I was listening to a preacher that I moderately respect the other day and he said something that caught me by surprise. He claimed that a date or moment of salvation is meaningless and not indicative of a persons eternal destination. This seemed contrary to what I have been taught. I understand that there is great theological debate on the topic so let’s dive in, shall we!
First let’s address OSAS (Once Saved Always Saved). This is a fundamental belief of the evangelical church and the foundation for evangelism as a whole. There are arguments against OSAS though.
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is called the unpardonable sin. Jesus is recorded as saying this in three of the four gospels.
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:31-32).
Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation—because they said, “He has an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-30).
And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven (Luke 12:10).
This could be a valid argument but there is debate as to what this sin really is, if it could be committed today, whether being un-pardoned of this sin would lead to eternal condemnation, and if a Christian who has the Holy Spirit living in them could blasphemy the Spirit filling them.
Another argument used is the parable of the sower in which Jesus explains what happened to the seeds that land on rocky soil.
The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away (Matthew 13:21-22).
This argument is even shakier as the parable does not necessarily imply salvation or explain what is meant by falling away.
A few of the reasons we believe that OSAS is true are as follows.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:27-28).
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die… (John 11:25-26)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10)
For the sake of time, I will declare that OSAS is, in fact, true; as I initially believed. Yet how does this mesh with James’ claim that faith without works is dead?
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
The obvious answer is that “true” faith will cause good works. This is the scary part. What is “true” faith? Do I have it? Do my loved ones? How do we know?
The answer, which brings us full circle to the preachers claims that a moment of salvation is worthless, is that you can know that you are saved by the works you do. Does not mean that works are what saves us? No! The Bible is clear that we are saved by grace through faith, but this saving faith must produce works that should be evident.
If someone has a “salvation experience” and then lives their entire life showing no evidence of their salvation, they were probably not saved. I’m not claiming to know a persons heart nor the depth of God’s grace or justice. I’m simply drawing conclusions based on what the Bible says. Most of us have been to a funeral where everyone focuses on some distant possibility that the deceased may have been “saved” in bible school when they were 10. Sadly, the truth may not be as comforting as the thought that, despite a life of rejecting God, these people will be waiting for us in heaven.
I do believe that someone can be saved at the very last moments of their life. The thief on the cross is a great example.
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Clearly this man’s only “work” was a public profession of faith and yet he went to paradise. This brings us back to a “true” salvation experience. If the thief had been spared, I would wager that his life would have reflected his decision. Perhaps it’s better to live life as an unrepentant sinner than to call yourself a Christian but not live like it. The Bible doesn’t talk about salvation in the past tense. What’s important is how you are living today. If you really believe what the Bible says and have accepted Christ as the Lord of your life, there will be evidence of it. I think all of us need to consider what, in our lives, is evidence of our relationship with Christ.