a dangerous delusion?
by Graham Pockett
The following information relates to the belief that once saved, a Christian cannot lose his salvation. This is often called Eternal Security, the opposite to which is sometimes called Conditional Security. Scripture quoted is from the NIV Bible, not because it is best but because it states these points clearly while still agreeing with the KJV and other universally accepted translations. You might like to read Why I Quote The NIV Bible.
Many people fervently believe that once saved, they can never lose their salvation. I pray that those who do believe it will read the following with an open heart and an open mind. Above all, I urge every reader to check each Scripture presented and then check the context that the Scriptures are quoted in by reading at least ten verses before and ten verses after.
I sincerely believe the once saved always saved concept to be wrong. The implication that once someone becomes a real Christian (a definition would be handy) they are saved and that they cant backslide or commit a sin which would rob them of that inheritance.
From my experience, Christians can sin and they often do sin but to believe that a Christian can live any way he or she likes, and still be saved, is dangerous. Some argue that a real Christian wouldnt commit these sins and it is the almost Christians who fall foul of this type of entrapment from the enemy. I believe that would be wrong too. Committed Christians sin for all sorts of reasons and we are only saved by Gods amazing Grace, not our level of commitment. God knows our true heart!
If a Christian sins maliciously (deliberately breaks laws for his or her own advantage say purchasing goods known, or strongly suspected, of being stolen) that is quite different from accidentally sinning something we all do constantly.
God knows our true intention. We might be able to fool a police officer that we sinned accidentally, but God knows the real truth. I believe that if we deliberately go against the direction given by Jesus (who, you will remember, said to obey the laws of the land) then we must suffer the consequences and that might mean the loss of eternal life. At least our Judge, while tough, is fair and understanding!
Lets look at this Scripturally
Jesus understood that when people heard the Word of God they would react in different ways from total rejection to total acceptance. He explained it in The Parable Of The Sower. I have quoted the Matthew 13:3-23 Scripture here, but the same parable can also be found in Mark 4:1-20 and Luke 8:4-15.
The Disciples wanted to know what this parable meant and Jesus explained.
For people who believe that once saved, always saved I rhetorically ask: how do you relate your beliefs to Matthew 13: 20-21? If a man cannot lose his salvation then why would Jesus say: When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away?
The key to how we are saved is in John 3:16:
I understand that the word believes in the Greek is an on-going verb (this is not so easy to determine because Greek is a contextual language). It really says that unless we keep on believing in Him we will perish and not have everlasting life. We are saved by Grace as long as we keep on believing in Him. Lets check another Scripture.
Mark 13:13 says:
Look again at the second half of that sentence. Jesus is saying that to be saved you must stand firm (for Him) until you die. Conversely He is therefore saying that those who do not stand firm will not be saved! Notice that I am not quoting Paul or any other Apostle or Disciple, but the Son of God Himself.
Was I saved when I was cursing God?
When I was quite young I gave myself to the Lord. I then drifted away from the church and from Jesus and ended up walking in a wilderness for 25 years. For 25 years I cursed Jesus and fought against Christianity. I studied the Bible looking for wrongness in it and read as many anti-Christian writings as I could. I became an intellectually strong anti-Christian and could debate, and win, with committed Christians in many areas, specially on early church history. Guess you could say that I was like Saul, a zealot against the Christians.
One day, in the fit of despair after being separated from my wife of 19 years, I asked the Creator (my concept at that time) how I could get her back. I heard an audible voice (which I instantly knew to be Jesus) say: Believe in Me. It was mind blowing to say the least. I can understand the confusion Saul must have felt when he was slam-dunked to the ground by the very Person he was persecuting. It was the same with me.
Was I saved during those 25 years of anti-Christian preaching? From my own heart I can say a resounding NO. If I had died and gone to Heaven during that period I would have screamed to be taken to Hell! Yet I had accepted Jesus at a Youth For Christ rally when I was about 14. Saved forever, or not saved forever?
To the people who would say that I really wasnt saved when I was young I just point them back to John 3:16. I did believe in the salvation of Jesus in those early days I witnessed at school, I was very much involved with my local church, I even wanted to become a minister of religion when I grew up!
But, after five years, I backslid and not just a little way either! I fell all the way into the pit and Satan had me fully in his grasp. Saved? No way. The Lord gave us the power of freewill, and I had exercised mine to be a servant of Satan.
The final proof...
If God didnt want us to be able to choose He would not have given us the gift of freewill. It is this gift which places us above the animals. It is this gift which allows us to choose to either worship God or not worship God. It is this gift, and only this gift, which allows us to truly love Him like a son. It is this gift which proves that once saved, always saved must be wrong.
If we are saved in spite of ourselves then there is no freewill. If there is no freewill then the Bible is wrong!
I dont believe that the Bible is wrong...
Before you write to tell me that we are saved by Grace and not by works you should know that I agree with you (however, in James 2:14-26 it says that faith without deeds is useless).
Before you write to say that God does not take back a gift He has so freely offered you should know that I agree with you (however, I believe that God allows us to give back that gift).
