By Stephen Leonard
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Once saved, always saved? Is this really true? Let’s say you thought you gave your heart to Christ as an 8 year old, but now as an adult, you live with no evidence that you are a follower of Him. Is “once saved, always saved” a true statement for you?
The doctrine of “the perseverance of the saints” states that if you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit at any time in your life, that God will persevere in you to complete the work He started in you, certainly bringing you to salvation and eternal life. Once regeneration takes place in your life it cannot be reversed. Once the Holy Spirit indwells you, He will never leave you. It is a done act!
You think of your own personal knowledge, that is, anecdotal information, that so and so was definitely a Christian at one time in your own mind, and yet now has become in years since an atheist or a committed agnostic, living as a pagan and, in your mind, headed to certain damnation at the Great Judgment. What does one do with such personal “knowledge?”
Often it is such illustrations, of which you are fairly certain, that you rely on to deny or at least not trust the saying “once saved, always saved.”
However, you must remember that you are not God. You do not know the heart of men or women thoroughly. You do not know the end from the beginning, no matter how much you think you do. God’s knowledge is far above your knowledge and His ways far past your finding out. You do not know a person is truly regenerated, though you believe you see the fruit of such.
What you do know is that God’s Word is true. It never speaks falsehoods. You must trust the Word of God to always speak the truth, and not attempt to prove that the Word simply cannot always be true in certain circumstances you sense do not warrant it.
Philippians 1:6 is straight forward. If God began a work of salvation in you, He will finish that work by the time Jesus returns or He calls you home. It says God will do that, not that you will do it. He is able. You are not.
When I went to fight in the Vietnam War, I had a premonition prior to going to Vietnam that I would not return alive. God obviously had other plans. He persevered to keep me safe, though I knew of many times I should have certainly died. To me those instances were miraculous in that God appeared to bend bullets and shrapnel around me, so they didn’t pass through me. It was God who persevered and not me. I certainly could not have preserved my life if it was left up to me. God could and did!
When I was a young boy of 4 I asked Jesus into my heart with my mother, because I asked her if I was going to heaven after hearing my minister father preach on hell. But later as a young man I realized that I never could remember a day that I did not believe Jesus was my Savior. Either way, it was true Jesus was my Savior, at least, at a very young age. But I have certainly sinned egregiously since many times as a child, as a young man, as an adult. Does this mean I wasn’t “born again?” Not at all!
God has been steadily working in me to complete what He began at a very young age. And He will continue that work until Jesus returns or I go to Him.
Is it true that some make a profession of Christ as their Savior, but later live as though they never made it. Certainly. You have to in such circumstances know that they were never regenerated by the Holy Spirit in making such a profession if they are not living it out in their life, and instead are living a life devoid of the Spirit of God. In circumstances like that there must be repentance and an acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is not in your life. If He is you would know it and you would live so. Repent and believe!
Remember, if you indeed are Christ’s you will live like it. And God who began that work in you will persevere to complete the work, “working in you what is well pleasing in His sight.” (Hebrews 13:21) It is God who perseveres in you that assures your salvation! You yourself certainly always pursue seeking after God. But God’s perseverance makes all the difference!
“No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me; from life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand: till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”
(4th verse of Stuart Townsend’s and Keith Getty’s hymn, “In Christ Alone,” 2001)