An article on the understanding of the “perseverance of the Saints” or as it is often referred to “once saved always saved.”
We are a Southern Baptist Church and so I will begin by looking at the Bible and some of the passages that teach us about the security of the believer. Next I will share the Baptist Faith and Message's statement concerning the endurance of the believer. Finally I will examine one of the passages of scripture that Christians with other views claim to teach that you can “lose your salvation” or “fall from grace.”
I want to begin by sharing some of God's promises given to us in His word that offer great security to the believer that they have an eternal home.
John 5:24 (KJV) 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
John 6:36-40 (KJV) 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 10:27-29 (KJV) 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
Romans 8:28-31 (KJV) 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
Ephesians 1:11-14 (KJV) 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
These passages and so many more give us a promise of eternal life, a promise of being sealed, and a promise of not being lost.
Now I want to share with you this understanding as presented in The Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
V. God's Purpose of Grace
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
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, and 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.
Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2.
My summary statement is simply that salvation is a work of God not of man. We as Christians are secure, not in our work but in the work of Christ. Our belief is not that we will ever be good enough or righteous enough but that Christ was and that He offered to us a free gift of salvation and with that comes the promise of eternal life and a promise of ultimate glorification. One way to put it is that if God does not do what He promised then He has failed us. It is not a matter of whether or not we fail Him because we fail Him all the time!
I want to conclude by looking at one passage that people have questioned me about over the years. I hope to bring some clarity and understanding to these passages. I am looking at this passage particularly because I have recently been asked about it.
Exodus 32:30-35 (KJV) 30 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. 31 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. 32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. 33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. 34 Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them. 35 And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.
Psalm 69:27-29 (KJV) 27 Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. 28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. 29 But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.
The first two texts I want to take a minute to deal with is concerning the book or the book of the living found in these two passages in the Old Testament. My first thought is that these books are God's books and not our books. In other words the Bible does not go into great detail about these books so we need to be careful and not build a theological truth from a few obscure passages that with an even more obscure book that no man has seen or read.
The second point I would like to make is that God has many books.
Revelation 20:11-12 (KJV) 11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
In Revelation God is seen as opening several books (v. 12) and another book, the book of life. I simply want to point out that in light of the promises above we cannot definitively say that the books mentioned once in Exodus and once in the Psalms is the same as the “Book of Life” mentioned in Revelation.
Within the Christian Church there are numerous interpretations and understandings of the meanings of the book of living and God's book in Exodus. Most traditional scholars equate these books with life and the living. Moses in Exodus makes a proposal to God, remove me from among the living. The Psalmist, David, is asking God to remove his enemies from the living.
As with all scripture we must read them and understand them, as best we can, within the context of the Bible as a whole.
In conclusions there are Bible verses that seem to promote the eternal security of the believer and there are passages that seem to promote a falling away. Now does this mean that God is contradicting himself? No, this means that we must examine the scriptures carefully and prayerfully and determine, with God's help, the truth.
As I read the scriptures I believe absolutely that God secures the life of the believer for all eternity. One of the arguments from scholars against this is that this becomes for many a license to sin. If I know that God will never kick me out of His family then I can just believe and then sin all I want. The Bible also addresses that argument:
1 John 2:3-4 (KJV) 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Romans 6:1-2 (KJV) 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Those that have had their sins forgiven and have been given a new life will not be comfortable in their sins. It doesn't mean they won't sin, it just means that they will have the Holy Spirit convicting them and making them miserable in their sins.
I would just encourage you to read God's Word and see what saith the Lord!
Bro. Chad Higgins
Below I have some resources that have been helpful to me in answering this question.