Once Saved, Always Saved!
I John 5.1-13
The Assurance of Salvation, what a tremendous subject! Blessed assurance is one of the most important cornerstones of Christianity and the abundant Christian life. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a lack of real assurance of salvation is the basis of much Christian immaturity and unhappi- ness today. Although this whole passage is very important as a basis for our understanding of our eternal security in Jesus Christ, let us begin by focusing on verse thirteen.
When we are born God gives each of us a small package of life. According to the psalmist, three score and ten, or seventy years. Some a bit more and others a bit less, but the average is seventy years. When we are born the second time God gives us eternal life. This is a life that goes on and on and never ends. God is an eternal God and His purpose in grace is to have for his eternal pleasure a loving and reciprocating relationship with His eternal Sons. This relationship begins at the point of salvation. When we are born again spiritually and are immediately made partakers of His eternal spiritual nature. The moment we are saved we have credited to our eternal heavenly account a life that is irreversibly eternal.
The basis of our guarantee in the matter is the Bible. There are so many scriptures that speak of and support this proposition that it would be impractical to try to list them all in a short message. The foundation for our salvation and eternal life is our God's eternal Word. In Psalm 119:89 and Hebrews 6:18, 13:8 and many other places God anchors our ship of salvation in the harbour of the Word of God. Just as the old hymn says, "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!"
In this verse thirteen John says, "These things I have written that you may know you have eternal life." Written here is the Greek word, grapha, which means the writings or the scriptures. Just as surely as the finger wrote on the wall of Nebachanezzers palace, God writes the foundation for our salvation in His grapha. Our salvation then is not dependent upon what other people say or think about the matter or what might seem reasonable or logical to the non-regenerate carnal man. Our salvation is not even dependent upon how we may feel or what we may think. Just like the children's song, "Jesus loves me, this I know.”. Why? “For the Bible tells me so!" That's the basis of our salvation, the very Word of God.
John says, "These things I have written unto you who believe." In other words, to you who have through faith turned the job over to Jesus. Those who have said, "Lord I cannot save myself, so you must do it." That's exactly what the Greek word pistueo used here really means. A complete transferral of responsibility. John is saying he is writing to people who have really believed in that way. Why? That they might know.
There are two words used in the Greek language for our English word know. One is gnoskos.. This word denotes knowledge based upon emotion, experience or feeling. Up to a certain point this knowledge can be reliable. But such knowledge can be fickle or based upon a false premise, emotion, experience or feeling. Another Greek word for knowledge is oida (pronounced ouya). This word infers knowledge based upon truth and reality. This is the word used here. Not knowledge based upon emo- tion, but upon reality. He wishes true believers to know for a reality that they are present tense posses- sors of eternal life.
There are at least three things that we must understand if we are to have assurance in the Chris- tian life. First, we must understand the nature of salvation. What is it? Who's the author of it? How and when do we get it? What does it do? Second, we must understand the ministry of doubt. If we doubt are we damned? Is doubt necessarily a negative emotion? What purpose might doubt serve? Third, the basis or foundation for assurance. What is not trustworthy as a basis for assurance? What and who can we trust to give us assurance?
By its very nature salvation is immediate and permanent. It is immediate in that salvation happens immediately or right now. At the instant of calling we are eternally saved. (Romans 10:13) Eternal life is eternal and we receive it when we hear and believe the gospel. (John 5:24) The new birth is instan-taneous and immediate and we become eternal sons by an eternal spiritual birth. (John 3:3,7, Gal. 3:26, I John 3:2)
Even Baptist deacons have been heard to pray, "And Lord, finally, in heaven save us." They shouldn't because that is bad theology. There is no waiting in salvation. It's a spiritual phenomenon and does not necessarily follow the rules or pattern of physical things. For instance, in a physical race you run the race and then win at the end. In the spiritual race you win first, and then run the race! In intellectual learning, you go to school and take a course and at the end the professor says you pass or fail. In spiritual learning, you pass first. and then take the course. In warfare, you fight and win the battle. In spiritual warfare, you win the battle first and then fight. (I John 5:1)
It is all in reverse of normal physical expectations. From the moment you accept Christ He saves you there and then. No waiting to the end of life or judgment day to find out as so many sadly seem to think. No one is auditioning for the grace of God The very idea is absurd. God already knows every- thing about your future. Nothing you have done or ever will do surprises our great Sovereign Lord of the universe. What you are going to do between point now and point death is already eternal history with God. From the moment He saves us He knows everything. That is how He engineered His salva- tion package. Is it any wonder Moses and Jonah could even exclaim in the Old Testament, "Salvation is of the Lord!"?
