John 3:36; 6:47
1 John 5:11,13
"Have you accepted the Lord Jesus as your personal Saviour? Have you been born again and washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you a saved man?" These are the frequent exclamations of Evangelicals; but is their view supported by scripture? It must be asked what the one means by "saved". There is, for example, a temporary and an ultimate sense in which "saved" can be used.
The following illustration shows the differing, but related ways in which "saved" can be used: Imagine a downed bush pilot in the Canadian Arctic desperately attempting to maintain his body heat in -60°F weather. Weakened by loss of blood and broken bones, the cold of the icy blasts drives like nails through the parka's folds. At night the circle of half-starved wolves becomes increasingly brazen. But suddenly in the few hours of daylight, a noise is heard out of the skies and overhead a rescue plane is seen coming in the direction of the downed craft. "Thank God, I'm saved" cries the bush pilot. But he is not completely out of danger. The rescue craft may be unable to land on the rough ice surface and by the time a rescue team travels several miles the pilot may perish from loss of blood or fall victim to the wakeless sleep of the Arctic cold. Even when rescued by the team and placed in the rescue aircraft he is not "saved" in the strict sense of the term. The rescue craft may lose a ski on a protruding chunk of ice or may itself be ruined from carburetor-icing or a down-draft. Not until the bush pilot is safely back at the base and fully recovered from his ordeal, can he be said in the fullest sense to be "saved".
Similarly in the Bible, Jude states that God "having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not." (Jude 5). "Having saved" is not used in the ultimate sense of eternal salvation.
Three distinct uses of "saved" occur in Scripture. Care in their use is required to avoid the misleading and disastrous conclusions of Evangelicals.
In the past, God manifested His great salvation in the person and work of Christ. This is appropriated by the believer at his baptism. A life of discipleship follows in which the salvation is worked out in fashioning a new creation. It is not until the Day of Judgment, that one is ultimately saved. It is, therefore, presumptuous for a man to consider himself unalterably reserved for eternal life before that time.
- "Saved" in the past tense referring to the sacrificial work of Christ or when the believer avails himself of that sacrifice at his baptism.
- "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (2 Tim. 1:9). The reference here is to the sacrifice of Christ in the plan of God.
- "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5). This verse refers to the believer's acceptance of divine salvation at baptism, therefore the past tense is used.
- "Saved" in the present tense (continuous tense in the Greek). These passages indicate that salvation is a continuing process throughout the whole of the believer's life.
- ". . . And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved [were being saved, R.S.V.]." (Acts 2:47).
- "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; buy unto us which are saved [being saved, R.S.V.], it is the power of God." (1 Cor. 1:18).
- "By which salvation ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you . . ." (1 Cor. 15:2).
- "For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved [are being saved, R.S.V.] . . ." (2 Cor. 2:15).
- "Saved" in the future tense and ultimate sense.
- ". . . but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." (Matt. 10:22).
- "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (1 Cor. 3:15). This passage refers to salvation at the Day of Judgment.
- "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1 Cor. 5:5). This passage likewise refers to salvation at the Day of Judgment.
- "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." (1 Tim. 4:16). Timothy had been appointed leader of the ecclesia by Paul. According to Evangelical teaching Timothy was "a saved man". But note, the Apostle Paul writes of Timothy's salvation as yet future and conditional on giving heed to the doctrine.
Arguments from Hebrews
- Read Heb. 3:12-14; 6:4-6 and 10:26-29. There is no way the "saved" Evangelicals can evade the force of these passages. Were or were not these believers saved? Since the references specifically state that they were "brethren", were "partakers of Christ", "enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit . . . and have tasted . . . the powers of the world to come", it is idle for Evangelicals to evade the issue by saying they never were in the way of life or "saved".
- The second question follows: Since these believers were in the way of life, did (or could) they fall away? The fact that a "sorer punishment" and "fiery indignation" awaited such reprobates (of who it is said that it is impossible to renew them again to repentance since they crucify afresh the Son of God and put him to an open shame - Heb. 6:6) is proof that either the believers had committed such offences, or were about to. Either is fatal to Evangelical claims that believers are irrevocably reserved for eternal blessedness.
- The logic of the above reasoning may be summarized as follows:
- Believers in the way of life had either fallen or were about to fall from their calling.
- Upon such a "sorer punishment" will come.
- But if believers are to be punished, then they are not irrevocably reserved for eternal favour, and by implication believers have no justification for claiming "eternal security".
Arguments from the life and statements of the Apostle Paul.
- Was the Apostle "saved" when he confessed, "What shall I do, Lord?" (Acts 22:10). (The answer is inevitably, "Yes.") Then why was he told, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16). If he were "saved", (having had his sins washed away when he said, "What shall I do, Lord?") why was he told not to tarry but to arise and wash away his sins?
- If the Apostle were "eternally secure" how is one to understand the following language: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect . . . Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended . . ." (Phil. 3:10-13).
- Similarly: "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to other, I myself should be a castaway." (1 Cor. 9:27). Is this the language of a man who knows that his eternal blessedness is already fully assured?
- The Apostle Paul said, "That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:7). But the Apostle defined hope explicitly: "hope that is seen is not hope: for what man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" (Rom. 8:24). If the Apostle had already been assured of eternal security, why was he in hope of eternal life?