Understanding Once Saved Always Saved
We Stand On Shaky Ground, If We Take Our Salvation For Granted
What is your belief on the eternal security of a Christian? Can Christians lose their salvation? Is it possible for a follower of Christ to be absolutely sure that he or she will be found in God’s presence forever? What happens when a Christian falls short of following after Christ and then turning his or her back on him? Is this person’s salvation eternally secure or in grave jeopardy? Was their conversion experience authentic? Did they truly repent only to return to their old worldly ways?
A SECURED RELATION—We Can Have It By Faith
Our salvation and eternal security has to be understood from the context of an ongoing relationship in Christ: he once saved us in the past (2 Ti 1:19), he continues to save us in the present (Rom 5:10), and he will ultimately save us in the future when he returns at his second coming (Rom 8:18-39; 1 Cor 15:12-58; Rev 19:11ff.). When people come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are brought into an ongoing relationship with him guaranteeing that their salvation is eternally secure by faith. Eternal security is not a touchy feely subject that is held captive to self-doubt or suspicion. Neither is it a bold and arrogant personal conviction or statement of faith as some see it: “Once saved, always saved.”
God Predestines Us. Numerous passages of scripture freely declare this to be a fact in the life and faith of every follower. Who does the choosing? Jesus said, “You did not choose me but I chose you” (Jn 15:16). In eternity past, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world and destined us for adoption as his children (Eph 1:4-5). Paul declares, “And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justifies; and those in whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:30). We are predestined before creation, called by God, and justified by faith as we tread this road of guaranteed glory in Christ.
God Justifies Us. Paul asks two crucial questions, “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Jesus Christ, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us” (Rom 8:33-34). Jesus’ death, resurrection and heavenly position as our High Priest silences any charge or condemnation leveled at the elect children of God. Our Champion challenges anyone who is willing to take this case to the highest court in heaven saying, “Is there no one else!” For in Christ our Savior we have an Advocate (1 Jn 2:1) and Judge (2 Tit 4:1) who has not only elected us, but also intercedes for us (Heb 7:25).
God Gifts Us. God loves us so much that he chose to willingly give up his Son for us that we may not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 5:11-13). The life we received will never die or cease to exist, but will live on for all eternity. God made a costly choice to give us his Son to save us from judgment and condemnation (Jn 3:18-19; Rom 8:1-4). God’s Son is his gift to the world—it is ‘the gift’ above all other gifts we’ve ever received. It comes free of charge, but it cost the Father his one and only Son. In fact, when one believes in Jesus, one receives him as a divine and gracious gift. To make the transaction of a gift legitimate, the Gift Giver must be willing give it up by placing it in the possession of the receiver forever and ever. The Giver of the greatest most precious gift for humankind is God. Our responsibility is to simply receive it with a thankful and contrite heart. The gift of eternal life in Christ is not ours to deserve, earn, barter or buy, but to graciously receive from the One who loves us so much—“for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29,35).
God Loves Us. Paul submits the most compassionate and conclusive argument this side of eternity. In Romans 8:38-39 he says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus or Lord.” The same God who saved us is the same God who promises to love, protect and keep us from anyone or anything that threatens to snatch us out of his hand (Jn 10:28-29). God’s loving mercy knows no bounds in that he “is able to keep you from falling, and make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25; Jon 4:2).
A RENEWED CREATION—We Can Know It Thru Fruit
How can we know for certain that a believer has received God’s gift of eternal life? Is there tangible evidence that validates one possessing this gift of God’s Son? Do we have a gauge that can guarantee that the transaction of the gift is for real and forever? A young Chinese Christian once said, “I not only believe the bible, but am now behaving it.” Eternal life is a new way of life that radically transforms a follower of Christ from the inside out (Rom 12:1-2). Change is discernable and inevitable when one willingly conforms to the image of God’s Son. The bible presents two practical ways wherein we can check and see whether one’s salvation is genuine and lasting—the faith and fruit check.
Faith Check Examination. There were members of the Corinthian church whose repentance and questionable behavior seemed to have fallen short of and or failed to reflect the life of Jesus (2 Cor 12:20-21). Impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness littered their lives in such a way as to cause serious and fearful doubt in the Christ-like life of these so-called believers. Paul strongly urges these sinful members, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor 13:5). Confession and repentance was needed to restore their ongoing relationship with God. The Christ life does not guarantee that we will stop sinning, but that we will start sinning less. That’s what it means to be a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) with the passing away of the old self as we go on from one degree of glory to another glory (Jn 3:30; 2 Cor 3:18) working out our own salvation “in fear and trembling” in the knowledge that “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13).
Fruit Check Inspection. Along with the faith check examination is the fruit check inspection. Like a fruit inspector, we can know the outcome of the fruit by its ripeness. The fruit of one’s life can’t be faked. It either gets even bitter and rotten or much sweeter and desirable over time. In regards to what is false and what is real the bible says, “You will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:16; Lk 6:43-45). The difference in one’s way of life will be made evident or obvious. The fruit of the Spirit is bound to bring a bountiful harvest in the life of the believer (Gal 5:22)—fruit contrary to that produced among the sinful believers at Corinth. Fruit checker beware, believers should “bear fruit worthy of repentance” (Mt 3:8). One cannot lose salvation, but has to suffer the consequences of God’s discipline for those he loves in order to bring us back into a relationship with him (Heb 12:6).
A FALSIFIED DECEPTION—We Can Take It For Granted
Know Christ Or No Christ. We stand on shaky ground, if we take our salvation for granted. Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers’” (Mt 7:22-23). Eternal security is grounded in a humble personal conversion that brings one in relationship to Christ, not dangling on an unrepentant self-proclaimed lifestyle that boasts in works apart from a genuine relationship in him. “And this is eternal life, that we may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:31 Co 3:12; Phil 3:10). Simply put, “Know Christ or no Christ.”
Saved Or Saved To Serve. God not only saved us, but also makes a spiritual investment in our lives in order to serve him: “he gave gifts to his people” (Eph 4:8). God through Jesus Christ fills the church with a variety of spiritual gifts equipping the saints for the work of ministry (1 Cor 12:27-28; Eph 4:11-13). Paul says, “For we are what he made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which he prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph 2:10). N. T. Wright wrote, "The New Testament is not particularly interested in one's immediate post-mortem location. Salvation is not about going to heaven. It is about the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. We are beneficiaries, but we are also agents of this new creation." God saved us to serve his purpose in realizing his “kingdom on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10) as we share in the work that Jesus initiated as his agents and will one day see it to completion when his Son returns to ultimately make all things new. Once saved, always saved to serve.
© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.
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