Once Saved Always Saved

The Danger of False Assurance 

By J. Oliver Jones 

Anyone who has known me for very long knows that I often teach on the differences between what is known as Reformed Theology, often called Calvinism, and Arminian Theology. I personally am a very committed believer in what Dr. Robert Picirilli in his book, Grace, Faith, and Free Will, has coined as Reformation Arminianism. This article, however, will not deal with these differences, as important as they may be. I will be glad to send anyone who would like a copy of an article on Calvinism vs. Arminianism that will detail my position on this issue.  As I state in that article, “Fortunately, both positions agree that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation, and that salvation is by grace through faith alone. For this reason both Calvinists and Arminians can be saved while believing in their respective positions, and if the believer will continue “in Christ” there is no fear of forfeiting salvation for either one.” 

In other words, both the Calvinist and the Arminian agree that a true believer will grow toward the image of Christ in this life, as it has been ordained by God that he must do so (Romans 8:29). As you look at the Sovereignty of God – TULIP chart (at the end of this article) notice that under the last section, Perseverance, both positions clearly declare that a true born-again child of God will be faithful to the end. The Calvinist states that this is guaranteed. The Arminian states that faithfulness is required and one who is not faithful was either never saved or was saved but forfeited his salvation by the loss of faith in Christ. Neither position allows for one to be truly saved, but not be faithful in the pursuit of Christ-likeness. One cannot have Jesus as Savior and reject Him as Lord! Jesus did not die for us just so we can go to heaven. He died that we might be set free from sin and have the image of God within us restored. Paul states in Galatians 2:20 (NKJV), “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Here Paul is proclaiming his own death, death to self in his union with Christ. Paul describes in Romans 6:5-11 the process of our death in and with Christ. In this passage he states, “For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

The atonement of Jesus (sometimes referred to as the at-one-ment) paid the penalty for my sin. This unmatched grace of God, this totally unmerited favor, was not provided so that I can continue to go my on way. As the old hymn says, I am “redeemed by the blood of the Lamb” by grace through faith. And our redemption will create good works that God has already ordained we will do (Ephesians 2:8-10). Grace was not given so that I might continue to sin; grace was given to set me free from sin (Romans 6:1-23). Regardless of which theological position you hold, neither a true Calvinist nor a true Arminian can find any Scripture that even hints otherwise.

 

The Heresy of Cheap Easy Believism

One of my theology professors in Bible College, Rev. Leroy Forlines, often referred to the belief of those professing to be born-again Christians, yet showing no evidence of a changed life or growth toward Christ-likeness, as having a “cheap, easy believism.” In other words, once they gave an acknowledgement of their belief in Jesus, they could live however they wanted to live, and still go to heaven when they die. It might be preferred, and even recommended, that one change his or her lifestyle to be more like Christ, but it is not required to do so! This “Justification without Sanctification” is contrary to anything taught in the Bible, yet literally millions of professing Christians believe it today. Please be assured of this one thing…This is a heresy that can cost a person their eternal soul!

 

What is the Basis of Such a Belief?

The only way a person could ever accept such a totally inaccurate, indefensible, and insidious doctrine is by first rejecting the Arminian position concerning the many warnings in the Bible about the dangers of continuing in a sinful lifestyle after one has come to the knowledge of the truth. Arminians teach it is possible to make shipwreck of one’s faith by “being again entangled with the pollutions of the world,” and/or by accepting and following the “doctrines of demons” (heresies) to the point of willfully rejecting known truth. Once these warnings are discarded, the next step is to also reject the first four tenets (T, U, L, I) of the Calvinist’s belief system which forms the foundation for the final tenet, one’s guaranteed continuance in salvation (eternal security). If you recall, the “P” of Calvinism states that a truly born again believer will of necessity become like Christ. To do otherwise is to prove that he or she was never saved, and therefore has no reason for assurance of salvation. Therefore:

A person who accepts the false teaching of

justification without the necessity of sanctification

holds to a belief  in eternal security without any foundation

on which to place that belief.

