Hot Potatoes

Once saved, always saved?

We affirm both God’s sovereign, free grace in salvation and man’s sovereign
free-will to accept or reject God’s grace. God chose us in Christ from before the foundation of the world according to His foreknowledge (Ephesians 1:4, 1Peter 1:2). He determined in Himself to create a universe with people made in His image with free-will, and purposed that although they would fall into sin, He would redeem them through His Son, adopt them as His sons and transform and glorify them, so that they would be conformed to the image of His eternal Son. 41. For each possible universe God could have created, He foresaw (in His Omniscience) those who would accept His Son and would become His sons. Then based on His personal love for each of us individually, and desiring to have us as sons in His family, He sovereignly chose to create this specific universe where we exist and trust in Christ (rather than another universe in which a family of God would be brought forth which did not include us). He has predestined all who would believe in Him for salvation and glory, planning and putting into place everything needful to accomplish our full salvation from start to finish, working out all things according to the purpose of His will- the manifestion of His sons, that we should be to the praise of His glory! (Ephesians 1:11). Thus this universe exists for our sake, and God is working all things together for our good if we are in Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

We believe it is possible for a sinning or backsliding believer to lose his salvation by exercising his free-will, continually resisting God’s grace and hardening his heart until he effectively rejects God’s grace of salvation, no longer trusting and submitting to Christ as his Saviour and Lord (Hebrews 6:4-9; 10:24-31, 1John 5;16,17). However such a person who committed the unforgivable sin would have seared his conscience so much, that he would not even want to repent. So if someone is worried about their salvation and sorry for their sin, they could not have crossed this line. Trusting in God’s Mercy through the Blood of Jesus (who has paid for all our sins by His death on the Cross) and the faithful promise of His Word, they should confess their sins, receiving His forgiveness and cleansing according to 1John 1:9.

What of those who are constantly practising a sinful lifestyle?

There are two possibilities concerning their condition:

(1) They might be unregenerate, having never truly trusted in Christ as their Lord and Saviour, despite calling themselves Christians and they show it by their life (1Cor 6:9-11, 1Jn 3:6-15)

Or (2) they may be saved, but have backslidden, in which case they are in danger of losing their eternal salvation and inheritance if they don’t repent, especially if they die in this state (Galatians 5:19-21).


Galatians 5:19-21: “The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell (warn) you beforehand, just as I also told (warned) you in time past, that those who practice such things will NOT INHERIT the KINGDOM OF GOD.”

As sons of God, we are ‘joint-heirs with Christ’, who  inherit God’s Kingdom (Romans 8:17). This means having eternal life in the Kingdom. The abundance (degree) of glory we will inherit (possession) is determined by our eternal rewards, which depend on our faithfulness now. Sometimes ‘inheritance’ just refers to these rewards (Matthew 19:29), but usually it includes both eternal salvation and rewards (Matt 25:34, Mark 10:17, Luke 10:25,18:18, 1Cor 15:50). Therefore the warning of Gal5:21, that a certain kind of person will ‘not inherit the Kingdom’, may not be just speaking of a loss of rewards, but also a loss of salvation. Those who ‘practice such things’ (as an unrepentant life-style) are the unsaved (unbelievers), who are living according to their sinful nature. This is confirmed by a parallel verse (1Cor 6:9-11), where Paul uses similar language to describe the lifestyle and judgement upon the unsaved, and uses that to warn believers (‘do not be deceived’ ) just as Galatians 5:21 used it to forewarn believers of what could happen to them: ‘I tell (warn) you beforehand, just as I also told (warned) you in time past’:

1Corinthians 6:9-11: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will NOT INHERIT the KINGDOM OF GOD? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will INHERIT the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But (when you were saved) you (believers) were washed (from your sins), but you were sanctified (made holy, set apart to God), but you were justified (declared righteous) in the Name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Here those who do not inherit the Kingdom are clearly the unbelievers, for they are ‘the unrighteous’, whereas believers are justified. He contrasts the saved (‘you’) with the unsaved (‘the unrighteous’), by saying ‘such were some of you, but you were saved...’ Therefore, when it warns that the unsaved (as characterised by these lifestyles) ‘will not inherit the Kingdom’, this does not merely mean a loss of rewards, but a failure to even enter the Kingdom. So, if Paul is talking about the unsaved, why does he make this warning relevant to believers also, implying that they might not INHERIT?

From the context of Galatians 5 and 1Corinthians 6, it is clear that believers can also sin and yield to the works of the flesh, for although our spirit is reborn and we have a new nature in Christ (2Cor 5:17) we still have the same flesh which can lead us into sin. But now, if we sin it is against our real nature, whereas before it came ‘naturally.’ When we sin we should immediately confess it to God and He will forgive us (1John 1:9). It is clear that Paul did not treat believers that had sinned as having lost their salvation. Instead he reminded them of who they were in Christ and called them to live accordingly (motivating them by God’s grace).

But what if a believer stubbornly continues in sin (maybe assuming that he is safe, because of God’s grace), perhaps even excusing or justifying his lifestyle? They should ‘not be deceived’ that they will get away with it (c.f. Gal 6:7). He warns these backsliders that they (as well as the unsaved) are in DANGER of not INHERITING the KINGDOM. This certainly includes loss of rewards, but it could also mean loss of salvation. For if God will judge the unsaved for their ungodly lifestyle, how can believers who are also living like the world, expect to escape?

The danger of sin is that it hardens your heart to God (and desensitises your conscience), and the longer you continue in this, the harder your heart gets, and the harder it is to repent. You show your faith (heart decision for or against God) by your actions. Christians who continue in sin, choosing a lifestyle of sin and who die in sin are in great DANGER of crossing a line (the point of no return) and committing the unforgivable sin (rejecting Christ and His salvation). They are using their God-given free-will to choose against Christ, effectively denying Him as their Lord, and if they continue to deny Him by their life, they will end up denying Him also with their lips, for ‘out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.’ Even if they still affirm faith with their lips, God sees the settled decision of the heart. It is also possible that someone who claims to be a Christian, but has a sinful lifestyle, has never truly been born-again.

Ultimately God knows those who are His: “The solid foundation of God stands with this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His" and "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2Tim 2:19).

If you are a true believer who has accepted Jesus as your Saviour and Lord, prove it by a life of faith and obedience and you will have eternal glory (2Peter 1:10,11)

Ephesians 4:3-8: “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any INHERITANCE in the KINGDOM of CHRIST and GOD. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because
of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them (of sin and judgement). For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

Similar warnings are found in Revelation: "It is done (accomplished)! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts (salvation by grace through faith). He who overcomes (born-again believers- 1John5:4,5) shall INHERIT all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My SON. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the Lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death...But there shall by no means enter it (the Heavenly Jerusalem) anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life” (21:6-8, 27).

"Behold, I (Jesus) am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and whoever loves and practices a lie” (22:12-15)



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