WinZip (Word 97)
Apostle James according to the will of God warns everyone who preaches Christ’s teaching in sermons, talks, books and articles: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (James 3:1).
It seems that the more there are masters, or teachers, among believers, the better. In reality, however, there is quite a number of theological schools with various views and interpretations of the Word of God. Because of this reason let us patiently seek the Truth without any prompt verdicts, complacent love of knowledge or cunning simplifications.
The once-saved-always-saved theological formula attracts many commentators. It appears as if it contained the essence of the Gospel Teaching. It says that after having received the forgiveness of sins and after having been born again, a person cannot perish. And many philosophers go even further than that adding that a born-again Christian will never perish no matter what kind of life he/she was living or how morally corrupt he/she could become. They provide an example of a gold ring that might be dropped into mud, and the owner of the ring will pick it up, rub off the mud, and it will again be shining and be of high value. They also resort to the Word of God quoting the verses saying of God’s being faithful: “my salvation shall be for ever” (Isaiah 51:6); “shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” (Romans 3:3); “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee” (Isaiah 54:10). They try to convince us that the Bible just provides the way of being saved: you must repent in your sins (Luke 13:1-5), be born again, be baptized and become a member of Christ’s church (Mark 16:16), and after this our salvation is absolute, irreversible and eternal...
But is it really what the Word of God teaches?
Seeking an answer to this problem we must ask a question to ourselves: what am I saved FROM? And what am I saved FOR?
If we analyze the relations between man and God we find that sin that entered into the world by Adam is a barrier between our Maker and humankind. If there were no sin there would be no enmity, evil and death in our world. Sin has not only torn God’s dear creation apart from the Maker but it has seized him and made enemy of God (Romans 5:10). Jesus Christ came to reconcile us with God and save those who were brought into captivity to the law of sin from the power of death. How has He done that? He satisfied God’s implacable law of justice - “For the wages of sin is death!” (Romans 6:23). According to God’s point of view, sin in the strict sense is not forgiven but is to be punished by death. During the Old Testament various animals died instead of people for their sins. People paid a price to God for their sins and errors by sacrifices. The world’s history is an example of a punished sin. God Almighty is absolutely holy and follows the principles of absolute holiness and is strict to those who commit sins. God’s grace in the New Testament is that Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, was punished instead of forgiven sinners for their sins. And when God’s righteousness was satisfied by the slain Lamb, there appeared an opportunity to justify the guilty through their faith in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Savior of this world paid a high price for the forgiveness of our sins, the forgiveness that we receive free. He was crucified as a dangerous criminal.
According to the Holy Scripture, the Blood of Jesus Christ acts in a triple way upon those who repent:
The law of redemption takes effect - a person becomes God’s property (1 Peter 1:16-19).
The Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin(1 John 1:7).
It sanctifies the saved (Hebrews 10:10).
A former sinner who turned from the power of Satan unto God is not only forgiven and justified in the sight of God but is also sanctified. And now we are to possess our vessels in sanctification and honor (1 Thessalonians 4:4). “Be ye holy; for I am holy!” (1 Peter 1:16). “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
So, we are saved FROM our sins and saved TO serve God and our neighbor in holiness and sanctification.
However, man is not perfect but weak and subject to temptations of this world. Man fights with his flesh and Satan attacks him. He may sin unwillfully (1 John 5:16). In this case in order to renew his spiritual condition he needs to repent before God (Revelation 3:19) and the Mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 12:24; 1 John 2:1-2), who by His own blood entered in once into the holy place (Hebrews 9:11-15), being an advocate with the Father, will pray for him, and Heavenly Father will forgive him his trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15).
A person who was once really born again and saved according to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot live in sin and yield his members unto passions and lusts! Not because there are no opportunities to sin but because his faith and his will are strong and he does not want to yield himself unto Satan and does not want to obey the tempter and allurer of souls (Romans 6:12). However, those who do not bring forth good fruit, who are drawn away by sin which doth so easily beset them (Hebrews 12:1), who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes (Revelation 2:14-16) or became a lukewarm Laodicean (Revelation 3:14-20), is deprived of the communion with the Lord and is under condemnation (Romans 8:1-2). His being with God in eternity is a big question. And if such person has no time to repent and be restored in the Lord, eternal destruction clearly awaits him. (Romans 8:13). For the willful sin there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:26). All believers who had been once saved but became servants of sin are transgressors, they are spiritually dead and are forsakers of God (Isaiah 1:28, Ezekiel 2:3-7, Deutronomy 32:9-17). Being condemned of themselves, they are walking straightway to hell and no unified religious doctrine is going to help them! (Philippians 3:18-19).
God’s holiness and sin do not match!
Let us clear up this point: is there any risk for a once saved person to be deprived of his status, lose heavenly citizenship and be blotted out of the book of life or not?
Departing from God is the key point here. Departing from the Holy and True was not rare in Israel during all its history (Joshua 22:22, Jeremiah 32:40, Exodus 23:2, Hosea 1:2). Departing from God can also be found in the New Testament: “Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:18). “From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling...” (1 Timothy 1:6). Departing usually leads to a fall from God. Some fall in the beginning of their way, some do later (Luke 8:13). “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace...” (Galatians 5:4).
