Over the course of this series on the Once Saved Always Saved doctrine, we have reviewed numerous Scriptures showing that salvation is not unconditionally, eternally secure. We are eternally secured as we continue in the faith, abiding in Him. When we turn in faith to Jesus Christ, we are entering into a covenant and it is through this covenant that we receive the gift of eternal life.
Still, this often leads to one question, "What sin is it that Jesus does not forgive or that makes one become lost?"
Yet, what people fail to understand is that such is not about sin primarily, but about relationship. The only way our covenant relationship with God can be broken is for us to stop loving God.
Love is the Foundation
In the Spirit of the Law series, we discussed how love is the fulfillment of the law. In fact, love is the objective that God has with mankind.
"He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." Luke 10:26-27
From the beginning, God's goal with man was to redeem him by love, establish him in love, and regenerate him to love. God is love and being reconciled to Him means that we become one with - and reflections of - who He is.
"We love him, because he first loved us." I John 4:19
Because of sin, it was not possible for man to love God. Sin made man selfish/self-centered by nature versus being selfless (which is the manifestation of love). This is why we must be born again. God demonstrated His love for us in sending His Son to die for our sins so that we could attain new life in Him. It is only possible for us to love God because He first loved us.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." I John 3:16
"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." I John 4:9-10
By demonstrating His love in this way, God makes it possible for us to enter into His love (I Timothy 2:3-4, Revelation 22:17). Once we are in Christ, that love becomes the foundation of our relationship with Him.
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19
"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Ephesians 1:4
Our relationship with God is "rooted and grounded in love". Love is the root system by which He feeds and makes provision for us and it is the anchor which gives us stability in Him. In this covenant, it is not just God's love for us which is critical, but also our love for Him. It is a mutual love, as the love of God is reflected in us back to Him and others.
"I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me." Proverbs 8:17
"But if any man love God, the same is known of him." I Corinthians 8:3
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:23
"Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me." John 8:42
"For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." John 16:27
Our love for God is used by Him as the evidence of our relationship with Him. If we are to receive anything from God, it is because of that love relationship (covenant) we have entered into with Him.
"Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations." Deuteronomy 7:9
"And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments." Nehemiah 1:5
"The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy." Psalm 145:20
"And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments." Daniel 9:4
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
"Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." Ephesians 6:24a
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." II Timothy 4:8
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." James 1:12
"Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?" James 2:5
God keeps His covenant with those who love Him. God preserves those who love Him. God's promises are for those who love Him. Can we see the pattern here?
This is why we took time to review the meaning of a covenant relationship and how the institution of marriage is a reflection of this covenant in Christ. It is a covenant borne from love.
Love is Patient
"And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ." II Thessalonians 3:5
In discussing this topic previously, I was asked, "Well, I don't always live up to my marriage covenant with my spouse. So, if I sin against God and die before I repent, does this mean I'm damned to hell?"
Even in this example, the representation God has given of our covenant with Him still holds true.
The covenant of marriage is secured by vows, not performance. When a husband or wife fail in their marital obligations, that does not in itself dissolve the marriage relationship; although it can damage the fellowship between husband and wife. For example, no matter how poorly one maintains the home or provides for the household....your spouse is STILL your spouse.
Although God is perfect and never fails, man is not perfect and occasionally falls short. When we do, we can know that God's love is ever present for us, prompting us towards and looking for our repentance.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John 1:9
"My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." I John 2:1
When Peter sinned by denying Jesus Christ before men, it was not his sinful acts that Jesus brought to Peter's remembrance, but his love for God.
"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?
He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep." John 21:15-17
Peter's restoration could only be done in "love". Jesus didn't come trying to get His pound of flesh from Peter or to make him grovel for the wrongs he had done. Jesus, in His love for Peter, reminded Peter of his love for God. And not just the phileo brotherly love that we may feel for others, but Jesus called him into the agape love which comes from God alone and is at the expense or denial of ourselves. This is why there is a direct correlation between forgiveness and love. When love is present, we find repentance and forgiveness.
"Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." Luke 7:47
Love is not quick to see or create offenses. Love is patient, kind, not self-promoting or seeking its own way, nor becoming easily angered. (I Corinthians 13:4-5). There is a certain attitude of long-suffering when love is in operation, which again implies patience.
The Scriptures indicate that "loving" the Lord is synonymous with "waiting" on the Lord.
