One of the most divisive doctrines that is debated here on Sermon Audio, and in other argumentative circles is that of eternal security, or, the concept of ‘once saved always saved’.
Everyone who debates this doctrine seems to believe that it is incredibly important, and even foundational to the Christian faith. However it seems that most of the debaters from both sides miss the point. My position on this issue will not be revealed on this post, or maybe on any because is does not need to be. This debate only confuses the real issue at hand, and draws people away from dealing with it.
The issue is sin. Do believers sin? How much sin is tolerable before one may lose his or her salvation? If a believer cannot lose their salvation is it a license to sin? Can someone stop sinning?
The OSAS position is often a defeatist position. Most (not all) OSAS believer’s belief rests heavily on notion that man will always continue in sin and that God does not save a man from sin in the present but instead leaves a man in sin so that man will always be in need of grace. This salvation then becomes only salvation with regards to eternity, but has little value in the present. The view is that man is perpetually a sinner and ultimately man’s sinfulness is uncorrectable. What a pathetic God those who hold this view serve. Think about it, they have a Christ who did not conquer sin, but only paid the price for it. Their Christ had no need of resurrection; He did His job on the tree and could have left it there. This perpetual sinner view intentionally denies a multitude of scriptures or explains them away using other texts out of their context.
Some OSAS people recognize this issue, and take the position that God’s salvation is a continual thing and that in all true believers He will continue a work of sanctification throughout their life and finish it after their death. With this position, they would say if there is no evidence of continual sanctification, then there is no evidence of salvation. This position believes that God is working sanctification (present tense salvation from sin) in all His children, and He will hold them to this. In other words God will complete the good work which He started. This non-defeatist position assumes that man receives more and more power over sin from the Lord and that man will continue to walk in more and more victory over sin, and that ultimately man after salvation is not a sinner by nature, but instead naturally pursues more and more righteousness by the grace of God.
The non-OSAS position brings a whole different set of issues to the table. The non-OSAS position is usually (not always) an arrogant position. Why is it arrogant? Because you must do something to remain saved, and it is an arrogant denial of grace to believe that people can keep themselves saved, by their own righteousness. The non-OSAS position typically boils down to a salvation dependent on the righteousness of the individual as opposed to Christ. Somehow adherents to the arrogant non-OSAS position feel inclined to believe that by maintaining some standard they can remain in God’s grace, but the unbiased onlooker can quickly point out that God’s grace ceases to be grace if there is a standard that must be maintained. Can you see why the position is arrogant? Is there enough good in any of us to maintain our salvation?
Some non-OSAS people understand this issue. They take the position similar to the OSAS people who view salvation as continual, they recognize that it is only grace that will keep them from sin, and in salvation. Their position differs from that of OSAS in the belief that they while accepting that grace initially, still maintain the ability to reject that grace at a later time. Nonetheless it is entirely of grace that they credit their salvation and rightly so. Some OSAS people, especially the defeatist type will look at the thought of being able to deny God’s grace as a rejection of the very existence of grace. That is extreme, in there goal to have a ‘high view’ of God they go so far as denying human accountability, which is to deny much of scripture. There ‘high view’ really is nothing more than the only way they can get all the bible to fit into some ‘systematic theology’ that they can understand.
So who is right? Who is wrong?
The OSAS defeatist position is dead wrong, and that is the position of a good chunk, if not a majority of the OSAS people who are debating in the various forums I have seen.
The non-OSAS arrogant position is dead wrong, to think that by their own merits they may stay in God’s grace is foolish. This is the position of a good chunk, if not a majority of the non-OSAS people who are debating in the various forums I have seen.
The OSAS and non-OSAS people who have a handle on the sinfulness of man, and also the power of God to deliver man from sin in the present tense disagree on one thing, and that is whether or not a man can reject grace. These two groups spend a lot less time debating OSAS with each other, and have very little trouble fellowshipping with each other. Spurgeon, Reidhead, Ravenhill, Ducan Campbell, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, and so on fell on various sides of this issue but each of these men fellowshipped with those opposed to their theology on this point of OSAS.
Well that was a long dry post, and I do not know if it accomplished anything, in fact I am hesitant to even publish it because it has no bite. Hopefully it helps someone, and ultimately pleases the Lord.