“Once Saved, Always Saved” - Fact or Fiction?
Part I of V
A popular Christian doctrine alleges that once a person enters a saved relationship with Christ, that person will remain saved regardless of changes in future attitude, conduct, or allegiance. It is, therefore, properly deemed: Once Saved – Always Saved. The major tenet of this particular doctrine is that it is utterly impossible for a child of God to sin as to fall away from grace and be lost. The claim is that Christ will not, for any reason, withdraw salvation from anyone who has entered into a saved relationship with Him.
The doctrine of “Once Saved – Always Saved” was conceived in the writings of the Swiss reformer, John Calvin (1509-64), and like a wildfire on windswept prairies, it quickly spread through the various Protestant Denominations. Dr. Charles Stanley, a prominent Baptist preacher, advocates this view in his book, Eternal Security – Can You Be Sure? (1990, Nashville, TN: Oliver Nelson). He contends that a child of God can never stray into sin or break allegiance with Christ as to be lost eternally.
Incalculable is the number of those who are trusting in the doctrine of “Once Saved – Always Saved.” Included in that number are several personal friends who were taught the doctrine in their youth. Consequently, these have abandoned any association with the church, neglecting worship on the Lord’s Day for participation in leisure activities – and why not? In their minds, they are saved and cannot be lost. They have no need to study the Bible; no need for self-sacrifice; no need to take up their cross daily; no need to avoid worldliness or materialism; no need to worship Christ on the first day of the week; no need for service of any kind; no need for repentance of sins; and no reason to conform to the image of Christ – they have believed in Christ and are thereby saved irrevocably.
Notwithstanding the confidence so many have placed in this most comforting doctrine, does the Bible really teach the impossibility of apostasy? Can it be true that the church purchased by Christ, that obedience to the teachings of Christ, that repentance and reformation of life, public worship, etc., are all matters which are inconsequential to salvation? “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). Is there really no standard of conduct and practice for the Christian? What saith the Scriptures? Is the doctrine of “Once Saved – Always Saved” fact or fiction?
Once a Child – Always a Child?
A popular argument for the impossibility of apostasy is lodged from a perceived logical perspective which claims: “Once a Child – Always a Child.” Proponents ask, “Is a child not ever a child?” The insinuation is that no child of God can change or altar their status; thus a child of God is always a child of God, and regardless of what one may say, do, or believe, they are beyond the possibility of ever being eternally condemned.
On the sixth day of creation, God created mankind in His own image. Therefore, in the broadest sense of reference, all human beings, as Paul related to those in Athens, “are His children” (Acts 17:28). However, God revealed to Adam and Eve that disobedience to the divine standard would culminate in death (Genesis 2:17). God later acknowledged, “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father is Mine as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). All humanity belongs to the Sovereign Creator, but we are His for blessing or punishment, as were Adam and Eve, depending upon the requisite obedience proper to the age. We are now under the gospel age.
The first case of one voicing the “Once Saved – Always Saved” doctrine is found in the Garden of Eden. Despite God’s firm warning against disobedience, the devil told Eve, “You shall not surely die!” (Genesis 3:4). Here we have the embryo of the modern allegation that a child of God cannot sin as to be lost. But the devastating consequences of human rebellion against the Creator continue to plague mankind, and the billions upon billions of graves filling the earth is a testament against the duplicitous heresy of Satan.
Although humanity was created as children of God, the truth is, a rebellious child of God can be dispossessed or disinherited as explicitly revealed in the affairs of God with His covenant people under the Mosaic age. The nation of Israel was particularly chosen “to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). Following the rebellion of Israel in the wilderness, God said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them” (Numbers 14:11-12; emp. added).
Through the prophet, Hosea, God affirmed to the arrogant, stiff-necked, idol-worshipping northern kingdom of Israel, “you are not My people and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:9). Allegiance to Satan, rather than to God, effectively changes the status of sonship. When Jesus encountered certain Jews claiming, “We have one Father: God,” He told them unequivocally, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father…He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (John 6:41-47).
While preaching the gospel to Gentiles on the Island of Cyprus, Paul was interrupted and contradicted by a “Jewish false prophet” named Bar-Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul smote the man with blindness, saying, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight way of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). To be a “son of the devil” was to neglect and oppose the standard of obedience required by God as outlined in the gospel.
