Wow. You would think I would have a little more time to blog in the summer, but it always seems to be just the opposite. This will be my first post in June. It’s somewhat of a follow-up to a brief thought I shared about a month ago regarding the possibility of believing in vain.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist. I’ve been a member of three different Southern Baptist churches in three different towns–which means, among other things, that I’ve been exposed to the well-known phase “Once saved, always saved” all of my life. It has become something of a Southern Baptist mantra.
For the record, I despise the phrase. I wish it would go away. Despite the grain of truth it contains, it is so misused that not only is it not helpful, it’s often detrimental to the cause of Christ. It seems much better to me to simply stick with the biblical emphasis on what is commonly referred to as the perseverance of the saints. The Bible is clear, I think, on the fact that final salvation is conditional on perseverance in faith and holiness.
Strive…for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard (Col. 1:21-23).
but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Heb. 3:6)
For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (Heb. 3:14).
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain (1 Cor. 15:1-2).
I could quote more passages, but I think those are sufficient to make the point. I recently came across a statement on this topic by the Reformed theologian R.L. Dabney in a Theopedia article. Dabney strongly condemns the misuse of the “once saved, always saved” proposition, and even derides those who abuse it.
We do not teach that any man is entitled to believe that he is justified, and therefore shall not come again in condemnation on the proposition “once in grace always in grace,” although he be now living in intentional, willful sin. This falsehood of Satan we abhor. We say, the fact that this deluded man can live in willful sin is the strongest possible proof that he never was justified, and never had any grace to fall from. And, once for all, no intelligent believer can possibly abuse this doctrine into a pretext for carnal security. It promises to true believers a perseverance in holiness. Who, except an idiot, could infer from that promise the privilege to be unholy? (R. L. Dabney, The Five Points of Calvinism)
Personally, I would stop short of using such strong language toward people who misuse the doctrine of eternal security, but I have no problem with strongly condemning the abuse of the idea. In fact, it would be wrong not to clearly and publicly denounce it.