Can A Believer Lose Their Salvation?

The Doctrine: Once Saved, Always Saved

By Clovis Miller

There is an understanding, or I should say "misunderstanding", among some in the Christian Community, that Baptist in general, believe that a person can become born again by putting their trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ; after which they can "live like the Devil" and still go to heaven. This perception is commonly referred to as the "once saved, always saved" doctrine. Speaking as one who was born again in a Baptist church, I can say up front, that nothing could be further from the truth, as far as true Baptist see it. One of the hallmarks among their beliefs is that, if you are "truly born again", you will desire to live a godly life, rather than "live like the devil". Furthermore, such conduct is in nowise condoned as acceptable by any true Baptist. Any apparent conversion, which does not result in a God centered attitude, was not a true conversion at all. The notion of someone, living like the Devil, after "receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior" is seen as sure evidence that no transformation ever took place. There is a great difference between such a superficial profession of faith (having it both ways), which can be found in any church or denomination; and a true conversion, which afterwards is nullified by the convert. Having said that, there are some issues, concerning the relationship between everlasting security and free will, which I would like to address in this article.

First of all, let us consider the issue from a different perspective. Is it really a matter of God stripping a believer of their salvation because of disobedience; or is the truth found in that, a believer still having free will, can choose to cast off their hope, thereby disposing of the gift of everlasting life? Why someone would opt to do such a thing is a mystery; but we are talking here about how we respond to a gift given to us. Let's put it in the context of a birthday party. Someone may give us a gift; but what we do with it, is up to us. It can be used to enhance our lives, or it can be cast aside, or even given away, so that we never receive any benefit from it. Receiving, and then rejection, the gift of everlasting life, is well expressed in Heb. 10:28-29

28)"He that despised Moses'law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
29) Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" [Emphasis is Mine]

You don't have to be a theologian, to understand basic concepts taught in the Bible. The Scriptures were never intended to be a road block or hinderance to anyone who seeks to draw closer to God. The above verses are used in the context of verse 39: "...of those who draw back to perdition..."

I totally agree with the principle of everlasting security for the believer, which Baptist hold dearly. God is ever ready and willing to help and preserve those who call upon Him. However, my understanding of this is tempered in that, the word "believer", is to be always be used in context of present tense. That is to say: it matters not what one believed yesterday, or twenty years ago. The quesion is: What does one believe at this very moment? Our convictions of the past are only valid if they are the same at the present. Do we see sin as a permitted indulgence, because the debt for it has been paid by the death of Jesus on the cross; or do we see sin as reprehensible because of the price it exacted on the Lord for our redemption. The Lord didn't die on the cross to secure a license for us to continue in the very thing which caused Him to be put to death.

For those who have made a superficial conversion, the "premitted indulgence" mentioned above, is siezed; and the "convert" never seems to rise above the carnality, which was present before their "commitment to the Lord" was made. In some instances, there may be a true born again experience. However, unless the it is followed up by teaching, encouragement etc., that tender young life may wither away {Matt. 13:20-21}. The new convert must be nursed, as a baby {Heb. 5:13-14}. The food they are fed will be instrumental in determining the outcome of their life.

There are just too many verses of Scripture, which give evidence to the understanding, that those who make a commitment to the Lord Jesus, retain their freedom of choice afterwards, concerning that commitment. Our relationship to the Lord, must be on a totally voluntary basis. He will in no wise compel us to follow Him, nor does He strip us of free will after we choose to do so. It's not like: "I got you now, and I'll never let you go, no matter what you do or think". That's a wrong application of the Word of God. It's a dangerous thing to use the mercy and forgiveness of God as a cover, under which one can practice sin!

As far as everlasting security is concerned, a Baptist would point out that according to John 5:24, the believer has (present tense) everlasting life. So, it is put forth that, If the life the believer now has is everlasting; How could it ever possibly cease? This logic is correct in one respect: Everlasting Life does not cease, and in fact, cannot cease, because of the eternal and everlasting nature of God. What needs to be understood here, is that there is no life apart from God. When we are born again, He doesn't create a 'stand alone version' of Himself in us. He simply makes us to be partakers of life eternal and everlasting which is in Him alone. By I Tim. 6:13-16, we understand that He "...only has immortality...". When we shall have put on immortality {1 Cor. 15:54}, then we shall be clothed with God's eternal nature. Immortality is defined in Strong's Concordance [#110] as "deathlessness". Our connection in it, is probably best stated in Acts 17:28, wherein it is said:

"For in Him, we live and move and have our being..."

Whether or not, we remain partakers of His eternal nature, depends on our keeping the commitment which we have made to Him.

Scripture indeed indicates that no external entity can strip us of the love of God (i.e. our salvation) {Romans 8:38-39}. These verses however, speak to those who are comitted to following the Lord to the end of their lives. It does not address those who become cold in their commitment, and fade away from serving Him. There is no indication that the Lord will ever initiate such action against those who rest their hope and trust in Him; but neither will He forbid a person to depart from Him, if that is the desire of their heart. Though it seems incomprehensible to a stedfast believer; Scripture is clear that there have been those, who have done that very thing.

So, let's look at some very powerful verses of Scripture regarding this matter.

{Luke 9:62}

Jesus said,"no man having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of heaven".

