Practical Problems With OSAS

, posted by Matthew Murphy

Note: It should be obvious from the content of the post, but the version of OSAS that I am arguing against in this post is what has been termed by some as the ‘Alpha View’. It is the view that a singular moment of faith is enough to guarantee an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our God, no matter what; no matter how you live after you initially place your faith in Christ, your salvation will never be in jeopardy. Two notable proponents of this view are R. T. Kendall and Charles Stanley.

The other version of OSAS, the ‘Omega View,’ with its emphasis on the necessity of perseverance, and its teaching that those who don’t persevere were never saved to begin with, is not under scrutiny in this post.

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Yesterday afternoon, I got to thinking about some of the practical problems that I believe plague the doctrine of ‘Once Saved, Always Saved,’ otherwise known as OSAS or Unconditional Eternal Security. Here is a brief description of five practical problems that I perceive:

1. OSAS puts too much emphasis on a single act of faith in the past.

On the OSAS view, assurance of salvation is generally promised on the basis of looking to a one-off act in the past, namely the placing of one’s faith in Christ, when it should be coming from an examining of ourselves in the present. In other words, advocates of OSAS generally view eternal life (and the assurance thereof) as an “irrevocable consequence of a moment’s act of faith sometime in the past.”1 As Charles Stanley says, “saving faith … is a singular moment in time wherein we take what God has offered.”2 OSAS advocate Norman Geisler, citing Ephesians 2:4-6, writes that after someone is saved, the way that that person acts is in no way able to negate their security.3 Furthermore, Geisler writes that after we are saved, “there is no sin that can keep us out of heaven.”4 Another ‘OSASer,’ R. T. Kendall, writes:

“What do we mean, ‘once saved, always saved’? … Before we introduce various terms let me give a definition of the teaching we are affirming. Whoever once truly believes that Jesus was raised from the dead, and confesses that Jesus is Lord, will go to heaven when he dies. But I will not stop there. Such a person will go to heaven when he dies no matter what work (or lack of work) may accompany such faith.” [emphasis in original]5

So we see that the assurance of salvation is promised not by examining ourselves in the present (i.e., examining our current spiritual condition; whether we are currently united with Christ by faith), but on the condition that one must have only ‘once truly believed’. In the Bible, however, the emphasis is always on the present. There is a sense in which what a person did in the past is irrelevant. What is important is the here and now. What they believe now; how they act now. We are warned in God’s Word that if a righteous person turns away from his righteousness, he will be destroyed. His past righteousness will not be taken into account (Ezekiel 18:24). I’ll say it again: there is a sense in which our past beliefs and our past actions are irrelevant. What is relevant, however, is our current spiritual condition; what we believe now; how we act now. As John Wesley said long ago, upon our present choice depends our eternal lot.6

May we never forget the example of the Israelite’s deliverance out of the land of Egypt, which, by the way, is analogous to our own salvation (Rom. 11:20-22; 1 Cor. 10:1-6; Heb. 4:6-11; Heb. 12:25; Jude 3-21). The initial deliverance out of Egypt didn’t mean ‘once delivered, always delivered,’ as we read that many of the Israelites were afterwards destroyed for their disobedience. Take to heart this warning:

Hebrews 12:25

“See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven”

Read the following verses. A one-off act of faith in the past is not enough to guarantee an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our God.

John 15:1-6; Romans 2:6-7; Romans 11:17-22; 1 Cor. 15:1-2; Galatians 6:7-9; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Tim. 4:8; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 10:23; 1 John 2:3; Jude 21

The Gospel is about the ‘Way’ of salvation, along which we must travel, if we are to reach our destination; the Christian life is about the ‘race,’ in which we must run, if we are to receive our prize (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 12:1). May we never lead anyone into a false sense of security by placing an unjustified amount of emphasis on one moment’s act of faith sometime in the past. Rather, let us exhort all to continue on the ‘Way’; let us exhort all to run with endurance the race set before us; let us exhort all to strive for holiness, for without holiness, no one will see the Lord.

2. OSAS can be used as a license for sin, without any problem of inconsistency between belief and practice.

OSAS advocate R. T. Kendall, also quoted above, writes:

“What do we mean, ‘once saved, always saved’? … Before we introduce various terms let me give a definition of the teaching we are affirming. Whoever once truly believes that Jesus was raised from the dead, and confesses that Jesus is Lord, will go to heaven when he dies. But I will not stop there. Such a person will go to heaven when he dies no matter what work (or lack of work) may accompany such faith.” [emphasis in original]5

Anderson and Park write that after we are saved, we are free to walk according to the flesh, if we so choose, without our status as God’s children being put at risk.7

It is important to remain clear in understanding the point that I am making. I am not saying that every person who believes in OSAS will use the doctrine as a license to sin. What I am saying, though, is that those who do use OSAS as a license for sin can do so without any fear of acting inconsistently with their beliefs. Or to put it another way, when people use OSAS as a license for sin, they are doing nothing more than simply acting consistently with their belief system.

