Finally, that doctrine called “Once Saved Always Saved,” right?
Not so fast. A common error in Christendom and Blogdom is to take off with a little bit of information on something we find distasteful and create a target that is easy to knock down. The biblical doctrine of Perseverance frequently falls prey to that kind of attack. Please don’t do that. Just listen before you jump to conclusions.
The first article from the Synod of Dordtrecht’s teaching on Perseverance of the Saints says:
Those whom God, according to His purpose, calls to the communion of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, He also delivers from the dominion and slavery of sin, though in this life He does not deliver them altogether form the body of sin and from the infirmities of the flesh.
The greatest number of arguments I have heard against the biblical doctrine of Perseverance find their foundation in anecdotes rather than Scripture. Most of us know people who made convincing professions of faith, even achieving leadership positions in the church only to abandon the faith by joining some cult or living immorally. Think Judas.
Maybe our trouble is that we assume “saved” means “claims to believe.” We rightly point out that people are either saved or lost with no middle ground, but some assume that people who appear saved and turn permanently away have lost their salvation. Arminian theology contends that men are saved and lost based on the choices of their free will. Please understand that this is more than semantics. Denying the doctrine of Perseverance guts the power of the cross to change sinners and enthrones the will of man.
Please hang with me here. We may differ on what it means to be “saved.” Paul told the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:18) that the message of the cross is “the power of God” to those of us who are being saved. He meant that the cross of Christ actually rescued people from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:1-7). The cross did more than provide a choice at a fork in the road for sinners. It delivered those for whom it was intended. Saved people do not possess entire practical sanctification but they are fundamentally different from lost people.
I pointed out in the article on “Limited Atonement” that salvation is not a miracle cure for a deadly disease available for those who are smart enough to take the treatment. It is a voice calling corpses in a graveyard to life (Ephesians 2:1). Those who are alive in Christ possess eternal life now (John 3:36; 5:24) based on the performance of Messiah instead of their own (2 Corinthians 5:21).
If you are an Arminian, we agree on at least one thing, my friend in Christ: We should not give the benefit of the doubt to professing believers who are living for the devil. You say they had it and lost it. I say they never had it. Jesus called people out of darkness into a new kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14) where the subjects of the King receive a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). Lordship salvation is the only kind of salvation. “Once saved always Saved” is better worded, “if saved, always saved.”
Those who have been bought by the blood of Christ are kept saved by the power of God and will persevere in the Christian faith (John 6:37; 10:27-29; 17:11; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:13-14; Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Jude 24).
Jesus did not die to provide a potential salvation. The “plan of salvation” goes from foreknowledge all the way through glorification (Romans 8:28-39). We do not need to live in despair, thinking we have to whip up some works-based righteousness in order to stay in God’s family.
Believing this makes a difference in “real life” because we know it is possible to live differently by God’s grace. You live a holy life because you have been rescued from a horrible life (and death), not because you are afraid of losing your spot. Parents do not produce obedient children by the constant threat that they will be kicked out of the family if they do not measure up. We give them their family identity by loving them and disciplining them (See all of Hebrews 12). Believing in this completed work of salvation delivers us from fearing we have not met the expectations required to survive the judgment of God. It also delivers us from fearing the extra-biblical standards of church people.