The pejorative is “once saved always saved.” So called by those who have a distaste for the notion. I don’t like the sound of the phrase. It reduces the grand subject of salvation to a quippable little thing. Even if you believe you can lose salvation, respect for the work of the Lord Jesus, in the lives of people needing to be rescued from their enslavement to sin and death, ought to demand a more respectful reference. But I guess that’s the nature of a pejorative.
I’ve chosen to write as much to say something full and thought out on the subject as anything else. I’m not looking for a fight, though I know one usually dogs the heals of this subject. My desire is to give those who may be sincerely struggling to find peace and security in the righteousness of Christ something to hold on to, despite their known sinfulness.
I know this post alone will not persuade those who are already convinced that “once saved always saved,” is wrong. My plan is to follow up this post with more scriptural expositions for my belief. But I thought it was necessary to start with the big ideas before getting down in the dirt of the details.
Salvation Is Based On A Promise
The first big reason I believe salvation cannot be lost is because it’s based on a promise and the one who promised is faithful. Our salvation is based on the promise God made to Abraham, and the law, which has been typically used to judge salvation, or the retention of it, came 400 years later. Paul argues to both the Romans and the Ephesians that this law does not nullify the promise. This was such an important point that in an almost credal statement he says,
Romans 3:28 (NAS): 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
Salvation was not based on merit, good behavior, keeping the commandments or the law. It was based on an unconditional promise made to Abraham. By faith we share in the promises of Abraham.
The Nature of Salvation
I can hear the objection to the passage above already. Some will say this is a statement about justification and not sanctification. You get saved by faith alone, but you don’t get sanctified by faith alone. But the nature of salvation demands that these not be separated in that way.
What I mean is that salvation is a promise of life eternal in the kingdom. This is why Abraham looked beyond the land where he pitched his tent to the land whose architect and builder is God. If Abraham failed to receive what God promised, even for reasons all Abraham’s own, then the promise was not unconditional. And if by grace, God grants life through faith and we never receive what He promised, then He is not faithful— May it never be.
Salvation Is Bigger Than Personal Relationship
The individualism of our culture has so influenced us that we have reduced salvation to a profession which leads to a personal relationship with God. In this view, God can faithfully grant you a relationship by faith, which can later be lost as a result of unrepentant sin. But salvation is so much more than just a relationship. The promises go beyond the immediate relationship and extends into life eternal in the kingdom. In it are all the promises of redemptive history.
Biblically salvation is sharing in the promises of Abraham. It’s an invitation to join all the saints at the Lord’s table for a grand feast. It is becoming a new creature that we may inherit a new heaven and the new earth. It is becoming apart of the one body of Christ that will inherit the kingdom together. We do not walk alone in a personal relationship with God that can be fractured by sin. We walk together in intimacy with Him, bearing one another’s burdens, encouraging one another, and gently restoring those caught in a trespass. We pursue those who fall in sin just as the Father leaves the 99 in pursuit of the 1. And as a result, we all enter His promised rest together.
I know that this is a subject in which there is much disagreement. And I know the disagreement will not be resolved with this post alone. But I do hope it will begin a conversation that could lead to agreement. So I welcome your feedback.