Response to the question of "Once saved. Always saved."
Once saved. Always saved. This isn’t really one of the easier questions that any Christian can be asked. Before getting into what I believe is between “once saved, always saved” and “ability to lose salvation”, it would probably be important to look at the question of “What does it mean to be saved?” or “How does one become saved?”
I was very close to a Baptist preacher, who accepted Christ at a young age and when I asked him this question – about 2008-2009, he told me “Once saved, always saved.” He said it with such conviction and it was obvious that he believed that all the way through. He cited romans 10:9 and a couple others. There are entire denominations that have been created over this question. Predestination, I think also kind of fits into this category – but that in itself if another question that people have been wrestling with for years.
But let’s get back to the question– “What does it mean to be saved?”
I think “how we are saved” is pretty clear in most main-stream Christian schools of thought, so I’ll skip that for now. But what does someone look like, that is saved? I think one way to look at it as, “simply following some rules.” The scriptures provide some of these “lists” of do’s and don’ts. This is why it is critical for a believer to trust the scriptures as being “truth” and the “word of God” – especially the New Testament. Otherwise, I believe we set ourselves up to “pick and choose” what we want to. If the scripture is something that you don’t trust or believe – we would need to address that doubt. Let’s assume for now, the bible can be trusted.
This scripture is from the Beatitudes of Jesus. Matthew 5 – Blessed are the poor in spirit (humble), Blessed are they who mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…
Let’s stop there for a moment.
Even Jesus said, why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. In the Old Testament, we have – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”
I believe part of a true salvation is the invitation to have Jesus/Holy Spirit to live inside of us. Only then, can someone be righteous. Only then, can the works that someone does reflect God’s true glory, the works that God prepared beforehand, that we would walk in them. Not our own works, that we may boast. If God is in us and God is love, then I believe each of these descriptions would fit a person that was saved: Suffers long and is kind, does not envy, does not parade itself, not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its’ own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.
I know, I know - it’s a long list. But, here’s another – Do you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? - Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor arsenokotai (loosely translated homosexual – I don’t like that translation), nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor…. I know – another long list.
And one last one for now – But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience…
I believe if someone comes up to me and yell, “*$#% you, I am an #&#*@ing Christian”, that I would be given reason to pause and question the validity of that declaration. I would likely see those as empty words. Out of the mouth speaks the words of the heart – or more specifically: “For out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth speaks.”
You’re probably saying, yeah – I know all these and heard all these before, so what am I getting at?
“You will know them by their fruits… Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit… Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” The context here is specifically about prophets (false prophets), but I believe this carries over to Christians as a whole. I believe that when we give our lives over to Christ that there is more to it than just saying the words. – (called on the Lord bud didn’t have faith.) There are a lot of people in that camp. The easy way out for ME, is to just say – well, God knows their heart and will judge them at the last day. But I cannot… I will not.. take that easy way out. I am convicted and follow the conviction that in times where I see someone who does not bear good fruit - that I will call someone out on it, if led to – or will pray on it and wait for an answer if not led to in the moment. But, to tell someone they are not a Christian is not my responsibility. If someone doesn’t walk like a person saved, doesn’t talk like a person saved, and doesn’t pass the sniff test – then I might suggest that someone look at some specific actions or behaviors that don’t align up with what I believe the scripture says. This is only people who say they are Christians, but their fruit doesn’t match up with their declaration. I believe there are a lot of people who call themselves Christians, who actually are not Christians. That’s a bold statement. I can tell you with 100% certainty, that from the age of 12 until the age of 33, I told people that I was a Christian, but I was NOT a Christian. No doubt, NOT a Christian. I have a tendency to be able to spot that too, because of the lie that I committed – even though I didn’t know I wasn’t really a Christian. Yeah – I know, that got really confusion. Summary – I can spot it, cause I got it. I can usually see indications, pretty easily.
For non-Christians – I share the Gospel, might share my testimony depending on circumstances/situation, invite them to church I might even challenge them to discuss things like hope or what they actually do believe.
When I did become a Christian I smoked, I had sex outside of wedlock, I was addicted to porn, I cussed like a sailor, I drank like a fish, the list goes on and on – my best friend knows this – he knew me since we were teens, which was years before I was saved). When I bowed a knee, I wasn’t perfect, but I was saved. I told God, “Work in me, look inside of my heart, show me my iniquities and lead me into the way everlasting.” Ps 139:23-24. And I have continued to pray that prayer from time to time. It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t hard, because it has been excruciatingly difficult. I am very much, still a work in progress.
Back to fruits though. My heart, even as a Christian, has had to overcome some bad addictions and behaviors. The fruits that people would see in me, were not fruits of the spirit. And people over time have called me out on some of these things. I give those people props for caring enough about me, whether they were my friends or not. But even the RUDE street evangelist planted a seed in me on more than one occasion, to change my behavior. If I am not continuing to grow and look at myself for change for the better, then I am not listening to the convictions I keep having and I am not getting closer to Jesus and I am not working out my salvation with fear and trembling.
I’m afraid that there are people who think they are saved under the “once saved, always saved” doctrine and think they can just cruise into heaven at the last trumpet – I think they are fooling themselves. I shared part of my friend’s testimony, while we were in Utah – how he loved Christ, then went to Seminary with the intent to be an itinerant evangelist. He graduated with that degree, but during his studies, he decided that the bible was no longer inspired by God. He didn’t start hating the church, but doctrine like original sin evaporated from his beliefs. If there is no original sin, then there is no need for a savior and so he fell away from trusting in Jesus. I asked him if he ever had an “experience” with Jesus, when he gave his life to Him. He said that he never had a moment, it was just a want, because it seemed right. Today, he lives as a Pelagian, at best.
