Once Saved - Always Saved?

Posted by Dion Todd June 26th, 2015 8,711 Views 0 Comments

Once Saved - Always Saved?

While writing about the dangers of being lukewarm in one of my devotionals, I compared our relationship with God to a marriage relationship. In a good marriage, we do our part out of love for our spouse. Likewise, there are things we do as Christians, out of love for our Creator. After all, the church is believed to be the “Bride of Christ” and betrothed to Jesus (2 Cor 11:2). He called Himself the “Bridegroom” (Mark 2:19) and Jesus said that if we loved Him, we would keep His commandments (John 14:15). Jesus also said: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). Apparently even then there were people that called Jesus Lord, but would not do what He taught them.

It was merely an observation but it caused quite a stir. We received a lot of requests to clarify this statement and telling us that we were going into error. I felt that it was too much for a short devotional, so I am going to try and explain what I believe in this teaching. It is just “what I believe” and you are still free to believe anything that you want. If we can’t love and respect each other without agreeing on every point of doctrine, we will never have unity in the body of Christ. Many well-respected people teach eternal security and I am not trying to take away anyone’s salvation. I can only write what I actually believe in my heart to be true. I honestly don’t know where you will end up, but I sincerely question any salvation that requires no action, nor causes any change in your life.

I speak from personal experience because I have backslidden more than once in my life and I did not feel “saved” during those periods. When I returned to the Lord, He always welcomed me back with open arms. It never occurred to me that I may have never been lost, because I sure felt like it. To me, the teachings of Jesus were pretty clear on being lost and I will cover some of my thoughts here. 

First, scripture makes it clear that we are all sinners and that we are saved by grace, not by our own works (Eph 2:8-9). We cannot “earn” salvation; it is a free gift from God. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1John 1:8). Jesus said that we need to be born again in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). We are born again (saved) by confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believing in our heart that God raised Him from the dead (Rom 10:9). Jesus said that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16).

To be saved on that basis, we need to:
1. Acknowledge in our heart that Jesus is Lord.
2. Confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.
3. Believe that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the grave.
4. Repent of our sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus. 

All that you need to do to get started is to pray a simple prayer like this and sincerely mean it: 

“God, I know that I am a sinner and I ask for Your forgiveness today. I believe that Jesus died for me and rose again. Lord wash me clean from sin, shame and guilt. Come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. Guide me from this day forth, in Jesus’ name I pray.” 

If you are able, be baptized in the name of Jesus (though the thief on the cross was not). That is how we all begin our walk with the Lord Jesus, but now what? Is anything else required of us? Can we “undo” this? There are two extremes on the view of salvation and today; I agree with neither of them. I might later if the Lord increases my understanding. Perhaps they are above my current level. 

1. Intermittent Security: For a few years I attended a church, where if you did not repent on your knees at the altar every Wednesday and Sunday, they thought that you had backslidden and added you to the prayer list. The entire message and focus was “repent or burn in hell”, even for people who had been attending for twenty years. You wanted to set at least three rows back because of the preacher yelling and spitting. I was baptized often to get a fresh start, just in case. Members were taught that no one could be certain they would be saved. Though you lived your life every day for the Lord, if you had a lustful thought, then pulled out into traffic and were killed in an accident, you would certainly burn in hell over it. There was no security and it made God seem distant, unloving and to me there was no need in building a relationship with Him because it was like a house built on the sand. This was one extreme.

2. Eternal Security: The other extreme is when people believe that they are eternally saved, and that nothing they can do will ever change that. They believe that they are “sealed” and no matter what they do, the Lord is powerless due to the previous contract. They have a license to sin as much as they want, once they have prayed the sinners prayer. This is "greasy grace" and another extreme. This lukewarm attitude scares me the worst.