"For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him." Isaiah 64:4
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." I Corinthians 2:9
This is the essence of what it means to endure in the faith, and why believers are exhorted to do so! Waiting and enduring are demonstrations of our love for God. If we love Him, we will be faithful. If we love Him, we will obey. If we love Him, we will patiently endure.
Sin is only the symptom of a bigger problem: a failure to love as we should. But when love is strong, even a multitude of sins are forgiven.
"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." I Peter 4:8
Not only is marriage the pattern of how the covenant is entered and maintained, it is also the pattern for how the covenant is broken.
A Bill of Divorcement
The only thing that breaks the covenant of marriage is divorce. And it is the same with God. One way in which Scripture speaks of this as a falling away.
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." II Thessalonians 2:3
The phrase "falling away" is the Greek word apostosia which comes from the word apostasion meaning a bill of divorcement. The word apostosia is used only one other time in Scripture where it is translated "forsake" (Acts 21:21).
Implicit in the understanding of apostasy is the knowledge that such individuals have forsaken God. They have turned their back on God and on the covenant with which they had entered with Him. When God looks at such individuals, He considers their defection to be akin to a divorce.
God can only be divorced from those who are espoused to Him; and neither has He ever entered into a marriage covenant with all of humanity. God is only betrothed to His Bride, His people...the ones who have been called out and set apart for His good pleasure.
This is why it is so important to understand what Scripture is saying and who is being addressed. A failure to do this only leads to confusion and error. The Scriptures do speak of false converts who were never born again and never received by God as His own. But it also speaks of those who receive Jesus Christ, are converted, and later forfeit the covenant relationship with Him.
Divorce is a covenant term. God would not use references to a divorce in describing the falling away of those who never belonged to Him precisely because He is not in covenant with them. We see the same illustrations in God's interactions with Israel.
"Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away." Isaiah 50:1
"And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also." Jeremiah 3:8
Both the Old and New Testaments confirm that the only way a covenant relationship between God and His people is broken is through divorce. When man forsakes the love of God, he is turning away from the one thing upon which our covenant with God is based.
The Passion of Christ
God loves us passionately! So much so that He died on a cross to redeem us - His Bride - unto Himself (John 15:13). And as we noted earlier, we are to be reflections of Him...and even His love.
When Scripture speaks of our love for God, it is not talking about a worldly or primarily emotional sentiment. He is speaking of the agape love that God has poured unto us being reflected through us back to Him.
Yet, how does that happen? How do we reflect the love of God?
"But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." II Corinthians 3:14-18
There is a vail upon the heart that results in the mind being blinded, making it impossible to see Jesus Christ. But when the hearts are turned to God, this vail is done away with; the heart of man becomes uncovered and open to Him.
The term "open face" refers to a drawing back or removal of a veil. In Hebrew culture, it was unseemly for a woman to remove her veil for anyone but her husband. Thus, Scripture illustrates this as a time of intimacy whereby the Bride of Christ looking into a glass is changed by the Spirit into the very image of the living God. Changed here literally means being metamorphosed!
Yet what is this glass that changes us as we gaze upon it? It is the word of God.
"Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." James 1:21-25
As we spend intimate time in God's word, it is like looking into a mirror. By showing the perfection of our Lord, the words at the same time convict us of our own shortcomings and our need for cleansing. Under the washing of the water of the word, the image of our Savior becomes imprinted on our souls (Ephesians 5:26-27). The Spirit brings life to the word by bringing it to life within us as we submit to it.
It is not the word alone that saves, but the engrafted word. Engrafted means inborn or implanted by nature. This doesn't indicate that which barely scratches the surface, but word which is planted firmly and deeply in our innermost being; bearing with it the power (Spirit) to change who we really are. Thereby, we are changed so that the man looking in the mirror of God's word becomes more and more like His character.
When God looks at us, He ought to see Jesus; a reflection of Himself. We don't become Jesus Christ, but His life becomes more evident in us as His nature is being imparted to us. This is the goal of sanctification, our transformation in the inner man to be made in the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). It is this process of beholding the Lord that changes us so that the love of God may be shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5).
Yet, the Scriptures describe two different types of persons looking into this glass. Those who continue in this intimate communion with God and those who turn away from it.
The one who continues is assured to be a "doer" of God's word. This is not primarily because the person is working to obey, but because - by remaining in God's presence - this person is being forged and molded by God into the image of Christ so that he can obey by nature. The doing of the word is merely the result of God's cleansing process, not man's carnal efforts.
