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Donald Shea wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have been talking to Protestant about justification and the "once you are justified, you cannot lose it" concept. He insists that once you are saved, you cannot lose that salvation.

I have countered with the Philippians 2:12:

"we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling"

1 Corinthians 10:12:

"should take care not to fall"

and others.

He agrees that these verses seem to indicate that salvation is not a certain thing, but he cannot get past John 10: 28- 29, where it says:

"No one shall snatch you from my Father's hand."

  • How can I effectively explain this verse?

Don

  { Once you are saved, can you lose it, or must we work out our salvation with fear and trembling? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Don —

You are quite right in recognizing that there is a voluminous quantity of verses which contradict the assertion that once you are saved, you cannot lose your salvation. The way I usually approach the question of this particular verse, which seems to support it, is to explain that this verse proves that Satan has no power to take us from Jesus by force. It does not, however, prove that the sheep itself cannot stray of its own volition. Not surprisingly, there are lots of images of lost and straying sheep in Scripture.

The question I usually ask of such people (though I can't admit with any degree of discernible persuasiveness) is:

Suppose someone who has been saved, decides afterward he wishes to reject God.

  • Is he somehow unable to?
  • Will God then save someone against his will?

I would say not.

Finally, this verse must be weighed against other verses. You cannot pit one verse against another, and interpret a verse, in such a way that would contradict another verse. So let's look at some other verses, in particular verses which clearly stipulate that we must obey God and not sin in order to be saved:

Romans 11:21: "Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. "

Matthew 5:22: "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

Matthew 5:29: "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

1 Corinthians 9:24: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

Philippians 3:10: "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

1 Corinthians 4:1: "So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been giving a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait 'til the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God."

2 Timothy 2:13: "If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself."

Colossians 1:22: "But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel."

1 Timothy 4:15f: "Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."

Hebrews 6:9: "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case — things that accompany salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."

Hebrews 3:12: "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first."

Hebrews 6:7: "Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But the land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." (v. 7-8)

Hebrews 10:38: "But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved."

James 1:12: "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."

1 John 3:10: "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother."

1 John 3:14: "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

1 John 3:24: "Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us."

1 John 2:24: "See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us — even eternal life."

Luke 3:7: "John said to the crowds coming to be baptized by him, 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. . . The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.' 'What shall we do then?' the crowd asked. John answered, 'The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.' Tax collectors also came to be baptized. 'Teacher,' they asked, 'what should we do?' 'Don't collect any more than you are required to,' he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, 'And what should we do?' He replied, 'Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely — be content with your pay.'"

John 15:5: "I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Ezekiel 33:18f: "When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and practices justice and righteousness, he will live by them."

John 3:36: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life." (Not NIV)

2 Peter 2:20f: "If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning."

2 Peter 1:3,9-11 (RSV): "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence . . . for whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Hebrews 10:36: "For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised."

So as you can see, there are many clear, unambiguous, and easily understood verses which explain that we must persevere in obedience to God until the end in order to be saved, and only one, rather vague, and mysterious verse that is used to support "once saved, always saved."

I hope this helps.

Eric Ewanco

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