The Donahue - Morrison Debate

on "Once Saved, Always Saved?"


Patrick Donahue’s First Affirmative

Against “Once Saved Always Saved”

  

I am happy to engage apologist Steve Morrison in this friendly exchange on the important Bible question “Is It Possible For A Genuine Christian To Lose Their Salvation?  I appreciate Steve’s willingness to defend (Philippians 1:17) what he believes, either in written or oral form.

 

Galatians 5:4 reads, “Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace” (ASV).  The standard Baptist position is a Christian cannot fall from grace, but this verse points out specifically that it is possible.  First I suggest that this verse has to be talking about Christians:

       you can’t be severed from something (Christ) that you were never connected to

       you can’t fall from a tree (grace) that you weren’t in to start with

       the verse is written “unto the churches of Galatia” (1:2), “brethren” (1:11, 3:15, 4:12, 31, 5:11, 13, 6:1, 18), “children of God” (3:26), adopted “sons” of God who had received the Holy Spirit (4:5-6)

Second, notice from verse 2 (“Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing”) that the “grace” fallen from in verse 4 has to refer to our personal salvation.  You can’t be saved if Christ profits you nothing, can you?   As a matter of fact, the only way you can be saved is if the death of Christ profits you.  The conclusion is that Christians who try to be justified by the law (like Seventh Day Adventists) are “fallen from grace” (salvation).

 

Revelation 3:5 says, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”  Notice also Revelation 22:19:  “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life ….”  Remember that the “book of life” contains the names of all the saved:

       Revelation 20:15  whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

       Revelation 21:27  no one will “enter into it (heaven) any thing that defileth, neither … worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

So only the saved are in the “book of life” to start with.  And if it is possible to get your name blotted out / taken away from the book of life, then it is clear that it is possible for a saved person to lose their salvation.

 

James 5:19-20 reads, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”  Notice the following facts about this passage:

       talking about “brethren” (Christians) [see also 1:16, 19, 2:1-2, 3:1, 5:7]

       the brother errs from the truth                     DID

       now called a “sinner”                                       NOT

       needs converting                                                     PERSEVERE

       if not converted back, his soul dies because of a multitude of sins

James 5:19-20 therefore teaches that a brother in Christ can lose his soul.

 

I Corinthians 9:25-27 says, “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. … But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I … should be a castaway.”  Paul is saying here he strives/runs to obtain an “incorruptible crown.”  That’s heaven, right?  Then he goes on to say that if he doesn’t keep his body under subjection, if he doesn’t control the fleshly desires, he would become a “castaway.”  Castaway from what?  The “incorruptible crown” (heaven) obviously.  So Paul recognized the possibility of even himself being lost.  The Greek word translated “castaway” here (Strong’s #96) is translated “reprobate” 6 out of 8 times in the New Testament (e.g., II Corinthians 13:5).  And “reprobate” is defined by “Random House” to mean “rejected by God and beyond hope of salvation.”  This agrees with God’s definition for “reprobate” in Jeremiah 6:30, “the Lord hath rejected them.”  If it was possible for Paul (one of the greatest gospel preachers in history) to be “rejected by God,” then it’s certainly possible for any Christian to be “rejected by God.”

 

I Corinthians 8:11 reads, “And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died.”  This verse is talking about a “brother” (a Christian), one for whom Christ died.  The Greek word translated “perish” here (Strong’s #622) is also found in the following verses:

       Matthew 10:28 “fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna”

       Matthew 18:11 “come to save that which was lost.”

       John 3:16 “gave his only ... Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish

       II Thessalonians 2:10 “unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”

       II Peter 3:9 “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Is there any doubt about what “perish” means in I Corinthians 8:11?  So it is certainly possible for a Christian to be lost.  This is confirmed by the parallel, Romans 14:15,23 – “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, … Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. … he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith:  for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  It is possible for a brother to be condemned.

 

II Peter 2:20-22 says, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.  But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”  Notice the following facts about the people under consideration in this passage:

       had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Christ (pollutions = sins, not smog)

       sow was washed (of those sins)

       verse 1 - “the Lord that bought them” (died for them)

       so clearly, they were Christians

       then they became entangled again in their sins

       their current state is worse than if they had never become Christians to begin with

Worse than non-saved wouldn’t mean they were still saved, would it?

