“Once in Grace, Always in Grace” - Is This Scriptural?
An In-Depth Examination Of This Much-Discussed And Controversial Subject In The Light Of The Scripture
"My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:4, 5). "If they speak not according to this word [the Scriptures], it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).
ONE of Satan's great errors, with which he has deceived many Christians and lulled them into complacent sleep, is his teaching that those who once have come into God's grace, or favor, as disciples of Christ, are there to stay, and that there is absolutely no danger of their ever falling fully away from it. Many rest themselves very securely upon this fallacy, that if they have once become recipients of this Divine grace, it means that they will be in this grace perpetually, to all eternity, and that they have salvation unto eternal life in heaven, despite anything that they may do or leave undone after receiving this grace.
Satan has popularized this deception with the catchy slogan so often heard from various pulpits and among Christian people: "Once in grace, always in grace." (It is frequently referred to also as "eternal security.") It seems strange that many Christians accept and hold to this cliché as though it were really the truth of God's Word, whereas there is nothing in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that really supports such an idea. Rather, the united testimony of Scripture, reason and facts is to the contrary. The false idea "once in grace, always in grace" is an outgrowth of erroneous views of election and predestination (see BS No. 343—a copy free on request). Like most errors, Satan's "eternal security" deception is supported by misapplications of some Scriptures, chief of which are the following:
(1) John 5:24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."
(2) John 6:44: "No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day [the Millennial Day, in which the resurrection takes place]."
(3) 1 Pet. 1:23: "Being born [begotten] again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
(4) 1 John 3:9: "Whosoever is born [begotten] of God doth not [wilfully] commit sin; for his seed [the holy seed of the Truth, the Spirit of the Truth] remaineth in him: and he [the new creature, begotten of God] cannot [willfully] sin, because he is born [begotten] of God [for the old will to triumph over the new will, would signify the death of the new creature, the quenching of the Spirit]."
(5) 1 John 5:18: "We know that whosoever is born [begotten] of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God [the Greek word gennao means to beget, when associated with a male as the active agent (as in this verse), and to bear when associated with a female as the active agent (see The Divine Plan of the Ages, p. 278)] keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not [does not lay hold of him]."
The above texts are supposed to teach that when we become Christian disciples we get from God an atom of Himself, the seed of the new being; and this seed is presumed to be undiminishable and indestructible. It is claimed that although this seed may lie dormant for a while, or be hindered from development by a backsliding, sinful course of life, it will ultimately and surely develop into a true and noble spirit being, to have eternal life in heaven.
But these texts do not so teach. They do not teach that the new nature begotten by the holy seed, the Truth, cannot die out from the individual, that the Christian cannot fall from grace. The contrary is the suggestion and lesson of the figure used—natural begetting. It shows us the possibility of misconception, miscarriage, stillbirth, etc., after spiritual begetting, as sometimes occurs after natural begetting. Thus the figure used contradicts the false theory of "once in grace, always in grace."
These five Scriptures teach in harmony with the other Scriptures—for God's Word is always harmonious with itself. In James 1:18 we read: "Of his [God's] own will begat he us [the prospective members of the Church, the Body of Christ] with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." It was by hearing, believing and responding by consecration to the word of truth about Christ and becoming His disciples that these individuals received "everlasting life" (in its incipient sense) and "passed from death [in Adam] unto [the Spirit-begotten] life [in Christ]" (John 5:24). But this Spirit-begotten life is life only in an incipient sense, and is far from the Spirit-born life, which does not come until in the resurrection (at the last day" (John 6:44). The Spirit-begettal was "unto a lively hope" (not yet an actuality—Rom. 8:24, 25), which is only the first step, the incipient step, in the bringing forth of a new creature fitted for "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you [the Spirit-begotten ones who continue faithful in consecration unto death]" (1 Pet. 1:3, 4).
SEVEN STEPS IN DEVELOPING A NEW CREATION
As there are seven processes as parts of the generation of a human being—begetting, quickening, growth, strengthening, balancing, perfecting and birth—so the Bible teaches every one of them in the complete generation of the new creation. The following will prove this: (1) The begettal occurred through depositing the Word as the germinating seed (James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23; John 1:12, 13; 3:3; 1 Cor. 4:15; Philemon 10; 1 John 5:1); this begettal made the prospective Body members embryo new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). (2) Later, each one of them was quickened as an embryo (John 6:63; Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13; 1 Tim. 6:13). (3) Also, they began to grow in grace, knowledge and service in their embryo condition (Eph. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). (4) The strengthening of these embryos in every good word and work also set in (Eph. 3:16; 6:10-17; Col. 1:11; 2 Tim. 2:1; 1 Pet. 5:10). (5) The new creatures developed more as embryos by balancing the various parts of a Christlike character with one another (1 Thes. 3:12, 13; 2 Thes. 2:17; 3:3; James 5:8; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:12). (6) Their full development as embryos was completed by perfecting their characters in Christlikeness, which completely conformed them to Christ's image (Rom. 8:29; Luke 6:40; Eph. 4:12; Heb. 13:20, 21; 1 Pet. 5:10). This made them as embryo new creatures ready for the Spirit birth (7), which they experienced by participating in the First Resurrection, and by which they obtained the Divine nature and immortality and can come and go as the wind—invisibly; "so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:5-8; Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5; 1 Cor. 15:20, 23, 50-54; James 1:18; 2 Pet. 1:4).
These seven processes, beginning with the begettal of the Spirit and ending with the birth of the Spirit, constitute the acts whereby a new order of beings is brought forth by God, and that on the Divine, the highest, plane of existence; and these processes correspond to the seven steps in the generation of a human being.