It takes no huge stretch of the imagination to see that Kendall, Anderson, and Park are providing (perhaps unwittingly, or perhaps not) a license to sin. The natural conclusion of their teaching is this: you can live after the flesh and live; you can sow to the flesh and reap eternal life; you can refuse to forgive others and yet have your sins forgiven; you can practice sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, theft, greed, drunkenness, reviling, and swindling, and still inherit the kingdom of God; you can practice unrighteousness and still be a child of God.

Such foolish teaching reminds me of Genesis 2:16-17 and 3:4. God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Then Satan came along, saying, “You will not surely die.”

Contra Kendall, Anderson, and Park, God says that those who live after the flesh will die (Rom. 8:12-14); that those who sow to the flesh will reap destruction (Gal. 6:7-9); that those who refuse to forgive others will have their entire debt of sin charged back to them (Matt. 18:21-35); that neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10); that those who do not practice righteousness are not of God (1 John 3:10).

May we never presume upon the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience, remembering that such is not meant for license, or so-called ‘freedom in Christ,’ but is meant to lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Never presume that our Holy God will tolerate the doings of the flesh, especially when they are done by those who call themselves by His Holy Name. As Tozer said, God is love and His kindness is unbounded, yet He has no sympathy with the carnal mind. He remembers that we are dust, indeed, but He refuses to tolerate the doings of the flesh.

3. Related to the previous point, OSAS eliminates the need for the confession of sin.

As the above quote from R. T. Kendall makes clear, if there is absolutely nothing that can prevent us from entering heaven, as long as we have at least once believed in Christ, then it only makes sense that the confessing of our sins is non-essential to our forgiveness. Indeed, OSAS advocate Charles Stanley writes:

“God forgave us long before we ever asked for it. He pardons us for sins we will never confess (1 John 1:9).”8,9

Dave Hunt, another OSAS advocate, writes:

“Salvation is the full pardon by grace from the penalty of all sin, past, present or future; eternal life is the bonus thrown in.”10

A popular Bible answers site tells us that,

“When we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, all of our sins are forgiven. That includes past, present, and future, big or small. Believers do not have to keep asking for forgiveness or repenting in order to have their sins forgiven. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins, and when they are forgiven, they are all forgiven (Colossians 1:14; Acts 10:43).”11

Neil Anderson and Dave Park tell us that God “has cancelled the debt of your sins past, present and future.”12

The Bible, however, makes it clear that only sins that have been repented of and confessed will be forgiven (cf. Luke 13:3, 5; 17:3-4; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 1 John 1:9). In other words, only our former sins are forgiven (Rom. 3:21-25; 2 Pet. 1:9).

Consider also 1 John 2:1-2:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Methinks that if the sins which we haven’t even committed yet are already forgiven, then our advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous, is in the ranks of the unemployed. Tozer even dared to call the teaching that future, unconfessed sins are already forgiven “heresy”.

4. OSAS, if held consistently, would seem to eliminate any fear of God from its proponent’s hearts.

Given that OSAS can so easily lead to moral license and the non-confession of sin, any true fear of God would seem to have been eliminated. After all, if OSAS were true, we would not need to remember the example of the Israelites, for once we are delivered, that’s it; we’re set for life13 because according to OSAS, we cannot possibly fail to reach heaven. In other words, if OSAS were true, and we were indeed free to walk according to the flesh without putting our eternal inheritance on the line, there would be no rational reason for fearing God; no reason to behold the severity of God even if we were to stop standing by faith and draw back unto perdition; no reason to hate evil (which is the fear of the Lord – Prov. 8:13).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. You won’t find those words in Scripture, though. You will find, however, that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13), yet why should this be so if OSAS were true? What possible reason could be given as to why we should truly fear God? If OSAS were true, then we would, in fact, have nothing to fear.

Again, it is important to remain clear in understanding what I am saying here. I am not saying that every person who holds to OSAS will not have a healthy fear of God in their hearts. I am saying that when people use OSAS to justify lawlessness and the non-confession of sin (and remember, when they do, they’re not being inconsistent), the natural outcome is a severe lack of Godly fear. To put it another way, one of the practical outcomes of OSAS is that the fear of God can quite easily be eliminated.

