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Once Saved Always Saved? “BOLOGNA!”, I say:

17 Sep

{This article is a bit lengthy, but I hope not without benefit to the reader.}

There is one question that has been asked by 99.9999999% of professing Christians at some point in their life – “How do I know I’m saved?”. And there are multiple ways we have attempted to answer this question in a biblically comforting way. 

ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAVED

There was a phrase that has been coined in attempts to summarize, in a witty manner, the belief of the security of one’s salvation: “Once saved, always saved!” This was the quip of the group of thought that believe that once you asked Jesus into your heart (provided that you really meant it) then there was nothing you could do to undo that salvation. This philosophy inspired this little poem: “free from the law, o blessed condition, I can sin all I want and still have remission.”

See, once people believed the idea of once saved always saved then they didn’t have to worry. All they had to do was make sure they signed that dotted line for their fire insurance and then they were good to go. This was told to give people assurance of their salvation, and thus conflating “assurance” with “security”. While both are important, there is a huge danger in getting the two confused. They are closely related, yet distinctly different. Have you ever been certain you placed your keys (or any object) in a particular place only to search seemingly for ever and find out you were wrong? Just because someone is “sure” of a thing doesn’t make that thing true. One can have “assurance” of their salvation and not really be a child of God at all. One can have assurance without really being secure.

“On that day many will say to Me [Jesus], ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’” Matthew 7:22-23

 

We want security. We want to know we’re locked into a good deal; and this doctrine (however harmful) appeals to our need to feel secure when eternity is on the line. It’s perfect as it requires minimal effort from us, but promises eternal dividends.

 

SIN SEVERS

Then there are some who would swing in the opposite direction and say that committing certain sins will cost you your salvation. Now, you can get “re-saved”, but until you do you’re not safe… it’s kind’a like letting your insurance lapse. This view isn’t completely without merit as it is honestly trying to deal with texts, like Hebrews 6 and others, that talk about falling away. But it’s flawed, and I’ll tell you why I believe so in a bit.

 

THE TRUE PERSEVERE

Here, the pendulum swings to the other end again. Like the once saved always saved, it believes that if you have it you can’t lose it. Although this one is different in that it holds that if you ever do “fall away”, or live like the devil, then you never really had it to begin with. In summary, the truly saved will persevere until the end. Like the “you sin you’re severed” view, this view is trying to incorporate the passages that say those who endure to the end will be saved, and nothing can separate us from God’s love – so it too has it’s merits.

 

SALVATION IS NOT A THING YOU HAVE

I believe all three of these views fundamentally fail (and yes, I have been a resident in each camp at some point in my life). These views treat salvation as an object that is bestowed on you at some point – whether after a prayer, some public act of conversion/confession, a quiet belief in the heart, etc. At that point God gives you this salvation that you can’t lose, or He will take back if you tick Him off by sinning (depending on your flavor of security). Salvation is a Person not a thing. Jesus is life, but these three views treat life as merely something given by Jesus.

Romans11The way I see Jesus talking about salvation (and I would imagine what Jesus has to say about the issue is vital) and what I see the other New Testament writers speaking of salvation is that is is something that is only in Jesus. I am joined to Jesus by faith in Him (a faith that is had not without the work of The Holy Spirit). As long as I am joined to the Vine of Life then I have that very Vine’s Life in me, but if I cease to believe (which is not the same as committing a sin and losing a thing) then I am no longer joined to The Vine. I have fallen away. Now during my time of faith I really was joined to Jesus, I really was part of the New Covenant people of God; but if I reject that once held faith then I am cut off from Life. Read Romans 11:13-24 to find this illustration in Scripture.

 

HOW DOES THIS GIVE ME ASSURANCE OR SECURITY?

First.. let’s look at the three views mentioned earlier.

1. “Once saved always saved” attempts to give assurance, but can’t give any real security so it conflates the two. It’s goal is just to keep you from answering your question. The end result of this view is that when one doubts their salvation he/she either prays the prayer again to make sure they got it, or they write the date in their Bible (or some other symbolic action to the same affect) and run to the “stake in the ground” every time the doubt/fear comes. This effectively takes their eyes off Jesus and places it on an action they’ve done in order to get God to save them. I know of one man who was doubting and vocally told God that God had to save him because he asked Him to.

