A missionary in Africa asks for biblical insight regarding the security of the believer, sometimes referred to as “once saved, always saved.” And a missionary in China inquires about the passages which warn Christians against falling away from Christ. How do we put all this together?
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The popular doctrine of “once-saved-always-saved” is sometimes presented in an unbiblical fashion. Not when it affirms that the believer is “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” for that affirmation comes on very good authority indeed (1 Pet. 1:5). It is unbiblical when it says that whoever once makes a profession of faith and prays the “sinner’s prayer” can never be lost, no matter how ungodly or unbelieving that one may appear to become. That is a corrupted doctrine which ignores or forgets many biblical truths. Not all those belong to God who profess to be his people. Even miracles and great works do not guarantee a personal relationship with Jesus (Matt. 7:20-23). There is a difference between a believer and a make-believer!
However, no one who genuinely trusts in Jesus needs ever to wonder whether God loves and accepts him or her fully and unequivocally for Jesus’ sake (John 3:16). Scripture is abundantly clear that those who rely on the redemption which Jesus accomplished may know that they are accepted by God and that God loves them as he loves his own Son (Heb. 6:18-20; 7:25).
God predestined that those he foreknew should also become conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). The way we know we are among God’s elect is that the gospel grips us and changes our lives (1 Thes. 1:4,5, 9-10). That is the evidence of our state but not the basis of it. Our confidence rests, always and only, in the historical accomplishments of Jesus our representative, and in God’s appraisal of what Jesus has done (Rom. 4:25 – 5:1). It never rests in any event, occasion or performance within our own experience — whether our baptism, our good works, or our praying the “sinner’s prayer.” Our confidence is always in Christ, from first to last. And he will never let us down.