Jefferson David Tant
A popular doctrine among many is the idea that once you have been saved, you cannot be lost. No matter what sins or evils you may commit after salvation, they will not harm your soul, even if you die in that state. This is a prominent doctrine among some denominations, and is very well known among Baptists.
Consider a statement from the Hiscox Standard Manual for Baptist Churches on page 53, under the following heading:
XI. PERSEVERFANCE OF SAINTS: We believe the Scriptures teach that such as are truly regenerate, being born of the Spirit, will not utterly fall away and perish, but will endure to the end…and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
I was recently reminded of this doctrine due to the event of the Southern Baptist Convention that was recently held here in Nashville, Tennessee. The newspaper has had many articles concerning this event, and much has been written concerning the scandal of sexual sins that have been brought to light. Pastors have been cited for committing adultery with women in their churches, and there were multiple cases of pastors committing sexual sins with children.
Now, one may wonder why this seems to be so prevalent among Baptist churches. There may be various reasons, but is it possible that the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” might be a factor? Notice the following quotes from Baptist preachers:
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the State of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, bring reproach on the cause of Christ, and temporal judgments on themselves, yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation (V. God’s Power of Grace—from a statement adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention May 9, 1963).
Sam Morris, a Baptist preacher in Stamford, Texas wrote a little tract explaining that all the sins one may commit cannot harm the soul or cause the person to be lost. Look at the quote:
We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul… All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger… The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul… The way I live has nothing whatsoever to do with the salvation of my soul (Do a Christian’s Sins Damn His Soul?).
It’s hard to believe that the Baptist doctrine claims that “all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his would in any more danger.” If that is true, then no wonder pastors will have no fear in committing fornication or raping young girls. But is “once saved, always saved” a true, Biblical doctrine? Let us examine God’s Word to see what it says.
In the book of Galatians, Paul is expressing concern that some Christians in the church there were trying to bind the Old Testament law of circumcision. Note Paul’s warning: “And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5:3-4).
Consider two questions from the above passage. (1) How can you be “severed from Christ” if you were never “in Christ?” (2) How can you “fall from grace” if you were never “in grace?”
Then the writer of Hebrews has the following warning. “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6).
The writer mentions four things that his readers had experienced: they had “been enlightened,” and had “tasted the heavenly gift,” and were “partakers of the Holy Spirit,” had “tasted God’s word and the powers of the age to come,” and then fell away…”
Thus, the question is, how could you possess all of these things if you never owned them? And again, how can you “fall away” from something you were never in?
Then later in Hebrews the writer is giving a warning and exhortation to his readers, who are Christians. “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.” (Heb. 12:25)
Note that the writer is warning Christians that there is no escape for those who “turn away from Him who warns from heaven.” Question: How can one “turn away” from something of which he was never a part?