 

2. Sin Severs – This view fails miserably as it puts salvation as contingent upon the “haver” of it continually needing to offer the sacrifice of a good life to not tick off the Gift Giver thus effectively making the holder of it the “earner” of it and denying grace (the foundation of the Gospel). This gives absolutely no security or assurance, and if one in this camp ever does feel secure or assured then there is one thing we can be assured of – he/she is resting in him/herself.

 

3. The True Persevere – this while at first, seems to give assurance, doesn’t provide that in the least. For the only way to know one is saved is for one to reach the end. Here is how a conversation may go with one who holds this view:

Questioner:“What about those who deny their once held faith?”

Perseverance: “They were never truly saved.”

Q: “But I thought they believed.”

P: “It was false faith, even fooling their own selves.”

Q: “But how do you know you will believe?”

P: “Because I’m elect.”

Q: “How do you know you’re elect?”

P: “Because I believe and one can’t believe unless he/she is elect.”

Q: “But I thought that apostate over there believed at one time.”

P: “It wasn’t real faith because it didn’t last.”

Q: “But if he had fake faith that he thought was real, how do you know you’re not deceiving yourself too? How do you know you’ll believe in the future?”

 

And the cycle continues.

This view really provides no real assurance or security. It fails in the assurance part as there is no telling as we can’t predict the future, and the security is grounded in one’s election which can only be for certain by being proven by a faith that doesn’t fail by the end.

And the fourth view…

4. “In Christ” view – the assurance this view gives is NEVER apart from Jesus. To the question, “Am I saved?” it doesn’t respond with “did you pray and mean it?”, or “have you sinned lately?”, or “Be sure you’re elect and hang on!” It is the simple question of “Are you believing Jesus?” (Belief summarized: Are you following Him? This is not to say one is doing so perfectly, but do you believe He is Truth and His teachings are true and striving to follow Him? AKA. Faith without works is dead.) How does this give me assurance that I won’t fall away in the future? It doesn’t, but Scripture doesn’t seem to try to give that. What it does give us is the assurance that as long as we are believing in Jesus we are joined to Him. Future assurance isn’t important. For example: Bart Ehrman. At one point in his life, he had a fiery faith.  He was pursuing his theological education and fervently proclaimed the gospel on visitation and attempted to get others to believe in Jesus. He now vehemently denies his once held faith and tries to convince others to deny Jesus as well. Do you think Bart is concerned of his assurance of salvation? Absolutely not! He could care less as he denies the gospel altogether. Why do you need assurance of the future? What matters is now. Are you believing in Jesus now?

20130908_112754As for security, it is firmly rooted in Jesus also. As long as I am joined to Him then I am secure. I have His life flowing through me. I said earlier that assurance and security are different but closely related and this is how. When we understand our security in (not outside of) Jesus then our assurance tends to fall into place; but when we see salvation as, though some flotation device given by God to keep us from sinking, an object that we posses by Jesus but not inextricably in/through Jesus then we have no real assurance or security at all. We take our eyes off Jesus as it becomes about us and how to hang onto the float Jesus gave us. If we truly believe Jesus is right then we follow Him because He is right, not to get out of hell free, and the insatiable need for some guarantee of fire insurance isn’t really all that important. We are free to actually live the life we have in Jesus!

 

So, once saved always saved? “BOLOGNA!”, I say.

It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday. It doesn’t matter what you may do tomorrow. Are you following Jesus today?

 I have no assurance apart from Jesus. I have no security apart from Jesus. And I wouldn’t want it any other way!

 

 

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2 responses to “Once Saved Always Saved? “BOLOGNA!”, I say:

  1. Truth Life

    September 18, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    The way you described salvation is the same way a reformed person would describe it, just using a little different language. A person does not know if they are elect, but the Bible clearly teaches that the elect are those that will be saved. Paul said that he was enduring for the elect sake. The clearest way to answer the question, “Am I saved”, is by Romans 8. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. It is the Spirit that caused us to be born again. It is the Spirit that seals us to our day of redemption. It is the Spirit that will not let me deny my faith, as Bart did. God chose to save me. He drew my by the Spirit. And He has kept me and will keep me until He comes, Phil 1:6, because of the Spirit.

     
  2. susanne430

    September 20, 2013 at 7:52 am

    great post

     

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