Searching for The Third Way: Once Saved, Always Saved, Part 2

three-thumb.jpgAs I mentioned in the last post on this topic, I think Hebrews provides the solution to the great Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate regarding once saved, always saved. After all, Hebrews contains many of the great verses promising confidence and security, but Hebrews also contains many of the direst warnings against falling away. Clearly, the author considered it entirely possible to be confident in our salvation despite the real possibility of falling away.

We start with one of the most difficult verses in the New Testament —

(Heb 6:4-6 ESV) For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

The teaching is not complicated. It’s just hard to accept. The passage seems to plainly declare that for those who’ve been saved, if they fall away, they will never repent.

(Forgiveness is always available. God never gives up. He is always ready to accept us back. Falling away only occurs when it’s no longer possible for the individual to repent.)

Well, this contradicts both the Calvinist and the conservative Church of Christ position! This suggests that there may really be a Third-Way solution.

The same idea is found in 1 Tim 4:2 —

Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron … .

and in–

(2 Pet 2:21-22) It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

Peter clearly believes the condition of those fallen away is worse than the condition of those who’ve never accepted Jesus. Paul tells Timothy that some lose their moral sensitivity and become constitutionally incapable of feeling guilty — and hence repenting.

Hebrews 6:4-6 is no anomaly. Hebrews includes the identical thought in other places. For example, 10:26-27–

(Heb 10:26-27) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

is in contrast with–

(Heb 10:18) And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Hebrews teaches that we’ve been saved “once for all.” Jesus offered but one sacrifice. Having been saved once, we need no further sacrifice (v. 18). However, if we fall away, no further sacrifice is available (v. 26). “Only” in v 27 means only — fall away and you never will repent so as to come back.

This sounds like a perfectly awful teaching, but in fact tells us how very broad God’s grace is. If someone does finally repent, then that person never fell away at all. After all, it’s impossible for those who’ve fallen away to repent.

Similarly parallel is —

(Heb 12:15) “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

This is a reference back to —

(Deu 29:18-20) Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.

19 When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.

The parallel to Heb 6:4-6 is obvious.

Hebrews’ warning theme begins in Heb 3 —

(Heb 3:7-18) So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, 9 where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'”

12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed ?

Although not immediately obvious, the writer’s point is that most of the Israelites not only rebelled but did no irredeemably. God never forgave them. They died in the desert. They never stepped foot in the Promised Land.

Hence, the readers are cautioned in v. 13 — encourage one another daily. This is parallel to 10:24-25, which immediately precedes 10:26-27 quoted above. It’s a recurring theme. Help each other out so you don’t fall away!

Hebrews can be outlined as an alternating assurances of confidence and warnings against irredeemably falling away.

The falling away isn’t caused by just any sin, but rather by loss of penitence (10:26-27 is the clearest statement of this).

Equally well, it can be said that falling away is from loss of faith. After all, Paul defines “faith” as including yielding to the Lordship of Jesus (Rom. 10:9). Moreover, the Hebrews writers makes much the same point in Heb 3–

(Heb 3:12) See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

(Heb 3:18-19) And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed ? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

In fact, as you read chapter 3, you can’t help but be struck at how the writer slides back and forth between lack of obedience and lack of faith. He makes no real distinction. Both evidence a hard heart separated from Jesus.

Now, if you begin reading Hebrews with a once saved, always saved preconception, this is all nonsense, even offensive. Martin Luther would sympathize! But that is what it says.

The warnings against falling away aren’t hypothetical and academic — they are impassioned and concerned, and coupled with practical advice to regularly meet together (daily!) and encourage one another because of sin’s “deceitfulness” (v. 13) to prevent this horrible result. Why meet and encourage if the possibility of falling away is entirely hypothetical?

And I think the author knew what he was talking about. Sin deceives. It makes us less responsive to our brothers and sisters — and the Spirit. It makes us think: let’s sin now and repent later! And slowly it erodes our conscience and grieves the Spirit, ultimately quenching the Spirit and damning its victim.

But this does not happen easily or quickly. Indeed, so long as penitence is possible, the victim hasn’t yet fallen away. The Spirit glows dimly, but it glows.

This interpretation brings great urgency to the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Shepherds go after lost sheep, not because they’re lonely or hurting, but because they die.

