Saturday, October 26, 2013

Once Saved, Always Saved?

Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace -
Some who believe that Christians are eternally secure give their doctrine the slogan “once saved, always saved,” but that slogan is very misleading. The slogan suggests that once persons make a decision for Christ, they can then go off and do their own thing, fully confident that no matter what they do or how they live, they are “safe and secure from all alarm.” That simply is not biblical. 
The new birth, to be sure, is an event. In other words, at some point in your life, the Holy Spirit moves and creates new life in your soul. But salvation is more than that. Justification, too, is a one-time declaration, but salvation also involves a process of, over time, becoming righteous, which is called sanctification. 
Sanctification is the Christian life, the daily pursuit of God and the transformation of the heart, mind, and will. Our priorities and our view of life are drastically altered, revolutionized, and reversed. We did not cooperate in our justification. But we must cooperate with God in our sanctification. 
Some Christians have the idea that they must sit back and let the Spirit do everything. But…the process toward maturity in Christ is not based on a passive view of life. Another way of saying sanctification is “taking the bull by the horns.” We do not wait for the Holy Spirit to perform some supernatural number on our lives: he already has done this for us! We actively pursue holiness and Christ-centeredness in our lives, recognizing that the same One who commands us to work, persevere, and obey gives us the supernatural ability to do so. Just do it! You do the work; but recognize that, if the work is done, God has done it in and through you. 
So then, when we speak of “once saved, always saved,” we are not taking into account the full scope of salvation. We have been saved (justified), we are being saved (sanctified), and we will one day be saved (glorified). You cannot claim to have been “saved” (justified) unless you are being sanctified. Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. 
Jesus made it plain throughout his ministry that one could not become his disciple (and, therefore, could not receive eternal life) unless that person was willing to “take up his cross daily” and follow Jesus. The New Testament emphasizes denying yourself, dying to sin, and deferring to others. 
These terms identify a concept that is not in vogue today. When even many church leaders are telling people to “believe in yourself” and are preaching a gospel that is more concerned with fulfilling our desires than God’s, we have difficulty falling unreservedly into the arms of the Savior in whom we find our only confidence. But of course, we cannot ever tailor-make the gospel to fit our self-serving expectations. 
Romans 8:30 makes clear the chain of salvation, a chain whose links cannot be broken: “And those he predestined, those he also called; those he called, he also justified; he justified, he also glorified.” Can one be predestined, called, justified, and lost? This verse teaches us that when God starts something, God finishes it. Did you grant yourself salvation? Did you gain it yourself in the first instance? No, salvation was a gift. Remember, God justifies and condemns: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? (Rom: 8:33-34). . . Since God initially gives us the grace to believe in him and to turn from self, why would he not give us the grace to keep on trusting in him?. . .
We have the responsibility to “go onto maturity” (Heb. 6:1). So we are responsible to persevere, but not for our perseverance. We are responsible to be saved, but not for our salvation. 
To lose our salvation, we would have to return to a condition of spiritual death. Of what sort of regeneration would the Holy Spirit be the author if those whom he has resurrected and given eternal life are capable of dying spiritually again? “Well, can’t you commit spiritual suicide?” one might ask. Not if we take seriously the claim of 1 Peter 1:23: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable.”
HT:  Reformed Bibliophile


  1. There are many "four point Arminians" like Charles Stanley who teach that justification (not faith) lasts for every person who "made a decision", and that this justification is like a tattoo or a vaccination.

    once regenerate, always regenerate, is important for the nature of regeneration

    once justified, never again condemned, is important for the nature of justification

    but the permanent nature of justification is a different question from
    these two assurance questions

    am I now justified?
    am I now permanently justified?

    if Christ bore my sins, why do I need to baptized (not with water) into Christ’s death?

    if Christ bore the sins of an elect person, why does that elect person need to be
    baptized (not with water) into Christ’s death?

    1. why is the word baptism in Romans 6?

    2. If Christ did not merely make justification “possible” but actually brought in the righteousness for the elect, why are the elect still born under the wrath of God? why were the elect not all justified actually as soon as Christ died, even before Christ was resurrected?

