Once Saved Always Saved?
My first marriage of 22 years ended in a biblical divorce. I was devasted. However, as God promises to use all things for our good and His glory, I’ve gained some unique insights into God’s faithfulness and the “once saved always saved” debate that I didn’t have before. (Disclaimer: Centuries of debate on this topic are not going to be resolved by this post – I’m just sharing a unique perspective!)
We’ve long known that God ordained marriage as a reflection of His relationship with us. He loves us as a most excellent husband – faithfully, fiercely, jealously, passionately – He’s all in. In fact, Jesus is called the Bridegroom and the Church His bride.
This Bridegroom is also called Faithful and True. Because of His nature and promise to us, we won’t open up the Bible one day and find that He has left us a new letter, one where He says goodbye because He’s found someone else to love instead. When we go to Him for help, He’s not going to say, “I don’t care, I’ve grown tired of loving you.” We won’t find Satan luring Him away from us with tempting alternatives. We won’t find Jesus lying to us about where He was when we needed Him in a crisis. We won’t die and find out that Jesus got distracted by addiction and forgot to make sure we got Home safely. He’s not lazy and uncaring about where we’ll live when we get there, either. He’s prepared a place for us! When we arrive for our wedding to Him and the prepared feast, He won’t leave us standing there. The Bridegroom will be on time and ready for our wedding!
Paul says, “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).
He hasn’t broken a single vow with us. EVER. And He never will! And so it is with a faithful, trustworthy spouse; a marriage can survive the worst of external forces that would attempt to separate 2 people fully faithful to each other.
But there are 2 people in this relationship. What if the other one is unfaithful? Without loving faithfulness lots of things on heaven and earth, and almost anything else in all creation could tear apart a marriage. Infidelity tears asunder what God has joined together because of the destructive, forceful nature of sin which resides inside an unfaithful heart.
In God’s eyes, we are born unfaithful to Him. Jesus paid the price for our sins so when we repent, our sins are put behind God’s back so all He sees is the worthiness of Jesus that now shines on us and in us.
Yet, too often people – Christians – begin to ask themselves, “Does this mean He won’t leave me — even if I’m unfaithful to Him?” Or, “How far can we sin before we’re no longer considered saved?”
These questions are akin to, “Can God create a rock so heavy He can’t lift it?” People who don’t want to get the point, ask other questions around it.
Because this is so prevalent, let’s explore this further. Why would someone enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ and ask such a question? For the same reasons some enter into a marriage. Some marry young only to regret it. They want the freedom to explore life away from the vows of marriage. Some fall into temptation and take a lover. Some marry but turn out to be so selfish they break their vows to love and to honor and instead try to destroy their spouse through abuse. Some marry for money, some for worldly power or position. Some marry but caught in addictions, they break their vows. It all boils down to unfaithfulness of one sort or another.
Why else do people ask such a question? Often, people think not just of their own sins that separate us from Him, but the sins of loved ones who once made a profession of faith but are now living an unfaithful life. It’s heartbreaking to think a loved one may not be in heaven someday. They recall God’s promises to Israel, that they are written on His palms. How can that be undone? When we ask this, we’re really crying out for our loved one’s soul, wanting desperately for them to be saved. That is truely love but that love must be based on God’s truth, not on what will make us feel better.
Consider that when one person walks away from a marriage, they often leave while their spouse is pleading with them to return. God repeatedly pleaded with the unfaithful Israelites to return to Him.
The faithful spouse may choose to love the unfaithful spouse despite their departure and remain alone, without them for the rest of their lives. God made a new covenant and provided a way for all of us to be saved.
The deserted spouse may chase after their husband or wife and promise they’ll do anything and put up with anything if the person will just return. They are desperate for the love of this other person. God doesn’t do that. The Bible says that a relationship with an infidel is not wise. God doesn’t change His standards to accommodate our sin.
Also, consider that when Jesus is interceding for us, surely He is pleading with us through the Holy Spirit to not stray. Surely He is providing a way out, if we will only take it. Surely He stands ready to embrace us, forgive us and heal us if we will but come to Him with our whole hearts. He often seeks after us in the worst of places. He goes to the ends of the earth and calls us – we can’t hide from Him. But He cannot turn a blind eye to our sin. It’s one thing for us to be unaware of sin in our lives, it’s another to hold onto it once we are aware. Will we be faithful to Him or not?
Hebrews 10:26-31 says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
In light of this, asking any variation of, “How far can I walk away from God before it’s too far?” Is a dangerous thing to ask!
I thank God that Hebrews 4:12 reassures us, “He knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
He knows our intentions – our level of fidelity – or infidelity – and He will judge us accordingly. This wise, loving husband, can be trusted with our hearts and the hearts of our loved ones. He will make the wisest of judgments. He is love, and He is just. He is the husband we can trust with our whole hearts. He is called Faithful because He is the definition of faithful.
I close with this encouragement from Paul when he talks about having a righteousness that comes through faith: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Philippians 3:12–16).
Amen. So be it, Lord Jesus!
by Jill Cristao, Director of Connections and Communications
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