To me, the truth is somewhere between those points. I know that God loves the world and wishes that no one would perish (John 3:16), though it is clear that many will (Matt 7:13). Most that preach eternal security use Paul’s teachings as a basis, but to me, Jesus is greater than Paul and if a doctrine does not agree with the teachings of Jesus, then I do not agree with it. Also Paul came from the strictest sect of pharisees and believed in obedience at all cost. I don’t think that he would like people using his teachings as a license to sin and to do the least possible. Paul was not a slacker and you cannot use him as an example of doing the least possible to get by. You would never call Paul “lukewarm.” In his own words:

“Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I am more so; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Five times from the Jews I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I suffered shipwreck. I have been a night and a day in the deep. I have been in travels often, perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils from my countrymen, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brothers; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness.” (2 Corinthians 11:22–27 WEB)

Peter warned us that Paul wrote some things that were difficult to understand and that people would twist them (2Peter 3:16). I believe that in general, the church spends far too much time in the letters of Paul and not enough in the gospels. Even Paul, though, disciplined his body and kept it under control, “lest after preaching to others that he himself may be rejected.” (1 Cor 9:27)

The real difference in the two views are whether you can do things like sleep with prostitutes, or actively be one, and still go to heaven. That I am uncertain about. I do not know who will make it to heaven. That is for God to decide and not me. I plan to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). I do believe that it is clear that we are to imitate Jesus and our behavior should reflect Jesus as best we can manage. A tree is known by the fruit that it bears, whether good, or bad (Matt 12:33). 

Here are some teachings of Jesus that speak to me about being ready and not sleeping on the job. We are to be actively preparing ourselves while awaiting His return. Whether you will burn in hell or not, I don’t know, but being vomited out of His mouth or cast into outer darkness does not sound good either: 

He who does the will of My Father:“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.’ “Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock.” (Matthew 7:21–24 WEB)

Remain in My love: Remaining in the Father’s love was not for Jesus a passive thing; it involved obedience to His commands. The same is true for Jesus’ disciples. They remain in Jesus’ love by keeping his commands: “I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man doesn’t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you. In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so you will be my disciples. Even as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and remain in his love.” (John 15:5–10 WEB)

The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11): Jesus told a parable about a son who lived with his father, but then left with his inheritance and spent it on prostitutes and reckless living. He came to his senses, returned to his father and repented. His father was glad to have him back and when the older brother complained, the father said: Your brother who was dead is alive again; he was lost but is now found (Luke 15:24). While the son was away spending his money on prostitutes, the father considered him dead and lost, not alive and saved, though he was always welcome to return. 

The parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1): Jesus told a parable about ten virgins waiting on the bridegroom to arrive, just as we are waiting on Jesus to arrive. Five virgins prepared themselves and were ready to meet Him. The other five were unprepared and caught off guard. The five who were ready went into the marriage feast, the five who were not were locked out. They knocked on the door and said “Lord, Lord, open to us!“, but He answered and said “I do not know you.” (Matt 25:11). All ten virgins knew the bridegroom, called him “Lord, Lord”, and were waiting on His coming. The half that prepared themselves went in, the rest were locked out. Which group would you rather be in? Can you be in the group that made themselves ready without doing anything? If so, what was the difference between the two groups other than one prepared for his return and the other did not?

The parable of the talents (Matt 25:14): Jesus told a parable about a man going on a journey that gave his servants talents to invest while he was away. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to the last man one, according to their ability. A talent was a large sum of money, equal to about 6,000 days pay for a laborer. It is interesting that the English word for “talent” (natural aptitude) comes from this parable, though here it is speaking of money.  When the man returned, he rewarded the ones that had been actively investing and increasing what he had given them, but cast the worthless servant into outer darkness because he had done nothing with his talent. Being a Christian is more than just “not doing anything wrong.” It requires active, responsible, faithful service. 

The wedding feast and garment (Matt 22:1): Jesus told a parable about a man that gave a wedding feast for His Son, but those invited would not come. So He invited people off the street to fill the hall with guests. Each guest was responsible for their own clothing and to show up in dirty clothes was an insult. When the king came into look at the guests, there was a man there in dirty clothes. He was thrown out of the feast, into outer darkness. Dirty clothes were unwelcome at the feast and it was his responsibility to be clean.

Worthless salt is thrown out: You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. (Matthew 5:13 WEB)

The parable of the watchful servant (Luke 12:41): Peter asks Jesus who the parable of the watchful servant was meant for and Jesus answered with another parable. A master appointed a servant as manager over his household and then apparently went on a journey. The servant had considerable freedom over the estate. A diligent servant whom his master found working efficiently when he returned would be promoted. But if the master stayed gone a long time, then a careless servant may begin to feel independent. He may forget that he is actually just the servant, and not the master. It is a bit like the sheriff of Nottingham in the movie Robin Hood. The longer the king delayed coming, the more wicked he became. The master’s sudden return would surprise him and the wicked servant would be cut in pieces and put with the unfaithful (46).