We see from the above that the Truth-seed, "the word of truth" (James 1:18), by which the person is begotten of the Spirit, is of itself incorruptible and "liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet. 1:23; Matt. 24:35); therefore the New Creature in the sense of the holy powers begotten and the holy qualities produced in the person who is begotten of the Spirit "cannot sin" (Gal. 6:15; compare with Gal. 5:6, which by the expression "faith which worketh by love" proves that the term "new creature" in Gal. 6:15 means the holy powers begotten and the holy qualities developed in the person who is begotten of the Spirit). These holy powers and qualities "cannot sin, because he is begotten of God" (1 John 3:9). God's holy Spirit in the person thus begotten to a new life, cannot sin, but it can be "quenched," or extinguished, if the old mind and will, reckoned dead, is allowed to come back to life and into control (1 Thes. 5:19; Rom. 6:11; 8:6-17).
The wicked one, Satan, cannot lay hold of the New Creature, begotten of God; for the new heart, mind and will, which wills to do only God's will, cannot sin (1 John 3:9; 5:18). "Whatsoever is born [begotten] of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory [the conquering power] that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4)—the New Creature, the "faith which worketh by love" (Gal. 6:15; 5:6). "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not; whoever sinneth [willfully] hath not seen him, neither known him" (1 John 3:6).
While the New Creature or the new heart, mind and will, God's holy Spirit in the regenerated individual, cannot sin, nevertheless sin is present in the fallen flesh. "If we say that we have no sin [no imperfection in our fallen flesh, manifesting itself in transgressions], we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins [transgressions of commission and omission], he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins [of weakness and ignorance], and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-10).
How careful the Spirit-begotten and the Spirit-enlightened ones should be to "grieve not the holy Spirit of God" (Eph. 4:30)! "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:7). Let us treasure it above all things else; "for what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36). God does not destroy the free moral agency of His children, disciples of Christ; He gives them freedom of choice; those who willfully and persistently choose to disobey Him and His righteous and holy teachings and arrangements, He will eventually annihilate in the Second Death; but those who through love and appreciation cheerfully render full allegiance, obedience and faithfulness to Him, He rewards with everlasting life.
OTHER ALLEGED PROOF TEXTS EXAMINED
Let us now consider briefly the other main texts often cited to prove the theory that a true Christian cannot ever fall fully from Divine favor:
(6) John 10:29: "My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." God protects those who by consecration become His sheep and thus place themselves fully into His care. But this does not mean that they are imprisoned in His care, so that they cannot go from Him as they came to Him, by the exercise of their own free wills. They can stray from Him and be captured by Satan and his agents (v. 12). Only he who "dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (Psa. 91:1, 4).
(7) John 15:16: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you." The twelve Apostles were ordained, or appointed, to a special office, and for a special purpose. The Apostle Paul, who was given the Apostolic office vacated by Judas because of his unfaithfulness (Acts 1:20; 9:15), speaks of his ordination, saying, "I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle" (1 Tim. 2:7)—"not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father" (Gal. 1:1). Similarly, our Lord chose all of His Body members "out of the world" (John 15:19), and God "hath set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him" (1 Cor. 12:18). They were all ordained, or appointed, to "bring forth fruit" (John 15:16); but many, like Judas (John 17:12; Matt. 26:24), failed to do so; they did not abide in Him; therefore they were cut off and became withered branches, fit only for destruction (vs. 1-8); and their places were taken by others.
(8) Rom. 8:29: "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." This merely mentions that there would be a class foreknown to and foreordained by God, who must have characters like that of Christ. Anyone, regardless of sex, race, language or national origin, who during the time of the High Calling would fulfill the conditions and become a character copy of Christ—would be accepted and given a reward among the "kings and priests" in God's Kingdom (Gal. 3:28; Rev. 5:9, 10).
(9) Rom. 8:31: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" This is a wonderful assurance, but it does not guarantee that the incorruptible seed, "the word of truth," by which the one who is a new creature was begotten of the Spirit, could not be choked out by the thorns—the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, pleasure, ambition, etc., which one might choose of his own volition (Matt. 13:7, 22; Mark 4:19; Luke 8:14).
(10) Rom. 8:33: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." Our unintentional weaknesses are attributable to the fallen flesh, which is covered by the robe of Christ's righteousness; we are "justified by faith" (Rom. 5:1). "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1). But this does not guarantee that the individual will continue to walk after the Spirit unto the end. So the Apostle Paul exhorts: "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:15, 16).
(11) Rom. 8:38, 39: "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." God's love for His consecrated people is so great that He will not of Himself withdraw from us any favor He ever bestows, nor will He ever cast us off or cause us to fall. And more than this, His love is so great that He will not permit others ("any other creature") to separate us from His favor contrary to our own will. And since His love is so great and His power all-mighty, we have full confidence that no power on earth or in heaven can forcibly separate us from His love and favor granted to us in and through our Redeemer (1 John 4:4). God honors our own volition either to remain in His grace or to separate ourselves from it. "God is a Spirit [a spirit being, with perfect wisdom, justice, love and power]: and they that worship him must [accordingly] worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).
(12) 2 Tim. 2:19: "The Lord knoweth them that are his." God cannot be deceived. He knows those who become His, by "being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," and by "presenting their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Rom. 3:24; 12:1); and He knows equally well whenever any lose the spirit of truth, love and full devotion to Him and cease "to will and to do according to his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). He works in us only as we permit Him to do so.
We see, then, that none of the above Scriptures offered to support the claim of "once in grace, always in grace," really does so. It is only as these Scriptures are misunderstood and misapplied that such a deceptive and absurd conclusion can be drawn. In fact, Satan first introduced this deceptive and dangerous "eternal security" error, and then wrested and twisted the above Scriptures in an effort to support it, thus breeding other errors by so doing. Let us ever be on guard, "lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor. 2:11).
"Once in Grace, Always in Grace" Examined:
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