A couple of weeks ago, I was asked this question by a reader. I don’t know what it was relating to, because that was all they wrote in their email. And it seems simple enough to answer “Yes” or “No”. But I think it’s a little more tricky, and it’s one of those things where you’re damned if you say “Yes”, and damned if you say “No” – like a catch 22. I told him/her that I would share my answer via my Reader Questions series.
There are different schools of thought on this teaching, and both have their scriptural support. Personally, I believe our perspectives will be based on our understanding of Scripture and of the Truth, the Narrow Way that leads to Life. These determine what we understand by salvation, how people are saved and what it means to lose salvation. I believe that the weight of scripture is against those who teach Eternal Security. There are just too many scriptures to counter this perspective that one cannot hold such a view comfortably.
I’m going to address a few Scriptures to explain my perspective. I like to cite Jesus’ teaching about the unfaithful stewards because, according to Jesus, they were HIS SERVANTS. This can only mean that they were His disciples, followers, appointed leaders and definitely Christian at a point in time! But were they saved? Consider what Jesus said:
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
From a reading of this, the unfaithful stewards who decide to beat the children (and other servants) of God will not be saved, but will be appointed their portion with the unbelievers! They will be treated as if they never believed, because the truth is that THEY DIDN’T EVER BELIEVE. The proof is in the pudding, as they say! Or, as Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits…” (Matt 7:15-20). They were never saved, even though they claimed to be saved…even though they were under the Lord’s employ!
Jesus said salvation comes at the end of endurance…. THOSE WHO ENDURE TIL THE END SHALL BE SAVED (Matt 24:13). Paul taught this too, that we all should run the race with endurance to WIN the crown of life (Heb 12:1-3, 1 Cor 9:24-27)! It isn’t EVERYONE who calls Jesus their Lord who will be saved…(Matt 7:21) It is those who do the will of God, the Father! Not for one day, nor for one year, but who ABIDE IN HIM, until He comes.
That brings me to another set of Scriptures where Jesus taught on this very thing. Read Jesus’ teaching in John 15.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide 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.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
So, in Luke 12, Jesus talked about beating some servants with a few stripes, even as He spoke of their leaders, who abused their position being treated as unbelievers and receiving their due reward (I believe hell is implied). In John 15, Jesus doesn’t distinguish between leaders and followers, and actually teaches that ANYONE who doesn’t abide in Him will be cast off and thrown into the fire (meaning Hell).
The question is, were these ever saved? Clearly they were not yet saved, because if you are saved, you are saved! This teaching that you are saved the moment you accept Jesus as your Lord and personal Saviour is hogwash! It isn’t Biblical. YOU WILL BE SAVED is the promise (John 3:16-18, Acts 16:31, Rom 10:9-11)…to those who FIRST believe and repent, and THEN abide and endure.
The other question is, are these ones, who were grafted into the Vine, Christian? It seems clear that they are and were Christian. They were actually disciples of Jesus. They would have learnt from God and may even have grown and done great works under His influence. But at some point, they stopped or didn’t ever bear fruit, which was expected of those connected to the Vine. And so, they were cast off…as unprofitable servants (Read Matthew 25:14-30).
Paul also taught on this, when he wrote to the Romans.
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
Many people like to ignore these passages because of the passages about grace! But grace is in the fact that we CAN and have HOPE to be saved, through all that Jesus has done for us. Before Jesus, we had only the Law and Condemnation (John 1:17). But with Jesus, we have HOPE and GRACE to live right before God, and to enjoy Eternal Life with Him in Heaven. So the Bible says, no one can boast, because of our own selves, we are unqualified to attain salvation…but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we are and will be saved (Eph 2:8-9).
Grace can be abused and is often abused. But God is never mocked. Like Paul said to Timothy: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim 2:19).
There are many more scriptures I could point to, but I want to end this by considering Peter’s writing on this matter of losing salvation. He wrote of men who were counted in the company of Children of God, but strayed from the Faith.
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
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 is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
Clearly, Peter didn’t believe in “once saved, always saved”! The Apostles very much believed it is possible to fall from grace (Gal 5:1-4). I don’t know why there is a strong teaching and following of the contrary doctrine that once you accept Christ in your heart, no matter what you do, you will get to Heaven.
I suspect it has to do with what Jesus said about no one who the Father gives Him being snatched from His hands (John 10:27-29). This doesn’t mean that everyone who comes to Him was led to Him by God (John 6:44)…because as we see that moments after saying that none can come to Him unless the Father draws them, many who walked with Jesus walked with Him no more (John 6:66)! But those who are truly His disciples, they are the ones who CONTINUE in His teaching (John 8:31-32)! You may want to read my post: ARE YOU SURE YOU BELIEVE IN GOD? on clarity on what it actually means to believe and be saved.
It is not wise to live as though you can’t lose your salvation, but to live as though you can, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that God is working with you to succeed in what He has called you to (Phil 2:12-13). For herein lies grace, that we can be confident in God’s love and the saving power of the Cross: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). We are encouraged to persevere, to have faith and not be “…of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb 10:39).
In light of all this, I choose to practice the wisdom of Paul and “…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” (1 Cor 9:27).
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Phil 3:12-15).
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