Do I believe that someone can fall away from trusting in Jesus? I believe Satan works really hard in this area to try to put doubt into our minds about that trust in Jesus. I also believe that a lot of people who call themselves Christians, are not. For that very reason, when I see something that someone says or does, I give careful thought to those actions or behaviors, review the scriptures and what it says and then form an opinion or make a decision about what I have just seen or heard. Once I have done that, if I am led by the Holy Spirit or after prayer determine that I need to say something to that person, I will tell them. Telling them in “truth and love” are the buzz-words as to how to tell them, but I recall Jesus telling the people in the temple (His father’s house) that they were a den of thieves in truth and love. Something got thrown over and stuff spilled – in truth and love as well. I’m thinking righteous anger at this point in John 2.
The word judgement gets a bad rap. In fact, look up merriam-webster’s definition of the word. Then go back to what I have underlined above. It sounds correct, doesn’t it – when we don’t apply the word judgement. In fact, Matthew 7:1 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”(NIV), “Judge not, that you be not judged”(NKJV) – or from the original Greek – translation (MH KRINETE INA MH KRIQHTE) No be-judging that no ye-may-be-judged. Many people that quote this just simply say the bible says, “Don’t judge” and stop there. For some, it just fits their theology or matches up against our society’s logic of – “tolerance” “non-judgement” etc. Really, it’s a shame that they stop there, because when you look at the audience, when you look at the context, when you look at the scripture that follows – it brings to life – what I believe to be one of the more pertinent truths to our walk as a Christian. Judgement is looking at the speck in your brother’s eye and calling it out. But many times, we don’t consider the PLANK/LOG in our own eye. You look at the sin in your brother’s eye, but you have sin in your own eye. HYPOCRITE!!! First remove the sin from your own eye… and then you will see clearly……………. THEN you will see clearly….. to call out/to remove the sin from your brother’s eye. Once you have the victory of Christ, who gives you freedom from a sin, you can then see clearly to remove it from your brother’s eye.
Iron sharpening Iron – man sharpening man.
When you sharpen iron, do you use a smooth cloth or do you use something abrasive and in the process, have the potential to break off pieces of that iron? Again, in truth and in love. I do think it’s interesting how Jesus says, I don’t come to bring peace, but the sword. Putting son against father, mother against daughter, etc. We’re talking about relationships that can be won or lost due to how we follow Jesus.
I think I lean more towards once saved, always saved – but that comes with careful thought before I formed that belief. Rather stated, I lean more towards once saved, always saved, but I ask some questions and place a judgement there. Are they actually saved? Is the fruit good or bad? Are they asking Jesus to mold them and shape them? Are they allowing God to put them into the crucible, so that He can continue to burn away the impurities – continuing to break themselves of pride – so that they are continuing to learn from Him who created us?
We can be convinced of a truth, but does that mean IT IS truth as God sees it? Do we apply the filters of our own logic and doctrine that we have worked out and apply that to everything that happens in our lives forever, or do we ever go back and say – why did I believe this in the first place? Was my logic correct in the first place? Did I investigate this or take something as a leap of faith? I think a lot of people do this. You can tell, when you ask them a question like, “If God is just, why would he allow people on the other side of the world to not know Him?” or better yet, “If someone never has the word of God brought to them, is it fair that God would send them to hell?” When you watch someone try to wrestle with a question like this, you can start to tell rather quickly – how or where they get their theology. From the pastor on-stage. From the latest book on God. Off the cover of Cosmo. OR, maybe someone actually has spent time in the word and can thoughtfully explain from scripture their beliefs. The point is, you can, in fact, tell how much time they have spent on some of these questions. The Bereans had it right, they would hear talk of doctrine and other teachings and then literally run back and forth to read the scriptures of the OT, that were laid out to see if what they heard was true. Most “Christians” don’t. If you don’t think this is true, ask someone why they think they are saved, asking them what the requirements are. If you get the canned answer, because I’m good – that’s a red flag.
I look at people in a few categories.
There is scripture that can be utilized to back both sides of the discussion around once saved, always saved. For me, I’m more concerned with the concept of – is the person saved and are they living that out the way Jesus called us all to live? If they aren’t saved in the first place, the whole question of once saved always saved, becomes a moot point.
The question between “once saved, always saved” or “you can fall out of salvation” is an important question. It’s especially important to those who are already saved. But I actually believe people hide behind or shield themselves with “once saved, always saved” because it helps to justify someone’s sin or something else entirely, which ultimately justifies their lack of fruit. What I believe is more important is, how are you doing with what Jesus commanded us to do? Not just loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength – and loving your neighbor – but also - making disciples of all nations and baptizing them in the trinity, to be His witnesses, picking up our daily cross, etc.
I mentioned this scripture before and this is the one that I think speaks resoundingly to me and that is, to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. Mind you, this is written by Paul – but I trust those words to be the inspired and infallible words of God, who spoke through Paul. I believe that Jesus lives in me and guides me in those paths of righteousness, for His namesake – not mine. As long as I continue to live for him and do what I believe He is calling me to do – not busy work or to get in my quota of hours in this week (words), but really – what He calls me to do and continue to grow in areas that He points out – then I am continuing to work out my salvation.
This is an approach to answering the question of “Once saved. Always saved.”