In discussing the dramatic turn of events whereby God included Gentiles as recipients of divine favor, Paul quotes God as saying, “I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’ And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’ And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God” (Romans 9:25-26). Although referencing the Gentiles, it is certainly not true that the passage evinces blanket sonship upon all Gentiles with no requisite obedience. The gospel of Christ offered salvation to Jew and Gentile alike, and all those believing in Christ and being “baptized into Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27) were counted as sons of the living God.
Dr. Stanley appeals mightily to Paul’s use of the term “adoption” (Romans 8:15), filling two chapters with arguments attempting to prove that “adoption” is a permanent, non-reversible status. He opens Chapter 5 with these lines: “If salvation can be lost, our adoption into the family of God is not permanent. We can be unadopted, so to speak. Such a process, however, is never described or even alluded to in the New Testament” (Op. Cit.).
Notwithstanding Dr. Stanley’s characterization of the contents of the New Testament, the apostle issued a stern warning to the Gentiles in the same letter, not only indicating the possibility of future annulment, but reasons for annulment. Paul cautioned, “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became a partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again” (Romans 11:17-23).
The reader is urged to pay careful attention to the use of the word “if” in the preceding quotation. Paul says plainly, “if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either” (v. 21). The promise of salvation to the Gentiles, just as to the Jews, is conditional – “if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you will be cut off” (v. 22). Remaining a branch (i.e. a child of God) is conditioned upon humility and faithful observance to divine instructions and obligations. Even in the case when a branch has been “cut off,” God is able to graft it in again, “if they do not continue in their unbelief” (v. 23). Paul knew nothing of Christians being “Once Saved – Always Saved.”
The illogical nature of the “once/always” argument should be readily apparent to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Scripture. If the “once a child – always a child” allegation is true, then it would be impossible for a child of the devil to ever repent and become a child of God. Yet Jesus came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Christ did “not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). If one who is a child of the devil can be called to become a child of God, the argument for the impossibility of apostasy on the grounds of “once a child – always a child” is emphatically rendered impotent.
The divine principle was clearly articulated by God in the long ago: “But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die…But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live?...for them he will die” (Ezekiel 18:21-24). God has never refused the penitent, but He has never accepted the willfully disobedient, either. God has never condoned the idea of “Once Saved – Always Saved.”
Examination of the “They Were Never Saved” Argument
Because the New Testament unquestionably records the falling away of some that once belonged to Christ, it has become standard procedure for Calvinist to argue that these were never saved, but were only disingenuous pretenders. And in cases were the prior conversion is obvious, it is argued that these did not fall away from eternal security, but from temporal blessings only. Are these allegations fact or fiction? The seriousness of the issue cannot be overstated; therefore it is vital to consider the language of the Bible carefully, sincerely, and thoroughly.
The Case of Judas
It is generally conceded that Judas, the Lord’s betrayer, died in a lost condition. In His prayer preceding Gethsemane, Jesus referred to Judas as the “son of perdition” (John 17:12). This phrase indicates “destruction, utter ruin; hell ( ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀ. one bound to be lost or one destined for hell Jn 17:12; 2 Th 2:3)” (Newman, 1993). Thayer says it speaks of one “doomed to eternal misery” (1958, p. 71). The Lord also used the word “perished” with reference to Judas. “In view is not just physical destruction but a hopeless destiny of eternal death” (Kittel, 1985).
In convening to discuss the appointment of a replacement for Judas, Peter acknowledged that “Judas turned aside to go to his own place” (Acts 1:25). Baptist scholar, A. T. Robertson, commented, “A bold and picturesque description of the destiny of Judas worthy of Dante’s Inferno. There is no doubt in Peter’s mind of the destiny of Judas nor of his own guilt. He made ready his own berth and went to it” (1933, Acts 1:25).
However, to avert the possibility of one losing salvation by determined acts of willful disobedience, Calvinist contend that Judas was never in a saved relationship with Christ. It is alleged that, although he participated with the other apostles in preaching repentance and the coming kingdom (Mark 6:7-13; cf. Luke 9:1-6), he was never saved personally. Several points of fact should be carefully considered before rushing to judgment in order to protect a beloved theory.
