Joel’s response to a question about eternal security:
The “once saved always saved” question often comes across to me as a bit loaded from the standpoint that people who ask that question often times want to believe that because they prayed a prayer or came forward at a service that their eternity is secure to be with God in heaven — when, in fact, that may not be the case. Scripture warns us time & time again & exhorts us to “test (ourselves) to see whether (we) are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). i.e. While I believe that one can have assurance of eternal life (1 John 5:13), it is not wise to presume one is saved who does not love & therefore obey Jesus (John 14:12,15,21,23,24; John 15:10; John 17:3). Scripture never guarantees eternal security at the expense of love & faithfulness to Jesus.
I believe one’s perseverance/endurance — represented in phrasing such as to “continue” (“abide”, NKJV) in Him (1 John 2:28) to be fruit/evidence of the genuineness of one’s faith.
I do not believe that one loses their salvation though, if indeed, it is real, and personally hold a different interpretation of Hebrews 6 (esp. v. 4). Instead, I believe that the Hebrews 6 passage warns us about being falsely secure (as do other “warning passages” in Hebrews). I understand it to be a passage addressing Jews, rather than believers, who had apparently “tasted the heavenly gift” & “shared in the Holy Spirit”. I would interpret this to mean that they participated in or experienced in some manner the ministry of Christ & the Holy Spirit. In other words, there are those who (such as the 1st century Jews) are taught about Christ (or, “enlightened”, v.4) , they witness God perform miracles, and they are impacted in some manner by His Spirit …& yet do not belong in God’s family…They “fall away”…in the sense that they, in spite of all of the truth that they’ve been presented with & spiritual experiences that they’ve had, choose to turn away & reject Jesus. Again, since they were “enlightened” & “tasted” & “shared”, that is what makes the author of Hebrews’ warning so strong, for if they were to reject Christ with all of this revelation — there would be nothing else that could be said, done, or experienced to bring them to true repentance. It is one thing for a person to resist Christ, it is another for a person exposed to Christ’s truth, presence, & power again & again to say, “I prefer the treasures of this world than to treasure Christ.” This is what I understand this text to be saying & why I believe it says that it is “impossible” (vs.4) for this person to “be brought back to repentance”, or genuinely repent. In addition, if this passage were describing a once genuine believer in Christ who fell away, then it would be “impossible” (v.4) for that person to be saved once again. (BTW, Hebrews 12:16-17 is a powerful passage — for Esau, even though he shed tears, he did not have true repentance. He could not repent b/c his heart for so hardened.)
~ that all are saved by grace through faith
~ that the faith that we have (not only the grace) is a gift to us from God (Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Peter 1:5) — since, left to ourselves, no one would choose or seek after God (Rom. 3:10)
~ that once we are adopted into God’s family by God that He does not un-adopt us — and then later re-adopt us into His family again is we want Him to. (Rom. 8:15-17; Eph. 1:5)
~ that while the genuineness of our faith should be tested, that our salvation cannot be lost if it is genuine (John 10:27-29; Rom. 8:35,38-39)
~ that God is faithful to complete the work that He started in us & that He WILL complete it (Php. 1:6) in those who truly believe & trust God & live “by faith in the SOn of God” (Gal. 2:20).
I understand that the crux of this debate is rooted in the issue of God’s sovereignty & Man’s free will. Those who tend to lean toward free will tend to lean toward one being able to lose/forfeit their salvation & those who lean toward God’s sovereignty tend to lean toward eternal security. There can be extremes of both positions. I don’t know exactly how God’s sovereignty & Man’s free will both work together, I just know that they do (Rom. 9-10). Then again, I can’t describe exactly, any of God’s divine characteristics. It is we who do the acts of faithfulness, & yet, it is “God who works in (us) to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Php. 2:13).
At the end of the day, whatever one’s position, we all believe that Jesus saves us by grace through faith & that those who truly belong to Him are faithful & obedient to Him. Anyway, simply using the pronoun “I” instead of “We” would be more accurate in your response, since we do not all hold the same interpretation of Hebrews 6 (esp. v. 4) — even though, I do not see that particular theological viewpoint as an essential of one’s faith.
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