(Once Saved, Always Saved)
In a previous installment, CAN A CHILD OF GOD BE LOST? No. 1, attention was given to passages which teach that one may sin, not repent, and die eternally lost. This second discussion will look at verses some believe to teach the opposite, saying, that all who are truly saved will sin, and that such persons will always repent. They further assert that anyone who dies lost was never truly saved in the first place.
The first matter one who has studied the word of God, rightly dividing it (2 Timothy 2:15) should resolve is whether or not the scriptures are the plenary (full, complete), inerrant (without error), verbal (word for word), inspired (God-breathed) word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; Jude 3; 2 Peter 1:3; Titus 1:2). All who have so concluded surely realize that God does not contradict Himself. Cf. Matthew 12:25, 26. Many have failed miserably in their individual and collective attempts to discredit the Bible by showing contradictions. Many have said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and allow other to believe that you are ignorant, rather than to speak up and remove all doubt.” Many have removed all doubt about their Biblical (mis)understandings.
Attention is now given to scriptures some have found difficult to explain if saved ones can be lost eternally. The following brief comments on some verses are prayerfully presented for consideration. First, Psalms 37:23, 24, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” Cf. also. 34:19. Both statements are true. Further, Jesus said, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20). Hebrews 13:5, 6 say he “will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” but will be “my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” The Lord is faithful to uphold His part, but when the righteous fails to do his part, he will die in his sins. (Ezekiel 18:24). Judas Iscariot walked with Jesus some three years daily, but he died lost. (Matthew 10:4; Acts 1:25). God will not save good people who forsake His way and die evil.
Second, read Psalm 89, especially verses 27-37. Some believe these verses teach that God promised not to allow David to fall, nor leave him. Read the entire Psalm carefully. God would make a covenant with David to establish him on the throne in Judah and Israel, which He did, anointing David as the second king over the united kingdom, which kingdom lasted forty years. (2 Samuel 2:4; 5:3; 1 Kings 2:11). David’s kingdom is pictured in Psalm 89 as culminating in the kingdom or church of the New Testament. (Daniel 2:44; Acts 2). Psalm 89 has nothing to do with one’s security, but with God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promise to David.
Third, Jeremiah 32:40, “I will not turn away from them…I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” The context shows that God would deliver them from captivity, and ready them for the new covenant He promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34. In spite of all of this, the majority of the Jews did depart, especially from the time the new testament was given, and they continue to reject it. Cf. John 6:66; 19:6, 12, 15; the book of Acts.
Fourth, John 3:16 may have been used by more people than any other scripture to prove the impossibility of apostasy. However, “should not perish” is far from “will not or cannot perish.” Did those of 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, leave God and die in the wilderness? Though provided a way to escape, did they take it? Can believers through unbelief come short of entering into God’s rest? (Hebrews 3:19; 4:1-16). Read Romans 11:20; John 15:1-6. Were the attached branches a part of the vine? Were some attached branches cut off? Could one be cut off for not continuing in God’s goodness? Where will those who were never believers or those who believed but left the faith be eternally? (Revelation 21:8).
Fifth, John 4:14 is sometimes used in an attempt to prove that one who drinks of the water Jesus gives will never thirst, and will have everlasting life. Will one who takes one drink never thirst again, never dehydrate? Or must one drink throughout life to live? 1 John 1:7, “If we walk in the light” does not mean a one-time walk, but a continual walking. 1 Corinthians 15:58 points to a lifetime of stedfastness, working for the Lord, or finishing the course to receive the crown of righteousness. (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Judas, a disciple, drank of the fruit of the vine (Matthew 26:20, 27), but he by transgression, sin (1 John 3:4) fell, and went to his own place, not heaven. (Acts 1:25).
Sixth, John 5:24, some say, means that a hearer and believer “hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Does the same logic apply to John 3:36? Is an unbeliever condemned to eternal hell, or may the unbeliever become a believer and go to heaven? Sinners become believers by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). This faith leads one to repent of sin (2 Peter 3:9), confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Romans 10:9, 10; Acts 8:37), and be buried in water baptism for the remission of sins and to enter the body/church. (Romans 6:1-5; Acts 8:36-39; 2:38; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22, 23). Just as unbelievers may become believers, so may believers become unbelievers and die lost. The “brethren” at Thessalonica were warned that there would be a falling away, and that many would be deceived, believing a lie and be damned. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). True or False?