(1) Judas was selected and appointed by Christ to serve as an apostle (Matthew 10:1-2; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16). It appears wholly unreasonable that Christ would select eleven “saved” men and one “unsaved” man to serve in notable distinction as apostles. These men belonged to Christ, and Judas was numbered among the others in the apostleship (Acts 1:17).
(2) Judas received the same powers of healing, raising the dead, and ability to cast out demons as
did the other apostles (Matthew 10:1, 8; Mark 3:14-15, 6:7; Luke 9:1). Mark records, “They went
out and preached that men should repent. And they were casting out many demons and were
anointing with oil many sick people and healing them” (6:12-13; cf. Luke 9:10). The pronoun “they” has reference to all twelve apostles, and it is specifically stated that Judas had his “share” in the ministry (Acts 1:17). To insist Judas was never saved is to affirm that a child of the devil was given power to cast out demons. In contradistinction, Christ confounded the Pharisees who charged He was casting out demons by Beelzebub, saying to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satancasts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:25-26).
No response was forth coming, because Christ had brilliantly illuminated an obvious principle of truth. If Christ actually commissioned a child of the devil to cast out demons, would the appointment not have violated the very argument He pressed upon the Pharisees? If Judas did not belong to God as this point, how do we account for his authority and power to cast out demons?
(3) Judas readily accepted induction as an apostle. The Lord actively discouraged pretentious followers (Luke 9:57-58; John 6:15ff), even warning the twelve at the time of their selection of future persecution (Matthew 10:16-23). The apostleship afforded no luxuries or material gain, but promised only hardship and severe maltreatment. Judas consented to the appointment, offering himself in service to Christ along with the other apostles.
(4) Jesus spoke of Himself as the “head of the house” and the twelve as “members of his household” (Matthew 10:25). How can one entertain the idea that Judas was not saved when the Lord Himself evinces the chosen twelve as “members of his household”? He went on to tell the apostles (including Judas), “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Matthew 10:40). Can one who receives a son of the devil receive Christ, even the Father?
In light of these statements alone, is it possible to contend Judas was not in a saved relationship with Christ during that early period of ministry? Those who received Judas into their homes were receiving Christ, even the Father; and to insist Judas was a child of the devil at this juncture is to blaspheme the holiness and righteousness of God.
(5) Judas worshipped Christ along with the other apostles after Jesus came to them walking on the
water (Matthew 14:33). The entire group confessed, “You are certainly God’s son.” If he doubted or did not participate, the record would have indicated such (cf. Matthew 28:17).
(6) After three years of close, near constant association with one another, none of the apostles entertained any suspicion of Judas. This would seem rather remarkable if Judas was only a pretender. But in the upper room on the last night before the crucifixion, as Jesus reclined next to Judas, on “his bosom” so to speak, Christ revealed that one of the twelve was to betray Him. Judas held such regard among the twelve that none of them suspected him, but independently questioned Jesus, saying, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22).
(7) The prayer of Jesus that night included a special petition on behalf of the apostles. It simply will not do to protest that Judas was excluded from the petition, for Jesus affirmed, “I have manifested Your name to the men You have given Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You have given Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understand that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me…and I have been glorified in them…While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled” (John 17:6-12).
The word “manifested” (v. 6) appears in aorist tense, having reference to the personal ministry of Christ during the three years He was with the apostles. The Lord manifested the name of God to the men given to Him “out of the world” (v. 6). This included Judas. Jesus taught them the words He had been sent to speak, and they “received” those words (v. 8). Judas was present at the great discourses – both public and private – taught by Christ. Jesus was glorified in the apostles as they completed their preaching assignment with the casting out of demons and various signs of healing. Judas had his part in the ministry (Acts 1:17).
The Lord was “keeping them” in the name of God, and “guarded them” (v. 12). Again, this has reference to all twelve of the apostles. Judas was in the name of God the same as the other eleven.The evidence that Judas was included in the previous verses is found in the closing words of verse 12, “not one of them [i.e. the twelve] perished but the son of perdition.” The Lord had guarded and safely kept all but one, implying that all were subject to apostasy (cf. John 6:66-67). Jesus lost Judas. A. T. Robertson called Judas “A sad and terrible exception,” explaining the phrase “son of perdition” as “the son marked by final loss, not annihilation, but meeting one’s destiny” (Op. Cit.).
