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Losing My Religion - The Once Saved Always Saved Debate

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Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2Corinthians 13: 5 (ESV)

The debate rages on in Christian circles. Once we are saved by the unbelievable grace of God, is it possible to then lose that salvation? Theologians through the ages have weighed in on one side or another only to see self-professed Christians line up on one side or another hurling stones at the other side. The "Once Saved Always Saved" (OSAS) crowd screams legalism while those that believe salvation can be lost scream license to sin. As is usually the case when there is such diametric yet biblically supported opposing positions, the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle of the extreme nature of our hearts. Remember beloved that God is never the author of confusion. I do not pretend to answer what the previous 2000 years has not been able to. I merely think it is time to consider both sides, see what the Bible actually says, and see what positions are still Scripturally standing when the dust settles.

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.I and the Father are one." - John 10: 24-30 (ESV)

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." - John 6: 35-40 (ESV)

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. - Ephesians 4: 30 (ESV)

I find these the three best Scriptures for the support of the OSAS position. Many have referred to Romans 8:38-39 but I can see how someone could interpret those passages to be referring to the love of God and not necessarily our personal salvation, especially when you consider the overall chapter context. This verse from Ephesians however seems pretty clear to me. Granted the better translation would by sealed in as opposed to seal by, but I think the overall point remains the same, as illustrated in the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

"whereby ye are sealed--rather, "wherein (or 'in whom') ye were sealed." As in Eph 1:13, believers are said to be sealed "in" Christ, so here "in the Holy Spirit," who is one with Christ, and who reveals Christ in the soul: the Greek implies that the sealing was done already once for all. It is the Father "BY" whom believers, as well as the Son Himself, were sealed (Joh 6:27). The Spirit is represented as itself the seal (Eph 1:13, for the image employed, see on [2370]Eph 1:13). Here the Spirit is the element IN which the believer is sealed, His gracious influences being the seal itself.

unto--kept safely against the day of redemption, namely, of the completion of redemption in the deliverance of the body as well as the soul from all sin and sorrow (Eph 1:14; Lu 21:28; Ro 8:23).

I think it is important at this point to consider the entire canon of Scripture. What God do we serve? How weak is the work of the cross that we arrogantly believe we can undo it so frivolously? Are we sealed or not? Jude 1:24 declares we serve a God who is able to keep us from stumbling to present us unto Himself blameless. Not because of anything we can do but because of what Jesus Christ has already done. Well then beloved- can He keep us from stumbling or not? Not in terms of perfect sinlessness because the Bible is clear in many places that is not attainable. Can He keep us however from somehow washing away the blood of Jesus which covers us with His righteousness? More importantly, who is God in that scenario? If we, through our own sinful actions can undo the work of Calvary - who is God? We are! In that scenario there is no power in the blood that cannot be overruled by the flesh. I just do not see that supported by the overall message of the Gospel.

It is certainly not supported by the words of Jesus Himself from the cited verses in John's Gospel account. My sheep know my voice. I know them. They follow me. I give them eternal life. They will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. Whoever comes to me I will never cast out. I should lose nothing of all He has given me. I will raise him up on the last day. That all sounds pretty definitive to me. I do not see another possible interpretation. I do not see any out clauses in these promises. Let us also consider the obvious result of believing that we could be snatched out of His hand due to our own sinful behavior. We know from the Bible that we all will sin. Do how much is enough to be snatched out of His hand? How much is enough to "lose" our salvation? The elephant in the room no one ever wants to talk about is that this line of reasoning logically results in a works based salvation. We know from Ephesians 2 that our salvation has nothing to do with our works yet to disbelieve OSAS, all we are left with is our works. We enter into this perpetual game of spiritual "gotchya!" Saved, unsaved, repent, repeat. If we happen to die at the moment between unsaved and repent however we must conclude that we are destined to hell? Once again, that kind of cosmic chess match does not line up with the God of Scripture. So then what of the argument against OSAS?

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. - Hebrews 6: 1-8 (ESV)

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. - Hebrews 10: 26-27 (ESV)

Now, there are other Scriptures often offered up to refute OSAS but these two sets seem to stand out as the most compelling. In reviewing the others I found many wrongful interpretations of parables and trying to read into the salvation status of characters mentioned in historical narratives. As for these Hebrew verses I am unsure if they are referring to believers or unbelievers and therein lies the rub. The Hebrews 10 verses can easily be interpreted as dealing with someone who hears the Word yet remains unchanged. What lies ahead for such people but the judgment of God which is coming? This seems supported by the closing verse in the chapter:

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. - Hebrews 10: 39 (ESV)

Ironically, opponents of OSAS believe this verse supports their view but I remain unconvinced. Those who shrink back to me seem to be those who refuse Christ. Those who are found in Him are those who have faith. The issue that preserves their soul is their faith in Him. As for the verses in Hebrews 6, they begin with the tacit understanding that we are leaving the elementary doctrines when we delve into these matters. Again however are we dealing with the saved or unsaved? In order for these verses to oppose OSAS then one must admit that not only can you lose your salvation but once you have it is impossible to get it back! That flies in the face of multiple Scriptures that are far clearer than these. What would be the point of confessing our sins if we have no chance to regain our lost salvation? Not to mention if it was lost due to works of unrighteousness does it not stand to reason the way to get it back would be with works of righteousness? In that scenario our initial salvation is based on faith but any reclaiming of it is works based? There are too many unambiguous Scriptures that say otherwise.

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