5. OSAS, if held consistently, would seem to eliminate the necessity of being sober-minded and watchful.

1 Peter 5:8-9 says,

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”

But if what OSAS teaches – that once a person is saved, they are unconditionally always and forever saved – is correct, why should we be sober-minded and watchful? After all, if OSAS was correct, the devil prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour can’t affect our eternal destiny. Even if he does manage to devour us, we will still be saved, according to OSAS. Notable OSAS advocate Charles Stanley writes,

“[T]he unfaithful believer will not lose his salvation … Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy … Christ will not deny an unbelieving Christian his or her salvation … believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation, for God remains faithful.”14

And furthermore, who is the devil seeking to devour, and what’s the point? It makes no sense that he would be seeking to devour unsaved people – they’re already the sons of disobedience, and because they believe not, they are already under condemnation (see John 3:18; Eph. 2:2). If OSAS was true, it wouldn’t make sense that he would try to devour saved people – he’s had long enough to study the Scriptures, and if he knew that OSAS was true, why would he try to devour someone whose salvation cannot possibly be put in jeopardy, even if they resume a state of unbelief?

The only view which can make sense of 1 Peter 5:8-9 is the view which affirms that true believers can in fact apostatize, and come under condemnation. That’s why the devil is prowling around – he knows that though the spirit may be willing, the flesh is weak. He knows that if he can get someone to sow to the flesh, they will reap destruction (Gal. 6:7-9). He knows that if he can get someone to stop standing by faith in God’s kindness, they will fall and come under God’s severe judgement (Rom. 11:17-22). He knows that if he can get people to live according to the flesh, they will die (Rom. 8:12-14), and have no inheritance in the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Once again, it is imperative that we remain clear in understanding the issue before us. I am not saying that everyone who believes in OSAS will necessarily be spiritually lax. I am saying that when people use OSAS as a license for sin, and believe that their salvation can never be in jeopardy no matter what, then the natural outcome is spiritual neglect.

So why should believers be sober-minded and watchful? Because our eternal destiny is at stake. We must continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, if we are to be presented holy and blameless before God (Col. 1:21-23). We must be holy, if we are to see God in the end (Heb. 12:14). We must continue abiding in Christ, if we are to avoid being cut off and thrown into the fire (John 15:1-6).

The Gospel is about the ‘Way’ of salvation, along which we must travel, if we are to reach our destination; the Christian life is about the ‘race,’ in which we must run, if we are to receive our prize (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 12:1). May we never let anyone deceive us into thinking that such a thing exists as an ‘unbelieving Christian’ (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) or a saved unbeliever. May we never let anyone deceive us into thinking that we can abandon our faith and yet still retain our share in God’s household (see Heb. 3:6). May we never be deceived into thinking that we can have an evil heart of unbelief, while remaining partakers of Christ (see Heb. 3:12-19). May we never let anyone deceive us into thinking that we can become unbelievers without our salvation being put in jeopardy (cf. Ezek. 18:24-26; Rom. 1:18; 11:20-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 2 Cor. 6:14-15; Heb. 3:12-19; Rev. 21:8). Rather, let us continue on the ‘Way’; let us run with endurance the race set before us; let us strive for holiness, for without holiness, no one will see the Lord; and let us be sober-minded, let us be watchful, for our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. If we are not careful, that someone could be us. Our eternal inheritance is a high price to pay for our spiritual neglect. We cannot afford to be casual.

Notes

1 Robert Shank, Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance (1989, Bethany House), p. 63
2 Charles Stanley, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? (1990, Thomas Nelson), p. 79
3 Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology (2004, Bethany House, 4 Volumes), Vol. 3, p. 311
4 Ibid., 308
5 R. T. Kendall, Once Saved, Always Saved (2005, Authentic Media), p. 1; emphasis in original
6 John Wesley, ‘Directions for Renewing our Covenant with God,’ (From The Essential Works of John Wesley, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission), p. 1321
7 Neil T. Anderson and Dave Park, Stomping out the Darkness (2007, Regal), p. 62
8 Charles F. Stanley, Genuine Forgiveness (http://www.intouch.org/resources/article-archive/content/topic/genuine_forgiveness_article)
9 How 1st John 1:9 supports Mr. Stanley’s view, I’ll never know.
10 Dave Hunt, Eternal Security (http://www.thebereancall.org/node/5918)
11 GotQuestions.org, Do Christians Have to Keep Asking for Forgiveness for Their Sins? (http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-sin.html)
12 Anderson and Park, Stomping out the Darkness, p. 74
13 In case anyone thinks that I am misrepresenting OSAS proponents here, a friend of mine, himself an OSAS advocate, said to me recently, “Once you place your faith in Christ, you’re set.”
14 Charles Stanley, Eternal Security, pp. 92-94