The focus here is on keeping our eyes on the prize (a great future harvest); as opposed to "looking back" to an unproductive past. Putting one's hand "to the plough" is as to say, that we began to till our lives, as a farmer does with the soil, in preparation for a future harvest. Tilling means breaking the soil, then removing the weeds or grass. In a spiritual context, we are to break our lives, and remove the embedded things, as the Holy Spirit points them out to us. The things needed to be removed are those things (sinful habits, etc.) which produce a bad or diminished harvest. In the eyes of Jesus, looking back, or regretting that one has began this process, makes one unworthy, or unfit for the Kingdom of God. Looking back, became disasterous for Lot's wife {Gen. 19:17,26}. It's a lesson we should take to heart.

Breaking the hardness of the soil (heart), by plowing, is only the beginning of a process called sanctification (i.e. the removal of no-productive elements from our lives). Just as the Holy Spirit brings to our attention, the things which hinder a good harvest; the believer should see sin (spiritual weeds and grass), as a hinderance to their welfare. He will point out to us what needs to be removed; but it is our responsibility to see that those things are taken out. Tilling the soil means not only removing the initial weeds from the soil, but continuously removing any weeds which spring up between the initial plowing and the final harvest. It's an accurate picture of the true believer's life. We must continouosly listen to the Holy Spirit, and be ready to remove any sin which may try to take root in our hearts. Let's be a little more specific about whom Jesus was speaking of in His declaration.

II Pet.2:20-21 states:

20)"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.

21) 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."

The plowing, or tilling process, begins when a person comes to an understanding, and acceptance, of God's plan of redemption, as stated in verse 20 above. As stated, tilling is necessary for a good crop. However, it also provides better conditions for the growth of new weeds. Seeds, good or bad, grow much better in tilled soil. If we fail to pull out the weed grass, eventually it will take over the soil, ruin the crop, and probably be stronger than it was before the soil was plowed. Is it possible for a person to begin with God and then quit? The answer according to the two verses above is, yes.

Heb. 3:6,14

6) But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house we are, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end...
14) For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;"

Heb. 6:4-6

4) "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

5) And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

6) If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to open shame."

Here in Hebrews, it is pointed out that only those who hold their "...confidence steadfast unto the end...", will be counted as a partakers of the household of Jesus. Again, it is implied that a possibility exist for one, not to hold his confidence stedfast unto the end.

Hebrews 10:26-29, 38-39


38) "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,"

This verse can be easily misunderstood, if not viewed in the proper context of how it is used in the chapter. It's not referring to the commission of a particular sin or sins, as we normally think of it; but rather, is directed at those who finally and permanently forsake the assembly of saints (verse 25), and what that assembly stands for. In other words, the sin here, is apostasy. These have turned their back, not only on the church, but also on Jesus himself, who is the head of the church. That's why verses 38-39 state,

" Now the just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them which draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul."

It's basically stated here, that we (believers), in contrast to some others (former believers) who are, or have been with us, do not draw back from the Lord. How does one "draw back" from something they never believed in? Again, it goes back to the concept of putting the hand to the plow, and then looking back. They started off right, but then returned to their former state. The same can be said of those spoken of in II Thess. 2:3,11 which states:

3) "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first..."

Here the term, "falling away" is applied to those who have turned their backs on God, and what is right. Again, one cannot fall away from something they have not previously embraced. Make no mistake about it; the falling away spoken of here, is a departure from the truth, which they once held, as stated in verse 12. Because of the prophetic aspects of this chapter, some have concluded that the "falling away", or departure mentioned here, is the removal of the church (i.e. the rapture), so that the man of sin may be revealed. That however, is not the proper context in which the term is used in this chapter. The only way the man of sin can be revealed is for a significant portion of believers to depart from following the truth. When that happens; and it will, then the Holy Spirit will cease to convict them of their error (i.e. He will be taken out of the way); and they will be at liberty to pursue whatever they may choose, "...that they all may be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." {II Thess. 2:7,12}

Commiting "a sin" is not the same as "practicing a sin". We should not confuse remorse (feeling sorrowful or guilty of sinning) with repentance (turning away from sins because of remorse). The fact is, that any one of us who gets outside the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit, is just as prone, or susceptible to yeilding to temptation as any worldly person. I don't think God is as interested in how many times we fall down, as He is in, whether we get up again and continue in the right direction. That's not to say, that sin of any type or degree, isn't a grave matter before Him; but that He knows and fully understands the human condition (Ps. 103:14 ; Lam. 3:33-36), and is compassionate towards us despite our shortcomings. Sin may occur from time to time, but we are never to approve of it, or embrass it as being acceptable.

Scripture admoinishes us to not yeild our members "as instruments of unrighteousness..." (Romans 6:13}. As bonded servants of the Lord, we have no right to choose sin; however, we still retain the ability to do so. It is important that we understand the difference between the ability to do something, and the right to do it. It would help us all immensely, if we would engrain this point in our thinking.

God has made an irrevokable commitment to us, throught His Son, Jesus. In order for us to receive the benefits of that commitment, we in turn, must make an irrevokable commitment to Him. That entails, putting our trust in Him and the redemptive work which He has accompolished, and never looking back. Trials and temptations will surely come. The true test is: How will we respond to them. Will we be stedfast to the end, or just fade away from grace so freely offered to us?

This is the essence of God's plan of salvation: we are lost because of our sins; but He so loves us that He took our sins and charged them to His Son, that He might be able to show mercy to us, and look upon us as fully justified people. If we draw nigh unto Him, and He will draw nigh unto us (James 4:8).

For more on the sacrifice which Jesus made for us, Click Here

For additional study on the day of the crucifixion Click Here

For additional study on: Our Righteousnesses Are As Filthy Rags Click Here

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