Once saved, always saved? (part 2)
Once you become a Christian and are saved by Christ, can you still lose your salvation? We answered that question more than clearly in part 1, but we are still not there yet. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, STOP NOW! Do not continue, under any circumstances, but go back to part 1 first.
If you are reading this, we assume that you have read part 1 and understand what it says, and only then we can move on to some Bible verses that seem to say that you can lose your salvation? Let’s start with the following statement:
If you heard more than 1000 times at school that A+B=C, and then you suddenly read in a book three times that the answer is not “C”, but “X”… What answer would you go for? C. That’s clear, right? The answer is and remains “C”. The question then is, why do 3 passages suddenly say X? The truth is and remains C, so what would the author of the X answer have meant? Especially if the author of that book and all those 1000 other verses, with the outcome C, is the same author as the one who wrote the answer X.
Then you have to look very carefully at what the author really means in those three other pieces where, if you read on the surface, X suddenly comes out. For that Divine author will never contradict himself. So it’s not the author’s fault, it’s the reader’s fault. You and me. So we read something different from what the author wrote. We are the problem and may not yet have enough knowledge or insight to read it. That may mean that you have to study more, look for even more translations, go back to the original writings, and read even more books about it to understand those three exceptions to all the other thousands of verses.
That being said, and still assuming you actually did read part 1, let’s move on to the next verse:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and tremblingPhilippians 2:12
Does it now say that I can add something to my own salvation through the work I do? In other words, if I don’t work on it, can I lose that salvation? No. It does not.
It says work out. Not work on, but work out. You have received your salvation through Christ, and you must work out that salvation that you have. Handing it out. Compare it to a field that someone gave you. You have been given that land, you now have to cultivate it to get good fruits from it. You have to put elbow grease in it, to bring more fruit. The field was a gift, now you have to cultivate it. The field will always stay, but depending on your elbow grease, there will be more or not so much fruit.
Furthermore, nowhere in that verse does the word “lose” or “losing” does appear. Not a word. If the writer had thought of it that way, and it was that way, it would certainly be included, but losing is literally not even included. With this, we can immediately write off this verse as “I can lose my salvation, you see, that’s what it says here”. That would also be strange because this verse is more than clear that “works” cannot save you:
He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,Titus 3:5
So you are not saved by your works / what you have done, but by His mercy. Full stop. So what does the writer mean by that verse in Philippians 2:12?
Let’s go back to the question of why you should do good things if you are a real Christian. That is stated in Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
Once you are one with Christ, you will do good because that was God’s purpose for you to begin with. Your good works have not saved you, Christ has saved you and because He has saved you will automatically do good things. You are going to cultivate His field, which He has given to you. If you as a Christian do not cultivate the field that He gave you, what kind of tree are you? And if you already work that field and stop doing it, what kind of fruits will come from that field?
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.Matthew 7:16-20
And that is what Paul points out in Philippians 2:12. If you do not cultivate that God-given field properly, or even stop doing it, then I would certainly fear and tremble, for that is a very bad sign for the tree… Continue to cultivate that field! That is what the writer is referring to. Keep working on the salvation you have already had: Improve that field every day, more beautiful, produce more fruit.
So the answer to question A+B is still C. On to the next verse:
No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.1 Corinthians 9:27
Say what? Is Paul now suddenly saying that Paul, he himself can be “disqualified”, despite the fact that he himself was a preacher, because he did or did not do something?
Most of these verses can be clearly explained by looking at the context. Because before verse 27… verses 24 to 26 say:
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 someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.1 Corinthians 9:24-27
So it’s about receiving rewards. There he tells how we as believers should try to work on obtaining crowns and rewards. If he or she doesn’t practice hard, he or she won’t get certain rewards/prizes. He is still an athlete, but the number of rewards (in heaven) will be different. God has given you talents, and you must use them fully, hard, for His glory. If you don’t do that, you won’t get some crowns/rewards. In heaven, we also receive rewards for what we have done for God (Matthew 5:12; Luke 6:23, 35; 1 Corinthians 3:14; 9:18) or…less rewards…if we have done less for God. We will enter that heaven if we believe what Christ has done, but the rewards (number and kind of rewards) in heaven will differ. Not everyone gets the same thing there… You are no longer judged for your sins as a Christian, but you are still judged for how you have used your talents.
For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.1 Corinthians 3:9-15
A very big difference. The builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved: Your salvation will remain the same, but your rewards will be different. (Those rewards are worth another Bible study, but for now, we’ll leave it at that)
On to the next verse that you really need to study carefully before you understand what it tells us:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.Hebrews 10:26-27
The same here, if you take this out of context and don’t look further, things go fundamentally wrong, and you could say: “See, you can lose your salvation if you sin!”. And here too: context people, context! Looking at the context and what the book of Hebrews is all about, it clearly talks about the sin of unbelief. Not the individual sins we commit. You can read that context more than clearly in Hebrews 3:7-19 where the comparison is made with the people of Israel in the desert.
