Thursday, July 1, 2010

Once Saved always Saved? – 2 Peter 2:20-22

For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A dog returns to its own vomit," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire." (NASB)

For someone who believes that once a person has been saved that they can’t lose their salvation, this verse stops to make me think. There are several verses in the Bible that say almost the same thing. However I do believe that God doesn’t contradict Himself especially in matters as important as this. I’ll list the verses that appear to support the position that Christians can lose thier salvation.

  • Heb 6:4-6 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (NIV)
  • Heb 10:26-27 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (NIV)
These verses all have at their heart a condition – the word if – and some requirements. The requirements are falling away in some manner and apparent salvation to start. In Peter, the condition is tied to a person having the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus. In Hebrews, the condition is being enlightened and tasting the heavenly gift and receiving the knowledge of the truth.

The verses in Hebrews 10 are followed by in verses 32-39 which remind the believers what they have already gone through. This is what is called fruit inspection. There is no indication that these people have fallen away. It ends with Heb 10:39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (NIV) Salvation is clearly linked to believing and good works that are the proof of salvation. This passage is then reminding us that a person who is truly saved is not going to continue sinning and therefore will not be condemned. This passage is all about what a person does with the knowledge of the truth. If it goes into the heart and finds good soil, it produces a good fruit. In other words, just knowing the truth doesn’t mean one follows or even believes it. Rom 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (NIV) When put in context, Hebrews 10:27-27 doesn’t support a Christian losing salvation.

Hebrews 6:4-6 is a bit tougher to handle because of the many references to what appears as salvation. What does enlightened, tasting the heavenly gift, sharing in the Holy Spirit, tasting goodness of the Word of God, and powers of the coming age all mean? Well, it fits the same pattern as Heb 10:26-39. Reading beyond, you can see the writer referring to land that soaks up God’s blessings but yields bad fruit. All these blessings mentioned in verse Heb 6:4-5 are like the rain that God sends on the good and bad land. All these are things that are available to people whether or not they are Christians. I am saying that non-Christians can be enlightened. They know the truth but don’t believe. They taste the heavenly gift because they are strictly following legalistic righteousness because it does help them live healthy well balanced lives. But they don’t believe. When the Holy Spirit convicts them of sinful behavior, they straighten up but still don’t believe. They can even quote scripture and know what happens when Jesus comes back, but deep down in their hearts they don’t believe. They are Pharisees. These verses don’t support a Christian losing salvation but simply points out that people can be outwardly righteous but not saved. Talk to anyone in a cult, especially the ones who are outwardly squeaky clean. You would think they are saved.

Jesus put it this way: Matt 12:43-45 "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." (NIV)

Jesus also said: John 5:24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” John 10:27-30 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (NIV) If a person has truly believed, then he has received eternal life. If a person could believe and then lose salvation then Jesus would have had to say that they have life for a while or life as long as they don’t screw up. If a person could lose his salvation then Jesus would have had to say that no one except that person can snatch them out of His hand. If a person can do something to lose salvation then that would make the person greater than God the Father and Jesus.

You may ask about all those verses that talk about persevering to the end. There are many. I think that all of these can be seen to be a warning to those who want to judge others about their Christian faith. We can’t ever know if a person is saved or not. We can look at their lives and guess. When they reach the end and remain faithful, we can assume they are safely in heaven. They also serve to remind us to examine ourselves and not give up.

It is personal application time, time to examine ourselves and see if we really believe or not. If I do believe, is what I do consistent with what I believe or am I only land that has received rain from above but I’ve never surrendered completely to Jesus? (Surrender is unconditional. If it is conditional then it isn’t surrender.) I’m sure there are many who enjoy the benefits of good clean living but don’t know Jesus personally. They know all about Jesus, His death for our sins, His resurrection, and even His coming again. But somewhere that head knowledge has not been translated to heart knowledge or belief that saves.

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