Thursday, October 29, 2009

Against "Once Saved, Always Saved," Part I

I realize that the title of this post may get me labeled a “heretic,” “false teacher,” and a demented theologian. Most people (me included) grew up believing in “once saved, always saved.” I was taught that, from the moment of confession, my salvation was secure forever, that I had nothing else to worry about! I was simply sitting around in life, playacting in good deeds and works of righteousness, waiting for Jesus to return for me...

However, upon being prompted to study Scripture by Byron Gillory III, the original owner of this blog, I began to study what I had always believed; and I found that my beliefs were wrong.

And that is what this post is all about. If you think I’m a heretic, I’m not alone; Reformed theologian Thomas R. Schreiner of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes the following in his book:

“Almost all Christians think of salvation exclusively in terms of the past. Believers often say, ‘I have been saved,’ or ask some one else, ‘Have you been saved?’ We will argue that most evangelical Christians DO NOT USE THE WORD ‘SALVATION’ AS IT IS USUALLY USED IN THE BIBLE, where THE TERM DENOTES OUR FUTURE SALVATION. Hence, the emphasis of the biblical text often gets lost when we speak about salvation” (Thomas R. Schreiner, “The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, page 48).

So according to Schreiner, there are aspects of salvation: both present and future aspects.

Schreiner provides Scripture references to show us these two aspects of salvation.

First, we have Ephesians 2:5—

“[He loved us, v.4] even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you HAVE BEEN SAVED)...” (Eph. 2:5, New King James Version; will be in the NKJV unless otherwise stated).

Verse 8 of the same chapter states,

“For by grace you HAVE BEEN SAVED through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God...” (Eph. 2:8).

Next, there is Titus 3:5—

“not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy HE SAVED US, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit...” (Titus 3:5)

Then, there is 2 Timothy 1:9—

“[God] who HAS SAVED US and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began...” (2 Tim. 1:9)

According to Schreiner,

“The word ‘have been saved’ demonstrate that salvation now belongs to believers” (49).

Salvation is a present possession of the believer—at this moment, those who confess Jesus (or already have) and are believing in Him are saved.
But then, Schreiner removes the so-called popular view of OSAS, “Once Saved, Always Saved”:

“When we study the New Testament writers, however, we discover something quite surprising. Though they occasionally describe salvation as the present possession of believers, they usually envision salvation as something that WILL OCCUR IN THE FUTURE. For example, Jesus says, ‘All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved’ (Matt. 10:22 NIV; cf. also Matt. 24:13). Matthew does not say that the one who endures to the end has been saved or that this person shows evidence that he or she was saved. Matthew says that the one who stands fast and perseveres will be saved, that is, will be saved on the future day of the Lord” (49).

Schreiner explains that Paul also believes salvation to be a future act as well, and quotes Romans 5:9-10 to make his case. Let’s read this passage:

“Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we SHALL BE SAVED from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, WE SHALL BE SAVED by His life” (Romans 5:9-10).

Schreiner responds,

“Notice the logic in both verses: since we are NOW justified and reconciled, WE CAN BE SURE THAT WE SHALL BE SAVED. Paul does not say that we can be sure that we are saved but that we WILL be saved. He thinks of salvation as a future blessing that we shall receive” (49-50).

I want to point out a disagreement I have with Schreiner’s response here. While I agree that salvation has both present and future aspects, I cannot say that Paul wrote here believing that it is certain that every person who professes Jesus will experience future salvation. This will be a good place to start for tomorrow’s post. Stay tuned...


The Seeking Disciple said...

Excellent thoughts. I enjoy your blog and your way of presenting an argument first for the position and following with your own defenses and critiques is helpful.

Deidre Richardson, B.A., M.Div. said...

Seeking Disciple,

Thanks so much for your comments...

I hope you're enjoying the work I'm doing here at CTS. I think this is an important series on "Once Saved, Always Saved"-- because most people believe it to be true.

I hope you read Part II of this. I just posted part two earlier today...and I am currently working on part III of my OSAS series to post tomorrow.

If you ever have any questions, or something you want me to research or investigate, please feel free to let me know. I'm always up for advice regarding the direction of the blog. For now, I will continue my work on OSAS. I have two more books after Schreiner's to blog on regarding salvation (both are Arminian works). Thanks again, and keep reading...