If you look at the entire chapter in Hebrews 10, you will see that it is about the old laws from the Old Testament that are just a shadow of the coming and salvation through Christ. (verses 1-4). Those laws and offerings could not remove disobedience (verse 5) and so the sacrifices of the blood of bulls and goats were not salvation. Only Christ could bring that salvation (verses 6-10). All those sacrifices of the past (verse 11) have been replaced by the sacrifice of Christ (verses 12-22), He has “washed” all our sins (verse 22) and there is no doubt about that (verse 23). We must continue to remind each other that Christ did that (verse 24) because that act of Christ is literally of eternal value.
However, if we consciously continue to sacrifice animals (verse 26) and therefore do not believe that all those sacrifices have now been perfectly replaced by Christ’s sacrifice, then we have a huge problem. (verse 27) Then you are talking about the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. So rejecting that knowledge of that truth after you have received that knowledge. You knew it, but consciously rejected it. Then there is no more offering available to you. You have rejected Christ, and then there is no second way to enter heaven. Jesus Christ and His sacrifice is the only way, so if you reject that one way to heaven, there is no other way to get there. That’s what this verse is about, in context.
How do we know that this really isn’t about individual sins that can get in the way? Let’s look at Paul and what he says about himself:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.1 Timothy 1:15
Paul says here that he is a sinner, the worst. But a sinner who understands that he has been saved through Jesus Christ. This is not someone talking about his past life, no way. This is someone who says: I am a sinner. A sinner who understands the need for grace and forgiveness. Every single day.
And then we move on to the last verse for today, and we can only understand it if we have gone through the above and part 1. Here we go:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.Hebrews 6:4-6
That also seems to say that you can indeed lose your salvation again. Or does it…? No, this time too, the answer is: No. Let’s try to explain that.
If we look in the Bible we do not see anywhere that anyone is labeled as a true Christian if he or she is “enlightened”, has tasted the “heavenly gift”, has “shared” in the Holy Spirit, has “tasted”. Because who are we talking about when the writer suddenly uses these words that we don’t see used anywhere in the Bible when talking about a true Christian?
I think the clearest word is “tasted”. Took a bite, but didn’t eat it. Light did shine on that person, but has not come into that person. He “shared” in the Holy Spirit, but did not have the Holy Spirit in him. Did go to church… but not a Christian. He was religious… but not a Christian. You were in church, you saw it all, experienced it all,…. but surrender completely to Christ? You did not. On the outside, you may have appeared religious, but you did not let Christ in you.
And if we look honestly around us… and we look at the fruit of many of the trees that we see in the churches today… the fruit is rotten, or not there. There are plenty of trees in churches that are not good trees. They are there, they hear the good news every week, they are really super religious… they really should have known, but they have no or rotten fruit and are therefore not Christians.
And because they could see it every time, but did not take THE step, they did the following as stated in this verse:
To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
That reminded us of the parable of the sower:
Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”Matthew 13:18-23
The sower sowed, some heard it, but did not understand it and did not believe it. The tribulation will come, and how steadfast will you be? (that’s the whole context of the whole letter to Hebrews) Do you really have roots? Are you really visibly fertile? Really and truly? Are you?
By going to a church, by being religious, you will NOT get to heaven. If that is all you do, even though you see it every week and can understand it, but choose not to take THE step of complete surrender, you crucify Christ all over again. And there is no salvation from that. You were there, every time, you saw it, every time, you tasted it but didn’t eat it, you were there but not really in it, you saw the light but didn’t absorb it. By that behavior, you consciously crucify Christ. That’s what the writer says. And then there is no mercy for you.
And that is a spicy / hot verse. A true Christian doesn’t do that. He goes 110% for God. Is not just a church visitor, not religious, but way, way, way more. It bears good fruit, He works Gods field for 110%, no compromise, no “yes, but I think blah blah blah”. Nothing like that. Let us be VERY careful with ourselves and others that we do not crucify Christ as that writer puts it. And if we think “nah, that’s not who I am”, then I would think very carefully again… what was your behavior today if you knew you shouldn’t do something (sin) but did it anyway? What did you do by doing so?
And that is what that verse warns about. Do not go astray, remain steadfast, do not slip back into your old ways, despite all oppressions (repeat, that is the context of the entire letter to Hebrews). If you’re a true Christian, that’s not even possible. Once saved, always saved, and then you will always bear good fruit and will get your rewards in heaven judged on what you did for God’s glory.
So yes, if we want to understand these verses we have(!) to be open to them, invest time in them, study them and more and more. That is an investment we have to make. Only then will we understand what it says and what beautiful verses these are that are truly wonderful to read. This is what God asks of us, every day, for His glory. Love it!