Departing and falling away from God cannot always be clearly recognized. Sometimes a person lurks behind any kind of religious mask and appears to be a good Christian. The Lord has many times warned us through His servants that these dangers are real (2 Peter 3:17, Hebrews 2:1, Romans 11:22). Those who build their houses upon sand see the great fall of it later when trials come (Matthew 7:26-27). There is no doubt that an arrogant pilgrim to Heaven will definitely reap a fall in his life (Matthew 26:33-35, Proverbs 18:12). And we must pray that the Lord might keep us from falling lest this should happen with any of us. (Jude 1:24).
Second, there are people who after they had known the way of righteousness were not able to stand up in the truth and returned to the broad way and now live a life of transgressors. “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire...” (2 Peter 2:20-22). The author of the Epistle to Hebrews tells us that a Christian may be deprived of salvation due to his own behavior in this world: “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, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 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 an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
Isn’t it clear that these people were once saved sons of God but they failed of the grace of God (Hebrews 12:15)? Other believers that due to their being naive or cheatable take seducing spirits for True Spirit of God, give heed to them and are sure that they walk in the truth are actually departing from faith (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
And, finally, a person might lose his/her salvation due to his/her not abiding in Christ. Such a person is out of Christ, and the Lord casts him forth as a branch, that is withered (John 15:6). (And Jesus clearly says that “ye are the branches” (John 15:5). Not sins or imperfections of people, but people themselves that were once in Jesus but bring forth no fruit any more! God purgeth a branch that doth bear fruit that it may bring forth more fruit. But those who stopped bearing fruit He simply cuts off and they are cast into the fire, and they are burned. - added by translator).
Word of God says that Heavenly Father does not only write a person in the book of life (Revelation 20:15) but also blots people’s names out of it in case they fall away from the truth (Exodus 32:32-33, Revelation 3:5).
The fact that not all who once received the gift of ever-lasting life will be in the Kingdom of Heaven can be also seen from the experience of Israelites who left Egypt and headed for Canaan. All who left Egypt passed through the Red sea but only a few of those people passed through Jordan. Their carcasses fell in the wilderness because of their unbelief and disobedience. (1 Corinthians 10:1-11). They just like Lot’s wife perished on their way.
Holy Scripture clearly warns us that not only the ungodly, blasphemers, murderers and debauchers will be in hell but also former believers that fell away from God as well as all those who lived in sin and lawlessness behind religious mask.
A person might strongly believe in his heart that after having passed through temptations, errors and falls he is pardoned. He believes in his salvation according to God’s mercy. This might be due to the fact that the will of such a person was with the Truth. Being captured by the enemy he did not take pleasure in the uncleanness but was vexed and sought redemption from the evil chains. In this case this is a true saying: “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again!” (Proverbs 24:16).
Having realized God’s strict commandments the disciples asked Jesus in astonishment: “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answered: “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible”. (Mark 10:26-27).
According to the Word of God, Jesus has not only saved us on the cross of Calvary but also performs our salvation in our every-day life. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you...” (John 15:16). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (1 John 4:10). “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him...” (John 6:44). “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ ” (Phil. 1:6). “I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). “and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand!” (John 10:29). These verses tell us that God Almighty in His strength, power and victory is the Initiator of our salvation, our Savior, our Propeller, Bishop of our souls, Guarantor of our spiritual safety, our Disposer and Master of our fate!
God’s general idea in our salvation implies two actions:
And if we really turned unto God then the Holy Ghost and Jesus Christ abide in our hearts from the day of our repentance and re-birth. We abide in Christ by our faith (John 15:4-5). “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not!” (1 John 3:6). “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin” (Romans 8:10). Therefore, if God saved us from our sins - which were the reason for our being dead - and now reserves us unto eternal life by his unsurpassed abilities, His perfect care is able to provide us with spiritual safety, to protect us from the cunning of sin and power of death and to cover us with His invincible feathers (Psalm 91:4).
So, it is quite necessary to believe in the fact that I - once saved - am saved forever. But this faith must not be achieved by compromises with sin or by the connivance at depravity and lusts (James 4:1-4), passions, fleshly desires, self-will, or by yielding unto the spirit of defilement, but it must be achieved by getting rid of sins, uncleanness, spiritual decay and all abominable filth, errors, sins, lawlessness and falls from the Truth. “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy...” Jude 1:24).
The faithfulness of God towards us was manifested not in the connivance at our sinful acts of Adam’s nature but in the fact that God has granted us strength and ability to possess our vessels in sanctification and honor.
And if we do sins that were not deliberate, He is an advocate with the Father and He justifies us by His blood. And this the other case.
Let us summarize all that was said by the following statement: those who follow the “he-that-is-holy-let-him-be-holy-still” rule (Revelation 22:11), those for whom to live is Christ, who live in Christ and for Christ, who are the abiding place of Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, and those who consider the will of God to be the higher law, and who do not willfully sin, than those are really once saved - always saved!
Translated by D.M. Goroshko, 2001