Do you really believe the doctrine that one prayer could save you forever – no matter what?
Let’s take a look at a doctrine I can speak to from the point of having believed it for my first twenty-seven years (or from whenever I started listening in Sunday School, at least). If it’s clearly taught in the Word of God, then it’s a viable doctrine. If it isn’t, then it’s a dangerous one, no matter how popular it is.
Matthew 18 records the story of a “certain king” (notice Jesus didn’t say this was a parable, but a story about a certain king) who would have sold a debtor and his family to pay his debts, but instead spared him and forgave the debt when he pleaded for mercy. The forgiven man then showed no mercy to another who owed him a small amount, and the enraged king, upon hearing of the wicked servant’s actions, delivered him to the tormentors until all could be paid. Jesus then warned, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” He’s talking about being delivered to the tormentors, which sure sounds like hell to me, and saying it would happen to his followers. Now, I don’t know about you, but all the situations that resulted in me needing to forgive someone didn’t happen before I came to God. As a person who has experienced his saving power and obeyed his word to be saved, I still have had major instances of needing to forgive. I believe I’m on safe ground in saying you have as well. So if you don’t forgive, and you die, knowing you’ve harbored unforgiveness in your heart, are you saying you should be able to stand before a Holy God, who robed himself in flesh and died on a cross to make a way for your sins, and expect him to let you in to his heaven, rather than to do what he said he would do, and deliver you to the tormentors? Isn’t it safer to believe that one has to repent of sin and forgive others that we might be forgiven, before we meet him face to face?
There are dozens of scriptures that could be used to challenge you to think about what you’re saying when you try to explain why “believers” are “eternally secure” after they pray a prayer to ask Jesus into their heart (which, I must say, though I’m not just writing with the intention of offending people, is not ever recorded as happening in the Bible). I know if you believe that, then my merely bringing it up is inflammatory. But if that’s what the Bible teaches, you have nothing to worry about. The question is, does the Bible teach that?
Consider these scriptures:
• 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
•1 John 2:24-25
Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. [And this is the promise that he hath promised us, ] even[ eternal life.]
•Colossians 1:20-23 (KJV)
20[And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, ] I say[, whether ] they be[ things in earth, or things in heaven.] 21[And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in ] your[ mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled] 22[In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:] 23If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
There are others, to be sure, but notice the common thread here: “if”. It’s being used to denote salvation at the end of life, if the faithfulness of the believer continues to the end of life.
Now, certainly there are those who argue that these scriptures mean something else, and faithfulness doesn’t count as a requirement for salvation. Revelation 17:1 says: These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. I believe everyone gets a call; people are chosen based on their response (obedience) to the call; being chosen isn’t enough without being faithful to obey until the end. Matthew 10:22-23 says: And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
I certainly agree that no man can pluck me out of his hand (John 10:28-29), but he never said I couldn’t walk out. No man can separate me from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39), but an example is given of Demas, mentioned two places as a fellow laborer and as working beside one of the most faithful laborers, Luke. In another scripture, however, he is later said by Paul to have forsaken him, “having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:2). Now, 1John 2:15 says, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Do you believe taking the same path Demas took would put me in a safe position to stand in judgement before a God I had shown I didn’t love, by choosing my love for the world over serving him?
1 John 2:3-5 says:
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. [He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.] [But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.]
Galatians 6:7-8 says it very plainly:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
God is love, and he will always love us; but he is also holy, and requires that we live holy lives as well (“Follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14).
God’s word clearly teaches that we are responsible to continue in obedience to him after we come to know him, if we hope to hear him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. (Matthew 25:23).