It also explains one of the central roles of the assembly — to be a place that encourages us to resist the temptation to sin, not because God hates sin, but because sin destroys those whom God loves.

(Additional valuable points on Hebrews are made at the always-fascinating Jesus Creed blog. Also see my post in the Amazing Grace series here.)

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Searching for The Third Way: Once Saved, Always Saved, Part 2

  1. J Hinds says:

    Dear Jay,
    I have a question. I have been terriified of Hebrews 4-6. I am a believer, but failed to quit doing drugs after I became saved. I hid my sin. Eventually I ended up in a mental institution and lost my job, my wife and all my possessions. Eventually I recovered and quit doing the drugs, successfully. I never, ever want to do another drug or drink ever, ever again, honestly. And I won't. However, I know that I believed in Jesus before, and still do, but I feel so hopeless and dead inside. Am I one of those who sinned to the point of not being able to repent? I don't want to be seperated from God, from Jesus, but the reality I live in now seems so dark and I just despair. I need to know, but when I talk to Christians about Hebrews 4-6 no one really knows what to say. I will be moving soon to another town to try and make a fresh start, but is that possible spiritually, or did I crucify Him again and now there is no repentance for me?

  2. Jay Guin says:

    J Hinds,

    Take confidence in this fact: Heb 6:4-6 says it's impossible for those who've fallen away to repent. If you repent, then it wasn't impossible. And if it wasn't impossible, you've not fallen away.

    The fact that you want to repent proves that you can repent. Plainly, your conscience has not been "seared as with a hot iron." Rather, you are like the Prodigal Son, ready to come home to God. Praise God for his grace and your decision to change!

    You need to go right now and find a Christian counselor or minister to talk to and to help you make the changes you want to make. Don't try to do this alone. Now, of all times, is when you most need your Christians brothers and sisters to help you through this transition.

  3. Adam Davis says:

    What I'm having a hard time reconciling here is the idea that you have to be "good enough" to stay saved. The Bible says that Christ will not lose any of what has been given to Him John 6:36-40 [I don't believe that passage is teaching limited atonement, btw] In John 17:12 in Jesus' prayer He thanks God for those who He protected "except the son of perdition [Judas]" again, John 17 is not teaching unconditional election or limited atonement but it is teaching eternal security.

    Every true Christian is eternally secure in Christ. The Hebrews 6 passage [and others] in the light of the whole of scripture must be talking about false converts, the tares among the wheat, as Jesus taught on. I don't believe in a doom and gloom hopelessness for these tares. It is possible at any time that a tare can become wheat, that a sheep can become a goat.

    With this Biblical truth, we cannot do as some churches do and go about determining for ourselves who's "really" saved and who isn't. The parable of the tares among the wheat teaches that. In our flawed judgments, we may actually falsely accuse a wheat of being a tare. We must examine ourselves to see if we are really in the faith. Are we repentant of sin? Do we love the brethren [all of them, even those in "the denominations"]? Do we love our enemies? Is God our greatest desire in our life?

    Let's apply eternal security practically. I have never known anyone who was truly passionate for God, who truly loved God, to ever fall away. I've seen plenty of "pew warmers" come and go but I've never seen anyone truly on fire for the Lord to fall away. They are as a mustard seed.

    Judas was never really on fire for the Lord. Jesus called him a devil at the end of John 6. The Bible also tells us that Judas was stealing from Jesus and the disciples. As Jesus said concerning true converts and false converts, you will know them by their fruit.

    A Bible passage I belive excellently describes eternal security is Luke 22: 31-32, here Jesus tells Peter that Satan has asked permission to sift Peter like wheat, but Jesus prayed for Peter so that he would not be destroyed by Satan but tells him he would come back and once he did, to strengthen the brothers. This passage demonstrates God's protection over His children and demonstrates God's denial to Satan to destroy them. In other words, a Christian will never again be lost.

    I believe every true Christian will wonder at one point or another if they're truly saved or not. Romans 8:16 tells us that when in doubt, the Spirit within us affirms that we are in fact God's children.

    Lastly, referring to part one of this post where it was mentioned about Calvinists talking about how bad it must be to be an Arminian, never knowing if you are saved or not. There is that extreme of Armininanism that says you're saved one moment and lost the next, you pray for forgiveness and you're saved again. To my Campbelite brethren who hold to this view, in the light of your salvific view of Baptism, wouldn't this mean you have to be baptized again every time you sin. This is reason # I lost count why I no longer believe the act of water Baptism saves but that is a symbol of salvation and not a means of it.

