Friday, October 13, 2006

The Perseverance of the Saints
(a.k.a. Once Saved Always Saved)

In recent days, weeks, and months I have been confronted with a very visceral opposition to the theology that Christians are secure in the salvation that Christ offers. This doctrine is sometimes referred to, both by proponents and opponents, with the phrase, “Once saved, always saved.” While this statement is accurate, if it is taken alone it is ambiguous enough to enable people to mischaracterize what I and many others, as biblical protestants, believe.

Some supporters of a warped view, biblically and historically speaking, try to affirm that Christians can and will be able to continue living in sin after they prayed a prayer and received Christ as Savior without losing their salvation. This camp of theology is sometimes called “easy believism” by me and other opponents of that theology. Similarly, some people who oppose the idea of eternal security who have used this phrase and idea to mock what I would confess as the Truth of Scripture (namely Roman Catholics on this and other blogs) by mocking the idea that someone can just say one thing at one time while “really meaning” it and then live the rest of their lives in miserable and detestable sin while not losing their salvation.

I want to be clear about what the Bible says regarding our salvation. Let me start off by saying this: If it were possible that a genuine Christian (born again by the Spirit of God, made a new creature) could continue in unrepentant and flagrant sin, then nothing that the Christian does can cause him to lose his salvation because it was nothing that he did in order to gain it. However, I don’t want anyone, for one second, to think that I affirm an “easy believism” or “cheap grace” gospel message. I don’t believe that because it doesn’t seem to be the testimony of scripture that a Christian can or will continue to live in unrepentant and flagrant sin.

"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:37-39)

These verses and the surrounding text say many things regarding the gospel and the doctrine of salvation, but I only want to focus attention on how emphatic Christ is when He said that “the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” but He will “raise it up on the last day“. Later in the gospel of John, Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 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.” (John 10:27-29)

These two sets of verses are explicit in their communication of the same fact – believers are secure in Christ. Those whom He saves, He keeps. The question or discussion should not be centered around whether or not one can lose the salvation that has been granted to them by grace from God Himself, it needs to be centered on what constitutes being saved. The bible is explicitly clear that men are justified by faith apart from works (Eph 2:8,9; Titus 3:5). But we also see that those who are truly saved have the continuing evidence of their salvation by engaging in good works (Eph 2:10; Titus 2; 3:1,9; James 2:20) otherwise they show that the claim of salvation is without merit.

A person who is truly saved will continue in godliness and good works. Will he sin? Yes. But it will not be a casual occurrence, nor will it be these sinful things that characterize his life to those around him. There is a reason why I like referring to this idea as the “perseverance of the saints”. Because, it says that once you’re saved – truly saved – you will never be lost or taken out of the saving hand of Christ. But, it also implies that our current testimony goes a long way to verify whether or not we are truly saved.

I believe that someone who genuinely thinks, believes, and lives in a way that has a disregard for the commands of Christ to obey and live righteously is not truly saved. The book of 1st John goes into great detail about the differences between the saved and the lost. The whole purpose of that epistle is to show that you and I can know that we’re saved (1 John 5:13) and he shows how we can know where we stand by going through various ways to test ourselves.

Do not misapply the doctrine of eternal security to those who live as utter reprobates but may have “asked Jesus into their hearts” when they were children. True faith will continue on and will be evidenced by works of love. When it does, we can have full security and assurance. If you believe in Christ and have made a profession of faith, but your life is not being lived in such a way that follows in the works that God laid out for you, and you have no assurance of salvation.

Once a person is saved, they can never become “unsaved”. What a great God and Savior that we have who will save sinners, make them new, and give them the assurance that they have been saved and will inherit eternal life.

22 comments:

steph said...

This is a well thought out post on the perseverance of the saints. This is a greatly contested topic, and you did a wonderful job presenting it Biblically.
The converse of this is that those who are not saved in this life will not have another opportunity to be saved. This is seen by many as unmerciful. But consider that these people who live in rebellion to God are given all the days of their life on earth. They wake with sun every day, and see the beauty of the world all around--what mercy that they could enjoy God's beautiful creation at all, that God did not just bring them to eternity in Hell immediately knowing that they were not chosen to be saved. And what mercy that any are saved at all! God in His perfect justice would be right to condemn us all to Hell, but in His abundant mercy, He chose some to be called His children. What grace! Praise God that He bestows common grace here on earth and eternal grace to those He has chosen.

St. Michael the Archangel said...

Steph,

You are starting to sound like the Jehovah Witnesses... you said "He chose some to be called His children" I have to disagree, God chose all of his children to be saved, but he gave us free will and we can choose to say yes and serve him, or reject him for the world. That is true love there, to be able to let us go but always be waiting for us to come back.

EJ said...

Michael, read John 6 and you tell me if God chose some or not based on that text (also Eph 1 and Rom 9).

Danny Garland Jr. said...

Eric,
See all the times when Paul talks about perservering in the Faith lest you lose your faith.

The Bible is meant to be read as a whole, not just one verse at a time.

steph said...

