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 Steve 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 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 wills 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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Weighing the Grail Message: Fate and Karma

In this piece, Grail teachings about karma will be examined in the light of the Bible, history and logic. Since fate and karma were bracketed together, it would be necessary to first define both words:

Karma: The belief that good and bad experiences in this life are the sum result of deeds done in both the current and previous lives. The word “karma” is a Sanskrit word that primarily means “action” (Ancient History Encyclopedia).

Fate: The view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. Hence, fatalism can refer to an attitude of resignation in the face of some future events which are thought to be inevitable (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

My quotes are taken from Vol. 2, chapter 2 of In the Light of Truth: The Grail Message by Oskar Ernst Bernhardt.

A Law which lies in the entire Creation from its earliest beginning, which has been inseparably interwoven with the great, never-ceasing evolution as an essential part of creating itself, and of development … it supports and animates the mighty Universe, and promotes continual movement, an eternal giving and taking!

On the one hand, Oskar asserts that the law of karma is “eternal” (i.e. has no beginning) yet on the other, he says it has being from creation’s “earliest beginning.” According to Ancient History Encyclopedia, the idea of karma first appears in the oldest Hindu text the Rigveda (c. 1500 BC).

Centuries later, some Hindu scholars attached a deal of meaning to it in the Upanishads text (c. 800-300 BC). They devised the concept of karma to resolve the conflict between the righteousness of God and the suffering and evil in the world, and justify their belief in transmigration or reincarnation. They envisaged life on earth as a “balance sheet” where unforeseen calamities and rewards can be blamed on demerits and merits of past lives respectively.

But here is its fatal flaw: we are created by God; we neither have a past life nor are we coming back to this world after death. This is a hard brick of reality: “It is appointed to man to die once” (Heb. 9:27). There’s no “eternal giving and taking.”

The so-called law of karma neither alleviates evil nor fosters development. One only needs to measure the collective progress of nations that have held to this belief for centuries to confirm this.

Plainly and simply, and yet so aptly, the Great Bringer of Truth Jesus Christ has already expressed it: “What a man sows that shall he reap.”

Here, Abdrushin appeals to the Bible, but this is a fallacious appeal. This needs to be properly distinguished because even Christians can unknowingly conflate karma with the biblical concept of sowing and reaping.

Here is the full context of the Bible verse:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7-9).

a) There is a difference in meaning. Karma is from the Sanskrit word meaning “deeds, works or actions.” This term has evolved in its meaning; 100 years ago, it was understood to simply mean “making.” It teaches that the quality of a person’s successive lifetime is dependent on his accrued karma, whether good or bad.

On the other hand, to “sow” (Strong #2232) means to “bear, conceive seed, set with or yield” and to “reap” (Strong #7114b) simply means “to harvest.” Sowing and reaping is a law that shows that our choices can affect our lives on earth and eternal destination.

b) Karma originated from Hinduism – a false religion that has no connection to the God of the Bible. In most Asian religions, karma is used to rationalize the concept of death and rebirth. It’s based on the illusion that whatever we experience on earth is based on what we did in our previous lives, so we have to keep returning to earth to work it off until man is released from the endless cycle of reincarnation.

In the Bible, however, sowing and reaping is never predicated on the myth of reincarnation or transmigration. When a person lives by his sinful nature he will reap the harvest of destruction and when lives by the Spirit of God, he will gain eternal life.

A promiscuous lifestyle may lead to sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and emotional distress. A lazy, carefree and wasteful living can result in poverty, failure and debt. This is not “karma”; it’s the result of sinful and wrong actions.

c) Karma obfuscates or denies the reality of sin; hence its definition of good and bad is skewed. For example, the Grail message encourages sexual gratification as a path to increased (occult) power.

But the Bible shows that it’s folly to talk about reaping eternal life when one sows to the flesh (Rom. 1:29-32; 1 Cor. 5:9-11). Christians are commanded to yield to the Holy Spirit and exhibit His fruit (love, joy, kindness etc.). It is the Spirit of God who empowers Christians from within to walk in victory over sin.

d) In karma, there is no mercy or forgiveness; each person must suffer the consequences of all his thoughts, words and deeds. His/her current life is the result of what weighed most heavily from his/her karmic past.

But in biblical sowing and reaping, there is forgiveness, mercy and restoration. This is rooted in the love of God. He causes the sun to shine on both good and evil people (Matt. 5:45). Regardless of what we have done, when we accept Christ – who has paid the penalty of sin – into our lives, He cleanses our sins and He gives us a new life (2 Cor. 5:17).

Thus in the mighty machinery of the Universe there are many things which contribute to how man “fares” but there is nothing to which man has not himself first given first cause. He furnishes the threads out of which in the untiring loom of life the cloak he has to wear is made.