    I say though, concerning Calvinism, that it must be very traumatic, never knowing for sure if you are "truly" saved or not. It must be very traumatic believing that whether you're saved or not was a done deal before the foundation of the world. It must be hard reconciling that God is love when you believe that the worst things that ever happened to you was completely and sovreignly God's doing to show off how glorious He is. It must be traumatic knowing that God may be playing you "for His glory" letting you think you're His when you're really not. It must be traumatic knowing that God may not love you at all, but actually hate you and created you for the sole purpose of being a punching bag to let off steam.I don't see how you can be an effective evangelist and be fully compassionate for sinners when you believe God hates those who he actually consigns to be lost and when you don't really believe it's really possible for everyone to be saved.

    I concede that Arminianism is just as subject to debate as any other man-made system of theology, but to my Calvinist brethren. do not, I repeat do not rant and rave about how horrible it must be to be an Armininian because quite frankly, as I've just described, being a Calvinist sounds much worse.

  4. Hi.
    I found your Web Site by Google
    And I wish you the best you can get,
    the peace of God through Jesus Christ.

    Welcome to visit my Site.
    Allan Svensson, Sweden

    Once saved – always saved?
    The doctrine of election, which William M. Branham preached,
    that the elected cannot fall away from the Lord, it can entice
    people into a false safety, which can be their fall. Branham's
    doctrine of the election does not agree with Ezekiel 33:12-19
    or Rom. 11:17-22.

    If the elected ones cannot become lost, why then are there so
    many warnings in the Bible? Why did Jesus warn us about
    false teachers and false prophets, if it is impossible that the
    elected ones become lost?

    If it is no risk to lose our salvation, then we do not need to
    hold us awake or be careful against false teachers. Why then
    are Israel's sins and punishments under their wandering through
    the desert, written down as warnings for us? Why then did Paul
    write, "Now all these things happened unto them for examples:
    and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of
    the world are coming. Wherefore let him that thinketh he
    standeth take heed lest he falls." 1 Cor. 10:1-12.

    A usual reason that Christians fall away from the Lord, is that
    they follow false doctrines, which lead away from the sincere
    faithfulness to the Lord. They believe more on preachers and
    priests than on the Bible.

    A remarkable phenomenon is, that the most resistance against
    revival comes from those Christians who have been praying for
    revival during many years. They have prayed for revival, but
    when the answer to prayers comes, then they become angry.
    They do not like to hear the truth of the Assembly of God, the
    Body of Christ. Instead to praise Jesus, they are irritated and
    afraid. Why? They are spiritually blinded of Satans false
    assembly doctrine. They do not have the knowledge of the
    Assembly of God. This truth has never been preached in the

    Churches and denominations are Satan's tools to hold control
    over the Christians. The purpose of the churches is that with
    false doctrine defend churches and denominations, and to hold
    their members in religious slavery, and hinder them to
    understand God's word.

    In the time of the apostles any church did not exist, and
    therefore the word "church" does not occur in the Bible.
    Everywhere in your English Bible where you see the word
    "church" it is a grave translation error. It ought to be

    As you can see in my Web site, I am no member in any
    church. In the year 1965 I left Babylon the great, and since
    then I have been outside of all churches and denominations,
    according to the command of the Lord. Rev. 18:4.

    This command of the Lord is the most powerful revival
    message we can find in the Bible. Yet, this truth of the Bible
    has not been preached among God's people, and therefore the
    Christians are entirely unprepared for Jesus' coming. Only
    few Christians have obeyed this command of the Lord to
    come out of the great Babylon.

    Just this is revival, that all God's people become free from
    all churches and denominations, the great Babylon. Many
    preachers are speaking that Jesus shall come, but they do
    nothing to prepare themselves.

    On my Homepage I have written very much about the
    Assembly of God and about churches and denominations.
    It is very urgent that all God's people get the knowledge
    of this.

    None be saved by works of the law, Gal. 2:16,
    and none be saved without works of faith. Matt. 7:21-23.

    Prepare you to meet Jesus!

    Evil spirits in the churches

    Why did the Pentecostal Revival take an end?

    What does hinder the Antichrist to appear?
    What is the Restrainer?