That's why such scriptures as John 5:24 and 10:27 make it so clear that eternal life is present tense. In John 10:27 when Jesus says, "I give unto them (my sheep) eternal life..", He uses the Greek word givoni for give. Vincent says this means "no strings attached." God is not an Indian Giver. In the days of the Plains Indians in North America, they had the quaint custom of giving guests in their villages elaborate gifts of horses and blankets and other valuable items, and then after their guests had travelled a day's journey, they would attack and slaughter them and retrieve the gifts. That is said to be the origin of the term, "Indian Giver."
When Jesus was being crucified one of the thieves believed and said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me, when thou comest into thou Kingdom." Did Jesus then say, "I’ll save you some day, away out in the future, in that day that no man knows, when I set up my Kingdom on earth." No! Jesus said, "Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.." Salvation was immediate. No waiting around. When Jesus told Mary, the sister of Lazarus, that He would raise Lazarus, who had been dead three days, she responded by saying she knew He would in the last days, but Jesus said, I’ll do it today. He did things immedi- ately. He saves immediately.
Many think they are on trial with God. That they'll live the best they can and at the end God will tell them whether they made it or not. But that is not in the Bible. The love of God is so great and His omniscience so perfect that the moment you accept Him he saves you. I was just as much a child of God one minute after I was saved as I am now some sixty-five years later.
God not only saves you immediately, He saves you forever. Not for two days or weeks or months or years or centuries. So many people believe that you can be saved today and lost tomorrow and saved the next week and lost again the next month, and on and on. But the Bible doesn't teach that. Becoming unsaved is a contradiction in concepts. If a life saver really saves a man from the rip tide is he really going to cast him back out into it again? We can no more be unsaved after we are saved than we can become unborn. Our salvation is based upon God's grace and His choosing. He said, "I change not.." Paul said Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. And so is His salvation.
Those who sincerely believe that they can be saved one day and lost the next, should admit that consistency would say that if sin is the cause of the loss of salvation, one sin is enough, because when we commit one sin we break the whole law of God. (James 2:10) So when they lie, cheat or have an evil thought, their salvation is lost. The Bible says that that which is not of faith, is sin. That if we know to do good and do not do it, we sin. So we could lose our salvation by doing nothing. Jesus had more to say in condemnation of the Priest and Levite who passed by on the other side in the story of the Good Samaritan than He had to say of the robbers who ambushed the man.
Those who know the Bible must agree that the testimony of scriptural immersion always follows true salvation in the commands of Jesus and the examples of the New Testament. Those who feel they sin and lose their salvation and then are saved again, would need to be immersed after each sin and repentance of it. If there's multiple salvation there would have to be multiple baptism. Most of us would be in and out of the baptistry a lot. (I John 1:8-9)
Many sincerely say, "If I believed once saved, always saved, I would live like I wished to, and sin all I wanted to." Just yesterday I had two of those who go around with satchels in their hands filled with all sorts of false teaching, say that to me. My reply was in effect, "But you don't understand. I already sin all I want to. In fact, more than I want to. I'm like Paul, I find myself always wanting to do good, but in my flesh, I sometimes find it hard to do. That's the mark of a new creature in Christ Jesus. God's love in saving me eternally is so great and I'm so grateful for it, I wish I could never sin again. And I would like to always be faithful in everything. If you are trying to serve God for any other reason or if you would sin all you could get by with, this is a mark of not having been saved."
If a father says to his son, “Whatever you do in the future I will always love you. You’ll always be my much loved son. If you are rich or poor, succeed or fail, or even go to jail, I’ll still love you.” How would that make that son feel or act? Would it cause him to strive to do better or worse? Would he turn right around and chop up the television, steal the silverware or cut the carpet to hits? Sin all he wanted to? It's just as silly to say that believing once saved always saved leads to sin. This doctrine puts us on our honour. In the light of such great love we must tell others about Him.