It's a good thing that EJ reads the Bible as a whole then. Wow, he could have been way off base.

St. Michael the Archangel said...

actually EJ is way off base, and so are you steph.

Jeff said...

Danny,

You said:
"See all the times when Paul talks about perservering in the Faith lest you lose your faith."

Please cite all these passages of Paul for us and provide a thorough exegesis of each one.

Jesus said that all the Father gives Him will come and that all who come will be raised up and He would lose none. (from John 6)

Salvation that can be lost isn't salvation. It's probation.

The bible is once again clear. Those who are born again (born from above, born spiritually, etc) will be in Heaven. And spiritual birth is monergistic. It cannot be planned or scheduled by men. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual life to those chosen of the Father and given to the Son (for whom He died at Calvary).

Jeff said...

Micheal,

You said:
"That is true love there, to be able to let us go but always be waiting for us to come back. "

Actually, Christ laying his life down for the sheep so they will not face the wrath of God is true love. Though we were sinners, he died for us (in our place). That is true love. His love perseveres and does not let go. None of his sheep will be lost. Those who have been born again (born from above by God) have the Holy Spirit as a seal of salvation.

Those for whom Christ died will be saved. That is true love.

St. Michael the Archangel said...

Jeff,

Christ died for us all, so are you saying that we are all saved... even us Catholics?

steph said...

Christ's death was sufficience for all but only effient on those chosen of God. SO, not all are saved because not all are chosen.

St. Michael the Archangel said...

Steph,

ALL are chosen, you are preaching a calvinist teaching... Calvin wasn't a prophet of God, he was lost.

Do you think you are chosen? And if so, why? What makes you better than someone else?

EJ said...

The theology commonly called Calvinism did not start with John Calvin. It has its roots ultimately in Jesus (John 6). But it also has apostolic roots in Paul (Romans, Ephesians), Peter (1 Peter), Titus, John (2nd John). As for the church fathers - Augustine is one of the more notable ones who stand out in history. Calvinism is also referred to as Augustinianism because Augustine also proclaimed these truths. Don’t just take my word (a “fundy prot”) for it, you should check out the comments of a Catholic blogger named Michael Joseph for affirmations of this idea too by reading "Works" vs. "Works of the Law"

“Do you think you are chosen? And if so, why? What makes you better than someone else?” That is the exact point of the doctrine of election – man is not good, no man is better than another and it is only by His grace that we are saved – it is totally of God!

Soli Deo Gloria!!!!!

St. Michael the Archangel said...

No EJ... Steph said only a few are chosen... so my question is how do you know that you are truly a chosen one and going to be saved, since you follow this theology, then you are proclaiming that you are better than most, since you already believe that Christ has chosen you from birth and others were predestined to be damned... That doesn't make any sense!

steph said...

Michael,
We have never said that we are any better than anyone. Being chosen of God is not anything that we did. It was God's chosing before the foundations of the world. No man is any good in the eyes of God. You say that it doesn't make sense that God has chosen us to be saved and others to be condemned. We, truly saved, say that it is simply amazingly merciful that God would choose any! Why does He choose any?? Because He loves His creation. Why not choose all? He's God, He can do what He wants with the things He has made. Simply put, God said that many will go the way of destruction while a few will go the way of salvation, so I must believe it. Who am I to say of God, "that's not fair"? Why in the days of Noah did God only choose the eight to be saved through the water? Because they were the only righteous people in the eyes of God. He chose them only to be saved and destroyed the rest of humanity. How unmerciful is that?! Well, consider that it took Noah, what 150 years to build the ark, and that whole time He was proclaiming the Lord's judgment, and the only response of the people was mocking. What mercy that the people had even those 150 years to repent if they would. That they could wake up every day and enjoy everyday life. That they could be married and have children. What mercy and patience on the part of a jealous God. Then destruction came. And now, Jesus has come and proclaimed that He is the only way to the father--not by works, but by His work on the cross. He has also said that He will be coming back again and that we should be ready. So, we are proclaiming that God's judgment is coming--we don't know when. Are you ready? Have you bowed your heart, your life, to God and told Him that you know there is nothing you can do to be saved, that you need Him because you are completely helpless. That is what I have done, what EJ has done, what Jeff has done and every true believer throughout the world. We have faith in the God of Abraham who sent His Son to die in our place so that we could go to Heaven and worship Him for all eternity. As a result of that true faith, we have works to prove that we are saved--a people zealous for good works.

Anonymous said...

Does the (chosen) doctrine matter? It should not make a difference. It is a dangerous topic when shared with new or potential converts.

I think we exercise free will and make a decision. However, since God is God, he must know all things, including our decision. I am open to the possibility I am incorrect, but again...how much does it really matter?

EJ said...

That’s a good question. It is not a doctrine that one must hold to or confess to be within orthodoxy.