    This the old “eternal justification” question—Calvinists who claimed that we were “actually saved” in the decree or at the cross.

    if Christ died while bearing the sins, why do the elect need to be imputed with Christ’s righteousness.

    Christ’s righteousness is not something different from Christ’s death, so that leaves the question–why is God’s imputation necessary.

    we must divide the assurance question from the “what is the gospel” question

    it’s one thing to say that the elect will one day have a justification which cannot be reversed, to say that the elect receive the righteousness by imputation (Romans 5:11, 17) before they receive it by faith

    it’s another different thing to say that I am elect, that I believe the gospel, that I am justified

  2. Sanctification By Cooperation: “When the preponderance of my thoughts about my daily life with God are only seen from the perspective of Christ’s substitution and my unworthiness to merit his favor, not only do I miss the joy and motivation of knowing my deeds today can actually please God, but I can be left with a distant, abstract, academic view of my relationship with him. I can begin to assume that it is only the perfect Christ that “God sees” (as though it were all some visual reality and not a relational reality). It is as if I am now, at least theoretically, absent from the relationship and if not absent, in some way made so irrelevant that my thoughts and actions can neither please him or grieve him in any real way.”

    Mark responds: Sanctification by cooperation wants to be relevant, at least in its own “sanctification”. The thrill of victory is never so sweet unless there was a possibility of the agony of defeat. So cooperation wants to be present in our relationship with God in such a way that our “sanctification” depends on our cooperation, even though we do give God the credit for his not being like those who thought they were justified but were not because they were not cooperative in sanctification..

    Sanctification by Cooperation-- “Scripture tells us that his redeemed children not only have a very real opportunity to actually please him, but we also have an abiding opportunity to truly displease him. We are told that when Christians, who have been declared holy in justification, choose to engage in unholy behavior as they sin in their walk of sanctification, that they “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30).

    Mark: If I respond by asking which Christian is not sinning in their walk, doesn’t that prove that I am antinomian? Unless we make some kind of distinction between sins that we choose to sin, and sins that we sin but don’t choose, it seems to me that we all grieve the Holy Spirit by our sin.

    If I fail in my “sanctification” and that makes me scared of the second coming of Christ (rewards and punishments you know), will that make me cooperate more so that I won’t fail so much? Thus the idea of the “beauty of gospel threats”.

    But notice that sanctirication by cooperation is not perfectionist. It's only that we will get more “sanctification” IF we cooperate more.. People who look at everything through the perfect record of Jesus most likely will simply go on sinning.

  3. Sanctification by Cooperation “When Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to pursue holiness in 1 Corinthians 10, he compares them to the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt. He goes to great lengths to say that they,like the Corinthians,were graciously chosen by God as his people through the merits of another, specifically the Christ “who followed them”. BUT the instructive warning of the passage is, that in spite of the fact that by grace they were considered God’s chosen people, “with most of them God was not pleased” (v.5). Their complaining and intemperance stirred God’s displeasure toward them to the point that he responded by ending their lives”.

    Mark responds:Like the Galatian false teachers, nobody saying that sin causes people to lose their justification. You are not justified by circumcision, but sanctification is by circumcision, and if you won’t get more sanctified, then that means you were never justified.

    Sanctification by Cooperation-- “When I recognize and affirm that in my walk of sanctification, I can in one act please God and in another displease him, my daily relationship is moved away from any category of abstraction or theory, and I come to sense the biblical reality of truly relating to God on a daily basis.”

    Mark ---. Justification: abstract theory. Working to get sanctified: truly relating.

    Sanctification by Cooperation--: “Our actions cannot earn or keep a place in God’s family, BUT as the graciously adopted members of God’s family, we are not dealing with an equation, or a software algorithm, we are dealing with and relating to a Person. We want our children to know they are accepted by their parents and have a secure place in our family.

    Harold Senkbeil, “In its most blatant form heresy claims that we must place our own good works into the balance to give us a favorable standing before God. Its subtle form seems more attractive. God does all the work in justification, but we finish the work in our sanctification.

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    1. Charles, you are more than welcome to leave a comment relevant to any blog post at The World's Ruined. But merely advertising for yourself is disallowed.