October 20, 2014

Do Baptists Believe “Once Saved, Always Saved?”

I had a conversation with a former Baptist the other day, and up came the assertion that “Baptists believe in “once saved, always saved.”

I said that Baptists believe in perseverance of the saints, but no Baptist confession uses the phrase “once saved, always saved,” or anything close. No Baptist confession is unaware that there are “mere professors” among those who are elect and will persevere.

“Once saved, always saved” usually isn’t applied to God’s purpose in salvation, but to the misuse of evangelistic methods, meaning “once you walk an aisle one time, you’ll automatically go to heaven, no matter if you believe the Gospel in the future or not.” Very few Baptists believe that.

Let’s be clear: if you don’t believe the Gospel, you aren’t a Christian. If you go through a time of serious waywardness, that’s something we see in the lives of saints such as David.

Do a lot of Baptists describe THEIR belief as “once saved, always saved?” Sure. But is it a Baptist belief? I’m pretty sure my Catholic friends don’t want to say that everything believed by every Catholic is a “Catholic belief.” They’ll hand you a catechism.

So I’m handing you three confessional statements. If a Baptist church has a confession, it will almost always be one of these three.

Decide for yourself.

The 1689 Second London Confession of Faith

Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints

1.Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity.
( John 10:28, 29; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:19; Psalms 89:31, 32; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Malachi 3:6 )

2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father, upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ and union with him, the oath of God, the abiding of his Spirit, and the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
( Romans 8:30 Romans 9:11, 16; Romans 5:9, 10; John 14:19; Hebrews 6:17, 18; 1 John 3:9; Jeremiah 32:40 )

3. And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.
( Matthew 26:70, 72, 74; Isaiah 64:5, 9; Ephesians 4:30; Psalms 51:10, 12; Psalms 32:3, 4; 2 Samuel 12:14; Luke 22:32, 61, 62 )

1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith

Article of Perseverance of the Saints

We believe that such only are real believers as endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Baptist Faith and Message 2000

V. God’s Purpose of Grace

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2.

Comments

  1. Actually this is not that complicated.

    We can do nothing to save ouselves.

    We can do nothing to condemn ourselves after salvation.

    Easy.

  2. If it is possible for ust to act or behave or think in a way to lose salvations then it is possible for us to act or behave or think in some way to attain it.
    Neither is possilble. Period. All arguments are null.

  3. The implication is that if I can do anything to nullify the grace of God then I can also do something to deserve the grace of God.
    I can do nothing.
    All of the works-based cults (which is a sure sign of cult) and all of the works-based schisms need to know that grace is beyond our actions or thoughts.

  4. … a Baptist who publically says the BFM is wrong won’t be heard from very long in the SBC at any level.

    Excellent. I wish we Catholics had such an effective enforcement mechanism. Priests (and laity) can thumb their noses at the Church’s doctrines for years and not only get away with it, but be rewarded and honored.

    Strangely, though, we are the ones labeled as rigid, dogmatic, intolerant, doctrinaire, and so forth. The laity are robots programmed to mindlessly repeat Vatican decrees, led by God’s Rotweiler who was previously in charge of the modern-day Inquisition. (I should note that iMonk does not say these sort of things, but others do).

    More seriously, I think confessions are very important. They bring clarity and unity. They enable Christians to spread the Good News more effectively. But they are helpful only to the extent they are taught and understood. All of us, whatever confessions we follow, would do well to learn them more thoroughly.

  5. “Once Saved, Always Saved”….Yes. This is an excellent post due to the fact that you provided all proofs written from examined scriptures and their knowledges…love it!! Mostly , I enjoyed the write up from 1689 The Second London of Christian Faith on Confessions…..hummm..This is good! Also, once saved , always saved…written in the book of Romans; “For Man is without Excuse”….therefore it is through our Faith and our perseverences that we are kept for His own….and truly saved.yep
    Rahab

    Confessions….a great part of the “Real Christian Life”….room for the transforming; NOT the claiming of “no need” I’m already there….yipes.

