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

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2007 08:47:01 -0500
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

COLUMN: Square One

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

by Richard  Mansel
In discussing the erroneous position of "once
saved, always saved," we are studying Hebrews 6:4-
6. This passage clearly establishes that a
Christian can apostatize and leave the Lord.

Whoever is under discussion in this passage can
indeed fall away. In Hebrews 3:1,12, he refers to
his readers as "brethren" and he never gives any
indication as to when he ceases to speak to fellow
Christians. A few verses later, he writes, "but
Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we
are if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing
of the hope firm to the end" (Hebrews 3:6).
Christ's body is the church (Ephesians 1:22,23)
and those who are in his body have been baptized
into Christ (Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

"Throughout the book [of Hebrews] he gives
warnings and exhortation intended for his readers,
for that group of Hebrew Christians. Hebrews 6:4-6
is not being addressed to some nebulous,
unspecified group of people. To take it seriously
as part of the letter requires us to view it as
being addressed and applicable to this community
of believers."/1

They were "once enlightened" means "those who have
been made Christians" (John 1:9)./2 The term is a
"reference to the beginning of the Christian
life."/3 This process is also referred to in
Hebrews 10:32 and in that context they were
admonished not to "cast away your confidence,
which has great reward. For you have need of
endurance, so that after you have done the will of
God, you may receive the promise" (Hebrews
10:35,36)./4 Justin Martyr tied "'illumination'
[enlightening] to baptism calling those who had
been baptized, 'the illuminated ones.'"/5 They
have "tasted the heavenly gift" and "have become
partakers of the Holy Spirit" (Hebrews 6:4).  

An examination of 10:26-38 is very important in
determining the audience of our text. It is
virtually impossible to miss the nature of the
hearers. He speaks of the Lord's sacrifice on the
cross for them (Hebrews 10:8,9). They were
"sanctified" (Hebrews 10:10,29). They were members
of the covenant (Hebrews 10:15,16). They had been
blessed to receive the "remission of sins"
(Hebrews 10:18) and "consecration" (Hebrews
10:20). They had their "hearts sprinkled from an
evil conscience" (Hebrews 10:22) and enjoyed the
"confession of our hope" (Hebrews 10:23) and
"received the knowledge of truth" (Hebrews 10:26).
They had on them the "blood of the covenant by
which he was sanctified" (Hebrews 10:29).  "After
[they] were illuminated" (Hebrews 10:32), they
have "a better and enduring possession for
[themselves] in heaven" (Hebrews 10:34). Finally,
he refers to them as the "just" (Hebrews 10:38).
And this chapter also talks about the possibility
of apostasy.

"I know not how [the author of Hebrews] he could
have chosen expressions which more forcibly
describe the real and genuine possession of a
Christian life."/6  

Apostasy is under consideration in these passages.
The Hebrew writer has in mind far more than
backsliding. It is final and consummate. "Falling
away does not mean falling into sin, even grievous
sin, but renouncing the faith of Christ wholly."/7

It is indeed possible for this to occur. Why would
Scripture be so replete with warnings if it was
impossible for a Christian to fall? Why the
endless warnings about false teachers in
Scripture, if they pose no threat to Christians
(Matthew 24:24; Galatians 1:8,9; 2 Timothy 3)?     

We shall examine in the third article why this
false doctrine appeals to so many people and what
Scripture actually teaches.
1/ Verlyn D. Verbrugge, "Towards a New
Interpretation of Hebrews 6:4-6," Calvin
Theological Journal 15:1 (April 1980): 67.
2/ Joseph Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1977), 663.
3/ Gerhard Friedrich, Editor, Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1974), 9:355.
4/ Ibid.
5/ Cyril Richardson, ed. Early Christian Fathers
(New York: Collier Books, 1970), 283.
6/ J. B. Rowell, "Exposition of Hebrews Six,"
Bibliotheca Sacra 94 (1937): 325.    
7/ Herbert Hohenstein, "A Study of Hebrews 6:4-8,"
Concordia Theological Monthly 27:6 (June 1956):

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