Question: In the Bible class I am attending something tripped me up a bit. In John 10 Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd and that His sheep know Him and that no one can snatch them out of His hand. (John 10:27-28). The lecturer stated that once we are His we can never be lost again. Is this the “once saved, always saved” theology? Is this true?
Answer: You have correctly identified the false theology “once saved, always saved”. The Bible teaches no such thing. Here are some passages that refute that teaching: “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy: and these have no root, which for a while “believe”, and in time of temptation fall away (aphistemi) means to “fall away.” (Luke 8:13) “So people who think they are standing firm should be careful that they don’t fall.” (I Corinthians 10:12)The statement is superfluous if it is not possible for them to fall. Why would the Holy Spirit cause Paul to write it? Paul is obviously warning the Corinthians and us not to trifle with God’s gift of faith. The Old Testament teaches the same thing. For instance, Isaiah 1:2 & 4: “…I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against me (v.2) …they have forsaken (abandoned) the Lord” (v.4)
This is Calvinism pure and simple. Since the Calvinists deny universal grace (they teach particular grace-grace only for some) they have no way of being sure of their salvation. Consequently they use passages like John 10:27-28 to comfort people in despair over their salvation. For the Calvinist no matter how heinous a crime a person may commit he does not lose faith. Faith may be inactive, but it still exists. In view of this you can see how a “once saved always saved” theology becomes necessary. Otherwise you cannot be sure of anything. However, even this can create uncertainty because a person in spiritual distress is often unsure if he ever really did believe, and in fact he may conclude that he is not one of those for whom “particular grace” was even intended. It is hard to describe how hopeless a situation that is. Volumes more could be written on this subject, but I think you get the point.
Scripture, however, clearly teaches universal grace: “(God) will have all men to be saved, ant to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 1:4) “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 2:9) Then there are a host of passages describing God’s grace in Christ for the whole world.
Now I want to demonstrate how to deal with 2 passages which seem to be in conflict. First, the passage in I Corinthians 10:12 “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Second the passage in John 10:27 & 28: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
There is no conflict, they are both true. The first is Law and the second Gospel. The Calvinists choose the John 10 passage because it fits their theological preconceptions, and they explain away the second. Obviously both passages apply. The first (Law) warns us not to trifle with God’s grace, and if a person falls it is his own fault because of his willful rejection of God’s grace. The second (Gospel) assures us of God’s everlasting love for us in Christ and that God in his grace is able and willing to keep us in the faith. And how are we able to “endure to the end?”(Mt.10:22) His Word is the means by which this is accomplished. This is God’s work and you can trust him to do it. (I hope this is somewhat helpful)