There is a doctrine that is sometimes called once saved, always saved, also call the impossibility of apostasy and a more formal name for the same doctrine is the perseverance of the saints. Basically this doctrine states that once a person is saved, that person cannot ever so sin as to be eternally lost. This doctrine was one of the five major tenets of Calvinism. Once listening to a preacher speak at the funeral of a man whom I had personally known for at least forty years and known to not be a very honest man, to not be a very religious man, to be a frequent user of profanity as well as drunkenness, I heard that preacher say that he had personally heard the deceased say back in the nineteen forties that he believed in Jesus Christ, so he therefore knew without a doubt that the deceased had gone to heaven. Similar occurrences happen often. Of the things just discussed, we wish to consider if the doctrine of once saved, always saved is truly a scriptural doctrine or is it simply a man made doctrine.
Let us start with a very simple method of answering this question. There are many times in the New Testament where Christians are warned about falling away from God and their salvation. The argument has often been made that we never warned our children about what was impossible for them to do, but we did warn them about that which they could do. For instance, you have probably never warned your children about flying into the side of a house while out flying around like a bird. The reason is that they can’t fly. God has warned us not to fall, thus showing that we can fall. In the latter part of the third chapter of Hebrews, the writer points to the failure of the children of Israel in the wilderness to make it to the promise land. They were God’s people, having already been delivered from Egyptian bondage, but they failed to reach the goal (Heb. 3:15-19). The Hebrew writer then makes the application, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Heb. 4:1). This is written to Christians! They are told that they needed to fear lest they missed out on their eternal rest. A few verses later the writer stated, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb. 4:11).
Next, notice another very clear and powerful passage concerning a Christian being lost in the end. Peter writing to Christians states, “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” (II Pet. 2:20-22). If there is any meaning at all in the word of God, there can be no doubt that one can fall and be lost.
Philip converted a man in Samaria named Simon. The text says that “Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip…” (Acts 8:13). But Simon sinned!. Peter told him, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:22-23). Some have argued, “well Simon didn’t really believe”. The inspired word says that he did (Acts 8:13).
Another example that can be used that leaves no escape from understanding the truth is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Start with the understanding that Paul is writing to Christians. He addresses it to “the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (I Cor. 1:2). Now in the fifth chapter of this letter he states that “there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife” (I Cor. 5:1). Notice this fornicator is one of them, that is he is a Christian from among the church at Corinth. It is just the next chapter of this letter in which Paul states, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9-10). Notice that the very first unrighteous action he mentions is that of fornication. Thus we see from this example that a Christian can be guilty of fornication and that one who is guilty of fornication cannot enter into heaven. Case closed. There is no doubt that a child of God can fall from the way of righteousness and be eternally lost. It is therefore motive for us to walk in the light. (Send any questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.