I was recently asked by a friend I’ve known since my youth if I had written anything on this particular subject. While I have eluded to it at times, I have never focused primarily on the subject, but seeing that the return of Jesus for His bride is right around the corner I felt it was important to write on it. How secure are you in your relationship with Christ and eternity? Are you secure in it, or are you embracing a false security that could have disastrous consequences if you are not prepared when that trumpet sounds?
As we see the turmoil within society and the world at large increase in intensity faster and faster, it’s becoming more and more evident that we are actually living in the last days prophesied in Scriptures. As a part of these last days we know that Jesus will be returning for His Bride sometime in the very near future, and with that the question is asked, “How secure are you in your relationship with Christ?” It has been debated over the years to what extent one can be assured of their salvation and entrance into heaven, with some arguing that once you’re saved you’re always saved, and some arguing that each time you sin your salvation is lost and needs to be restored. Which one of these arguments are true, or is it an entirely different position somewhere between the two extremes?
The idea of “once saved, always saved”, also known as “eternal security”, has been around for years. What is believed by those who embrace such a doctrine is that once someone is saved, their eternal destination in heaven has been sealed and cannot be revoked for any reason. When asked about those who appeared to receive salvation yet later on in life seem to live a life apart from Christ, the common response is that the person wasn’t truly saved to begin with. It’s as if a person forfeits any free will when they get saved, having no freedom to change their mind at a later time in regards to salvation. Perhaps this is where the thought originated, that those who have experienced and received the love of Christ will automatically and without question give their lives to Him, and that they would never want to be without it? I wrote about such a person that had both observed and received Jesus’ love and acceptance for over three years, yet at the end he chose to make decisions that destroyed his relationship with Jesus and his eternal home in heaven, 30 Shekels of Silver. The teaching of “once saved, always saved” implies that at the point of salvation, salvation is complete and requires nothing more from the individual, except maybe to be loving and gracious towards others. For some, they will go to the extreme and say all their sins, past, present, and future, were forgiven at the point of salvation, and that there is now no more need to confess and repent of future sins as they were already forgiven. I realize Scripture is used to support the “once saved, always saved” doctrine, but is there Scripture that would contradict it?
I remember just a few years after high school sitting on the floor during one of our youth fellowship group meetings, or home group as some call them, at a youth leaders house. That night a question was raised that I had heard many times before, but this time it was different. The question asked, when does grace end? This, of course, was under the premise that a person could lose their salvation. So, when the question was asked, when does grace end, the Holy Spirit immediately pointed me to a scripture reference. It wasn’t one of those times where you’re trying to think of a scripture to answer a question or to support a perspective, and I definitely did not remember what the scripture said, but the Holy Spirit immediately gave me direction. Now, before I give you the reference, let me tell you something about myself. I’m one of those people that if you told me that the sky is blue, then I would conclude that it isn’t red. If you tell me that stepping on the accelerator pedal of a car will make a car go faster, then I would conclude that to take my foot off of it would make it go slower and perhaps stop. So, when I read the verse I’m about to give you I immediately made a conclusion based on what it said. In Romans 6:17, the Apostle Paul tells us “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered”. After reading that I believe God gave me the answer to the question that was asked. If salvation by grace is a result of obeying God from our heart, then it only makes sense that grace begins to cease when we no longer obey Him from our heart. It’s not so much an issue of whether or not we sin, but what is the condition and attitude of our heart when we sin. If our heart seeks to honor God and to be pleasing to Him in all our ways, then we are going to shun sin in our lives more and more, having an attitude of repentance and turning from sin that can be seen in our actions and behaviors. On the flip side, if we are continually trying to justify or defend why what we are saying or doing is okay, then our heart attitude isn’t right and will jeopardize the operation of God’s grace in our life. With the right heart attitude grace is in full operation, but it’s a dangerous place to be in if our heart attitude isn’t right and healthy in His sight.
I recently wrote another blog asking if Jesus is your Savior, or is He your Lord and Savior. In it we took a look at Matthew 7:21-23, and how that the ones Jesus turned away were practicing lawlessness even though they called Him Lord and did the supernatural in His name. They were doing their own thing, living as they felt was right and okay and not according to Scripture and what God had for them. The attitude of their heart was not one of obedience to Him, and as a result Jesus told them to depart from Him.