Peter remarked that Judas “turned aside” – parabaino, “to apostatize…to transgress, to break…to transgress against God…to deviate from” (Lust, 2003). Is it possible to “turn aside” from that which one has never belonged? Judas was provided every opportunity to develop stronger faith in the Lord as were the other apostles, but he determined at the end to rebel against the Lord, seeking personal gain by a sinister means. Judas represents a clear case of a child of God slowly turning away, allowing Satan to influence his heart, and becoming ensnared to a point beyond recovery.
Some contend John 6:70 affirms Judas as a constant “devil.” The Lord asked the twelve, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” It is important to pay attention to the two verbs of this sentence. The verb “choose” is aorist tense, signifying action in the past; the verb “is” underscores a present situation. Judas was not a devil when first chosen by the Lord, but he became such along the way. The statement in John 6:70 is spoken about a year before the Lord’s death; thus two years into His ministry.
Judas, after being placed in charge of the “money box,” began pilfering from the contents (John 12:6). Through sufficient opportunity, Judas had succumbed to temptation, becoming a petty thief. In seeking greater riches, Judas led a vocal protest, joined by some of the other apostles, denouncing the waste of the “costly perfume” used to anoint Jesus (John 12:3-6; cf. Mark 14:3-5). Receiving a stern public rebuke by Christ, Judas “went off to the priest in order to betray Him to them” (Mark 14:10). Luke says, “And Satan entered into Judas” (Luke 22:3), indicating a change of influence and allegiance.
On the following night, during supper, John says, “the devil, having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him…” (John 13:2). Although he had originally belonged to God, Satan slowly gained a foot hold in the heart of Judas, and on that fateful night, after receiving the sop, “Satan then entered into him” (John 13:27). The battle of allegiance in the heart of Judas had been won by Satan, and he exercised the freewill granted every man by God to choose his own master. Judas took responsibility for his own guilt in the matter, confessing, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:3-4).
The Lord lost Judas, not because Satan snatched him away, or by the sinister actions of any outside force, but by the determined will expressed by Judas. He wantonly “turned aside” from the divine privilege bestowed upon him, submitting himself into the power and control of the devil. The case of Judas remains a warning to all men today that no one is exempt from the lure of Satan to abandon the righteousness of Christ and return as a slave to the kingdom of darkness. This explains the multitude of passages warning Christians to remain faithful to Christ throughout life.
The Case of Simon the Sorcerer
In Acts 8, Luke details the proclamation of Christ in Samaria by Phillip. Large crowds gathered, “giving attention to what was said by Phillip” (v. 6). “But when they believed Phillip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, both men and women alike” (v. 12).
The people of Samaria were not simply “trusting Christ as their Savior” or being told they were saved by “faith alone” as commonly espoused today, but they were obeying the conditions of salvation proclaimed by Phillip in accordance with the apostles’ doctrine related on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:38, 41). Preaching the “good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” includes the obligatory acts of obedience necessary to become a Christian, concluding in submission to baptism in order to be saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16; etc., etc.).
“Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized, he continued on with Phillip” (Acts 8:13). The narrative evinces nothing suggesting Simon was less genuine in his obedience than were the other Samaritans. On the contrary, it is explicitly stated that “Simon himself believed.” To suggest otherwise is to discredit the inspired narrative of Luke who affirms Simon “believed.”
To further document the completion of his obedience in association with his belief, it is also affirmed that he was “baptized.” Here we have one who has done more than many today who claim Christianity but who refuse baptism in the name of Jesus Christ because they have relegated such as a “work.” Neither Simon nor the other Samaritans quibbled over or rejected baptism as multitudes do today, but they humbly submitted themselves to death, being buried with Christ in baptism, and raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-11; cf. Colossians 2:8-12).