 

Who Teaches This False Doctrine? 

The doctrine of eternal security for any person who makes a confession, regardless of whether they “persevere to the end,” is being taught in literally thousands of otherwise Biblically sound evangelical churches. I am about to prove this by naming one of the most prominent pastors and churches in America today and quoting from a printed Foundations study from that church. Before I do let me preface it by saying that this is not an attack on the person or the church. I do not believe there is any deliberate attempt to teach heresy or to put the eternal soul of any person in jeopardy. This is a matter of teaching what one has been taught, or else having a complete mental block to the truth of Scripture in this particular area. Nevertheless, while the intent may not be vicious, I strongly believe the result can be. It must be exposed for what it is, a very dangerous heretical teaching.

I doubt there is anyone not familiar on some level with the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. The church was founded and is pastored by Rick Warren, also the author of The Purpose Driven Life, and The Purpose Driven Church. I will quote from a study titled Foundations11 Core Truths To Build Your Life On, written by Tom Holladay (a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church), and Kay Warren, (teacher and wife of Rick Warren), published by Zondervan Press, with a copyright of 2003. The Forward to the book is written by Rick Warren. There are thirteen recommendations quoted on the first page, many from very recognizable names. Two of the 22 chapters (chapters 11 and 12) deal with the subject of Salvation. I will make my point from only one page, #128, dealing with the passage of Scripture found in Hebrews 6:4-6 NASB.

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

The next four paragraphs in the Foundations study explain this passage as well as any Arminian writer could. They state that this passage is referring to Hebrew Christians who “are becoming disillusioned with Christianity” and are “considering abandoning Christianity as a way of life.”  They further state that “there is no doubt that these are genuine Christians” who thought they “would be returning to the God of their fathers, but actually they would be abandoning the God of their fathers.”  In the fifth paragraph on this page, the authors state that “by turning their backs on Christ, these Jews were in essence agreeing with the Jews who had Christ arrested and put to death. Their public denial would lead outsiders to conclude that there must not be much to Christianity if those who at one time said they believed changed their minds and went back to their former religion.”

First, understand that I totally agree with every word they have stated to this point. It is a proper interpretation from the Arminian perspective. The Calvinist position is that these are not believing Jews, but those who are on the brink of salvation who decide to turn away.  Dealing with that false interpretation is for another time. But the issue before us is not really whether these Jews were saved or not. The fact before us is that the authors (Warren and Holladay) of the Foundations study believe these Jews of Hebrews 6 are true born again Christians who are about to turn their backs on Jesus, deny Him publicly, bring Him to an open shame, and in so doing abandon the God of their fathers. It is the final paragraph, their conclusion, which causes me so much concern, and even righteous anger! Listen to their conclusion on this passage:

This warning, though, in no way threatens the security of the believer. Instead, it is evidence for the believer’s security. If a Jew, who was awaiting the coming of the Messiah, could find salvation through Christ and then walk away from him without the threat of losing his or her salvation, what do the rest of us have to fear?

I cannot imagine a more dangerous teaching than one telling people that it really doesn’t matter what you do or how you live or even if you continue to follow Christ…as long as you at one point in your life made some decision about Jesus, you can be assured that you will never have anything to fear – you are saved and on your way to heaven!  I can hear Paul exclaim now as he did in Romans 6, “God Forbid!”  There is absolutely no foundation for this conclusion. The Calvinist system of thought does not allow for it at all. The Arminian system of thought does not allow for it at all. The Bible gives no indication of such assurance apart from one’s continuing faith in Christ. If my salvation is based on my faith in Christ, how could I expect to maintain my salvation if I abandon my faith in Christ? Giving people such false assurance takes away the incentive to walk worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12), to confess and repent of their sin that the advocate might intercede for them before the Father (1 John 2:1), and to press on toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).  The entire purpose for which Christ died is discarded and trampled underfoot.  And worst of all those who hold on to such false assurance may learn too late they will stand before God, not judged by the righteousness of Christ, but by their own righteousness. The result of this judgment is that all are turned into the Lake of Fire…eternally (Revelation 20:12-15; 21:8)!

