Brian Abasciano, “Answering Appeal to Hebrews 13:5 as a Prooftext for Once Saved Always Saved”

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We recently received this inquiry concerning Hebrews 13:5 as a prooftext for “Once Saved Always Saved” or “Guaranteed/Inevitable Perseverance of the Saints”:

The more I read/study the word for myself rather than relying on “what I was taught in church growing up” the more I am landing on having the conviction that the “security” of a believer’s ultimate salvation is contingent on their ongoing faith. However, the one verse I can’t seem to fit without this view point is Heb. 13:5…it says that the Lord “will never leave or forsake [us].”
I know Heb. 13:5 is used sometimes as a proof-text for “Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS)” or the Calvinistic idea of “perseverance of the saints”…so I have a few questions on how to understand this text apart from the framework of OSAS:
1) How do you understand this verse within its biblical context? Does the “you” in the verse have unique conditions (based on biblical context/cross references) that describe who this promise applies to?
2) Do Arminians believe that the indwelling Holy Spirit leaves those who fall from grace or do they believe fallen (apostate) believers retain the indwelling of the Holy Spirit even all the way on their way to hell? (I think the assumption of OSAS proponents is that indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit = guaranteed assurance of salvation, which is why they use Heb. 13:5 as a proof-text.)
My Answer:
That passage does seem to be quoting or at least alluding to one or more OT passages. But the OT background does not seem to be relevant for answering your question. The basic answer is that the passage and other ones like it are addressed to believers and only apply to believers. If someone stops being a believer, then the passage no longer applies to him. Here is an excerpt from my article “The FACTS of Salvation: A Summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace” (which can be found here) that explains this sort of approach a bit more:
Second Timothy 2:12 states quite plainly, “if we endure, we will also reign with him [Christ]. If we disown him, he will also disown us” (NIV). And in contrast to persecution and spiritual deception, Jesus declares, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13). Indeed, one of the main concerns of the Lord’s Olivet Discourse is to warn his followers to be watchful and vigilant to persevere in loyalty to Jesus despite various pressures or temptations to go astray lest they be shut out from his kingdom and salvation (Matt 24:4, 13, 23-24, 26, 42-51; 25:1-13, 26-30). There are many such warnings in the New Testament, testifying to the possibility of apostasy since it is pointless to warn against impossibilities. (The position that apostasy is impossible and the warnings guarantee that true believers will obey the warnings is untenable because the believer is supposed to know that he is being warned against doing something he cannot do and consequences he can never experience, which nullifies the motivation to obey the warnings.) There are biblical passages that might sound like they unconditionally guarantee believers salvation so that it is to be assumed that God will make sure believers do not turn from faith. But the thought that believers can forsake their faith and forfeit salvation is a pervasive concern in the New Testament, seen in numerous passages whether directly or indirectly. Hence, passages that might seem unconditional because they do not explicitly state a condition are better understood to assume the condition of perseverance in faith and the ability to forsake faith rather than to assume that God will not allow the believer to stop believing. Passages that refer directly to apostasy, those that indicate conditionality or uncertainty concerning present believers’ attainment of final salvation, and those that warn believers against turning from Christ and so perishing all manifest the possibility of true believers making shipwreck of their faith.
Interestingly, the passage you are asking about appears in Hebrews, which greatly emphasizes warnings to believers against forsaking faith and perishing as a result.
As for your second question, the traditional Arminian position would be that the indwelling Holy Spirit leaves those who fall from grace, NOT that fallen (apostate) believers retain the indwelling of the Holy Spirit even all the way on their way to Hell. The Bible teaches that we have the Holy Spirit and spiritual life through faith (John 1:12-13; 3:14-16; John 5:24, 39-40; 6:47, 50-58; 20:31; John 4:14; 7:38-39; Acts 2:33; Rom 5:1, 5; Eph 1:13-14; Gal. 3:1-6, 14). Therefore, if we forsake faith, then the Holy Spirit leaves us and we die spiritually, just like the Father cuts off branches in Christ that do not bear fruit (because of forsaking faith) (John 15) and cuts off branches in Christ because of unbelief (Romans 11), etc.