It is my pleasure to present this excellent teaching on this critical and controversial subject by Pastor Colin Maxwell of Cork Free Presbyterian Church, 10 Briarscourt (Annex) Shanakiel, Cork, Ireland.

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. (John 10:27-28)

There are two distinct groups in the evangelical Church which are not happy with the above statement. The first group are obviously the Arminians who believe that a man can be saved and lost. We all believe that men can be lost and saved (Luke 19:10) but the Arminians allow for the possibility of a man being truly saved at some point in time and yet spending eternity in hell because of real apostasy from God. Suffice to say that I reject such a thought as overthrowing the decree of God, the efficacy of the blood of Christ which was shed specifically to keep the elect of God out of hell and all that leads to it, and the power of the Holy Spirit to preserve Christians from apostasy. Such a belief does not negate in any way the responsibility of every Christian to heed the warning verses and Calvinists and others who believe in the eternal security of the saints are no less concerned about Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 etc., than our Arminian brethren.

Another group, however, are not happy with the “Once saved…always saved” concept are many who do subscribe to the doctrine of the eternal security of the people of God. This may surprise some folk, but there is good reason for the concern. The eternal security doctrine has been abused by some who believe that since they have made a profession of faith, then they will be in Heaven no matter what they do. Did they not receive Christ as their Saviour in a meeting some years ago? Did they not go to the front or sign a card or raise a hand? Did not the “sinner’s prayer” seal the issue for all eternity? Are not their sins, then, forever dealt with? Well, if so…what’s the problem?

The problem is this. While we are saved and kept by Christ alone (1 Peter 1:5) yet part of the evidence that we are indeed saved is by our good works i.e. holy living. We were not saved in our sins or saved for our sins…but saved from our sins (Matthew 1:21) By grace through faith unto good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) is the order of scriptures. Chosen in Christ to be holy (Ephesians 1:4)…conformed unto the image of His Son (Romans 8:29) is how it is stated elsewhere. If there is no holiness, then no matter what we did some years ago or thought we did will get us into Heaven. We are not saved by holiness (legalism) but salvation is evidenced by it, just as the tree is evidenced by its fruit. A real Christian (Christ-one) is Christ-like.

Therefore instead of “Once saved…always saved” it might be better if we closed up a rather smug loophole which self deceived professors have exploited and believe instead: “If saved…always saved.” This maintains the truth of the eternal security of the people of God while leaving room for that vital examination which is urged upon us by the Apostle Paul himself (2 Corinthians 13:5) Obviously no one is urging an excessive introspection which (having got us to take our eyes of Christ) would plunge us all into despair. But it is profitable to take time to weigh ourselves in the balances of Scriptures and see if we are really manifesting those evidences of the new birth (1 John) If we do and we are…we will rejoice all the more in what Christ has accomplished for us. Far better this, than to wake up in hell and discover that our hope was that of the hypocrite which will perish (Job 8:13)

This is republished with Pastor Maxwell’s permission and the original is found here. If you would like to contact him you may write Pastor Maxwell at: cfpc@esatclear.ie