"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (I Corinthians 9:24-27)

It takes both the carrot and the stick. I am picturing a mule harnessed to the wagon and a long pole extended beyond his nose with a carrot tied to it. I can see that mule pulling the wagon forward in the hopes of getting a nibble of the carrot. Do you suppose the mule might get tired at some point and just decide it was not worth it anymore? What if your wagon has not quite reached the barn yet? You just might need that stick to tap Mr. mule on the flank and encourage him to finish his day's work. Jesus Christ has taught us all we need to know about heaven and hell, to get us home with our God. The doctrine of "once saved always saved" has taken away the fear of hell as well as the fear of God from those who believe that they were saved forever the moment they first believed. They will never make it into God's barn! On any given Sunday morning, if you tune a religious broadcast, you will hear a preacher say that once one is saved, he will always be saved. The suggestion is that a Christian cannot have confidence or assurance in any other way. The problem is that the Bible does not really teach that kind of assurance. The doctrine is based on a complete misunderstanding of the Grace of God. Of course, without a doubt, we are saved by Grace through faith, “and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We cannot save ourselves and obtain salvation, for we are totally dependent on God’s Grace.

However, God has set requirements or terms that we must meet to receive His offer of Grace. We must do our part to respond to His Grace. He commands that we believe in Him and in His Son, our Lord, and Savior (John 8:24). He demands that we repent of our sins (Lk. 13:3; Acts 3:19). He demands our obedience (Heb.5:8-9; Jn. 14:21, 23-24). He commands that we be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins to be saved (Gal. 3:27; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mk. 16:15-16). Moreover, He demands that we show our faithfulness throughout our lives here on earth, for He wants us to persevere in the doctrine of Christ, and to live a pure and godly life, abounding in good works (Romans 2:7-8; Col. 3:16; Eph. 2:10, 4:20-21).

There are many passages in the Bible that teach and warn us about continuing steadfastly in the faith that we may continue in God's favor, God’s Grace, to receive eternal life. Many people believe that a Christian can sin and not be lost eternally. This doctrine is called "the eternal security of the believer," "perseverance of the saints," "impossibility of apostasy," or "once saved, always saved." This is one of the major tenets of Calvinism. According to them, God saves us without our doing anything. They agree that a person must believe and repent and somewhat live faithfully. They believe that a Christian's sins do not affect his soul for eternity nor the way he lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, his attitude toward others, for none of these things, according to them, have anything to do with the salvation of their soul. Those who believe that they still will receive eternal life regardless of their sins, have no reason to be on guard against sin or repent of their sins since they trust in a false security. They don't realize that they will be lost if they do not repent of their sins, ask forgiveness for their sins, serve God faithfully and study His Word diligently to receive salvation, eternal life.

There can be no assurance and eternal security unless we obey God. But really, does the Bible teach unconditional security? Absolutely not!! Can a child of God rebel, stop being faithful, fail to repent or show fruits of repentance and be lost? Absolutely!! We must remain faithful and endure until the end to receive eternal life. I must stress that we Christians are warned that unforgiven sins will lead us to be lost eternally. Consider some Scriptures that show that a Christian can sin and be lost eternally. We have many Scriptures that warn us about being lost after being saved (Romans 8:12-17; Galatians 6:7-9; Gal. 5:21; 1 Corinthians 9:27 and 10:12; Rom. 1:28; 2 Tim. 3:8; Tit. 1:16; Hebrews 3:6, 11-14; 4:9, 11; Hebrews 10:26-31, 39; 2 Peter 1:8-11; 2:20-22; Romans 6:12-18; Hebrews 6:4-8; Revelation 3:5; Rev. 21:27; Exodus 32:30-33). In John 15:1-10, Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you,” “ abide in me, and my words,” “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.” BUT, He likewise said that it is possible for us to stop abiding in Him. Notice what He commanded us to do, “Abide in me.” Later in verse 6, He says, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” Moreover, verse 10 states that “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.” Verse 10 explicitly points out that to abide in Him, it is vital that we keep His Father's commandments. Colossians 1:21-23 stresses the need for us Christians to continue grounded and steadfast in our faith (the Gospel), and in our hope, and not be moved away from the Gospel of Christ, that He might abide in us and we in Him. This abiding of Christ in us is conditional. That simple!

God has continually warned His children of the danger of being lost eternally. Therefore, we must avoid rebelling like the Israelites. Israel failed to enter God's rest because of their lack of faith and because of their disobedience to God. So we who have been saved by Grace must hold fast our confidence (our faith) firm, steadfastly to the end. If we depart from the faith and do not endure to the end, we will not enter the rest God has promised and prepared for His faithful ones. The eternal reward is conditional. It requires our steadfast faithfulness. So, we must avoid willful sin, grow in Christ and never return to the world of darkness. There is security only for those who keep growing in the Grace of God, adding those excellent qualities and making their calling and election sure to prevent stumbling and have an entrance into the everlasting kingdom of God. Eternal security is conditional, for the Christian must not be entangled again in the kingdom of darkness and turn from the holy command for if he does, he will be worse off than when he was ignorant of the Truth. We must avoid having our names removed from the Book of Life, for only those who are in the Book will enter the eternal city. Those who are not in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire.

Can one who stands condemned still be saved? Is our salvation by Grace alone? Are we saved and always saved? Absolutely not!! So are you resolved to continue faithful, guarding your service and devotion to God so that you will not lose your eternal reward and be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity? The doctrine of "the eternal security of the believer," or "once saved, always saved" is a tempting doctrine, for it is comforting and tells people what they want to hear. They refuse to believe that they can fall into sin and be lost eternally. This doctrine contradicts the Bible. We Christians can only be secure when we heed the dangers, and guard our souls and avoid sin. We must be watching for sin in our lives and repent from a sincere heart (i.e., a change of behavior and habits) when we are guilty because of the weight of our sins. Remember the destiny of our souls is at stake!!
“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

By Luci Partain

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