Seventh, John 10:27-29 is one of the most famous statements used to support security of the saints beliefs. Some quote the scripture (1) “My sheep hear my voice”; (2) “I know them, and they follow me”; (3) “And I give unto them eternal life”; (4) “and they shall never perish”; (5) “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand”; (6) “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” This argument seems to settle the matter. However, it may be the easiest of all to understand. Was Judas Iscariot a sheep of Jesus? Did he hear the voice of Jesus? Did he follow Jesus, preaching the kingdom and healing the infirmed? Was Judas a recipient of eternal life as a sheep? DID JUDAS ISCARIOT FALL AND GO TO HIS OWN REWARD? The same question could be asked of others, such as, those of John 6:66; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; 2 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 4; etc. Can one leave the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, fall away, and not be renewable again unto repentance? (Hebrews 6:1-6). Neither God nor Jesus will leave you, but you can remove yourself from their love (Revelation 2:4) and grace (Galatians 5:4), failing of or falling from them. (Hebrews 12:15). Others cannot take you out of the hands of God and Jesus, but you can. What happened to Judah and Jerusalem when they sinned? (Isaiah 59:1, 2).
Eighth, Acts 13:48, “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Jesus “became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. (Hebrews 5:8, 9). Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16). Jesus said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give the a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10). Thus, Jesus has promised to save all who obey Him, and remain faithful unto death. Why say this if one could not cease to do so?
Ninth, Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,….” is another verse used to advocate once saved, always saved. The key to understanding this verse is the clause, “who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” No one is condemned who denies ungodliness and worldly lusts, and lives soberly, righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11-14), who put off the old man, and put on the new man. (Ephesians 4:22-32). There is, however, condemnation to “servants” who fail to fulfill their duties. (Matthew 25:14-30).
Tenth, Romans 8:28, is used to say that Christians cannot go to hell because that would not be good. This promise is made to those who do good, which Jesus defines as those who love Him and keep His commandments. (John 14:15; 15:14). Cornelius did much good, but he had to obey the truth to be saved. (Act 10:1, 2, 6; 11:14). This good moral man was as good as any Christian, but he was lost, and in need of salvation, which he received when he obeyed. (Acts 10:47, 48; 11:16-18).
Eleventh, Romans 8:38, 39, Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” God’s love for man has been declared in the death of Jesus (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 2 Peter 3:9). Jesus showed supreme love by sacrificially dying on the cross. (John 15:13; Romans 5:6-8). We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Luke 10:27). The Ephesians did, left their first love, and were told to repent, returning to their first love, or the church would be removed. (Revelation 2:4, 5). The seven churches of Asia ceased to exist when they separated themselves from God’s love and refused to repent.
Twelfth, 1 Corinthians 3:14, 15 are used by a few to teach that a child of God will be saved whatever he does or whatever happens to his labors. Contextually, Paul is discussing some in the building, the church, or the temple. He shows that some are strong like gold, silver, and precious stones, while others are weak like wood, hay, and stubble, some spiritual and some weak. The strong would overcome temptations, like those of Luke 8:15; 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, while the weak, like those of Luke 8:13, 14, would not. The faithful, enduring laborers who continue unto the end will go to heaven. Those who quit, became unfaithful will not be saved. The dedicated worker will be saved whether his converts are saved or not. Paul disciplined himself to be able to win. (1 Corinthians 9:27). The elders at Ephesus were warned that some of their own would arise “to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20: 30). The Hebrew writer described some who would draw back unto perdition. (Hebrews 10:38, 39). Perdition is from the Greek word, APOLEM, akin to APOLLUMI, meaning loss of well-being, shrinking back into unbelief, destruction, perishing. (W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. III, pp. 302, 303).
Thirteenth, 1 Corinthians 10:13, is thought to teach that one cannot fall away, since God provides a way of escape. This verse shows that one can fall. It further teaches that God provides a way of escape, but it does not say that God forces us to take the escape route. God provided the way for alien sinners to be saved, but He does not force them to take it. (Romans 10:16). See comments under Sixth, John 5:24. Likewise, Christians are given all things that pertain unto life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), being told how to live and how not to live (Galatians 5:19-26; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; and more). We have a means of escaping sin when we come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23; Hebrews 4:1), that is, repentance, confession and prayer (Acts 8:22; James 5:16), but that is no guarantee that all will avail themselves of the way of escape. God has given us a neck, allowing us to turn our heads from sin, but he does not twist our heads.
Fourteenth, Ephesians 4:30 speaks of “the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Cf. also 2 Corinthians 1:22. A casual reading of the book of Ephesians shows that there are things that we are to do/not to do. One cannot be commanded to do/not do things over which one has no control. Therefore, any command telling us what/what not to do implies that we may choose a different course. This being the case/fact, lets us know that we are sealed to the extent that we do/not do what God wants. Marriages are sealed; however, fornication breaks the seal and allows the innocent party to remarry. (Matthew 19:1-9). So does death. (Romans 7:1-4). Fruits and vegetables are canned and sealed, but the seal is broken when we choose to eat.
Fifteenth, 2 Timothy 1:12. God is able to keep me. True. God is able to do all things, even saving alien sinners, but He only saves the obedient. Hebrews 5:8, 9; Matthew 11:28-30). Likewise, God saves His people when they obey Him, endure to the end. (Mark 13:13; Revelation 2:10).
