Eternal Security and Assurance of Believers
We believe that those who are truly redeemed are kept by God’s power and are thus secure in Christ forever. We don’t believe in “once saved, always saved” we believe in “if saved, always saved.”(John 6:37-40, 10:27-30; Romans 8:1, 38-39; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; 1 Peter 1:5)
I recently came across this doctrinal statement from a Calvinist church site that I was browsing. The statement clearly is trying to distinguish this church’s beliefs from that of some who hold to eternal security but abuse it by teaching that a person can live anyway they desire and still be saved. With that regard, I do appreciate that. Too often the statement, “once saved, always saved” has become synonymous with living in outright sin and disobedience and yet still clinging to the hope of eternal life in heaven.
The problem that I have with both statements is that the first statement “once saved, always saved” makes someone’s eternal destiny based on a past experience rather than a present relationship with Jesus. My problem with the second statement, however, is that the issue of assurance of one’s salvation can not be known until the final day. In other words, one must persevere until the end to be saved (which is what Arminians teach), but why not simply add that statement (which is the biblical view) rather than the above?
There are three positions that we could take on the issue of “if saved, always saved” if a person fails to continue in the faith. We could say first that such a person who commits apostasy was never truly saved to begin with, which is what most Calvinists would teach, and I believe this statement implies (1 John 2:19). The second view would be that of many who hold to eternal security such as Dr. Charles Stanley, and that is that there is no fear whatsoever of a believer ever losing their salvation because they are truly once saved, always saved no matter how they live after their initial salvation. Dr. Tony Evans, for example, teaches that even atheists will be in heaven so long as they had a past conversion even though they became atheist after salvation to the point that God will drag them into heaven even if they are kicking and screaming and they don’t want to go (see Evans book The Promise). The third position is that one must persevere in faith until the very end to be finally saved. This is the standard Arminian position. While we can debate within Arminianism what happens if a person does fall away (do they lose their salvation), Arminianism does place the emphasis on perseverance of the present tense believer.
Within Arminianism, the stress is on teaching believers to persevere in their faith. A reading of Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:23 is key to the teaching of Arminians on perseverance. We are to hold fast to the words of Christ until the very end (Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:6-19; 4:1-16; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 11:13-16; 12:1-39; James 2:14-26; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:6-9, 19-24; Jude 21; Revelation 2:7, 10-11, 17, 25-27; 3:5, 11-12, 21; 17:14). True assurance of our salvation comes by remaining in Christ until the very end. While we can debate what takes place if the person fails to hold fast to Christ, we should continue to stress in all our teaching that we must persevere in faith in Christ Jesus until the very end.
That would be a better definition for this church’s statement above. Many will read that and think “works salvation,” but to me this is a more biblical statement than the above. By this church saying “If saved, always saved” we have to ask: What does it mean to be truly saved? Part of that answer will be perseverance. This never causes a person to wonder what is needed to remain in Christ. Simply remain in faith in Christ. Abide in Him until the end (John 15:1-8), hold fast to His Word (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 8:15; 11:28), love Him (Mark 12:29-31), adore Him (Revelation 5:12), worship Him, make Him your everything (Luke 6:46-49; Philippians 3:8-12), your King (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14), your God (John 20:28). Die to your self and allow the Spirit of God to live in you (Romans 6:11-14). Draw closer to Him with every breath you take. Pray, study and read His Word, be with other disciples but most of all: fall madly in love with Jesus (Luke 14:25-35). Take up your cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23-25). And that is true assurance of our salvation.
[Link to original post and comments on Roy Ingle’s blog, Arminian Today]