Once Saved, Forever Saved: A Response

The following was my response to a friend on this blog’s Facebook page. It’s about a controversial doctrine that has raged for decades and divided Christians into two major schools of thought: Once-saved-forever-saved (OSAS).

I believe there are sincere Christians on both sides, but the negative consequences of one side (i.e those who teach that salvation can never be lost) is greater than the other side (those who believe salvation can be lost) hence my stance on this has to be clear.

Hi there, is once saved always saved doctrine is right; that repentance is acknowledging God and turning from idols only and repentance not likewise to sins? I listened to this video on repentance by Steven Anderson [an Independent Baptist, KJV-only preacher] during which these questions arose in me. I can’t believe his preaching via his own interpretation but to some point he just seems to [be convincing].

Let me first address the issue of repentance. There are 8 original words for “repent” in Scripture:

Hebrew

1. Nacham – to sigh, breathe strongly, to be sorry (Gen. 6:6; Ex. 13:17; Job 42:6; Jonah 3:10)

2. Shuwb – to turn back (1 Kings. 8:47; Ezk. 14:6)

3. Nocham – regret (Hos. 13:14)

4. Nichum – compassion (Hos. 11:8)

Greek

5. Metanoeo – to change the mind for the better morally, to change the attitude toward sin.

6. Metamellomai – to regret consequences of sin, not the cause (Mt. 27:3; 2 Cor. 7:8)

7. Metanoia – a real change of mind and attitude toward sin and its cause, not merely the consequences of it (Mt. 3:8, 11; Lk. 24:47)

8. Ametameletos – irrevocable (Rom. 11:29; 2 Cor. 7:10)

The surrounding context of the text will show you if the Bible teacher’s definition is right or wrong.

For instance, in Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist charged the Pharisees and Sadducees to produce the fruit of repentance. It obviously means turning away from their sins; they weren’t idolaters.

Regarding the Once-Saved-Forever-Saved teaching which has stirred much debates among Believers, I will address it rather succinctly:

1. Salvation is conditional. It didn’t just fall on us like cherries. We had to repent and believe the Gospel in order to be saved at some point. For us to be saved, we had to meet its conditions (John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-10). Therefore, a person can reject salvation or lose it.

2. Eternal life is a gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

This gift was freely offered to us by God’s mercy and we received it solely by faith, therefore, it can also be rejected and the gift can be revoked if a person is no more in Christ Jesus.

3. God gave us free will – the ability to choose, love, serve, seek and come to Him. Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

He also said “These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:40).

In the Old Testament, God also said to His people “Come now and let us reason together…” (Isa. 1:18). Conversely, just as men can come to the Lord, they can also forsake Him. We do not lose our free will when we become saved.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve” (Jn. 6:66-67).

In the OT, we are told of one “whose heart turns away from the LORD” (Jer. 17:5) and people who forsook the Lord: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me” (Isa. 1:2)

The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him” (Ezra 8:2)

Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water” (Jer. 17: 13b)

They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor…” (2 Pet. 2:15)

The OT alone furnishes us with examples like David who was renewed again after he committed sin (Ps. 51:1-14).

Solomon was once in the Lord as well and experienced His presence, but “his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God” (1 Kgs. 11:4).

Saul is another example of a man who started in the Lord but deviated from His way and eventually died under judgement. God also taught Israel time and again that He would restore them again if they would meet conditions:

Only acknowledge your guilt—you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’ declares the LORD. “Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding” (Jer. 3:13-15)

Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD, let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains… (Hos. 6:1-3).

If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,” declares the LORD. If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him they will boast” (Jer. 4:1-2).

5. In the New Testament, we are taught that we have an advocate with the Father (1 Jn. 2:1-2). This Advocate is not only to procure our sins, but also to restore backsliders to God.

Peter was once converted, confessing Jesus as the Son of God and the Christ, which brings the new birth (1 Jn. 5:1; Mt. 16:16). He even had power to preach and heal and had the Spirit in him (Mt. 10:1-20). Jesus predicted his backsliding and re-conversion (Lk. 22:31-34), proving that a converted man can fall away and still be restored as Peter was (Matt. 36:69-75).

Paul taught that God is able to graft men in again (Rom. 11:18-24) and also that even those who have overthrown the faith of others, can come to repentance again (2 Tim. 2:17-26). There are conditions attached to our being in God’s household:

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (Hebrews 3:6).

“We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end” (Heb. 3;14).

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:2)

Paul also taught that backsliders can be reborn again (Gal. 4:19) as wells as those who had fallen from grace (see Gal. 3:1-5; 5:4). He also commanded us to examine ourselves and restore those who have gone astray:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor. 13:5).

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

If it’s impossible for a Christian to wander away from the Lord, these warnings would have been meaningless and irrelevant.

6. In Luke 15, Jesus taught us that a sheep, coin, or boy could be lost and found again. It would be illogical to argue they could be lost and found but once, or that once being found they could never be lost again.

It would be still more unreasonable to argue that if any one of them was lost and never found again that it was never found.

Again, in Luke 17, as Jesus was speaking of the events of the last days, He warned: “Remember Lot’s wife!” (v. 32). We all know what happened to her. She was rescued from Sodom and Gomorrah but she looked back and became a pillar of salt. She left the city of sin but turned back.

The same can happen to a believer (Demas is another example). Otherwise, the Lord wouldn’t have cautioned us to remember Lot’s wife.

7. In the NT, the Greek word kataleipo is used for those who forsake, abandon, give up or leave the faith or places they had been in (e.g Heb. 11:27, Mt. 4:13, Acts 2:31; Mt. 16:4, 19:5 etc).

The Christian faith is also called the right or straight way (Acts 8:21; 9:11; 13:10). Like I said earlier, one cannot be said to forsake or abandon the straight way if one had not been in it before.

The Greek word planao is used several times to mean “to stray from; wander or go astray” in connection with the Christian faith e.g 2 Peter 2:15; 1 Pet. 2:25; Heb. 5:2; 11:38, 1 John 2:26, Revelation 2:20). A person can escape from the pollution of the world and still be entangled in it again (2 Pet. 2:20).

7. The Bible indicates that people’s names can be blotted out of the book of Life. It means they were previously written in it but were removed when they turned away from the Lord (Rev. 3:5 cf. Exo. 32:33; Isa. 48:19).

In the light of Jesus’ teaching that one can be cut from His branch if one is no longer bearing godly fruit (John 15:2), suffice it to say that a person can start out in the Lord and eventually miss heaven.

Let me add that I believe in the divine preservation of the Believer (i.e. God preserving the Believer in the faith) but that is not the complete picture. God will not preserve us against our wills. We must choose to remain steadfast in the Lord.

From my observations, I would conclude that the OSAS doctrine compels those who adhere to it to approach the Bible in a certain inconsistent, slipshod and incoherent way that does violence to sound biblical interpretation. It also tends to promote a lax living towards sin.

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