Once Saved Always Saved?
A few weeks ago, we talked about how the Jews of the Dispersion mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1 were Gentiles who had been sanctified; we talked about this in connection with the OSAS doctrine. Today, I'd like to continue on this topic. Let's begin with verse 3 of chapter one:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...
We immediately notice from this Scripture that we have a "living hope"; too often, we are full of "wishful" thinking in the worldly sense -- "I wish that could happen," "I hope so," etc. But the Biblical word for hope is "expectancy." It is used everywhere in the Bible in the same sense as it was with Abraham: "being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform." In other words, hope is "knowing" that God will do what He said He will do; that is why it is a living hope.
Now, what does this have to do with OSAS? Well, all too often, people say that all you have to do is believe in God and then you are saved ad infinitum. However, if we have a "living" hope, and the Word of God is "living and active," should we not then be living and active in our faith as well? People say "believe" as if that makes them a Christian; actually many people believe many different things about God: some believe that He will do this thing promised in His Word, but not that thing (misconstruing who God is); others believe that God is who He says He is and will do what He says; others believe that there is no God; and still others believe in a Muslim God, Buddist God, etc. We can sincerely believe something and be sincerely wrong in believing it! So we really have to define what we mean by "believing." For the OSAS adherers, to believe means to simply acknowledge; in other words, they acknowledge God, but they do not do what He says. This is why James says, "Faith without works is dead." It's just like the age-old adage, "Actions speak louder than words." If we say we have faith, but our actions do not measure up, we have no faith; James knew this, and that is why he states, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:18)But many OSAS adherents get confused, because Paul says that salvation is "not of works, lest any man should boast"; so when Christians claim that faith needs action, they immediately interpret it to mean that our works get us into heaven (which they know is not true). However, this is not what Christianity teaches, as is evidenced by the Scriptures!
I would like to share some of my thoughts regarding our example OSAS adherent who believed that the Gentiles were never lost, because the typical OSAS adherers always say, "Once saved, always saved, period," and some of these points fit very well with your typical OSAS beliefs. Basically, they believe that no amount of sin can snatch us from Christ if we believe. And I would like to point out that if we REALLY believe in Christ, then that would be true; we would be fully pleasing to the Lord -- we would not be living however we want to, in sin. I've actually seen some people who believe OSAS that also believe this, and I think that those people are on the right track. So how can you tell the difference? By their actions, as we've been saying! Anyway, this particular OSAS man seems to be at odds with many of your typical OSAS adherers in that he believed that he was never lost; most others believe that they were lost, but now that they are saved, they can't be lost again. This man based his whole argument for never being lost on ONE scripture (which, if you ask me, is a pretty shaky foundation): Matthew 10:5-6 -- "These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: 'Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'" He said, "I was never a part of Israel, so I was never lost!" How much more ignorant can you be?! I can see how he would think from this verse that the Gentiles were never lost: Jesus only mentioned the Jews as being lost.
So here are my arguments against this view:
Acts 13:46-48 seems to explain Jesus' words in this way: "Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, 'It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: "I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth."' Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." So the point that Jesus was making was that the Jews were the lost sheep -- therefore the Gospel must go to them first. But since the Jews would not hear it, they turned to the Gentiles. Now if the Gentiles were "never lost," why then did God send the apostles to them "for salvation"? What then would we need to be saved from? Throughout Scripture, we see examples of God sending the apostles to the Gentiles for salvation. Why? If they were already saved, there would have been no need.
In Romans 11, Paul is addressing the Jews when he mentions the Gentiles (and all other Christian converts): "And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, 'Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.' Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again." So first, we must notice that some of the branches were broken off because of unbelief, and Paul states that "God is able to graft them in AGAIN, if they do not continue in unbelief." Therefore, it is possible to "fall short of the glory of God," to lose our status in the kingdom of God. That is hard for some people to believe, but there are so many other Scriptures to verify this point. Sin is what separates us from God, therefore, unbelief is sin. In turn, if we say that we believe in Christ and then go our own way, we have fallen into the trap of unbelief -- into the trap of sin -- and we are not saved. The Bible even says that if we sin willfully, "there no more remains a ransom for sin." So it is possible to reach the point of no return (in a bad way). So to continue with our OSAS example --- If we Gentiles were grafted into the Olive Branch because we believed, and the Jews were "broken off" because of unbelief, this would seem to suggest that at one time, the Gentiles had not believed, and were therefore "lost." (This also goes along with our point that, because the Jews would not hear the Gospel, the message was preached to the Gentiles.) We were grafted INTO the Olive tree; that is, we are now a PART of it, but we were not always. At first, I thought that the "possession precedes loss" theory that this man held to did not stand up to scrutiny in this case; but then I realized that it does, but not in the way in which he thought: As I said last time, if Christ has ransomed us, that means that we were "bought BACK"; if we were bought back, we belonged to Him originally, but something stole us from Him -- that something is sin. To put it another way, every single one of us is God's, but we sin; sin separates us from God, making us "lost." Adam was God's; he enjoyed fellowship with God in the beginning, but his sin separated him from God. Likewise, if we Gentiles can say that we now belong to God, doesn't that say that we were once lost? David states in Psalm 119:176 "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; Seek Your servant, For I do not forget Your commandments." David was a Jew, so why did he say that he was lost, and what does this have to do with the Gentiles? Isaiah 53:6 states, "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." So you see, if the "lost sheep" only refers to Israel, then we are not forgiven, we are not saved. But to deny that you were lost, is to deny that you have sinned; in that case, you don't need a Savior. Likewise, to say that you were saved forever and ever infinitum, is to say that you have never sinned; that is the point I was getting at. But we learn from Romans that "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus..." (Romans 3:23-24) Now, to reinterate what was said before, just because we are justified by God's grace, this does not give us an excuse to live in sin; Romans 6 makes that abundantly clear: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (verses1-4) It goes on to say later, "For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (verses 10-18)
Romans 9:30-33 states, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.'"Faith -- real faith -- is the issue here. Do we have faith, or do we not? If we do have faith, our actions will verify it -- not as a result of actively trying to earn points with God, but as a result of our genuine love for God. We have talked a lot about sin, but you will notice that Paul's solution to the problem was faith; hence he says that it is not of work, but of faith:
Romans 3:23 (which we quoted earlier) states, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law."
