CAMDEN — By Rod Halliburton
The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” teaches that it is not possible for a child of God to sin in such a way that he will be lost. Many people, who undoubtedly are very sincere and possess a desire to do what is right, find tremendous comfort in this doctrine. This doctrine, however, is not taught in the Bible. It is an erroneous doctrine that provides a false comfort and a deceitful feeling of security.
First, let’s examine some of the passages often used to support this doctrine. Concerning the Christians in Asia Minor, Peter wrote “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:5).
How is it that Christians are kept, or guarded, unto salvation? Through their faith! It is possible for a Christian to lose his faith and quit believing in God. The author of the book of Hebrews warned his readers against the sin of unbelief (Hebrews 3:12). Don’t overlook the fact that the author was writing to people who were already Christians!
They had been saved from their sins. Yet he still warns them of the sin of unbelief. Is a Christian who loses his faith still saved? Of course, the obvious, and only logical, the answer is a resounding no!
Others point to John 10:27-28 in an effort to defend the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27, 28). Does this passage really teach “once saved, always saved”? No! Notice Jesus’ words “they follow me.” This passage contains wonderful promises for Christians. However, these promises are conditional upon our continually following Christ. Those Christians who quit following Christ will not receive these promises.
Still others point to I John 3:9 in order to defend their doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” “Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God” (I John 3:9). John wrote that a person does not continue to sin because the seed (the Word of God) continues to abide in him. However, Satan can steal the Word of God out of a person’s heart if that person allows Satan to do so (Matthew 13:19).
When a Christian allows the Word of God to be taken away from him, that Christian has fallen from grace and is lost.
Many other passages are used in an attempt to defend the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” The necessary limitations that are placed upon the length of this column prohibit me from addressing all of these passages.
However, numerous passages teach it is possible for a Christian to sin in such a way that he will be eternally lost. First, there are things a Christian must do in order to keep from falling. “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” (II Peter 1:10). This passage provides a clear implication that if a Christian does not do those things Peter detailed in II Peter 1:5-9 he will fall from grace and be lost.
Second, the writings of the apostle Paul teach it is possible for a Christian to fall from grace and be lost. To the church at Corinth, Paul wrote “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (I Corinthians 9:27).
The word “castaway” refers to one who does not stand the test and is rejected! Paul knew that without practicing self-control he would be rejected by God.
Third, Paul taught the Christians in Galatia that it was possible for them to fall from grace. “Christ becomes of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law: ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Many of the Christians in Galatia strayed from the truth and tried to be justified by the law of Moses. The Bible not only teaches it is possible for Christians to fall from grace, it gives us an example of Christians who fell from grace – some of those Christians to whom Paul was writing!
Fourth, the Bible teaches a Christian can sin in such a way that he will be in a worse condition than that which he was in before he became a Christian. Peter wrote “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog has turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:20-22).
The “dog turning to his own vomit” and the “sow that was washed turned back to her wallowing in the mire” are used to represent people who have become Christians, left their life of sin, and then gone back into that sinful world. If, in the “latter end” they are still saved how could their “latter end” possibly be worse than their beginning?
The parable of the vine and the branches proves it is possible for a Christian to fall from grace. Jesus said, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:…..” (John 15:2).
Jesus went on to say, “If a man abides not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered: and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6).
Notice that the branches in this passage represent individual Christians, not individual denominations. There were no denominations in existence at the time Jesus spoke these words. If everyone today would follow the pattern for the New Testament church given to us in the Bible, there would be no denominations in existence today.
God’s word plainly teaches it is possible for a Christian to sin in such a way that he can fall from grace and be eternally lost. Submit to God’s plan for saving man: believe in Jesus Christ as your savior
(But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him – Hebrews 11:6), repent of your sins
(And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: – Acts 17:30), confess your faith in Jesus Christ before others (And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – Acts 8:37) and then be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of your sins
(Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost – Acts 2:38). Then guard your salvation like your eternity depended on it – because it does!
(Rod Halliburton preaches for the Antioch church of Christ in Emerson. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his blog at www.savedbythegospel.com.)