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Once Saved, Always Saved?


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Eternal security is an issue of vital importance in the church today. There is a popular expression that says “Once saved, always saved. " If that statement is true then we can rejoice in the security of knowing that once we have experienced the new birth in Christ we are assured of heaven.

There are many believers, however, who fear that it is possible for a born-again believer in Christ to fall away from God to such an extent that he or she will end up in hell. The purpose of this article is to examine the issue of eternal security and to show from the scriptures that we are indeed eternally secure. To begin, it is necessary to give an understanding of exactly what happens at the new birth. “Born-again" is a phrase that is used by all sorts of people, many of whom do not even know God. It is unfortunate that the term “born-again" is used and abused in such a trite fashion by the world.

We can only hope that the very prevalence of the usage of the term “born-again" will cause people to examine the whole subject of salvation more closely. The new birth means regeneration. At the time of regeneration an unbeliever is drawn to God by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and by the word of the salvation message. The Holy Spirit causes the sinful, fallen spirit of the unbeliever to repent and be changed to become a sinless, forgiven, righteous child of God.

The spirit of the unbeliever has been regenerated to become the experientially righteous, reborn spirit of a believer in Christ. This is spiritual rebirth. Notice that I wrote that the spirit of the unbeliever is regenerated to become righteous. Human beings are created in the image of God. John 4:24 says “God is a Spirit. " Human beings therefore, are spirit beings.

I am a spirit. I have a soul. I live in a body. The seat of my being is my human spirit. The human spirit is radically changed at the new birth so that “old things are passed away; behold all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). My body did not become new at the time of my rebirth in Christ. My body is the same old body, prone to infirmity and aging. I look forward to the transformation of my body at the resurrection of the dead.

At the resurrection, each believer will have a glorified body. Referring to the physical body, Paul wrote that we are “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23). My soul was not completely changed at the time of my rebirth in Christ. The soul of the believer is “being saved" (1Cor. 1:18 NASB) and “being renewed day by day" (2 Cor.4:16 NASB).

The human spirit of the born-again believer in Christ is fully, experientially righteous. Romans 6:11 commands us to “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin. " The word “reckon" is an accounting term which means basically that we can count on the fact that we are dead to sin, hence totally righteous.

There are many in the church who almost exclusively emphasize verses such as Romans 6:11 and other verses that speak of believers as being in a present state of experiential righteousness. This is the old “sinless perfection" or “entire sanctification" message. It is still preached today. Many preachers of the sinless perfection message deny the fact that the soul of the believer still has a sin nature. I counter the errors of this lopsided view in my article titled “The Perfection Message. " You may contact me for a free copy.

Romans chapter six tells of the glory of the present sinless state of our reborn human spirit but Romans seven tells of the present state of the soul of the believer. In Romans seven Paul gives a personal testimony of his struggle against sin. Paul, a commissioned apostle, tells of his struggle against “the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom. 7:23). He even goes so far as to say “I am carnal, sold under sin" (Rom. 7:14). Romans seven seems to almost contradict the glorious freedom described in Romans chapter six.

There is of course no contradiction when we realize that Romans six describes the state of the believer's spirit and Romans seven describes the state of the soul which is still partially bound by sin and is being saved. Romans chapter eight goes on to describe the future resurrection of the body in which the believer's body will be totally free from sin.

Salvation is past tense for the believer's spirit, present tense for the believer's soul and future tense for the believer's body. To again affirm that the believer's spirit is fully, experientially righteous let us take a look at First John 3:9 which says “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. "

The reborn spirit of the believer does not practice sin but the soul of the believer does practice sin. Each of us confesses sins each day because the soul is still bound in sin. The spirit of the believer does not practice sin and as the passage in First John 3:9 states “he cannot sin. " Your reborn human spirit cannot sin!

I went to such great lengths to show that the spirit of the reborn believer cannot sin because I believe this is crucial in our understanding of the security of the believer. If the spirit of the believer cannot sin then the spirit of the believer, hence the believer himself, cannot fall away. The spirit of the believer cannot commit any sin and certainly cannot commit the unforgivable sin described in Matthew 12:31-32.

All of us have heard of people or even spoken directly to people who were terrified that they had lost their salvation because they believed they had committed the unforgivable sin which is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. There are also those people who fear that someday in the future they may stumble and backslide and commit the unpardonable sin. What a dreadful state of mind to be in!

This is where a proper understanding of the salvation of spirit, soul and body is of supreme importance. When Christians realize that salvation of the believer's human spirit is an accomplished fact and that the reborn spirit cannot sin, then true restful assurance settles in. We believers are secure. We are not dangling over hell and in danger of falling into it.

The soul of the believer sins to a degree but I believe that God preserves the soul of the believer from sinning in an unpardonable way. The reborn human spirit absolutely cannot commit the unpardonable sin. We believers must walk by the Holy Spirit who dwells with our reborn human spirit. We must forsake soulish and carnal ways and lay down the soulish self life and take up our cross daily and follow Christ.

Christ has already regenerated the human spirit in each believer. He is renewing the soul and will resurrect the body. If you truly belong to Christ heaven is assured! Rejoice in this fact!

Bill Nugent has written many articles on Christianity, philosophy and science. He has also written books that give Bible based teaching on sanctification and that caution against the error of legalism. His books are available at his website .


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