  6. Michael,

    I stand corrected as far as the institutional level goes. You’re right that on a institutional, denominational level the SBC is indeed confessional as denomination leaders, seminary professors, missionaries, and others do have to adhere to confessions such as the BFM. Clearly on that level confessions matter a great deal.
    This certainly has a big ripple effect throughout the denomination. Still, on the ground things are often a bit different and I don’t think it is a matter of poor teaching. I knew plenty of people growing up (I think of some of the knowledgeable and godly Sunday school and youth Bible study teachers I had) who were very committed Christians and knew their Bible well. Yet they probably didn’t have the foggiest notion about Baptist confessions, or at least I never heard a thing about them. I daresay that similarly committed laypeople in the LCMS or PCA will generally have a much stronger awareness and knowledge of their confessions than their Baptists counterparts.
    Perhaps it is inaccurate to say that Baptists aren’t a confessional people. But I still don’t think that confessions shape life on the ground in your average Baptist church the way it does at Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. Perhaps that is, however, because Baptists are free churchmen.

    rr

  7. This is one of the reasons the Founder’s Movement exists in the SBC: to take the denomination back to its roots. Visit http://www.founders.org to learn more.

  8. Eric Phillips says:

    > One of you guys want to tell me what’s the point?

    MY point (not speaking for any other “guys”) is that you are objecting to the assumption that everyone who ever prays the sinner’s prayer is saved, NOT to the idea that once you’re saved, you’re always saved. That latter idea IS bedrock Baptist confessionalism, as the first sentence you quoted from the 1689 Confession proves.

  9. Eric: Please note the Future tense:

    >…but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved

    The Confession doesn’t use the term “saved” the way it’s used in popular Baptist discussion. Once “saved” in popular conception = “once you’ve done one of the things we equate with becoming a Christian.” The Confession realizes that saving faith MUST persevere.

    I’m sure we understand one another and just disagree.

  10. Eric Phillips says:

    > I’m sure we understand one another

    Well, this is the first time I’ve understood that you’re objecting not only to “once PRAYED always saved,” but also to that very usage of the word “saved” by which it refers to the status of the Christian before the resurrection.

    I understand that second objection, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a Christian saying, “I _am_ saved.” According to sight, it’s not true yet, but according to faith, it is. It’s the same sort of statement as “He that believeth on me shall never die.” Do you disagree?

  11. I use it all the time, but I understand its a three tense word. A lot of people don’t and that’s the OSAS problem.

  12. Eric Phillips says:

    I don’t see how this is a problem of tenses. Anyone who “WILL be saved” must also “BE saved” at some point in time. In the framework laid down by the 1689 Confession, you can’t have one without the other. You and the people you are trying to correct both hold to a punctiliar moment of salvation, before which one is a child of wrath and after which all things become new. And you both agree, furthermore, that anyone who has truly experienced that moment is IN for good–unable to fall away. The only relevant disagreement I can see is that you emphasize that this must be an interior event–genuine repentance and faith in Christ–while some others speak as if it is an action we can choose to perform–walking an aisle, repeating a prayer, or willing ourselves to accept certain propositions about Jesus. It’s a disagreement over what constitutes the moment of salvation.

  13. This is ridiculous.
    Michael you know well that if a person is saved they are saved.
    End.Period. No more discussion.
    Who is is saved might be a topic but unfortunately for our purposes only God knows for sure.
    It is one of the great issues I have with the RCC and all worked-based tenets.
    Except, that I’m beginning to see that maybe the RCC’s point of view is not that different than mine and yours for this issue.
    There is still all that Mary stuff. Hard to get past.

  14. Greetings,

    According to what I read, Baptism in a Southern Baptist Church is not considered valid unless it’s from a Church that embraces “the doctrine of the security of the believer.”

    http://www.baptistpress.org/bpnews.asp?id=25616

    The baptism guideline stated candidates must have been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church of another denomination that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone. Also, the baptism must not be viewed as sacramental or regenerative, and the candidate’s church must embrace the doctrine of the security of the believer.