 

II Peter 1:9-11 reads, “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.  Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.  For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”  The man in this passage:

       had been “purged from his old sins” (saved)

       needed to make his calling and election sure – implying he could lose his calling and election

       had the possibility of falling away from his election/salvation, that is, losing entrance “into the everlasting kingdom of … Jesus Christ” (verse 11)

So if a Christian does not add the “Christian graces” (verses 5-7), he will fall from his election/salvation; he will not enter the “everlasting kingdom.”

 

Hebrews 3:12 says, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from … God.”  Those addressed are “brethren.”  Verse 1 puts it this way:  “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.”  Notice perseverance is not an absolute certainty for these brethren, not even for the writer of Hebrews himself:

       verse 6 “… whose house are we (present tense), IF we hold fast the confidence and … hope firm unto the end.”

       verse 14 “… we are made partakers (perfect tense – present state resulting from a past action) of Christ, IF we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.”

This would be similar to:  “We are made partakers of the benefits of the National Honor Society if (as long as) we hold to a 3.5 grade point average.”  Take note:

       My opponent says a believer in Christ cannot become an unbeliever.  This verse says he can.

       My opponent says a brother in Christ cannot depart from God.   This verse says he can.

       My opponent says a brother in Christ cannot lose his salvation.  Hebrews 3:6,12,14 teaches that he can.

John 3:36b describes the fate of the believer who changes to unbelief:  “he that believeth not … shall not see life.”

 

John 15:2,6 reads, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.If a man abide 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.”  In this section:

       Jesus is the vine, and the branches are people (verse 5)

       these people are Christians - “in me” (in Christ), “clean through the word” (verse 3)

       if these Christians don’t bear fruit, they are taken away, cast forth, and burned - sound familiar?

So if a Christian does not bear fruit, he will end up being burned in everlasting punishment.

 

Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”  This passage is talking about Christians:

       verse 19 brethren

       verse 25 don’t forsake the church assembly

According to the passage, if the Christian sins willfully, he will be lost:

       verse 26 no more sacrifice for sins (benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice no longer applied)

       verse 27 fearful judgment and fiery indignation

So Christians who sin willfully cease to receive the benefits of the sacrifice of Christ.  Instead they face a fiery judgment.  Christians who sin willfully will be lost in everlasting fire.

 

Acts 8:12-13,22-23 provides an example of a Christian who fell from grace.   It reads, “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip … Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”  Consider these points:

       Simon had believed also (just like the other Samaritans) and had been baptized, therefore he was saved (Mark 16:16).

       He tried to buy the miraculous power to lay on hands.

       He needed to be forgiven as he was in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.

Question:  What would have happened to Simon if he had not repented and not been forgiven?  Simon proves a Christian can fall from grace, because the inspired record shows he actually did.

 

I John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Acts 8:22 reads, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.”  So a Christian must repent of and confess his sins in order to be forgiven of them.  The question is, what if he refuses to do that?:

       Romans 6:23 the wages of sin is death

       Revelation 14:13 Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord

       Revelation 21:8 But the … unbelieving, … murderers, … and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone:   which is the second death.

If a Christian dies, refusing to repent of and confess his sins, he will be lost.

 

A Christian’s Salvation Is Conditional.  If when we are saved, we can’t be lost, passages like the following are meaningless:

       I Corinthians 15:1-2 … brethren, I declare unto you the gospel, … which … ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved IF ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

       Opponent – those who have truly received and stand in the gospel as the text says, can’t fail to keep it in memory, and can’t help but be saved.

       Revelation 2:9-10 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou are rich) … be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

       Opponent – Those who are truly rich in faith can’t fail to remain faithful, and can’t help but receive a crown of life.

       I John 1:9 IF we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins …

       Opponent – If we are of the elect, we will be forgiven even if we don’t repent of and confess our sins, and if we are not of the elect, we won’t be forgiven even if we do repent/confess.

 

There is overwhelming, clear scriptural evidence.  It is possible for a genuine Christian to lose their salvation.  Indeed, a child of God can be disinherited (Numbers 14:12).  Live your life with that in mind.  (Reposted 7/22/2005)

--Patrick T. Donahue

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