In the blind machinery of karma, whatever thing has happened to you is what you deserve. So, if a building collapses and kills many people, it was their karma. If an entire family is gruesomely assassinated, that’s their karma. If an entire population is infected with Meningitis, it’s their karma.

This line of reasoning ignores the fact that accidents do happen and they can be random. It omits the simple fact that the innocent do suffer. Because we live in a fallen world impacted by sin, good and bad happens to all of us, whether we are believers or non-believers.

While some calamities are man-made and from the devil, in this world, some events happen for which their causes are not readily evident. A generous man can be deserted by those he helped while a wicked man can have many helpers.

A chaste woman may not conceive whereas one that had aborted several times before readily conceives. The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong. Why? “Time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

A building collapse can be due to faulty construction. An entire family can be victim of wrongful murder target. An entire population may lack the necessary vaccines to prevent an infection. They didn’t give a first cause to their tragedy.

Why does Abdrushin’s universe/god enjoy punishing people for what was never their fault? Why does it fashion an evil cloak for people and blame them for furnishing its threads?

What do you call a man who maims his servants and then scourges them for not being good acrobats? I wouldn’t treat even my dog in such a cruel, despicable manner. But in the Grail message, we see a “pulsating universe” that lacks the sense of a good dog keeper.

Many are alarmed at this and afraid of what they still have to expect from the past through the reaction in accordance with these Laws. But such are unnecessary worries for those who are in earnest about the good volition; for in the self-acting laws also lies at the same time the certain guarantee of mercy and forgiveness.

I think the first question one should be asking is who is the author of these laws? Those laws didn’t create themselves. Every law necessitates a lawgiver and in the case of such an unjust, illogical and unbiblical law as karma, we can easily conclude that it was made up by some people with a very warped perception of reality, justice and ethics.

Mercy and forgiveness don’t exist in a vacuum either. They exist in conjunction with other qualities. One also needs to ask how karma and fate – which confer a fixed script on humanity – guarantee mercy and forgiveness, and on what basis are they offered or received.

You see, karma is a doctrine of self-salvation. It says that by doing acts of good will, charity and offering meritorious service to mankind you can store up goodness for yourself and “atone” for your bad karma. But the truth is: no amount of our good works can purchase God’s forgiveness and mercy.

“Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in [God’s] sight” (Rom. 3:20). When man’s good works and the penalty of sin are placed side by side, man’s eternal doomed is guaranteed. No man can “work off” the debt of sin and God’s justice necessitates that sin be judged. But God in His love has offered His forgiveness through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

God’s love, mercy and justice work together. Man has a choice in his eternal destination: to either accept or reject His offer of forgiveness. That is the ultimate meaning of sowing and reaping.

Through the continuing good volition in every thought and deed, a constant reinforcement also flows retroactively from the homogeneous source of power, so that the good become more firmly established in man himself, emerges from him, and first of all forms accordingly the ethereal surrounding that envelopes him like a protective covering … Now when evil reactions from the past return to this man to be redeemed, they slide off the purity of his surrounding or covering, and are thus deflected from him.

Here the reader is confronted with a whole aggregation of metaphysical concepts. Few paragraphs earlier, Abdrushin wrote that when his disciples put a thought, word or deed into the world, “it has within it power, and therefore life, which continues to develop and work in the desired direction. How it will affect the person for whom it is intended depends entirely on the psychic condition of the one concerned to whom it may thereby bring either much or little harm…”

The occult indoctrination has crawled out completely. These are the concepts that underpin witchcraft rites of raising and directing demonic powers towards someone else. Note that Wiccans also adhere to a karmic 3-fold law when casting their spells.

Initially, they wax philosophical, talking about karma and fate, but once you go a bit deeper, they start to introduce you to powers, vibrations and “ethereal surroundings” and the karmic law that supposedly underlie them. Of course, don’t expect them to disclose the real source of that power or use the ugly “o” word: occult.

He later writes that “the actual inner man to whom the returning radiations [of past bad karma] are adjusted has also become much more refined and lighter through the continuous striving for the good volition.”

Every false religion/cult that adheres to karma, believes that when bad karma are completely paid off after centuries of rebirths, the soul is finally released and no longer reincarnates. There’s no agreement on this.

Some teach that the soul ultimately gains unity with Brahman; some teach that it attains nirvana; some say it spiritually evolves to become an “ascended master” or spirit guide. That inevitably leads to contacting the spirit realm, which I will discuss later in this series.

In conclusion, karma and fate are based on myths and fantasies which condition those who believe in them to have a grossly distorted perception of reality. Karma is a work-based system that leads people to reject the truth of the Bible, the perfect, saving work of Christ on the cross as well as the reality of sin, heaven and hell.

While Christianity has the testimony of Jesus Christ who died, rose on the third day and is alive forevermore, the Grail message fails to present us a single evidence of a person whose karmic burden was lighter or has reincarnated – not even Abdrushin himself! Yet the “cross bearers” have blind faith in his writings.