    Are we saying that there is a difference between “Once saved always saved” and “the doctrine of the security of the believer”? Does the Southern Baptist not have that documented somewhere? Are they honestly claiming that those of us who do not share this belief are somehow not saved or that our Baptism (in the Lords name) is insufficient?

    I have a lot of Baptist Brothers who are at odds with the passage of this. If memory serves me correctly, there was even conflict with the board membership of this (and others) issues at the time.

  15. bstaggs:

    That’s is missionary appointment policy at the IMB. It has nothing- zero- zilch- to do with any Baptist church or confession.

    Baptist doctrine isn’t dictate by Baptist Press, the IMB or any Baptist entity.

    The Baptist Faith and Message- our most common confession- doesn’t use that language.

    thanks

    MSpencer

  16. For my own edification, Is there no Southern Baptist affiliation with the IMB or Baptist Press? I assumed (yes I know where that leads) the Southern Baptist organization was the authoritative body over both.

    Ok, let’s see if I can come to understand just what does the Baptist doctrine say regarding eternal security. Is this not part of the Baptist Faith and Message (2000).

    http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp


    V. God’s Purpose of Grace
    ….

    All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

    If this in not correct please point me in the write direction so that I may obtain a correct reading.

  17. 1) No Baptist church is obligated in any way to the Baptist Faith and Message. It is the confession used by many Southern Baptists, but they use others or are free to write their own or have none.

    2) The IMB and other entities of the Southern Baptist Convention are extensions of the cooperative work of Southern Baptists through their voluntary financial gifts.

    3) The Baptism policy of the IMB is not the policy of many Baptist churches and is controversial for that very reason. The IMB’s standards are approved by its trustees, not by the SBC or any church in the SBC.

    4) The confessional language you quoted does not contain the phrase “once saved always saved.” I don’t mean to be obtuse, but one can’t reasonably say Southern Baptists “believe” once saved always saved in any way other than popular perception or voluntary affirmation. The convention has avoided that phrase in all official doctrinal statements.

    thanks

    MSpencer

  18. Thank you for the information on points 1 through 3.

    However on point 4 I would respectfully disagree with the statement:

    “one can’t reasonably say Southern Baptists “believe” once saved always saved in any way other than popular perception or voluntary affirmation”

    Personally I don’t see how anyone could reasonably come to any other conclusion. Perhaps we are not in agreement with what “Once saved always saved” means. I simply see it as 5th point of Calvinism “Perseverance of the Saints”. Which is aliased as “Once Saved always saved” by others.

    http://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm

    Conversely, I don’t’ believe “Once saved always saved” is meant to infer that simply because one claims Salvation or has preformed an act that someone claims is a requirement for Salvation, that they in fact are Saved. From my point of view (possibly out of sync with the mainstream thinking) it simply means that once in Grace always in Grace, that Salvation once obtained can NOT be lost.

    I don’t personally hold to that position, but I have always respected it as an honest belief of my Southern Baptist brothers. So I am just trying to clarify this in light of comments made here and not trying to be argumentative.

    Since you are obviously knowledgeable on Southern Baptist doctrine and policies, I have a question: Would a Church be allowed to keep it’s Southern Baptist affiliation if it openly taught contrary to the Perseverance of the Saints or for that matter, against the Baptist Faith and Message?

  19. btaggs:

    1) Southern Baptist affiliation isn’t “bestowed.” Independent, autonomous churches CHOOSE to cooperate with other churches in what is called the Southern Baptist Convention. There is no doctrinal oversight beyond determining if a church is “of like faith and order” and that is quite subjective.

    2) The cooperation of other Baptist churches and associations with a church is the most significant factor in it being SBC. Obviously a church can be Baptist and deny the “P.” And whether that church would be associated with and recognized by other Baptist churches would vary widely.