Simon and the other Samaritans had become real Christians, and when word reached Jerusalem that they had “received the word of God,” Peter and John were dispatched to Samaria. When Simon observed that these two apostles possessed power to distribute the Holy Spirit by laying their hands on baptized believers, he sought to bribe the apostles into bestowing upon him this authoritative power. The former magician who had previously commanded much attention (vv 9-11) had become envious of the power possessed by the apostles – an envy that was not in harmony with Christian conduct.
The common ploy suggesting Simon was not really saved is rebuffed by the actions of Peter in this situation. Simon’s attempted bribery elicited a stern reprimand by Peter, who warned Simon that he would “perish” (v. 20), if he did not repent of this grave wickedness and intention of his heart (i.e. the desire for apostolic authority). The word “perish” (applied to both Simon and his money) translates the Greek apoleia, and is used of things to signify “their waste, or ruin…of persons, signifying their spiritual and eternal perdition” (Vine, 1996, p. 165).
Robertson explained, “The natural meaning of Peter’s language is that Simon was on the road to destruction. It is a warning and almost a curse on him, though verse 22 shows that there was still room for repentance” (Op. Cit.; Acts 8:20). Although accepting the ideology of once saved, always saved, and even commenting afterward that Simon was “an unconverted man in spite of his profession of faith and baptism,” Robertson’s exegesis of verses 20-22 of the text is spot on. Nothing Peter said evinces a denial of Simon’s prior conversion, but relates only to the present sin, which Peter indicates would bring about destruction if Simon failed to repent, beseeching God for forgiveness.
Prayer for continued forgiveness of sins is the privilege of the child of God (Matthew 6:9; 1 John 1:9; 2:1; 3:22; 5:14) – not the child of Satan. If Simon was not a child of God, Peter would have commanded Him to believe on the name of Jesus Christ, to repent and be baptized unto the remission of all his sins (cf. Acts 2:38; 10:48). Peter warned Simon, a straying child of God, to repent, praying that God would forgive him of the present sin in his heart. Peter’s instructions to Simon are in agreement with the instructions given elsewhere for the erring child of God. It is only the Christian who possesses the right of praying for forgiveness of sins – not the alien sinner. Simon was a Christian (Acts 8:13).
The alien sinner must respond to the conditions of the gospel he has heard through the testimony of the apostles, expressing belief in Christ (Romans 10:10), repenting of sins (Acts 3:19), and being baptized into Christ Jesus (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). Clothing oneself with Christ is how one becomes a Christian, and if you “belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendents, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).
Simon was “born again” (John 3:3-5) when he “believed” and was “baptized” (Acts 8:13). Luke, the inspired historian, does not report that Simon “disbelieved,” but that he “believed” and was “baptized” (cf. Mark 16:16). Had he not previously obeyed these precepts and become a child of God, Peter would have ordered these straightway (Acts 2:38). The case of Simon demonstrates the possibility that a child of God may fall away and be lost due to sin – repentance and prayer to God for forgiveness is the only remedy.
The Case of the Fornicating Brother
The church in Corinth was beset with many problems, and if it be true that matters of the church, worship, godly living, etc., are not important to salvation, then why does the apostle Paul adamantly insist that these errors be corrected? If no sin or doctrinal flaw has any bearing on salvation, as affirmed by Dr. Stanley, why the several treatises warning, rebuking, teaching, correcting, and encouraging Christians to live and worship according to the divine standard? Obviously, the inspired apostles and prophets were ignorant of the wisdom and understanding which permeates “Christendom” today which claims a child is always a child and nothing you believe, say, or do has any effect on your eternal destiny!
In contradistinction, the church in Corinth was plagued by a moral cancer that was eating away at the fabric of the congregation. A member of the church was living in fornication with his father’s wife (his stepmother). Paul considered the conduct so outrageous that it exceeded Gentile debauchery (1 Corinthians 5:1), but even more alarming to Paul was the fact that the Corinthian church did not feel remorse over the situation, and they had taken no action to remove the offending brother from their midst (v. 2).