Some thoughts: Jesus was talking to Peter and His disciples (Luke 12:41). He plainly told them that they were to serve faithfully, watchfully and to feed the other servants while He was away. if they abused the freedom they were given and became wicked servants, they would be put with the unfaithful on His return (46). The disciple who knew His Master’s will but did not get ready or act on it would receive a severe beating. God’s unconditional love will not be a get out of jail free card if they chose to continue in disobedience.

Following the Shepherd: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27 WEB. There are three things Jesus mentioned here: 1) My sheep hear My voice. 2) I know them. 3) They follow Me. To those He will give eternal life, they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of His hand. This is all a part of the Christian life, hearing the Lord speak, having a relationship with Him, obeying Him as best you can. 

The lukewarm Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14–21): Jesus spoke to John about the Laodicean church that had become lukewarm. This church felt they were rich and needed nothing, but were poor, blind and naked. There was more hope for open antagonists than the cooly indifferent. Jesus said that He would vomit the lukewarm out of His mouth, but those that overcome would sit down with Him on His throne. I am not sure what being vomited out entails, but it does not sound pleasant.

Other quotes from Jesus:
“If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 WEB)

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 WEB)


Apparently, some of your current actions could still affect your future: For whoever will be ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed, when he comes in his glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26 WEB).

“Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning. Be like men watching for their lord, when he returns from the marriage feast; that, when he comes and knocks, they may immediately open to him. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord will find watching when he comes.” (Luke 12:35–37 WEB)

“That servant, who knew his lord’s will, and didn’t prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes, but he who didn’t know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes. To whoever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.” (Luke 12:47–48 WEB)

Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:16 WEB)

Quotes from the Apostles:
Peter said that we should be holy and not follow our former lusts:“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be sober and set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ— as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13–16 WEB)

Pigs that are washed clean, then return to wallow in the mud, are no longer clean:“For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state has become worse with them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb, “The dog turns to his own vomit again,” and “the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:19–22 WEB)

James said that faith without works is dead: “But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness;” and he was called the friend of God. You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith. In like manner wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.”
(James 2:19–26 WEB)

Paul believed in “obedience” and spoke of the “obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5) and “faith working through love”: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:5–6 WEB)

Paul also wrote how he felt about sin: “Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. However with most of them, God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Neither let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them committed, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell. Neither let us test the Lord, as some of them tested, and perished by the serpents. Neither grumble, as some of them also grumbled, and perished by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–12 WEB)

In later days some will depart from the faith and fall away. Being that you cannot depart from a building that you have not entered at all, this means to me that these people were once a part of the christian faith. So it is possible to be a part of the faith, and then to fall away from it. No one can snatch you from the Father's hand, but you can crawl out of it on your own accord if you choose. You have free will or you would be a mindless robot. The prodigal son was free to leave his father's house and was considered dead and lost until he returned: "But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1 WEB)

Summary: I am not promoting legalism. You cannot be saved by keeping a set of rules and you cannot be saved by works alone. You are saved by Faith and it is a free gift, not earned. Faith in Jesus plus nothing. There is, however, no true faith that is not followed by obedience. If we really believe in Jesus then we will act accordingly. If we love Him, then we will keep His commandments. There will be fruit in our lives, and trees are known by their fruit. 

There is more to being a Christian than merely saying the sinner’s prayer once and then never giving God another thought. To me, this is an ongoing relationship much like a marriage. Whether you can lose your salvation or not, I honestly don’t know. I do feel that it would be foolish to walk on the fringe and try and prove that you cannot by doing the least that you possibly can.

I do feel that if you are trying to serve God, that He will work with you, help you and you will make it to heaven even if your life is still a mess. I just feel that professing to know Jesus, but living like you don’t is very dangerous. The lukewarm that Jesus will vomit out of His mouth were part of the church, called themselves Christians, and felt they had need of nothing (Rev 3:16). In my opinion, we should not even have to discuss things like this because the goal is not to do the very least possible in order to be saved. Or is it? We should be pressing in, praying, learning, serving and drawing closer to God every day of our lives just as Jesus did. 

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 WEB). 

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