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For those of you who read the comments-boxes, there has been a veritable feast of controversy over the vitally important question of what it means to be ‘saved’. I am sorry if, to some, this causes grief, it is not meant to, but what is one to do when one perceives false doctrine? I have tried not to riducule Bosco, but I cannot simply let his views pass unchallenged. One of our commentators, Steve has provided a most interesting, and I think, illuminating commentary on Acts 2:38:

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Steve provides a number of readings of this which, whilst common enough, are none of them what Christians have believed, and none of which actually map onto what St Peter said. These bear rescuing from the comments section so a wider audience can benefit from them. Steve’s ten fictional readings include:

1. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized because your sins have already been forgiven. (Fictional Account)

Much the same can be said of the idea of being saved. As I understand him, our friend Bosco’s account of salvation would run along the lines of number 1 above. Bosco writes: If the saved do something wrong, it is up to them to ask to be forgiven, and the Lord is true and just to forgive us, and believes that even if he murders someone, he can ask for forgiveness and it will be given to him. This is, unless I have him wrong (and if so, apologies and an invitation to him to say what he does believe) a version of ‘once saved, always saved.’ But where, in Holy Scripture, does it say this? In Hebrews 10:26 we are told:

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

That we have to strive to overcome our sins to be saved seems so clear that it is surprising anyone ever thought otherwise. In Revelation 3:5 we read:

He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”

St Peter warns us:

For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire

So we see, clearly, in Scripture, that those who have known the way of righteousness can turn from it, and if they do, it would have been better for them that they had never known it. This, too, the author of Hebrews emphasises:

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

So it is clearly the case that those who have been enlightened by the Spirit can fall away, and they cannot then be renewed. We are not, here talking about what the Church would call venial sins, but rather about what it calls mortal sins – the sins which separate us from God.

So, becoming saved is not a licence to sin if we wish, because, as St John tells us:

 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

As St Paul says:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

So yes, those who truly follow Jesus, who are truly his, will not be lost, but that means abiding in His word, for it is the Truth which sets us free. But Paul disciplined himself, knowing that it was possible to lose the prize. If Jesus had preached onced saved, always saved, then why does Paul talk about working out his salvation in ‘fear and trembling’? What is there to worry about if once one has the assurance of salvation, one cannot lose it? Paul writes: ‘I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’ If we do not believe this, then we deny the word of the Spirit Himself:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,

Unless someone is willing to say this means that those who were saved, and have departed from the faith and have spoken lies are still ‘saved’, then we have to conclude that, however tempting the idea of ‘once saved. always saved’, it is un-Scriptural.