Once Saved, Always Saved, Twice Around

DJ AMDG had more questions and commentary on my post on OSAS (once saved, always saved), the (usually) Calvinist doctrine that you can’t “lose your salvation.” He’s in red, and my responses are in black:

Joe, on Hebrews I don’t think anybody asserts that 3:14 means that. I could be wrong, and perhaps a Catholic theologian does, but I’d like the referrence.


These guys aren’t Catholic, but “The Race Set Before Us,” by Evangelicals Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday addresses the conditionality of Hebrews 3:14 on-point on pg. 201. This link should give you the page with the relevant highlighting. I’m not great at formatting, so maybe it won’t?

Additionally, here’s a Calvinist source which acknowledges it as conditional (although a condition that the authors claim all the elect will fulfill with the grace of the Holy Spirit). It’s in the section called The “If Indeed” Qualification. I’m sure there are other (and probably better) sources which address this, but that was just the result of a quick-ish search.

Plus, there’s the grammar. The “if-then” concept is not unique to English: Greek has it to, and that’s the word choice the author is using here. IF we perservere, THEN we will come to share in Christ (which is the reverse of how I think you understood it in your first message). It’s no different than a mom telling a kid, “If you eat your vegetables, you’ll grow up big and strong.” It’s no guarantee that the kid’ll eat his veggies.

Plus, there’s the Biblical context. Hebrews 3:12-15 is one of the biggest “don’t give up the fight” passages in the Bible:

12 Take care, brothers, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God.
13 Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.
14 We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end,
15 for it is said: “Oh, that today you would hear his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.'”

From my reading, that’s a:

  • don’t forsake (give up) God in v. 12;
  • keep on going and don’t become hardened by sin in v. 13;
  • an IF-THEN: IF you hold on THEN everything’ll be okay in v. 14; and
  • a don’t harden your hearts towards God in v. 15

Every verse in that section is a punchy, “keep going, don’t turn back, don’t turn your back on God.” All of those things are premised on the possibility not just that someone can stumble, but that they can fall for good, and that they can actually forsake God, or harden their hearts towards Him. (We know from other contexts what a hardened heart looks like in terms of its ability to accept and respond to God’s grace, and we know it’s punishable as well: Daniel 5:20, for example).

In Hebrews 10:35, the same author (possibly Paul) goes on to say, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Obviously, if he says not to do something, it’s possible to do it. This verse is just the converse of Hebrews 3:14. And Hebrews 10:26-27 says that “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” Heb 10:29 makes it clear that these are people who were actually part of the covenant, so the usual OSAS proponent response that “they just seemed to be part of the covenant” is pre-empted.

Everyone I’ve read asserts that 3:14 means that holding firmly till the end is descriptive of the reality at the beginning, not prescriptive lest we lose salvation.

It’s an IF-THEN. The “then” is descriptive of the result if the “if” is fufilled. Using my above example, “you’ll get big and strong” is descriptive of what happens IF you eat your veggies. It contains the inherent prescription that you ought to fulfill the IF if you desire the THEN. So if you want to be big and strong, you should eat your veggies. If you want to make it to Heaven, hold on to the faith.

Additionally, those same commentators would all agree (I think) that this verse does not imply believers won’t fall/sin or become weak in faith.

Definitely. And that doesn’t make Christ’s sacrifice any less valuable, just because we muck up the works sometimes.

The NT is covered with that descriptive reality, that believers will still sin,
but that through confession we might be sanctified for righteousness. Every NT
books speaks of believers who were sinning in some respect.

Agreed. Sinning and falling away are distinct, like you’re saying. 1 John 5:16-17 delineates between sin which is deadly (or mortal) and sin which is not, which Catholics refer to as venial. We agree also on the remedy, heartfelt confession (James 5:16).

That’s all for today, folks. Tomorrow, I’ll post the rest of my response – it’s too dang long to post as a whole. Besides, it’s such a pleasant stopping point!

Also: if anyone wants to add to what I feel has been a very edifying discussion so far, please feel free, either in the combox or by e-mail.

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