Alternately, the other "goes his way" which means to depart. As a result, instead of being changed from glory to glory into Jesus' image, he becomes forgetful. Forgetful of what he has heard, what he has been shown, what he has been forgiven, and of just what type of wretch he is apart from God.
When one departs from or forsakes God, His love cannot be perfected in us (I John 2:5).
Forsaking Your First Love
"If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." I Corinthians 16:22
We have seen how love is the object of what God wants from man and how our covenant with Him is based upon love.
As we enter into this covenant, it is our mutual love (His love for us and the same being reflected through us to Him) which forms the foundation of our covenant relationship. This is why we are told to keep ourselves and continue in God's love.
"Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Jude 1:21
"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." John 15:9-10
How do we "keep ourselves" in the love of God? By staying in His presence, beholding His glory so that He may change us by His Spirit thereby allowing us to obey Him by nature. We don't follow the example of the forgetful hearer, but we become doers of His word by simply "continuing" in Him as He completes His work in us.
In fact, Scriptures indicate that the only reason people reject Christ is because they love something else more than God. It still all boils down to love.
"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." John 3:19
"Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." II Timothy 3:4-5
Yet, the question of relevance for this article is whether God indicates that man can stop loving Him? Does the word of God show that we can forsake the foundation and anchor of our covenant relationship with God?
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Revelation 2:4-5
These are God's words to His church at Ephesus. Jesus says above that the individuals above have "left" their first love. Jesus doesn't fault them for having never loved Him, but for leaving His love.
He goes on to say that they should remember from where they are fallen and return to that place. One, this tells us that they are fallen. Second, this indicates that the place they had maintained before falling had been acceptable to God. Otherwise, why would He be calling them to return back to it? The consequence for not doing so is to have their place removed from before Him.
"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Revelation 3:16
This is another statement that God makes to His church, this time at Laodicea. The issue at hand is their lukewarm relationship with Him. Lukewarm is the word chliaros and is a metaphor for the condition of the soul wretchedly fluctuating between a torpor and a fervour of love.
God's love for us is passionate, and if His love is reflected in us, then our love for Him will be the same. We will be passionately in love with God! If not, He says that He will spew us out of His mouth, which is a pictorial description of being cast forth from His Body.
What about sin?
Sin occurs as a result of a failure to love as we should. Remember, we are being transformed into the image of Christ as we continue in His presence so that obedience comes by nature not by a work of the flesh. As we rest in Him, He will change us to be like Him. This is why love is linked to obedience.
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:23-24
What about faith?
Faith comes from and is made possible by love. Just as in a marriage, it is love that leads to fidelity. If you love someone, you will remain faithful to them.
"For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." Galatians 5:6
What about enduring?
It is love for the Lord that equips us to endure. We only fail to endure when our love has grown cold.
"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. " Matthew 24:12-13
Some people avoid this topic. They consider it too scary or too depressing. However, I think that is the wrong view. This message gives me joy in my spirit because it helps me to realize that I am in a love relationship!
God loves me, and because of that, I can love Him. All that He asks is that I stay in His love and He works all else out for my good. That is Good News!!
"Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." John 13:1
A wise man named David Wilkerson once said, "A transfiguration is taking place in all our lives. The truth is, we're being changed by what obsesses us. We're becoming like the things that occupy our minds. Our character is being influenced and impacted by whatever has hold of our hearts."
So the question becomes, what has a hold of your heart? Is it the love of God? Jesus loves us until the end, but do we love Him?
I cannot free myself from the world. I cannot change my nature. I cannot get rid of my sinful desires. I cannot be perfect. I cannot do what is good. But God can!!! And all that He requires is that we come to and continue in His love to be made whole.
"And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." Colossians 3:14
This article is part of a 6-part series evaluating a doctrine referred to as Once Saved Always Saved, Eternal Unconditional Security, or Preservation of the Saints.
- God Doesn't Mince Words
- Salvation is a Result of Covenant
- God's Relationship With Man is Based on Covenant
- Was the Abrahamic Covenant Unconditional?
- Covenant Responsibilities
- Eternal Life is a Gift
- Nothing Can Separate You From the Love of God
- You Cannot Be Unborn
- You Can Only Lose Fellowship with God
- You Can Only Lose Your Reward
- Predestined by God
- Eternal Life is "Eternal"
- All means ALL