crew throws him a rope. "Here, take this rope," they say. "We will tow you to shore." As he takes the rope, Bill Jones says, "Thank God, I am saved!" And he is saved, as long as he holds on to the rope. Salvation is his, but he has a part to play in it. If he should at any time release his grasp on the rope and refuse to take it again, he would be lost. That is the way it is with a person who has been rescued from sin. He remains saved as long as he holds on to the hand of Christ. If he should decide to release that hand and clasp the hand of the devil, he would be lost. His salvation depends on his continued decision and action.

Actually, you can speak of salvation in three tenses - past, present, and future. He can say, "I have been saved" when he takes the rope, "I am being saved" as he is being towed to shore; and "I shall be saved" when he plants his feet firmly on shore. A converted person has been saved from the penalty of sin. We call that justification. He is being saved from the power of sin, and we call that sanctification. He shall be saved from the presence of sin when Christ comes, and that will be glorification. All three of these tenses are used in the Bible in connection with being saved.

In Romans 8:24 is the expression, "For in hope we have been saved." In 1 Corinthians 1:18 it says "To us who are being saved." Then Acts 15:11 states, "that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved." So you see past, present, and future.

Does the fact that Bill must cling to the rope to be saved, mean that he can earn his salvation by his own works? No way! Remember that he was being towed by a power other than his own. He was merely cooperating with that power. He was holding on to the rope. He had to do that in order to be pulled to safety. As Christians we must confess our faith in Christ, we must remain steadfast to Him, we must bring forth the fruits of obedience; that is our part in holding on to Christ. He will never let us go. The only way we can separate ourselves from Him is to cut ourselves off deliberately and disconnect ourselves from Him, but we have the power to do that. We are still free moral agents. Our will has not been removed merely because we have become Christians.

At any point in our Christian life we can decide to turn back, to choose the things of the world rather than the things of God and heaven. We are saved only through faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12. However, we show our faith by our works. It is a manifestation of our love for Him. Keeping God's commandments and doing right are merely the result of His Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart. These are the fruits of the Spirit. We do these things, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved, and as long as we love the Lord with all our heart, we are going to be obedient to Him. We will not let go of the rope. We will continue to cling to Christ each moment as our only hope.