A reader sent me an email and asked the following:
Hi there, I stumbled upon your blog by accident (or was it predestined…?), by doing a search on Calvinism, and I’ve enjoyed reading it. I do have a question, though, and it goes like this:How can a person believe in the doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved”, when in I Cor. 6:9-11 the Bible says,”Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God.”Paul was writing to the SAVED CHRISTIANS in Corinth. Why else would he warn them of losing their salvation if that weren’t a real possiblity?
Interestingly Paul nowhere in this passage speaks of someone loosing their salvation. What he is instead speaking of is the fact that people should not feel assured that the will inherit the kingdom of God if they remain in their sin. There is an “easy believism” which would claim that people are saved without any fruit of repentance in their lives. The bible knows nothing of that. Jesus came not to save us in our sin but rather to save us from our sin. Of course nothing I am saying in this post should be taken as in any way contradicting what I said about legalism earlier this week.
Also, nowhere in the passage or in the Corinthian literature is there an assumption that Paul is only writing to the “saved”. Rather, Paul is writing to the gathered body of the church. Some attenders of the churches then and now might indeed demonstrate by their actions that they are not true members of the body.I addressed this issue previously in a post on Perseverance which was part of a series of posts on the five points of calvinism. I made the point that “if by salvation you mean walking forward at a crusade LOADS of people seem to loose that. But, by now, you should realise that Calvinists do not believe that a superficial “decision for Christ” is what constitutes a Christian. If being born again is something done to you, how can you be unborn? Really this doctrine was always taken to mean that true Christians will persevere in their faith till the end. “
I then spoke about those who appear to have lost their faith and argued that they are in one of three positions which I would argue that we cannot always easily distinguish-
1. They may never have been saved at all
2. They may be currently away from God but will return before the end
3. They may still have vestiges of faith and might be in the category mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3:15 who’s “work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
The one thing they are not is someone who was once a Christian and now is not.
I hope that begins to answer my correspondents question. Perhaps some of my readers would like to take the question up further.
UPDATE: I have now written a much longer answer to this question: