Once saved, always saved?

Straight Talk

The Question:

Do you think once saved, always saved? If so, please explain.

– No name or city given

The Answer
Part 1: The Debate
Part 2: How are we saved?
Part 3: Repercussions

The Debate (Part 1)

No, I do not believe once saved, always saved. But I do think it is pretty hard to lose your salvation and I’ll leave the final decision to God as to when that happens and to whom. I realize this question is a big dividing line for certain Christians as whole denominations are built around this one doctrinal issue.

Still, it should not be one of the things we argue about in Christianity. Why? Because there are scriptures that point to both sides of the issue. In the end, what difference does it make except that we may be surprised by who we find – or don’t find in heaven? (I will discuss some conclusions to both lines of thinking in Part 3 which may affect choices we make.)

I have often wondered, what triggered this debate in the church? I think at the root of it is a desire for each person to know – really know – if they have met God’s requirement for entry into heaven. The stakes are very high: an eternity of torment in hell or an eternity of paradise and union with God. People want assurance that they are saved. In fact, one of the frequently used terms surrounding this debate is “eternal assurance.”

I know a lady that used to go down to the altar on a regular basis when there was a call for salvation. This was curious to me because when I surrendered my life to the Lord there was no doubt in my mind or heart that it “took.” Evidently, not so with her. She suffered terrible doubts and repeated the process often, hoping for assurance and relief.

Fortunately, we CAN know with certainty what God requires for us to have eternal life and we can have the assurance that we have met that requirement. After we are saved, our mindset should not be how far we can go without losing salvation but how far we can go in advancing the kingdom of God.

Next: Can we be assured of God’s acceptance?

How are we saved? (Part 2)

John 3:36 says; “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Salvation is an act of faith in Jesus Christ. We acknowledge that he is God in the flesh; that he took the punishment for our sins on the cross and secured peace with the Father for us because we could not do that on our own. We not only acknowledge it but we appropriate that gift for ourselves.

Through the centuries people have not always used the same terminology to express what we commonly call today “salvation.” Neither did they always use the same methods we use. It may surprise people to know that so called “altar calls” is a fairly modern phenomenon and much of the church rejected it as unscriptural when it was first introduced. That’s why it is good to know that God always looks at the heart, not the words used, the place, the method. He knows perfectly well who is his.

The important thing for us to understand is this: when we approach God repenting of our sin and asking for the blood of Jesus to cover all of our unrighteousness, he never turns us away. If we sincerely ask Jesus to come into our heart, he comes. We are not saved by any of our own works; only God’s grace. (For further information on how to receive Christ as Lord and Savior see Meet the Master).

Once we have accepted Christ we never need to worry about our eternal destination again unless WE choose to undo our decision. Because we continue to have free will even after accepting Christ we can reject the gospel and we can reject salvation. God honors our free choice. Again, I will leave God to decide when that has happened in an individual’s heart.

Next: How might your take on “once saved, always seved” affect your decisions?

Repercussions (Part 3)

There is always a legitimate question that arises for those who believe “once saved, always saved.” If you can’t lose your salvation, can’t you just go on sinning and living in your flesh knowing there are no eternal repercussions? Isn’t that just cheap grace?

James says; “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17) What he is saying is that your faith must to be demonstrated by the way you act. Today people would say; “If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk.” Does it mean the one who doesn’t was never saved in the first place? I don’t buy that. I believe it is possible to sincerely accept Christ but never become his disciple.

Or, a person may walk as a disciple only for a time as described in Matthew 13:20-21. “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while.” That person is on shaky ground.

On the other hand, what happens if you do not believe in “once saved, always saved”? Does that mean you lose your salvation every time you sin and regain it when you repent? Some churches teach this and people are on a constant see-saw of guilt and fear. That is not correct either as God continues fellowship with us even in our broken condition. He is always reaching out to us and coaxing us into deeper fellowship with him.

When we ask about eternal security or assurance, it is good to ask ourselves why we want to know. Answering that question gets to our motivation and that’s where the real question is. Are we trying to justify continuing sin? Are we trapped by constant fear of going to hell? Do we want to do the minimum possible in following Christ without losing heaven?

There is a way all of this becomes a mute point. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Do that and you will never have to wonder about your eternity.