Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Once Saved—Always Saved (or is Eternal Security a Biblical Doctrine?)

“How can you say that a Christian cannot lose his salvation? You are teaching that a person can do whatever he wants and still get to heaven?” The words were spoken in an angry tone after a church service during which I had spoken on the topic commonly referred to as “eternal security”. The person responding was clearly agitated and insisted that my teaching was giving people a blank check to do whatever they want with no fear of eternal repercussions. I assured her that this was the farthest thing from my intentions and that a true believer will not want to continue on in sin because he now has the Spirit of God within. However this lady was not fully convinced. She went on to give examples of those she knew that were once believers, but now were living in the deepest sin. My answer to this was one that is commonly given in such situations—that such a person in so living was demonstrating that he had not been truly saved in the first place. The individual confronting me seemed placated at this but kept saying, “Just so long as you’re not giving people permission to sin.”

This incident has caused me to more carefully scrutinize what I believe according to Scripture and to consider how I express the Truth to others. As the apostle Paul, I certainly do not believe that we have permission from God to do whatever we want once we have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. When confronted by this very issue, Paul said, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein (Romans 6:1-2)?” Paul’s point is that we have been saved from sin. We have been released from its bondage. Consequently, why should we want to go back? “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)”, are Paul’s words to the Philippians. Taken in context, we realize Paul was not saying that their salvation depended on their work, nor does this fear and trembling referred to in this passage say that they were to fear losing their eternal salvation. The term work refers to exercising or making full use of our salvation which is our deliverance from sin. The fear and trembling refer to the danger of falling back under the influence of sin.

We tend to confuse the terms eternal life and salvation. Salvation means deliverance from sin and the consequences of sin. Eternal life is one of the results of salvation. Those who use Philippians 2:12 to prove that our continued salvation is dependent on us, often fail to quote the following verse which says, “For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.” God is the One who works out the salvation from sin in our lives. The emphasis is on God here and not on us. Paul never advocated that Jesus brings us salvation us, but we have to keep it. In fact, Paul emphasized that God saves and keeps in Philippians 1:6 where he states, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ.”

The point of all this is that it is God who saves and keeps. Romans 8 states that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-38: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.) I am thankful for a salvation from which I cannot be separated.

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