Before you write to say that we are all sinners and will therefore continue to sin throughout our lives you should know that I agree with you (but it is the attitude we have towards our sinning what is really in our hearts that is more important).
Before you write to tell me how wrong I am you should know that I agree with you (only Jesus had perfect doctrine, the rest of us must rely on God not to judge us on our imperfect doctrine see Do you know what really annoys me about God? by Dr Barry Chant).
I pray you have found this article interesting and I would be pleased to read any comments you may have. However, my workload is such that I may not be able to respond to all mail. Address any comments to Graham Pockett. However, I do ask that you sign your e-mail that you stand behind what you say, as I have stood behind what I have said.
I also urge you to read my other Christian writings (see below). The articles Does God Ever Change His Mind? and Bashing The Bible were both written after this one and examine some points in more detail.
The great debate...
This is a short list of an equal number of pro Once saved... and anti Once saved... sites. They are listed in no particular order but are representative of the debate amongst many Christians on this topic. I hope you enjoy them.
As Christians we should remember that the enemy is not other Christians whatever we think of their doctrine but Satan. Lets keep the focus where it belongs and not let Satan divert us so we are fighting amongst ourselves. Debate is healthy, argument is not...
Answer to a sceptic
I can understand exactly how you feel about giving up/losing your salvation. It is as abhorrent to me as it is to you.
However, that is not how the vast majority of Christians feel. Stand outside some churches and ask the parishioners if they know where theyll go when they die and youll receive comments ranging from a timid I dont know to I hope it is Heaven to a positive I know Im going to Heaven. It is people in the first two categories who are susceptible to the problems of believing that once saved they are always saved (OSAS).
What happens if they suicide? Would they still be saved then? Of course not, the Word is quite clear on that issue. Unless they could repent after they had committed murder (quite hard if you suicide!), they would not be saved, irrespective of any past commitment to the Lord Jesus. (cf. Exodus 20:13; Matt 5:17-21; Matt 15:18-20; Matt 19:18; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 13:9; James 2:10-11; and many more).
Rather than continually seeking Gods presence, many Christians are happy to go along their own way religiously going to church each week in the mistaken belief that they will be automatically saved.
If their church supports the concept of OSAS they could well feel that they could behave in any way they like and still be saved. I dont believe they would be. Are they a Christian at this time? Maybe, maybe not, but if they think they are, and if they are taught OSAS, then maybe they never will learn to fear God (as the Bible says quite clearly that we must cf. Luke 12:5; Acts 9:31; Acts 10:34-35; Acts 19:17; Rom 3:18; 2Cor 5:11; 2Cor 7:15; Phil 2:12; Heb 11:7; 1Pet 1:17; 1Pet 2:17; and many more).
It is this healthy fear of God which puts the concept of grace in context. We have His grace in our lives, but we also must have this reverence, this fear, this respect for God too Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water. (Rev 14:7 NIV)
I know that I have probably not changed your mind one iota but I am pleased that you have read this far. Maybe in time to come someone else will say something, or the Lord will talk to your spirit on this issue, and you will see the light and abandon this dangerous doctrine. Dangerous for you? Probably not because of your deep commitment, but dangerous to someone who doesnt already have that relationship with the Father and thinks that he/she can behave in any way they like and still be saved.
Do we earn Salvation?
What convinced me of the position of eternal security was that salvation is always a God thing.
My works, or bad works if you will, would seem to be incapable of cancelling out God's grace and the eternal life that comes with it. If my works played any part of my salvation, whether earning it or losing it, then as Paul said grace would no longer be grace.
If we as Christians are given eternal life when we accept Christ into our lives as Lord and Savior, then losing it would imply that it wasn't eternal to begin with.
For some strange reason, pro-OSAS people seem to think that all anti-OSAS people believe they must do good works to be saved. A particular segment of the liturgical church may, in part, believe this, but no Bible-believing and Bible-reading Christian would. Salvation is by Grace, and Grace alone. We are not worthy and we cannot earn it. Period.
Salvation is God's gift to EVERYBODY, not just Christians, but we have the right to refuse that gift, or to return it. Jesus died on the Cross for all of mankind, not just for Christians.
I could offer you a $5 note and you could (a) reject it outright, or (b) accept it, and then hand it back, or (c) accept it and keep it. That does not alter the original value of the gift but it does alter what you do with it.
Non-Christians do not accept that gift because they do not understand it. Imagine a primitive man, who used conch shells for currency, being offered a $5 note he would not see its value and would probably use it to light a fire (if he realized that it had even that much worth!).
Christians know the value of the gift because we are told of it in the Bible. We can therefore accept or reject it with knowledge and, in our knowledge, if we reject it then we face eternal damnation. However, that is a decision we make.
The gift of Salvation still exists, still has value, but its value is dependent upon it being accepted and kept.
So we do not "earn" our Salvation by doing things (works) but we must accept the gift and keep it until we die (as Paul says, run the race until it is finished).
When Are We Saved?
OK, on the issue of OSAS, I don't believe in works for salvation, it is by grace and is a gift of God. But, I don't think that a Christian can live like a heathen and expect to go to Heaven (Hebrews 10:26-29).