In response, Paul asserts his apostolic authority, judging the matter to be wholly inconsistent with Christian principle and conduct. The brother was guilty of sin. By the authority of Christ (cf. Matthew 18:20), Paul ordered the church to assemble, formally remedying the problem through initiating church discipline upon the wayward brother (v. 4-5). Paul, by inspiration, would not tolerate such sinful indulgence by an individual in the church, but warned that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump,” meaning the entire church was in danger of being corrupted by this evil activity (cf. Acts 5:1-11).
Paul expounded upon the instructions given to the church “not to associate with immoral people,” explaining, “I did not at all mean with the immoral people of the world…But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one…Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).
The ultimate goal of the removal of the brother from Christian association was that the fornicator might destroy his own fleshly urges and gratifications, whereby through repentance, he could be restored, returning to a life of purity befitting the name of Christ. It is generally conceded that church discipline in this case was effective, and the wayward brother was eventually restored (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
Paul’s view of sin in the church is strikingly different from that held by Dr. Stanley and many others today. While the church is not at liberty to discipline sinners in the world (God will deal with them), Christians do possess the moral responsibility and authority to reprove and discipline outrageous sinfulness in the church (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). The impenitent transgressor is not to be tolerated in the church, but expelled from fellowship in order that repentance may salvage the soul.
What would Paul say to “churches” today were no sin brings shame or sorrow, no sin is ground for discipline, and no repentance of any sin is ever required? The sinful lifestyles and activities condoned in “churches” today would make the situation in Corinth appear as a “little white lie” by comparison. But such gross wickedness and perversion is the inevitable result when salvation is promised to those “trusting Christ as your Savior,” and every requirement of repentance, godly living through conforming to the image of Christ, and reverent worship in spirit and in truth is denounced as unessential and meaningless.
The warnings of Paul and the instructions given in this passage alone reveals the crass hypocrisy of those appealing to the Scriptures as the guide for Christianity while wantonly disregarding every reproof, warning, and instruction given by the apostles of Christ concerning the church and matters of salvation. It is heart wrenching to hear sincere people claim that as long as they believe in Christ, they can live any lifestyle they choose (i.e. fornicator, adulterer, homosexual, idolater, thief, drunkard, swindler, etc., etc.) (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
The “Once Saved – Always Saved” dogma is leading precious souls to ruin. God will not tolerate or release from guilt Christians who abandon the apostles’ doctrine for the church, blatantly disregarding reverent worship and the observance of the Lord’s Table, walking in gross materialism and worldliness, while indulging in unrestrained sin with no abhorrence of evil whatsoever, but a love of such wickedness as to cause Satan to blush! Paul cautioned the Corinthians, saying, “And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12; cf. Matthew 25:41-46). The case of the fornicating brother and the requirement of church discipline through expulsion demonstrate a child of God can sin so as to be lost.
Conclusion (Part I)
The examples of Judas, Simon, and the brother living in gross fornication afford divine testimony that a child of God can entertain sin to such a degree as to warrant a release from God’s custody and be turned back over to Satan. Many other individual cases could likewise be examined, e.g., Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11); Diotrephes (3 John); etc., but time and space does not lend to an exhaustive examination of pertinent passages dealing with this topic. The cases reviewed offer convincing evidence that the Bible portrays vividly the possibility of falling away from the faith.
In fact, the Bible is replete with passages detailing the possibility of apostasy and loss of salvation. “There are, indeed, more than twenty-five hundred warnings of the possibility of apostasy in the sacred writings; why, if such a possibility does not exist, should such earnest and repeated warnings have been delivered? Why did the inspired writers of the word spend so much time solemnly warning the people to beware of apostasy if God has decreed that such is forevermore impossible?” (Woods, 1976, p. 134).
In Part II of this study, an examination will be conducted of miscellaneous situations addressed by Jesus and the apostle Paul, providing many clear warnings of the immanent danger of apostasy. If apostasy from the faith and the loss of salvation is not possible, how do we account for the urgent pleadings of the apostles for sustained faithfulness through doctrinal purity and godly living? It is interesting to note that the inspired writers never say what is being said today by men like Charles Stanley; therefore, our ears should be inclined away from the ranting of uninspired men, and our eyes focused upon what was really taught by the inspired men [i.e. the apostles] who were charged with proclaiming the gospel to all the world.
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Woods, Guy N. (1976), Questions and Answers – Open Forum (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman