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Salvation: Living in the Safety Zone

Failings, options and accountability.

If I Sin, Will I Lose My Salvation?

An act of sin does not cost you your salvation. There are people who teach that if you sin once after you have accepted Jesus, you must be saved again. But that is not what the Bible teaches.

Can you conceive of somebody adopting a child and then telling the child that if he walks on the floor with muddy shoes he will be thrown out in the street? We would not do that to a child, and God will not do it to us, either. When you are saved, you are adopted into the family of God. You must, out of love on one hand and godly fear on the other, try to live a life that is pleasing to Him. But the idea that one act of sin would cause someone to be thrown out of God's family is just not in agreement with the Bible. The Bible says, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:7).

And we are told in the little book of I John, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).

Acts of sin or rebellion will take away the joy of your salvation. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, he lost the joy of his salvation. When he wrote Psalm 51 about it, he said, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation" (Psalm 51:12). He had no joy, because he had rebelled against God. Then he said, "Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11). Even though he had committed adultery and had been responsible for an innocent man's death, by his clear statement he still had the Holy Spirit. But, David did not get away without being punished. He had a rebellion in his own household and actually lost his throne for a time. Nevertheless, God forgave and loved him because David was repentant before the Lord.

If you continue in a course of known sin, you will lose the assurance of your salvation, however. You will not know if the Holy Spirit is with you because you will be at odds with God. I am not referring here to an actual loss of your salvation or to the Holy Spirit, only to your awareness and assurance of salvation and the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, "Anyone born of God does not continue to sin" (I John 5:18, NIV). It does not say that a Christian never commits an act of sin, but that he does not continue in a course of sin, refusing to confess and repent of his sins. So if someone has been born of the Spirit of God, there will be something inside of him drawing him back to repentance every time he sins.

Beyond that, we can gather from reading in the book of Hebrews that if somebody actually says the blood of Jesus Christ is a despised thing and renounces the salvation he has received, then that person may have lost it all. But then the Bible immediately says, "But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you" (Hebrews 6:1-9). It is very hard to believe that someone who has been born again will turn that far away from God.

But you might ask, if we are new creatures in Christ, why do we even have the capacity still to sin? The answer is that perfection for the Christian awaits us in heaven: "When this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'" ( I Corinthians 15:54)

We are united with Jesus at salvation, but we are being progressively transformed into His nature.

The Bible says, "We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory." (II Corinthians 3:18) We are being changed throughout our lives, but there is no instantaneous moment, short of death, when the believer becomes sinlessly perfect. The apostle John said, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (I John 1:8)


Does The Bible Teach That Once I Am Saved, I Am Always Saved?

The phrase "once saved, always saved" is not found in the Bible. Our salvation is past, present, and future. That implies a continuous relationship and an unfolding process rather than a fixed state. The person who has given himself or herself to Jesus Christ and has truly repented from sin can find repeated assurances of the eternal covenant given to His people by a God who cannot lie. The Bible tells us that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (see Romans 11:29). The work of Jesus Christ is eternal. It will never be revoked. Apart from the Bible, the greatest assurance any Christian has of eternal security is the day-by-day witness of the Holy Spirit in his life that he is a child of God and the fact that day-by-day he is becoming more like Jesus.

The Bible teaches security in the Holy Spirit and in the things of God. Jesus said, "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand" (John 10:29). So we are secure in the hand of God, and we are to rest secure in the Lord. God has put His Spirit within us; He has given His Word to us. Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God, constantly making intercession on our behalf; (see Hebrews 7:25) and God has sent angels to watch over us (see Hebrews 1:14). In other words, we are surrounded by tremendous helps. We should constantly remind ourselves that we are secure, that God loves us, and that we belong to Him.

The reason we are saved is not because we are holy or do good works, but because of the blood of Jesus. Salvation comes through faith, and it stays because of faith. So we should have a feeling of security. But, at the same time, there should be a healthy fear of falling. We should not presume on God and say, "I am saved, so I can do anything I want to." Paul condemned people who were teaching that a person could sin boldly so that God's grace could abound (see Romans 6:1-2). If we truly are dead to sin, then we are not going to live in sin any longer, but we will aim to serve God.

We should walk with reverence, because God is a consuming fire, a very awesome Being (see Hebrews 12:29). I would not counsel anybody to presume on God because of a doctrine of eternal security. Anybody who says, "I believe that once I am saved, I am always saved, so I am going to go out and commit adultery and steal and lie and cheat and rob," is being very foolish. If somebody really loves God, those things would not be present in his life.

I have walked with God for nearly thirty years, and for the last twenty-five years or so, I have never even thought about the possibility of losing my salvation. It just is not a reality for me at all. The reason is that I live for the Lord. The thought of doing otherwise just does not occur to me. Do I commit acts of sin? Yes. Do I fail God? Yes. Are there things I should do that I do not do? Yes. I need the cleansing forgiveness of the Lord constantly. My concern is that I realize God's purpose for my life and that I do not fall short of what He intends for me. But as far as losing my salvation, it just does not come up for me, nor should it for any sincere Christian.


What Part Does The Virgin Mary Play In My Salvation?

There are some who teach that the Virgin Mary is a coredemptress, that she assists people in attaining salvation because she has special access to her Son. These are very well-meaning people, but the Bible differs with that view.

The Bible teaches, in the writings of the apostle Paul, that there is one mediator, or go-between, between God and man--the man Christ Jesus (see I Timothy 2:5). We do not need a mediator or buffer between Jesus and us.

