Wednesday 22 October 2014


Some Christians believe, once they are saved, absolutely nothing can happen to them to alter their destiny. Even though they might live in sin or deny God, they believe that one day they will surely reach their final destination in heaven.

It seems there are many comforting verses that reassure us that once saved, always saved (OSAS) is true:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24).

Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God once we have been saved: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

Election and predestination—that God sovereignly chose believers to be His children and lavished upon them His forgiveness and grace—is a most comforting truth to many because it implies that we cannot add anything more to what God has done (Ephesians 1: 4-7).

Furthermore, believers have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14). Those of us who have bought a house will be able to identify with this principle that a home purchase is being made secure by payment of a deposit. Once the seller has received the deposit, he is obligated to sell the home to the buyer who has demonstrated his earnestness to purchase the home by paying a deposit.

Christ, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) will bring everything to successful completion for believers. “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).

When Peter was in danger of being sifted like wheat by satan, Jesus interceded for him that his faith might not fail and when he had made a turnaround, he was to strengthen his brethren (Luke 22: 31-32).

When Jesus was arrested, Peter fell as he denied his master three times. However, he was given a chance to redeem himself. In John 21, in a poignant beach scene, Jesus re-commissioned Peterchallenged him to “feed my sheep”and showed him that he was to die a martyr's death. In other words, He gave him second chance.

Most of us have been given more than 70X7 chances. We cannot deny the fact that even when we are faithless, God has been faithful (2 Tim 2:13). Like Peter’s case, God keeps us from falling headlong and restores us when we fall.

Indeed we are saved by faith. No dispute about that. And continue in this journey of faith because of God’s faithfulness.

However, in spite of all the passages advanced in the foregoing, I believe that there are two sides to a coin. Faith must be matched by personal responsibility.

Look at how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus dispensed mercy but also required of her that she “go and sin no more”. Our lives must show evidence of change in thought and behaviour after we have experienced God’s love.

Having faith does not mean we merely twiddle our thumbs while we await the advent of eternal bliss.

Confusion and muddled thinking result when we lump together two different processes. Justification which is through faith and faith alone. And sanctification which is a life-long process whereby we die to self, submit to God, renew our minds and work out our faith.

No right thinking believer disputes the fact that we are saved by faith. What is crucial is that which follows. What’s next? Genuine faith has to be evidenced by works: "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:26). Paul echoes this need for personal responsibility—to work out our faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works" (James 2:21-22).

Having passive faith alone is not biblical: 

  • “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19).

  • James put it succinctly: Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2: 17, 26).

A world of difference exists between ‘work for’ and ‘work out’. Author J. Oswald Sanders draws an analogy between salvation and an estate. We do not have to feverishly work for an estate. We have already been given an estate. But we have to work it out—develop the estate’s hidden resources.

What makes us think everything is plain sailing once we receive Christ? What makes us think we don’t need regular “servicing and maintenance” just like the way our cars need to be treated? By “servicing and maintenance”, I mean that if we sin—and I’m sure all of us do—we need to confess our sins, repent and get back on the right track again.

Hebrews chapter 10 highlights the fact that persevering faith is needed to remain saved:
But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
(Hebrews 10:38-39).

Jude reinforces the truth that persevering faith is needed:
“I wish to remind you, as you all know, that God, when once he had brought the people out from Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 1:5). Instead of taking possession of the Promised Land after leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea, God’s chosen people fell.

Paul follows up on Jude’s theme, outlining, in greater detail, the events leading to their fall from God’s favour:
“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
“Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

Peter issues a solemn warning to believers who willfully choose to live in sin:
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21). This passage on apostasy refutes the premise that those who indulge in wanton living were never really converted in the first place.

If we believe that we do not have to work out our faith, then we will have to cut off the following verses from our Bible:

  • Work out your faith with fear and trembling: Philippians 2:12-13

  • Keep striving: Philippians 3:12-14

  • Run the race with discipline so we won’t be disqualified: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

  • Bear fruits that befit repentance and don’t rest on your spiritual laurels: Luke 3:8

  • Narrow and hard is the way to life: Matthew 7: 13-14

  • Holiness requires effort; confirm your election: 2 Peter 1: 5-8, 10

 Indeed, it is difficult to reconcile the OSAS premise with the above verses.

Let us look into the last point in greater detail. Peter exhorts believers to be all the more diligent to confirm our calling and election for if we practice ‘these qualities’ we will never fall (2 Peter 1:10).

And what are ‘these qualities’? They are spelled out in the preceding verses: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

If you believe in eternal security (OSAS) and live accordingly and then subsequently you find out in the hereafter that you are mistaken, you may be lost forever and live with eternal regret. The consequences for embracing wrong beliefs may be disastrous; yet it is irrevocable.

But if you believe you need to work out your faith, if you don’t believe in eternal security (OSAS), the likelihood is that you are none the worse for it—even if you are mistaken—when you meet your creator.

That, of course, also depends on the fact whether you have been vigilant, lived circumspectly and worked out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

So, to recap, there are two contending truths and we can argue till the cows come home and be none the wiser for it:

  • Those who are saved will finally make it to heaven because God who is faithful will keep us. Nothing can ever go wrong.

  • Those who are saved must keep on believing and working out their faith till the end in order to make it to heaven.

If we choose the formerand we are proven wrong in eternity— the consequences for embracing wrong beliefs may be disastrous and, sadly, irrevocable.

However, if we choose the latter— even if we are proven wrong in eternity—the likely consequences, if any, are minimal. We are none the worse for it.

So, in my humble opinion, it is wiser to err on the side of caution and reject the ‘feel good’ teaching that once saved, we will always be saved (OSAS).


By the way, I am fully convinced that OSAS is false and untenable in light of the whole counsel of God’s word. Anything which suggests anything to the effect that ‘once you are saved, you can rest easy’ is preposterous and too good to be true.

And if you are still unconvinced that OSAS is false, you are invited to explore the following posts for enlightenment—and, of course, for the sake of your eternal security.


Is there eternal security for believers if they deny God or continue living in sin?

Five ways believers could possibly jeopardise their eternal destiny


In light of the pressure faced by persecuted Christians in the Middle East, this is an important question that needs to be asked.

Why we have to be steadfast in our journey of faith. What are the possible consequences if we fail to persevere?

What fate awaits those who sin repeatedly?

Two men share about their supernatural experiences in heaven and hell.

One of the best links to the perplexing issue of once saved, always saved (OSAS).



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