In conclusion, the doctrine of eternal security is best and properly understood by those of the Arminian persuasion. Your salvation is eternally secure in Christ. You are in Christ as long as your faith rests solely and completely in Him and His work of redemption on your behalf. The same faith in Christ that brings your justification is also guaranteed in Christ to bring your sanctification. God has ordained that all who are in Christ will be conformed to the image of His Son. Your union with Christ will produce good works.  And these good works in Christ are to bring people to glorify your Father in heaven. That is the ultimate purpose of our salvation – to bring glory to God.  If you are not in Christ, there is no glory!

 

 

Sovereignty of God – TULIP

 

 

 

 

Issues

“Calvinism”

(from John Calvin 1509-1564)

 

Position

“Arminianism”

(from Jacob Arminius 1559 – 1609)

Response

 

T

 

Total

Depravity

Man is unable to respond to God in faith since he is spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. God first regenerates the spiritually dead person He chooses to save, then places the gift of repentance and faith into those He so chooses. Man has no part in this except in receiving God’s work and gifts. God does not draw those not chosen.

 

While man is totally depraved, this refers to sin having affected every part of his being, not that he is unable to respond in faith to the drawing of God’s Spirit. Through the love of God all men are bestowed with prevenient grace (*see definition at end of article), thereby, all men are drawn by God. The free will of man allows some to respond to God’s grace by saying yes, and others by saying no.
 

U

 

Unconditional Election

In eternity God has elected those whom He chooses for salvation.  Man plays no part in election, but if elected, cannot resist. While some teach that those not elected are damned by default (passive reprobation), others teach that God specifically elects others for damnation (active reprobation).

 

Election is conditional. The elect are those who respond to God in faith, the condition of salvation. Those who do not respond in faith are lost because of their unbelief. The fore- knowledge of God that allows Him to know who will respond in faith in no way affects the free will choice of the individual.
 

L

 

Limited

Atonement

Christ’s death on the cross was for the elect only, as it would be unthinkable for His blood to be shed in vain. If Christ had died for all, then all would be saved. As all are not saved, atonement is limited.

 

Atonement is unlimited. Christ died for everyone, shedding His blood for the sins of the whole world. He paid the price for everyone, but it takes union with Him to receive the payment onto one’s account. When we become one with Christ, our sin becomes His sin, and His righteousness becomes our righteousness! The reason all are not saved is that all do not accept the “free gift.”

 

 

I

 

Irresistible

Grace

God as Sovereign cannot have man successfully oppose Him, as this would violate God’s Divine omnipotence (being all-powerful). When God elects a person and bestows His grace upon him/her, the person cannot successfully resist that grace. Therefore, God’s grace is irresistible and His sovereignty is unchallenged.

 

The Grace of God can be resisted without doing harm to God’s sovereignty since God as Sovereign gave man a free will to choose. This is part of God’s plan, a choice He made to allow man to accept or reject His grace. God, as Sovereign, is still able to accomplish His divine purpose for all things, even with man having free will to accept or reject grace.

 

 

P

 

Perseverance of the Saints

Those saved will continue to be faithful to the end. As they are elected and secured by God, under no choice or condition of their own, their continuance in salvation is guaranteed. They cannot turn away or in any way lose or forfeit their salvation. If someone does appear to totally and finally turn away, it is proof they were never chosen nor ever saved. Since election is unconditional and grace is irresistible, perseverance is guaranteed. For the saints to persevere in faith is required but not guaranteed. Since faith is the condition of salvation, a loss of faith would cause one to forfeit salvation (apostasy). As apostasy is the “willful” turning away from known truth, one would never lose salvation accidentally, or by committing a single sin. Just as a person is not saved by a good work, one is not lost through a bad work (sin). To lose salvation one must willfully reject Christ (sin can lead to this). Once final apostasy occurs, there is no further drawing of the Spirit and no hope for the apostate.

 

 

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