When Jesus was on earth, He was in a house teaching the people and ministering to them. There was such a large crowd outside that it was impossible for Mary and Jesus' brothers to get in. Word was sent to Him, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You." Jesus then pointed to His disciples and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:46-50). In this statement He elevates all who love Him to the status of being in His "immediate family." He was laying claim to a larger family than merely His earthly family, including His mother.

Mary is blessed among all women, because she gave birth to our Lord Jesus (see Luke 1:42-45). But He has ascended and reigns over His church, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We are called upon to honor Mary, for the Scriptures teach that all generations will call her blessed. But there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that this wonderful woman has any special claim on Him or any role in our salvation.


Will Babies Who Die Without Being Baptized Go To Hell?

Babies who are not baptized will not go to hell because they are not guilty of anything. God will judge people on the basis of what they did in light of what they knew. Babies have not done anything wrong because they do not know the difference between right and wrong. And so they have not sinned. Furthermore, Jesus said, "Their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 18:10).

Remember also, original sin is a tendency to sin, not an act of sin. Original sin is not original guilt. To be guilty before God, a child has to understand that what he or she is doing is wrong.


What Is The Difference Between Heaven, Paradise and Purgatory?

When Jesus was hanging on the cross between two thieves, one of the thieves railed at Him and made fun of Him. The other thief admitted they deserved to be punished, but said Jesus had done nothing wrong. Then he turned to Jesus and said, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." Jesus said to him, "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:39-43). So paradise must be where Jesus is, because the thief was going to be there with him. It also must be a place that those who have faith in the Lord will enter immediately upon death. Paradise is a place of bliss and happiness. But it would seem to be an intermediate place, as opposed to the final establishment of a new heaven and a new earth which we have referred to elsewhere (see II Peter 3:10-13, Revelation 21:1-7).

In certain instances heaven refers to the place where God rules. Heaven also refers to the final place where the spirits of the righteous dead will spend eternity after they have been joined with their resurrection bodies. Also, heaven can mean the space above the earth.

The wicked dead, as in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, go immediately to a place called Hades (see Luke 16:20-25). They are waiting for a final judgment when they will be cast into the lake of fire with the devil and his angels (see Revelation 20:11-15). So in a sense there is an intermediate heaven and an intermediate hell.

The concept of purgatory is not biblical. Purgatory is supposed to be a transition period of indefinite duration intended for the perfecting of those people who die in Christ. It is taught that they experience suffering to pay for the sins they committed in this life until they are ready to enter into heaven. The Bible does not teach that. The apostle Paul said, "I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you" (Philippians 1:23-24).

Paul knew only of two states of being. Either he was going to stay on earth, or he was going to be with Jesus. The concept of purgatory seems to have been unknown to the apostles and does not seem to have any biblical basis at all. The Bible teaches that there are levels of heaven, but there is no mention of a place of purging and torment that would bring us up to a point of being acceptable to God after death (see II Corinthians 12:2).


How Can God Send People Who Have Never Heard of Christ To Hell?

God does not send people to hell because they never heard of Christ. He sends people to hell because they have sinned. The judgment for sin will be in relationship to how much they knew. To phrase it another way, it is action in light of privilege. A person living in America has maximum spiritual privilege. Therefore the spiritual standard for America would be the gospel of Jesus and everything in the Old and New Testaments. But someone who grew up in an uncivilized jungle might be held to account for the fact that something in his conscience told him there is a Creator worthy of his worship. The Bible says his conscience will either accuse him or excuse him on the day of Jesus Christ (see Romans 2:14-16). God is not going to condemn people if their own consciences excuse them. Regretfully, every human being has sinned against his or her own conscience.

God does not judge people for failure to believe in Jesus, but because they are sinners. The problem is that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). For those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior, there will be forgiveness and mercy.


What Is The Age of Accountability?

This is a term that is not in the Bible but that some religious groups use to refer to the time when a child becomes accountable to God for his actions. That time comes whenever he or she is old enough to understand the difference between right and wrong and good and evil.

It may be at a very early age. Some children who are four or five years old are old enough to know Jesus Christ and be saved, because they are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. We have to be careful with little children. We should not cause them to build up an unnatural sense of guilt and make them feel guilty for things that are not really sin at all. If we teach them the major moral rules, that God Himself has set forth, then they will learn properly and naturally.

Children do reach an age where they are old enough to be held responsible for what they do. When that time comes, they will be judged by the same standards as everyone else.


Why Aren't The Wicked Punished For What They Do?

David addressed this question in one of his psalms: "I have seen the wicked in great power and spreading himself like a native green tree" (Psalm 37:35). He also observed: "For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.... When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me--until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction" (Psalm 73:3-5, 16-18).

The only thing I can add to what David said is that God permits a period when the wicked have the chance to repent. God's patience is meant to lead them to repentance (see Romans 2:5-7). But instead, they often presume on God and say, "He does not know what we are doing. We are getting away with it." And this seems to be true, for a time. But they will spend eternity in hell. Eternity is so long, and life is so short!

It is often true, too, that their own evil catches up with them. There is a statement in the common parlance, "What goes around comes around." If you deal out evil to people, it will come back to you.

Can you imagine anything more horrible than the latter years of a Mafia don, waiting for someone to do to him what he has done to someone else: Always in fear for his life, always in torment that someone will hurt him, just as he has hurt other people? Not having anyone to trust or count on; not knowing when the assassin's bullet is going to come?

This is true of so many of the wicked. They will usually be punished on earth while they live, even if it is not obvious to the rest of us. It may be nervous problems, or disease, or a child who disgraces them, or a wife who torments them. Rest assured, no one gets away with evil. Judgment always comes. Only the timing is uncertain.


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