“Once saved, always saved” is one of those controversial philosophies sometimes discussed in the Christian community. It expresses one answer to the question of whether it is possible for a Christian to lose his or her salvation.
The critics of the “once saved…” view say that if that were true, then once having accepted Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins, Christians would be free to sin with impunity. Salvation becomes a get-out-of-hell card or a free pass on future misdeeds; a virtual license to sin.
I’ve thought about this a lot.
The way I see it, when Jesus suffered and died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins it was as though every single person who would ever live had a precious package deposited into a spiritual storage unit, a gift with each one’s name on it, just waiting to be picked up.
The package sits there until we learn about its existence and recognize our need of it. When that happens we only need to ask for it.
That package is the forgiveness of all our sins. There are no tags attached saying, “contents good for all sins committed prior to delivery” or “if a new sin is committed this package will self-destruct”. We ask for the package, we receive forgiveness for all our sins. No conditions or small print. We are free to put it on and wear it for the rest of our days. That’s grace.
As I understand it, the only way to lose this gift is to return it, rejecting both the gift and the giver.
So, what about people who accept this gift, then continue to sin?
Some may not have been aware of just what the gift was when they asked for it and only wanted to have what someone else had, or maybe they were curious about it, but they didn’t feel it was something they desperately needed at the time. Maybe after a short time they began to take the gift for granted, or to feel it was something they were entitled to, so they forget to be grateful.
When we recognize our need for forgiveness, how little we deserve it, and receive it as the miraculous, precious gift it is, overwhelming gratitude causes us to want to live a new life… as a sort of “thank you note” to God.
However, even the most grateful among us are constantly tempted and occasionally do sin, in large ways or small.
Any willful disobedience to God is sin. St. Paul, who recognized the value of this precious gift as much as any person who ever lived, also recognized his on-going need of it.
If our salvation was only in effect until we failed to live a perfect life it wouldn’t be much of a gift. Gifts given with strings attached are either bribes or tools of manipulation and fly in the face of God’s free-will approach to mankind.
So, if all this is correct, why should Christians concern themselves with avoiding sin?
I used to feel that the main reason for following the Lord was to avoid losing the blessings a life of obedience has to offer. It was more for the here and now than for the hereafter.
Then, one day not long ago I was reminded of a time in my youth when I did something to disappoint my parents. I had to face them to tell them what I had done. Now, I was always confident that my parents loved me, that there was nothing I could ever do to make them stop loving me, and I wasn’t afraid of punishment. I knew I’d be forgiven, eventually, but telling them of my actions and seeing the looks of hurt and disappointment on their faces pierced my young heart. Even now, I can feel the tender spot like an emotional bruise when my thoughts rest upon it.
Compare my experience of disappointing my Earthly parents to the immeasurably worse agony of seeing disappointment on the face of my Savior. I know he loves me. I know that whatever I do, I’m forgiven. Nothing can ever change that. But, oh, to have to look into his face of love and see disappointment in his eyes…
That is the true motivation for living an obedient Christian life…at least it is for me.