Friday, February 5, 2010


Sermon to Self on “Once Saved, Always Saved?”

People who believe you can never lose your salvation always point to a series of Bible verses about how God WILL save you. But I don’t know what they do with that whole other series of verses (and whole parables) warning that we can indeed fall from grace.

The Parable of the Sower, for example, speaks of those who “received the Word with joy” (emphasis mine) but then withered away. The Parable of the Talents says, at the end, that if a person does not profit from the great gift, then “even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29, Luke 19:26)

St. Paul writes, “…though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:2). Nothing. Not a child of God.

In Matthew 10:22 and Revelation 2:10 we learn that if we are faithful unto death, we shall receive the crown of life.

There is the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, who was forgiven much, yet failed to forgive his fellow servant a trifling amount.

Probably the clearest verse of all on this subject is John 15:2: “Every branch in Me that bears not fruit He takes away.” And further on in the same chapter (v. 6): “If a man abides not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast [them] into the fire, and they are burned.” This passage clearly refutes the idea that if a person falls away, he must not have been a real Christian in the first place. You can! You can be a true Christian and then then turn your back on Christ, even learn to despise Him. And then what? You’ll never find heaven even inside the Pearly Gates.

You’ll be there, alright. That’s not the question. The question is, will you like being there? Or will you hate it, because it is full of Truth but Truth tortures your guilty conscience? Because it is full of love, and love only makes you jealous? Because it is full of Christ, and you despise Christ?

A guilty conscience, lovelessness, jealousy, despising truth, these are the torments of hell, worse than fire. It is a flat contradiction to say you are saved unless you are – well, saved! Saved from all these.

So take heed. There is more for the Christian to do than simply celebrate. Let us take up our crosses and deny ourselves and follow Him.


Anonymous said...

Anastasia: first, please accept my sympathy for the loss of your friend in Greece, and his wife’s illness. It seems that no matter how strong our faith, whenever someone close to us is called home, we feel the loss, even though we are convinced that the departed is in a better place. I firmly believe that when our Lord raised Lazarus from the dead, He wept, because He knew that He was not doing His friend a favor by calling him back from everlasting joy to this world of sin and suffering. But He did it for us, so that the words, “he who believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” could be heard by His faithful people for centuries to come.

I don’t know what the “requiem” is called in Greek, but I know that in the Russian Orthodox church it is called “otpevanie,” or “singing off.” The departed servant of the Lord is literally “sung off” to heaven with some of the most beautiful words and music of any service anywhere.

And so to OSAS. The Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran churches teach that it is possible to fall from grace. It is usually called “the sin against the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 12:10) Only the followers of Calvin claim that once in the kingdom, always in the kingdom. But I think it is wrong to teach that every believer is constantly in danger of losing their faith. Scripture tells us in many places that our Shepherd cares for His sheep, that God has put the Holy Spirit into our hearts in order to comfort us and to strengthen our faith. Romans 8, “What can separate us from the love of God?” is one of my favorites. He also gave us the Sacraments for this purpose, one of which we call Eucharist.

The Parable of the Sower was clear to those who heard the parable. It was told in a country where agriculture was the major occupation of the population; therefore, the people understood it based on their own knowledge. Only a very few were rich, and so when they went out to sow, they wanted to be sure that they would eventually reap the greatest possible harvest. Therefore, when they would get to the edge of the field, they would be especially careful to make sure that most of the seed would fall on the “good” land, even though they knew that some would come up at the edge but never mature. Therefore the idea of the parable is not that very many are likely to fall from grace, but hopefully a very few.

The unforgiving servant is in a similar vein, because, as we all know there really are fewer chiefs than servants, and not all chiefs are unforgiving. But in my opinion, this parable also could carry the meaning that those who have been given the full Gospel of the Kingdom to proclaim will be held accountable if they do not pass on the full measure of forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation, and edification which they were taught.

As our Lord said in one of my favorite passages from Scripture, John 16: 22, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” This shows that even as our Lord was preparing to bear His cross on the following day, He wanted all of His disciples to know that joy is a gift from Him. There are different ways to celebrate. Our Lord said, toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount that when we are called before the authorities and mistreated because of our faith in Him, we should “leap for joy.” That too is a way of celebrating!

Peace and Joy,
George A. Marquart

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

George, I fully agree that it would be wrong to suggest the believer is constantly in mortal danger - for all the reasons you mentioned and more.

It's good, though, I think, to bear it in mind (mostly in the back of the mind) more or less constantly.