    3) There is no denomination. The SBC is an association of autonomous congregations who associate in certain ways and at certain times.

    4) “Once Saved Always Saved” is not confessional or institutional language anywhere in the SBC. Perseverance is confessional language. They may mean the same to you, but they don’t to many of us in the SBC.

    As I said, the most you can say is that on a popular level, some Baptists like that phrase.

    peace

    MS

  20. I was just looking at the confessions and I know they don’t have the phrase “once saved always saved”, but the different confessions mention terms like, eternally saved, other confessions use eternally secure, or eternal security, to my knowledge only those who follow Calvinism teach eternal security. Which are mainly in Presbyterian, Brethren or various Baptist Churches, I think the Southern Baptist are struggling with this now.

    When I read various confessions I see the Calvinist eternally secure doctrine within them and speaking in terms of only those who are elect. Once a person knows of his election and converts he will always be secure in his salvation til the end and nothing he can do can change that, if a person does (backslide – sin) then they were never elect or a true convert to begin with. This is how I was understanding eternal security (once saved always saved.) So someone help me out if I am reading more into the eternal security than need be.

    Philadelphia Baptist Confession
    Westminster Confession of Faith
    Standard Confession of 1660
    First London Baptist Confession of Faith
    Second London Baptist Confession of Faith
    New Hampshire Confession of Faith
    Abstract of Principles

  21. Current research indicates that less than 6% of Southern Baptists are Calvinists. That is why the confessions you are listing either were never used by Southern Baptists or were only used in Calvinist strand of the SBC.

    The Baptist Faith and Message is the confession of those churches that want to use a confession approved by the entire convention. But NONE of these listed or even the BFM is binding in ANY WAY on a single SBC church.

  22. I’ll be honest with you. I have a real problem with the “once saved, always saved” or “eternal security” teachings. I’ve heard some Baptists say that if you are really saved that you will continue living for Christ but then say that if you are in open sin you are not lost. I had a conversation with an ordained Baptist pastor friend of mine that is always trying to push the “once saved, always saved” doctrine off on me. As he was quoting the hand full of scriptures he always uses I asked him this question. “Are you telling me that if a serial killer is saved and lives for Christ for a while and decides to go back to his old ways of being a serial killer that he is still saved?” His reply to me was “yes that’s right”. Then I said, “You mean he can be right in the middle of murdering someone and cutting up their body pieces when the rapture takes place that he will go up in the rapture with all those in Christ?” His reply to me was “Yes that is what I am saying”. To me that is scary. 1Jo 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
    God’s word is very clear “no murderer hath eternal life abiding (staying) in him.”

  23. buckner says:

    I am not fully understanding the problem hear, once saved always saved, i whole heartedly believe that, i believe that when it say that Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. I believe that is what it means, it didn’t say but if you mess up and sin that you are no longer saved, i believe that we are to repent daily cause we sin daily, anyone who says they don’t sin is a liar and Gods not in them, i am not a bible scholar, i just believe, For all have sinned and come short of the glory of GOD, its not what i do its what i have accepted to believe, Christ already saved the world when he died on the cross, all we have to is have the faith to believe, if a believer falls on his journey are we suppose to say ohh your not saved because you don’t live it, well i doubt any of us live it everyday, we are to lift him or her up in prayer, and if the LORD abides inside they will change, but you can’t depend on works to earn salvation, it is on;y through Jesus Christ so when the Bible speaks about nothing can pluke from the hand of GOD why wouldn’t i believe that, no matter what i do or say if i believe what the bible says who made anyone a judge to say your not saved, when GOD says i am because i believe, do people doubt there salvation at times…sure they do.. but i don’t mean there not saved we are so wraped up so tight in GOD that no one can take our salvation not even ourselves because of John 3:16 I have everlasting life, Its in the heart of the believer, so i believe that once you are saved you are always saved, why would anyone want to crucify JESUS over and over when all it took was one time to cover all mans sins.