[forthright] The Error of "Once Saved, Always Saved"

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2007 10:07:10 -0500
Forthright Magazine
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Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: Square One

The Error of "Once Saved, Always Saved"
by Richard Mansel

A popular doctrine in the religious world states
that when someone becomes a Christian they cannot
apostatize from the Lord and be lost eternally. A
refutation of this erroneous doctrine comes from
Hebrews 6:4-6 and other passages.

Our discussion of this passage begins in the
overall context of Hebrews. In chapter one, the
author discusses the superiority of Christ and of
the new covenant. He writes in the next chapter,
"Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to
the things we have heard, lest we drift away"
(Hebrews 2:1). Two verses later, he is urging them
not to "neglect so great a salvation" (Hebrews
2:3). Instead, they should, "hold fast the
confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to
the end" (Hebrews 3:5,6).

The author makes comparisons of their situation to
the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness
and warns the readers of his day to "beware, lest
there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief
in departing from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12).

By invoking the rebellion of the Israelites, the
author of Hebrews provides further insight into
the possible apostasy of these Christians. He was
warning them not to give up heaven the same way
their decedents gave up Canaan. "Let us therefore
be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall
after the same disobedience" (Hebrews 4:11).

The author of Hebrews wrote to Jewish Christians
because he was concerned that they would follow
their decedents into rebellion against God and
miss the spiritual promised land of Heaven.

Hebrews 6:4-6 says, "For it is impossible for
those who were once enlightened, and have tasted
the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of
the Holy Spirit and have tasted the good word of
God and the powers of the age to come, if they
fall away to repentance, since they crucify again
for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an
open shame."

The word "impossible" leaps off of the page. The
word in Hebrews retains its obvious meaning. In
Hebrews 6:18, it is "impossible" for God to lie
rather than just difficult or improbable. In
Hebrews 10:4, is it merely difficult or improbable
for the "blood of bulls and goats to take away
sins"? Further, is it merely difficult for someone
without faith to please God (Hebrews 11:6)?

Some have tried to soften its impact by rewriting
the first part of the passage, "if it is
impossible." Such an argument implies that a
"defection of this kind would never actually
occur."/1

Proponents of this argument look to Hebrews 6:9,
which says, "but beloved we are confident of
better things concerning you, yes, things that
accompany salvation, though we speak in this
manner." Hughes notes that those who travel this
route say that this verse is an indication that
his warning about the "impossibility of
restoration for the apostate" is "unrelated to
reality and little better than the invention of a
bogy for the purpose of frightening them into
being better Christians."/2

"But the end does not justify the means, and to
resort to subterfuge and deception and that too
within so solemn a context, would be subchristian
and incompatible with the whole tenor of the
epistle. The confidence expressed in 6:9 and 10:39
arises from the assurance that a true work of God
has taken place in their midst; but this does not
exclude the possibility that some of their number
are rebellious at heart and on the road to
irremediable apostasy."/3

This passage clearly means what it says as we
continue an examination of its message.    
__________
1/ Philip Edgumbe Hughes, "Hebrews 6:4-6 and the
Peril of Apostasy," Westminster Theological
Journal 35 (Fall, 1973): 144.
2/ Ibid.
3/ Ibid.

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