In Matthew 25:1-13, we read of Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins. In this parable, the virgins represent followers of Christ, Christians. All ten of them were patiently waiting, with full expectation, for the bridegroom to come get them, but only five were found ready and prepared when he did arrive. The five virgins that were not ready and prepared for him were left behind. The setting of this parable is in the context of the ancient Jewish wedding, a picture that is often times used to illustrate the wedding between Christ and the Church. To keep things brief, one of the aspects of the ancient Jewish wedding is that the groom and bride enter into a marriage covenant with each other, a process that isn’t completed until a future time. After entering into this marriage, the groom leaves for an indefinite period of time to prepare a place for her. Upon his return for his bride, the one whom he has entered into a marriage covenant with, if she was ready and prepared for him when he returned, he would take her back to his father’s house where the marriage process would be finalized and completed. If on the other hand he were to find that her affections were elsewhere or that she had not prepared herself for him as she ought, the groom could leave without her and give her a letter of divorce. This was what Joseph was going to do with Mary when he heard that she was with child, planning to “put her away privately”, Matthew 1:19.
In the parable of the unforgiving servant found in Matthew 18:21-34, Jesus gives us a picture of the place forgiveness should have in our life. In it, a king is settling accounts with his servants who represent Christians. A servant is brought to him that owes him an enormous debt that he could not pay, and when the king gives orders to have him sold along with his wife and children to pay the debt the servant begs for time. Out of compassion the king not only gives him more time, but he actually forgives, or cancels out, the debt this servant owed him. The servant then goes out and finds a fellow servant that only owes him pennies by comparison to what he had just been forgiven of, and despite the begging of this other servant for more time to pay, he has him thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the king hears of this he calls for the servant, rebukes him because he didn’t show the same kind of compassion and kindness towards the other servant that he had been given, and in anger recalls the debt that had initially been forgiven and sends him to the torturers until he paid it all. In a nutshell, when the king forgave the servant, that represents salvation, but because the servant didn’t extend forgiveness to others after he had first received forgiveness from the king, his past debt was remembered and he was sent off to be tortured. For those that say that this doesn’t apply to us, Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:35 that God will do the same to us if we don’t from our heart also forgive. The servant received salvation, but because he would not forgive his salvation was forfeited.
Some will argue that these teachings of Jesus are not relevant to us because they were before He died and rose again, but in Matthew 28:19-20, just before He ascended up into heaven, Jesus instructs us to teach others to observe and do ALL that He commanded us. He didn’t indicate only that which was after His resurrection, but all that He had commanded us to do. In a book that was written about 90 A.D., almost 60 years after Christ’s ascension, Jesus talks to seven churches made up of Christians in Revelation 2-3. In these chapters Jesus identifies what awaits those who overcome, and in Revelation 3:1-6 He talks to the church in Sardis. In Revelation 3:5 He tells them that if they overcome “He will not blot their name out of the Book of Life”. How can a person’s name be blotted out of anything without it first being put in it? Since a person’s name is entered into the Lamb’s Book of Life at the point of salvation, this can only mean that because they didn’t overcome as Christ instructed them to do they “lost” their salvation. Some people confuse the Book of the Living with the Book of Life, but they are two completely different books. The Book of the Living, which is what Moses referred to in Exodus 32:32-33, has the names of all people who are physically living. The Lamb’s Book of Life has all the names of those who have received salvation, whether they are currently dead or alive, which is only through Christ and the accepting of His sacrifice for our sins. The writer of Hebrews indicates in Hebrews 10 that it’s possible for some to “draw back” from the salvation they once received, and how that the just will endure and live by faith.
While I don’t embrace the teaching of “once saved, always saved”, also known as “eternal security”, I do believe a person can be secure in their salvation. When a person has a heart that seeks to honor and please God in all they do, to obey Him and His commands first and foremost, to actively shun sin in their life and be quick to repent when they do sin, which means to cease continuing in that sin, I believe a person can be secure in their salvation. But, if a person is continually trying to defend or justify their behavior or the presence of sin in their life, or they take the position that they have the right to decide when they will or will not obey God and His Word, no matter what it is, then they are at risk of forfeiting the salvation they began in. Some say for some to lose their salvation requires a complete turning of ones back to God, but I believe from what we’ve looked at in this and the previous blog it is possible for someone to “lose” their salvation and not enter into heaven without completely turning their back on Him. Does a person lose their salvation every time they sin? No, I believe that a person with the right attitude of the heart will experience God’s grace without measure during those times until they’ve had opportunity to recognize the sin and repent of it. The Holy Spirit will convict us when we’ve sinned, and when we continue in sin, but if we continue to ignore His conviction or try to say it isn’t Him then we run the risk of falling short of the prize that the Apostle Paul tells us about, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and Philippians 3:12-16. The Apostle Paul tells us to push for the prize that awaits us, and Jesus tells us that there is a reward for those who endure and overcome till the end.
Do you want the prize, the crown awaiting those who persevere and overcome till the end? Do you want what awaits those who watch and prepare for the return of Jesus for His Bride? Don’t let your robes of righteousness become spotted and blemished with the world and sin. It’s up to you.
John Johansson (Pastor John)