Sixteenth, Hebrews 2:9. Some say the death of Christ for every man would be in vain if a saint of God dies lost. What proves too much proves nothing. Was His blood shed in vain because most will be lost? Cf. Matthew 7:13, 14. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1, 2). Was the innocent blood of Jesus shed in vain because one out of four soils was good (Luke 8:4-15), one out of ten returned to give thanks (Luke 17:11-19), eight out of an entire population were righteous (Genesis 6-8; 1 Peter 3:20, 21), etc. No! God and Jesus did their part. (Ephesians 2:8, 9). It is now up to man to do his part. (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:12). One cannot become a Christian and sit down and do nothing, expecting to be saved by the blood of Christ.
Seventeenth, Hebrews 6:19, some teach that Christians have an anchor that is sure and steadfast, disallowing them to drift away from God. Many ships have cut anchor. Paul declared that some might be “moved away from the hope of the gospel. “ (Colossians 1:23). He also said about himself, “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 9:27). If one apostle, Judas Iscariot, fell by sinning (Acts 1:25; Matthew 27:4), and one apostle, Paul, said he could (1 Corinthians 9:27), who is anyone to say that one today cannot do so?
Eighteenth, 1 Peter 1:5 is frequently used to say that the elect of God are kept by the power of God unto salvation, and that being lost eternally would deny God’s power. Really? Peter affirmed that God keeps us “through faith” on our part. God’s power to save is ever there. However, read Hebrews 11, and notice that those saved by faith were saved WHEN they did what God asked of them, not before and by faith only. (James 2:14-26).
Nineteenth, 1 John 1:7, “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” Some boldly declare that the blood of Jesus did not save from all iniquity if any saved one dies lost. John’s statement was conditional, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” What if we never walk in the light, or when we do, cease to do so? The Israelites were God’s people. However, when they ceased to obey Him, He sent oppressors. Many died in sin. When they repented, God sent judges. This was done again and again. (Book of Judges). What happened to those people who died in rebellion before the others repented?
Twentieth, 1 John 5:18, “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but…keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” Some say a child of God cannot sin, period. Other say one may sin, but the truly saved will always repent before death, and that those who die lost were never really saved. Can a saved one sin? Simon the sorcerer believed and was baptized, which Jesus said saves one. (Acts 8:13; Mark 16:16). He sinned after being saved, and he repented. (Acts 8:22-24). However, Judas Iscariot, a disciple, sinned, and did not genuinely repent (2 Corinthians 7:8-11). He died a condemned sinner, and went to his own place. (Matthew 27:3-5; Acts 1:25). Judas Iscariot was not a condemned sinner when he went out preaching the kingdom of God and healing people. However, he later left his first love, and died without Jesus.
Twenty-first, Revelation 13:8 and 21:27. John wrote of some whose names were “written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Some think that all names in that book are there forever. However, the same writer later said, “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:19). The seven churches (candlesticks) of Asia were told to repent, or God would remove them. Would He? Did He? Where are they?
Twenty-second, thoughts on KEEPING. A number of passages on God keeping us are herein set forth as one. Jesus prayed for God to keep those whom He had given Him from evil. (John 17:9, 15). Paul wrote, “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). He also said, “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” ( 2 Timothy 1:14). Jude 24 declared, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” John penned these words, “I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation.” (Revelation 3:10). These verses are used to teach that Christians are immune to sin and temptations that would cause them to be lost. God is able to keep the entire world from being lost (Universalism). However, He sanctifies (sets apart) those who obey His truth. (John 17:17). Those set apart are kept by the power of God through faith. ( 1 Peter 1:5). The faith (Jude 3), gospel (Romans 1:16) is the power God uses to save souls, alien sinners and obedient Christians. We must become Christians to be on the strait and narrow road. We must also be faithful and steadfast and unmoveable to remain on that road as we journey toward heaven. We should take care not to turn again to the weak and beggarly elements of the world, or we will be lost. (Galatians 4:9).
Dear reader and serious student of the sacred scriptures, You have used your valuable time to think on these things, to read, study, and rightly divide them. You may be assured that each thought was prayerfully sought to insure a truthful presentation of God’s word, not man’s. (Jeremiah 10:23). Every caution has been taken to assure that each and every verse was correctly copied, using the KJV. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). This has been our only concern. Whether or not the commentators, elite scholars of our day, or any other is of no concern. It is likely that you may have become upset upon reading some things said herein. Please be assured that this was not the purpose of this small dissertation. The only thing that matters is whether or not it is the truth, will it lead to the unity of the faith for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20-23), and for which the Holy Spirit moved Paul to plead. (1 Corinthians 1:10). Every intent has been to accurately state how others have taught these verses, and to discuss them in light of God’s word, realizing that there must be harmony therein for it to be right. If errors, contradictions, or any other corrections you find herein, please return the love found herein by sending them to the address on this work. Cf. Isaiah 1:18. One cannot travel the wrong road, and get to the right place. The idea in the old song, “You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road; and we’ll all get to heaven at the same time”, is nowhere to be found in the scriptures.