The law of faith -- that is the issue, and here's why:
If we really have faith in God, we will not sin. And it is important to remember that Jesus commands us to "be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect." This is possible when you have real faith; real faith can move mountains. Hebrews 12:4 says, "You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin." So how so we do that? Well, if we are striving in our own strength, it isn't going to happen. However, if we have God's help -- which He has promised us -- we can do anything: "I can do all things through Christ who STRENGTHENS me," Paul said. Later, he said that the Lord told Him, "My grace is sufficient for you; for My STRENGTH is made perfect in weakness." See, if we try to do it on our own, we are going to mess up -- we're going to fall flat on our faces! But here is a Scripture that I found today that reminded me of this whole topic -- and this is what we began with:
1 Peter 1:1-5: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
Notice that Peter said we "are kept by the POWER of God through FAITH FOR SALVATION"; here, Peter states that it is through God's power that we have the faith to keep us saved! We can have all the faith in the world, and still doubt God (and that is bound to happen), and miss out on all that He has planned for us; but if we have His POWER, which comes through His Holy Spirit, we have REAL faith! Later on, in 2 Peter, Peter states that if we continually grow in this faith through the reading and applying of the Word of God, we will never stumble. What does it mean to never stumble? If we stumble, we have fallen (a fact which many OSAS adherents ignore), and Peter makes it clear that this stumbling comes as a result of ignoring the Word of God and doing your own thing. But Peter is also saying that it is possible to be perfect -- if we do things God's way, through His power, through His Spirit, which enables us to have real faith that is manifested by our actions!
Let's use an illustration from Luke 19:1-10: "Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.' So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, 'He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.' Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, 'Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.' And Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.'" Now we know that Zacchaeus was a Jew. HOWEVER, he was a HATED Jew! Everyone was judgmental toward him, calling him a sinner, but Jesus said that he was "a son of Abraham." What does this mean? That he was a Jew? Obviously not, because this would have been apparent to everyone else -- they were Jews themselves, after all. So what did Jesus mean? Galatians 3 (vs. 7) tells us: "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham." Jesus said that faith was what caused him to be saved. So have we -- particularly we, as Gentiles --- always had faith? No. Therefore, like Zacchaeus, we were sinners prior to our belief in Christ. And Jesus said that He came to seek and to save these people, calling them "lost." Zacchaeus is to be commended, because he actually repented when he saw his sin. He could have said, "I'm a Jew! I don't need this!" Instead, he threw his hands up in the air and said, "Woah! Wait a minute! I've been sinning! I'm taking care of this right now!" Before then, he had only lived for himself and heard the criticisms of everyone around him. But when he really believed, his actions showed it; he made things right with God -- "Look, Lord, here is how I'm going to repent" -- and man -- "I give half of all my goods to the poor, and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold!" His actions showed that He had repented; he did not just say that he would do these things -- he made the changes! Jesus constantly told people, "Go and sin no more," and some of those people were Gentiles. The woman who had the alabaster bottle of perfume was considered to be a sinner; yet Jesus told her that she was forgiven, stating, "Go and sin no more." That is the issue here, because Jesus is still saying the same thing today. You could give a pig a bath in the best water hole and use as much soap as you want, but nothing will stop that pig from going back to the mud hole and rolling around! If we as Jews and Gentiles are forgiven and we go out and sin, are we still forgiven? Now, of course, God is merciful, but we should not take that forgiveness for granted. This is the real issue of the OSAS doctrine; do we go and sin no more, or do we go and sin and then claim to be Christians anyway? The word "Christian" means "little Christ" or "Christ-like"; if we are really Christ-like, we should measure ourselves by that standard -- Did Christ sin? No. Then neither should we. Do we really love God? Yes. Then we will keep His commandments. Zaccheus displayed his repentance by making a diliberate turn around that was manifest to all that were present; this was not just some mental assent that "Yes, I'm a bad person. I need to change," with no apparent change. No, that day, Zaccheus did not continue in unbelief, and he was grafted back into the Olive tree - salvation came to his house.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." ~ Romans 1:16
For more on this topic, see this post.