What an awful thought and an awful gamble. " Saved, lost, saved lost, I'm in, I'm out, I'm in, I'm out." What if one is caught dead when he's out? Paul says in Hebrews 6:1-6 , if it were possible (using suppositional language) to be lost after we are saved, we could never be saved again because Jesus would have to be crucified again for our sins.
"But", some people say, "Couldn't it be reversed?" No! Some things are irreversible. Suppose you go to Sizzlers and order a steak well done. And then just as they bring it you tell them you have changed your mind. You want them to take it back and cook it medium rare. There's no way you could reverse the matter. What's done is done. Besides, have you ever heard of anyone who may have not liked the particular sound of a bell tone and then decided to unring it? It is equally impossible and illogical to assert eternal salvation can be reversed. Paul spoke of the permanence and eternality of eternal life when he indicated that those in Ephesus who were saved were already seated in heavenly places!
"But," some say, "Couldn't you freely reject Christ and decide to be unsaved?" Let me ask you, "What truly saved person would want to do such a thing?" We have great freedom in Christ, but this is one freedom the very nature of salvation would prohibit.
The assurance of salvation often involves the ministry of doubt. Although some say that if you doubt you are damned, the Bible doesn't back it up. In fact, God's inspiration of His many writers to share so much on the security of the believer and evidences of salvation would lead us to believe that doubt is a natural function of the human mind that is possible in the Christian's life. Doubts may be categorized as symptoms. Symptoms that should be attached to our sanctification rather than our salvation or security.
Why does the human body have pain? Pain is a symptom that is a blessing. It is a warning that something is physically wrong. That a remedy needs to be sought to correct the situation. We don't like it. But it is proof that we are alive. Dead bodies have no pain. Doubts could be a better proof that we are saved than that we are unsaved. It's difficult to doubt something that is not part of one's experience.
Christians normally doubt for one of three reasons. First, God may be calling them to a higher level of Christian service. Perhaps to a ministry. Or perhaps to be baptized, witness, give or be. faithful in service. People recognize their disobedience and assume they might not be saved because saved peo- ple wish to obey and serve the Lord. But a saved person can be stubborn and disobedient. He should discover why he is doubting and then correct it.
Some Christians doubt because they allow habitual sin to creep into their life. They then say, "If I was truly saved then I would not have done thus and so or thought this or that." The situation needs to be corrected. We should then follow John's instructions in John 1:8-9. Be honest with God and confess our sin and ask Him to forgive, correct and discipline us. Sometimes it takes time, but God is patient and if we are stumbling in the right direction, by His grace He is always faithful and merciful.
Some Christians doubt because Satan knows the only way he can get to them is through their feelings and emotions. And he has access to our feelings and emotions just as he had to Job's and Elijah's. With doubt he can upset a Christian and he knows an upset Christian is an ineffective Chris- tian. He gets some to egotistically always look inwardly. They sit around as navel inspectors saying, "But what about me? My feelings? Shouldn't I feel more saved?"
When Satan attacks at this point we need to remember that the basis of our assurance is the Word of God, not our feelings or emotions. Whatever the reason for doubt, correction is called for. Faulty emotions can keep a Christian immature and ineffective. If God is calling you to a higher plain of service, respond by surrendering and doing His will. Be baptized. Be faithful. Get involved. Wit- ness. If there is sin in your life, confess and forsake it.
The basis of our assurance needs to be founded upon the Word of God, but there are sometimes false foundations that will not stand the test. Don't always trust your thoughts. Thoughts will not always be what they should. Otherwise, Paul would not have said, "Think on these (positive) things..." in Phil. 4:6-7. If doubts come into your mind that are based upon idle thoughts, correct your thought life. Paul says we should bring all our thoughts under the captivity of Jesus Christ. (II Cor. 10:5, Col. 3:1-3, Phil. 2:5, Ro. 12:1-3)
Don't trust your deeds. There will be times when you will do things a Christian should not do. Don't ignore them or say, "I'm just human." Bring misdeeds to God and acknowledge them. Confess means admit. Then turn them over to Jesus.
Don't trust your words. There will be times you will say things a Christian shouldn't say. Don't justify such words or say the devil made me say it or laugh about that uncontrollable little member. Correct the problem and work on it all the time.