My question is, where is the cut-off? Let's say that I am serving God, love Jesus (I am saved according to John 3:16 and Romans 10:9-10), hate sin, and am living in communion with the Master. If I am driving in my car, a passenger asks me a question, and I lie to that person, for whatever reason, and then BAM, we get hit by a bus before I have a chance to take advantage of 1 John 19, am I going to Hell for that lie?
Do you know what I mean? I know that if I decided to leave my wife and kids and go live like the devil, by my actions I am basically giving back the gift of salvation that God gave to me. But where is that cut-off point? After two sins, six sins, 100 sins? Or, do you suppose that it is an issue of the heart? As soon as my heart is to serve my own lusts and wants and no longer serve Jesus' wants and plans, any sin past that is irrelevant? But if my heart is to please Him, and repent when I know that I sin, what if I miss or forget one?
Thank you again for any light you can shed on this.
my reply to John
How long is a piece of string? The answer is that, like every other Christian in the world, I simply do not know. Yes, we can usually pick up on the big things (as you pointed out) but no-one knows the cut-off point which is exactly how it should be.
Watch some people try and circumvent rules with legalism, by bending rules until they are doing the opposite to what was intended but still have not, technically, been broken.
As a kid I had a dog which knew she was not allowed to climb on my bed. However, she "learnt" that as long as she was standing on the floor she technically wasn't "on the bed". That dog ended up lying on the bed next to me, but with one leg hanging over the side, a toe nail just touching the carpet. Technically she was not "on the bed"...
If we had rules so rigid that we could interpret them in our own way we would go completely against what Jesus taught, and what the Father wants. By not having such rigid laws or rules, by not knowing that exact cut-off point, we must (or should) err on the side of safety.
I want to go to Heaven. Period. I don't want to get involved in gray areas of legality so I try to ensure that I am living the type of life that God wants me to live. That I don't succeed 100% all of the time should not count against me because (a) I am human and live in a fallen world, and (b) my heart is for God and God judges us on our heart, not on our accidental transgressions.
If I was using the fact that we live in a fallen world to "temporarily" break an odd rule (lust after another woman, etc) and then "repent" of that sin immediately afterwards, I would not be doing God's will and, yes, maybe I would be subject to losing my salvation. People who think they can deliberately sin all week and then go ask for forgiveness on Sunday are deluding themselves (and, under their own rules, they'd better hope they die straight after church on Sunday...).
Finally, you asked "But if my heart is to please Him, and repent when I know that I sin, what if I miss or forget one?" John, we can never know all of the sins we have committed throughout our life. As we mature as Christians, the Holy Spirit gradually reveals past sins to us so we have an opportunity to repent of them and to resolve the issues around them. If our heart is truly for God then I don't believe our past, unremembered sins will be held against us. Could the criminal, who was crucified next to Jesus, have repented on all of his past sins? I don't think so his salvation was assured simply because he acknowledged that he was a sinner and that Christ was not.
Why not more Scriptural references?
Your explanations are right-on.
I'm surprised that you have not included verses that deal with admonitions against deceivers [or anti-christ] in most all of the epistles and even in Jesus's sayings about the devil roaming the earth looking for Christians whom he could devour.
Also in 1 Timothy C.1 V.s 19-20, Paul deals with Hymenaeus and Alexander who shipwrecked their faith and whom he handed over to Satan.
my reply to Richard
You are right, there were many, many more Scriptures I could have used.
However, the article originally came from responses to my article The Key To Heaven, which was never meant as an anti-OSAS statement but a plea to place your faith first in your life. The number of pro-OSAS people who wrote to me about The Key prompted me to write the article because I found I was saying the same thing to each of them.
Essentially they were using the same arguments and the same Scripture to "prove" that I was wrong. Therefore my anti-OSAS article was not pro-active but reactive responding to the arguments put to me in favor of OSAS (which I felt were wrong).
I pray that those few words are of some help in understanding why I used the Scriptures in the way I did.
Faith in salvation is like a marriage
Thanks Graham for your open, honest, healthy and encouraging article.
I've had people try convince me of once saved or not, and my belief is that we really don't have the right to debate certain things.
If I can explain that in my marriage I am very secure with my lovely wife and two kids I don't waken up in the morning asking whether I am still married, or is my heart and attitude endangering me of marriage breakup when we have a fall out.
But, on the other hand, if I were to entertain certain thoughts, or pursue certain avenues (God forbid), I wouldn't like to test my marriage to its limits however forgiving my wife would be.
And that how I believe it's with God our heavenly father.
So thanks again for you valuable balance and may God bless you in your ministry.
Get a copy of this article in ASCII text format either zipped (once_saved.zip 6kB) or as a normal text document (once_saved.txt 14kB). Please note that this article is copyright and may not be reproduced without written permission (given freely for Christian purposes). Often it is better to simply link directly to this page!
All of Grahams Christian writings (see below) can be download as a set of archived text files GrahamsWriting.zip (you will need an unzipping tool like the free Stuffit Expander to extract the separate documents from this archive).
Mark 13:13 NIV
© Graham Pockett
Last Updated: Monday, November 24, 2014