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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Once Saved Always Saved?

Let’s discuss the main Bible verses that some non-Catholics point to that suggest that we cannot loose our salvation.

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

They say, “See, nothing at all can separate us from God’s love.”

Notice what is NOT mentioned here - Sin! Sin can separate us from the love of God. God will never stop loving us, but we can refuse to return that love. When we refuse to return that love we cut ourselves off from God.

Just like the Prodigal Son who asks for his inheritance. You would normally get the inheritance at the death of your parents. So what is the son saying to the Father, but that he wishes he were dead? It is in fact the son that in a sense dies. He goes off, realizes his error and when he comes back, the Father has been waiting for him and runs out to meet him. The Father tells the older son that the younger son was dead and now he is alive. That is spiritual death because he cut himself away from the Father.

John 10:27-29 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

They say, “Once you are in the Son’s hand you cannot get out, you cannot even leap out through sin. Also, look at how it says that they shall never perish. See, once saved always saved.”

It is at this point that I would like to point out some great advise that my godfather, who is a lawyer, gave to me. He said that in secular courts, you interpret a sentence in the context of the paragraph that it is set in, and you interpret the paragraph in the context of the whole document.

Now if the entirety of the Gospel was John 10:27 - 29, I would agree with the protestant objector. Yet, there are 35,801 other verses that I need to keep in mind when I am interpreting these three verses. We also want to make sure that we don’t read everything through the lense of these three verses or we rob both of what they are really trying to say.

Let’s take for example Adam, who had eternal life. Provided that he didn’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it seems to suggest that he would have lived forever. Now, what happened? Wasn’t the hand of God protecting him? It was protecting him provided that he obeyed his Heavenly Father. He just chose not to obey.

The same thing is true here. Christians are protected by Christ and are in his hand. Yet, in John 15 it says that we need to stay connected to Christ through bearing fruit. If not, we are cut off and thrown into the fire. Now do we read John 15 through the lense of John 10 and say we don’t understand it? I have heard this. Or do we read them in light of each other. I think the latter makes John 10 more sensible.

Look at verse 37. Jesus says, “my sheep hear my voice.” The Greek word for hear is akouo. It means hear, learn, obey, and understand. Notice that it has the meaning of obedience. We use this sense all the time. I ask my children, “Didn’t you hear me? I said not to do that!” Oh, they did hear me, but they are being disobedient.

Jesus is saying in verse 37 that his sheep obey him and to them he gives eternal life. And John 15 tells us about those who stop obeying. They get cut off.

But the objector continues, telling us to look at verse 28 where Jesus says, “I give them eternal life.” So then they reason that if eternal life can be lost, then it is not eternal.

While on the surface this seems attractive and possible, I think that it is misplaced a bit.

We only have eternal life because we are connected to the source of that life, Jesus. When Jesus says that He gives us eternal life He is really just saying that He is giving us himself. Now, while He will never stop loving us, we can stop loving Him. God is a gentleman and will respect the great gift of free will that He has given to us.

We cannot confuse the possessor with what He possesses. Christ is the Eternal Life that is given to us. Provided we have Christ, we also have eternal life. Now, while someone that you hate can give you a gift and you can keep it and love the gift, but hate the giver, in the case of salvation, you cannot reject Christ and yet keep His eternal life, because the gift and the giver are one and the same.

One more final verse, which I have never seen a good response to is 2 Peter, Chapter 2. Peter is warning Christians against false prophets that will lead Christians astray.

2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they (Christians) have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.


dcinadr said...

Could John 10:27-29 mean that once the "sheep" who hear his voice pass away they will be given eternal life, aka go to heaven? And once your in heaven there is no possibility of being "snatched" away. That's how I read it. Is there a problem with that interpretation?

Daniel Egan said...

I am not a scholar, but I think your interpretation would be true in a secondary kind of sense.

Because Christ (Eternal Life) dwells in us now, we participate in a foretaste of heaven. We get to eat of that tree of life (in the Eucharist); we participate in the worship in Heaven (At Mass); because the Son of God dwells in us making us God's Son we can call him Father.

But like you said - obviously once you are in heaven - you can't then be disqualified for it because you will have been perfected in glory.

(All brought to you by the grace of God.)