Don't trust your emotions. You're going to have some horrible feelings. Many times these will be the result of endocrine or chemical dysfunction or some other health problem. A basic metabolism imbal- ance doesn't form a basis for doubting ones salvation. Emotions are fickle and rise and fall like a barometer. Hypoglycemia, negative ions and many other indicators may be factors in emotional insta- bility. Satan also has access to our intellect and emotions. Such emotions as anger and hostility are basic weapons in the tool chest he uses to bring doubt and defeat into a Christian's life. Trust in and lean upon the Lord, not your thoughts, words, deeds or emotions and He will respond with help in correcting these symptoms.
The basis of real assurance is the Word of God. He gave us this verse and many others that we may know we have been saved and will stay saved. In verse ten through twelve of this chapter He gives us a firm basis for such sure and factual knowledge. If we have met His conditions we have eternal salvation or God is a liar. Then feelings, thoughts, words and deeds have nothing to do with it. God does the saving and the keeping. His Word is final. Man's words are temporal and may be erroneous. God's word is always true. (John 17:17)
But, some say, "I know someone who said they were saved. They were baptized and joined a church. But look at them now." We aren't to go by the experience of people. The example of Judas and Demas should teach us that. human experience can be false and deceiving. But the Bible is never in error. "Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so. "
I know I'm saved today, not because of my feelings, thoughts, words, deeds or even because I have been called to preach and pastored churches for over 50 years. But because God said it in His Word and that settles it. The one and only sin that could condemn me would be to reject Jesus Christ as my Saviour. (John 3:18) This I could not and would not do, because I have accepted Him according to His Word. (John 1:9-11)
The Bible teaches that every human being in the world is either saved or lost. We have ways of categorizing people as rich or poor, black or white, Jew or Gentile; but the Bible doesn't recognize such categories. God only deals with two categories, lost or saved and everyone falls into one or the other of these camps. No one is both or neither. No one can say I am partly saved and partly lost.
Salvation and lostness are absolutes and you are either one or the other. Just as physical life and death are absolutes and you cannot be a little bit alive or a little bit dead, so it is with spiritual life and death. The two states are mutually exclusive. If you are saved, you are not lost or if you are lost you are not saved. If you are not saved you are lost. If you are not lost you are saved.
I know I am saved because I know I am not lost. Because right now if someone came to me and said, 'Forget the past sixty-five years. Would you today accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour?" My heart would leap and respond with a resounding, "YES!". A lost person would probably say what we hear them say all the time, "Well, I'll think about it. Maybe next week. But I don't think I can live it." Or, "I'm a pretty good bloke. I keep the golden rule. I'm better than some hypocrite church member."
These are techniques of making excuse or another way of saying a resounding, "NO!" Each person has a little statement that makes it respectable to him, but it is a flat, "No, I do not wish to be saved." But I wouldn't say that. Would you? If someone came to me right now and said, "Would you accept Christ as your Saviour?" "Yes!," I would shout out. This proves I am not lost. A lost man would not do that. And if I am not lost, I am saved. What if I came to you right now and asked you if you truly accept Christ as your personal Saviour. What would you say? If your heart can say a sincere and resounding, "Yes!," you are not lost. And if you are not lost you are saved eternally.
In conclusion, let us do as the barristers do and sum up the three things we have discussed. First, the nature of salvation is immediate. It is not some far off condition to be hoped for, but operates in the here and now. It is also permanent. When God saves you He does a complete job and saves you forever.
Second, the ministry of doubt can serve us in our sanctification. When doubt comes, instead of saying what's wrong with my salvation, am I secure in Christ Jesus? Ask what's wrong with me? Is God calling me to a higher level of service? Is He placing His finger on an area of my life that needs correction? If so, I'll respond and correct it. Is Satan using my emotions to upset me and interfere with my happy and fruitful relationship with God and His people? I’ll not allow him to do that. An upset Christian is not an effective Christian. I'll respond by allowing my doubts to minister to my sanctification.
Third, the basis of my assurance is not my thoughts, words, deeds or feelings. If they are wrong, I will correct them. They are not determinative of my salvation. The basis of my salvation is the eternal Word of God. I know I am saved because the Bible tells me so!
- Pastor John White