ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS LOST?
T. PIERCE BROWN
A few minutes ago I finished an article entitled, “ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED?” Then it occurred to me that in our effort to defeat that false doctrine, we may be in danger of implying that there is no security of the believer. The Bible teaches the security of the believer. One must make a clear distinction between that Bible doctrine and the false doctrine of denominationalism, which goes by that name, but actually teaches the security of the unbeliever.
That is, their doctrine is that no matter what may happen in one’s life or attitude, if one has ever been a believer and saved from his sins, he could not be lost under any circumstances, even if he lost his faith. It has even been taught that one might die drunk, or in the act of adultery and would still be saved eternally!
The Bible teaches that “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Paul repeated the thought of another inspired writer when he said in Romans 4:8, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” The man to whom the Lord will not impute sin is a child of God who maintains his faith in Jesus, that is, desires to do His will. He is therefore automatically and constantly penitent of any and all sin, known or unknown to him. He is secure. He can not be lost accidentally as if the Lord happened to be looking the other way and allowed the penitent child to slip out of His hand.
This is what Jesus speaks of in John 10:27-29. No man can pluck them out of his hand, nor can they slip out accidentally. They are secure. But the ones who are secure are those who are hearing the voice and following him (v. 27). Can a person follow Jesus and still sin? Can a person walk in the light and sin? If one answers, “No,” then the only logical conclusion is that no one can follow Jesus! For the Bible plainly teaches that all sin (Romans3:23, 1 John1:10).
The man who is “walking in the light” is not the man who always lives above sin, for the text says he is or will be cleansed from it. He is forgiven of it. But he is forgiven of it only if he continues in the faith, which necessarily involves his penitence. One may ask, “Can a man repent of a sin of which he is not aware?” The answer is a positive “Yes.” When David said, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins,” he was not talking about faults that were secret from others, but ones about which he did not know. One may sin in ignorance, and be penitent even while he is committing the sin. If he is a faithful child of God, that sin is not imputed to him, for it is cleansed by the blood of Christ.
That is the Bible doctrine of the “security of the believer.” It is precious, comforting and true. The reason I entitled the article, “Once Saved, Always Lost” is because some seem to feel that they are always on the verge of being lost. They think of themselves as being on a tight rope over a fiery chasm, in constant danger of falling into it if they make a misstep. The truth is that God has provided a safety belt that we can latch. As long as we keep it latched, we may slip and fall, but will not be lost, though we may be badly hurt. We can unlatch it any time we want to, for God did not remove our freedom of choice when we obeyed the gospel. As Paul put it, “I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him” (2 Tim.1:12), but he knew he could “uncommit” anytime he desired.
While Paul realized he could be lost (1 Corinthians 9:27), he was not walking around in constant fear of it, but rather in the calm assurance indicated by his expression in 2 Timothy 1:12, “For I know him whom I have believed, and am persuaded that His is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
We should do likewise. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians10:12). Yet we should have the calm confidence as expressed in 2 Timothy 4:8 “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.”