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Beware the Complacency of ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’

eternal security

“Once saved, always saved” is the layperson’s rendering of the doctrine of eternal security. And it stands in the way of Christian commitment sometimes. Here’s how.

Too many cultural Christians think church is a good thing, but they are not committed.

They are not involved in any ministry.

They don’t sacrificially give.

They couldn’t tell you the last time they told someone about Jesus.

They come to church about once every couple months, because they are “just so busy.”

(Plus, their extended family has a beach house and so they try to get down to it for the weekend whenever the weather is nice.)

For these people, church is a good thing, but they’re just not interested in making it a priority.

Ask any of these people if they are saved, and they will say “yes.” They will tell you about a time when they prayed a prayer and got baptized. But they don’t live their lives as if Jesus is Lord.

Aren’t these like the branches that God removed from Israel?

“Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, do not boast that you are better than those branches … they were broken off because of unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but beware, because if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”

– Romans 11:17–21 CSB

If we see that God was willing to cut off branches from his own original tree because of their unbelief, why would we (who have been grafted somewhat unnaturally into this Jewish tree) ever think we can get away with the very things that got them removed?

The same transgressions that got Israel removed from the tree—compromise, taking their salvation for granted, giving lip-service to God, and going through religious motions without their hearts really belonging to him—are rampant within the church today.

I am especially concerned for children who grow up in church, are raised in Christian families, and live up to expectations by, at some point, “getting saved.” They avoid most major sins—at least, the ones they think are major. But in their heart of hearts, they know Jesus is not Lord.

If this is you, Paul says, “Wake up! If this is what God did to the sons and daughters of Abraham, it’s what he will do to you, too!”

Sometimes Christians will use a perverted version of the doctrine of eternal security to assure themselves they belong to God. This doctrine says, “once saved, always saved.” That is, once you are truly saved, you can never lose it.

Eternal security is a glorious and comforting truth. But notice what Paul says in Romans 11:20: You will be kept if you avoid the unbelief that overcame Israel and “stand by faith.”

If.

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J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.