IT’S THE BIBLE QUESTION OF THE WEEK.
For my earlier take on the question: see Once saved, always saved?
For my explanation of why I’m answering the question again: see the part of my brain that processes memory fading on a Friday afternoon as I type.
Or maybe it’s because I wanted to give a book to a stranger. Yeah, that’s better. Let’s go with that.
Thanks to Joyce Nelson for asking the question. Again. She gets a free, signed copy of her choice of a book of mine. I give free books to everyone who’s question shows up in this Monday Q&A feature that I should probably start indexing.
Is it true that when you are born again that you never have to worry about where you will be when you die, no matter how you lived your life?
Yep, and you can bet your eternal life on it. That’s according to most churches with “Reformed” in the name. Ditto for most Southern Baptists—the largest Protestant denomination on this particular planet.
Nope, and what planet are you living on if you believe otherwise? That’s pretty much the position of most Catholics, most Anglicans, and many Protestant church groups such as Methodists, Lutherans, and Nazarenes.
Bible as an ammo dump
Both sides quote Bible verses to back up their beliefs.
They own the same Bible.
They read the same words.
But when they lay that Bible down and walk away, they leave with remarkably different takes on what they just read.
Let’s pick on the Baptists and Methodists, since they represent the two sides and it’s fun to pick on them.
We’ll look at two verses the Baptists use to defend “once saved, always saved.” Then we’ll look at two verses that Methodists use to shoot it down.
Two Bible bullets for a Baptist
Safe house. “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never die. No one can steal them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28 NIRV)
Baptist on the defense: That’s Jesus talking. Does it sound like he’s saying Satan can snatch back a soul?
Methodist with the push back: Heaven’s no. But what about spiritual suicide? People, just like sheep, can nibble their way into trouble and suddenly find themselves so far outside the flock that the shepherd doesn’t count them anymore.
Indestructible. “He has given us new birth so that we might share in what belongs to him. It is a gift that can never be destroyed….It is kept in heaven for you. Through faith you are kept safe by God’s power. Your salvation is going to be completed.” (1 Peter 1:4-5 NIRV)
Baptist on the defense: Do you see a “maybe” in there? As in, “Your salvation might—possibly, perhaps, and if you behave yourself—be completed”?
Methodist with the push back: How about I tell you what I don’t see. I don’t see a license to kill. God’s not the one who messes up our relationship with him. We do that when we walk away.
Two Bible bullets for a Methodist
Wanderers. “Dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death.” (James 5:19-20 NLT)
Methodist on the defense: If we Christians hit the road and leave God in our dust, we’re toast. Apart from God, as far James is concerned, there is no eternal life. There is death.
Baptist with the push back: There’s no mention of the born-again wanderer getting himself eternally dead. Just plain ol’ hit in the head with a wrecking ball dead.
The “If” clause. “Be sure you continue to follow the teaching you heard from the beginning. If you continue to follow what you heard from the beginning, you will stay in the Son and in the Father. And this is what the Son promised to us—life forever.” (1 John 2:24-25 NCV)
Methodist on the defense: We have eternal life alright. “If” we stay in a spiritual relationship with our Savior. If we don’t, all bets are off.
Baptist with the push back: Don’t bet on it. There’s nothing in that verse damning souls who trip over an “if” and fall on their spiritual faces. Certainly God wants us follow the teachings of his Son. But what human does that perfectly?
There are lots of other Bible bullets for folks who want to load up and take pot shots at the other side.
Some folks make a living at it. Some for a buck, I suspect. Some for a soul, I’m fairly certain.
I remember reading about why Billy Graham said he embraced the Baptist teaching.
He said it was because so many Christians were worried that they would lose their salvation over even the slightest infraction.
He wanted God’s people to know that God wouldn’t let go of them.
I suspect that most folks pitching their tent in the other Bible-quoting camp would agree with that.
But they would add that God’s not going to hold onto someone who doesn’t want to be held onto. He’s not going to drag them into heaven by their ankles, while they’re spitting, flailing, and pitching a hissy fit.
Who’d want a neighbor like that in heaven?
As for me, I don’t spend much time thinking about this debate—except when I have to write about it, while I’m on the clock.
On my own time, it’s all I can do to pray for my enemies, turn the other cheek, and work through the rest of Jesus’ to-do list.
That doesn’t leave much time for the other stuff—and makes some of it seem like a distraction.