Once saved, always saved?

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You cannot sin your way out of God’s grace. God’s grace is not conditional on whether we sin or not; the very reason he has given it to us is because we do sin. If God’s acceptance was suspended whenever we sinned, it would be like saying that we are forgiven for our sins as long as we don’t sin. The whole point of grace is that it does not depend on what we do, good or bad; it’s just a gift – one that we never merited in the first place, and can never “unmerit” either.

So is it possible for a Christian to ever turn away from God and not be a Christian any more? This is a complex issue with arguments on both sides, but here is my point of view.

God values our choices incredibly. He has so much respect for our choices that he will not force people to believe in him, even if it means that they will go to hell forever. What he created us for was to be “voluntary lovers” – people who, of their own free will, choose to love, obey and follow him.

When someone becomes a Christian, it happens like this. They were blind, hopeless and helpless, unable to choose to love and follow God even if they wanted to. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:65).

God in his grace comes and touches them and opens their eyes. He makes his light shine in their hearts to give them “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). And once they see it, they find him irresistable. They still have a choice, but now that they see Jesus for who he really is, all they want is him. It is like putting a feast in front of a hungry man; he could choose not to eat, but who would do that?

Now that you are his, Jesus says that no one can snatch you out of his hand (John 10:28), he will never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) and he has “set his seal of ownership” on you (2 Corinthians 1:22) – all of which indicates that as far as he is concerned, you will be his forever.

Being in the image of God means that we can still choose what we do; he will never take away our ability to make choices. If we wanted to leave him, we could do that. But it is not something that we should be afraid might happen one day. God is faithful, and he is just as faithful to keep us as he was to save us (see 1 Corinthians 1:8-9).

For reflection:

Two other things that are meant to give you absolute security that you will be his forever are the fact that he chose you before you were born, without even asking you – and that you are his child. It would be the strangest thing for a dearly loved child of a healthy family to worry that one day his dad might not be his father any more.

“He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4)

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