In my understanding of Christ, the Scripture, and the Gospel message, there are about 5 foundational doctrines that cannot be compromised (disagreed upon) and still be within true Christianity. The doctrines of God (Theology Proper), Jesus Christ (Christology), the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), the Trinity, and Salvation by grace through faith alone are what make up most lists of “untouchable” doctrines in Christianity. Notice that Election/Predestination is not one of those. That doesn’t mean that this doctrine is not important, because it is intrinsically connected with the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone.

So, true Christian brethren can (and have) disagree on this doctrine and not be in jeopardy of denying an essential doctrine. However, either only one party is right (or mostly right) or neither is.

Why is it important? It is important because it seems to be the way that God has expressed His working in salvation.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those …who are chosen according to the foreknowledge” (1 Peter 1:1,2)

“The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth” (2 John 1:1)

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Eph 1:1)

(read Eph 1:1-14 to see an extended description of God’s chosing in salvation)

“When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Acts 8:29-30)

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16)

“for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.’ Just as it is written, ‘JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.’” (Romans 9:11-13) (Romans 8&9 are good chapters to read in full on this too)

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out…No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37,44)


Those are just a few of the verses off the top of my head that discuss the choice in salvation – ultimately it’s God’s choice (we can also ask the question of why God chose Abraham instead of anyone else from Ur of the Chaldeans, why Isaac instead of Ishmael, why Israel as a nation instead of the others, why Paul instead of Caiaphas the High Priest, etc.). And the reason why this doctrine of God’s choice is so important, and why I emphasize it, is that it is the most consistent with believing that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ.

If nothing else, my desire for everyone with this topic is to wrestle with this issue while dealing with the scriptures and through prayer and not just deal with it on an philosophical level.

Hope that helps, Mike.

EJ said...

Correction - in the 5, I mentioned all 3 persons of the Godhead and the Trinity. The Trinity was really a way of making sure that they have correct theology about all of those Persons. The 5th would be the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scriptures.

Nate J. said...

Mike,
I like all of the Scriptures that E.J. has just posted. The doctrine of election is a hard one to digest, and like the doctrine of the Trinity, it is something I believe we will never be fully able to understand in our finite human minds. We are not God, nor are we able to see things how He sees them. I do believe that God does chose some for salvation - not because I necessarily like how that sounds, but because Scripture says it! On the other hand, I also believe that man has a responsibility to personally repent of his sins and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save him. The scriptures clearly teach this as well as the fact that salvation is open to all who believe. You don't have any examples in Scripture of people just laying back and ignoring the Gospel because they were worried about God electing only some. Of course not all people will believe, but I won't get into the various reasons for that right now.
How can these two truths be believed? Because Scripture clearly teaches them both. We will never totally understand how this works, but we can trust God because we know His character and that He is always right and just in what he does. That is comforting to me! I may never totally understand the doctrine of election, but I do understand that I still must make sure of my election and calling. Have I repented of my sin and is my faith in Christ alone to save me? In the end, God gets all the glory - that's what is so great about election! Ephesians chapter 1 really hits this home.

I like your question about bringing this up with potential converts. Personally, whenever I pass out a gospel tract or share the plan of salvation with someone, the LAST thing on my mind is election. As a Christian, it is my job to go and tell anyone that I can - it is God's job to do the rest. The interesting thing is that in spite of election, in the end, nobody will have an excuse for not repenting and trusting in Christ. Every mouth will be stoped. That is why it is so important to 1. Make sure you are really saved yourself! and then 2. Go and tell anyone that you can about the good news of the Gospel!
Thanks - hope this helps!
Nate

St. Michael the Archangel said...

So the question is... are one of the chosen ones nate? Or are you going to HELL?

steph said...

Michael, if you have some intellectual comment or question to add to this post, then you can do so. It seems that all you are trying to do is provoke anger, which I am sure that you already said is sinful. So, like I said on the previous post, what in the world are you talking about? And, perhaps you should take a long look in the mirror and bow your heart before the one and only true God. Seek Him alone as your salvation. And remember, pride comes before the fall.

St. Michael the Archangel said...

Steph...

Again I will say this too you... VADE RETRO SATANA..IPSE VENENA BIBAS!

I asked a clear question, since you all clearly believe in Calvinist teachings about Predestination and selection, I asked if you think that you are a chosen one of God, and that you were chosen to go straight to heaven, or are you one of the chosen condemned that will go to HELL because God chose it that way from before you were born... OR do you believe that you have free choice to your own salvation as the bible teaches, your getting your doctrines mixed up and that confusing you, and your speech is a direct result of your obvious mixed theology.

EJ said...

Michael - do me a favor and take your understanding of human responsibility in our salvation/damnation (i.e. free will) and read Romans 8, Ephesians 1 and John 6 (specifically verses 40 and following). Then tell me how you can discount the idea that God chose some and not others before time began.

How a person knows if they are of the elect is shown in how they are able to respond to the true gospel. 1st John gives good tests to see if one is saved (i.e. one of the elect). So by that standard laid out in scripture (looking to 1st John and Galatians 5) I have confidence that God has regenerated me and that I am going to heaven, and therefore I have been elected and soveriegnly saved by God through Christ.

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