Many Christians use the phrase ‘Once saved, always saved‘ as a way to summarize how salvation in Christ is eternally secure. One of the most common verses from the Bible used to support this doctrine is:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” – John 10:27-29 RSV
It is quite common to hear within Evangelical Christianity that once a person experiences God’s grace, it is impossible for them to turn it down or fall astray. But what I find problematic with this ideology is there is no denying that Christians continue to struggle with sin, even after having a ‘conversion experience.’ The statement in itself seems to imply that a person who is saved can do no wrong, or even fall from grace during periods of spiritual drought.
To me, this is a recipe for arrogance.
If grace is so irresistible, why did Adam and Eve choose to disobey God in the state of grace they were in? Or did God create the forbidden fruit to be more irresistible than Himself?
Why did the Hebrews grow tired of eating manna from Heaven in the desert? Did God create the manna to be so delicious that they would never get sick of it?
Peter denied Christ not once, but three times. If Peter’s faith was sufficient in itself, shouldn’t he have willingly acknowledged his association with Jesus without any hesitation?
Did God create Judas specifically to betray Jesus? Does this mean Judas was destined for damnation? The Bible does not say whether Judas went to Hell, nor is it really our place to assume that he did. But if Judas felt a tremendous amount of guilt for handing Jesus over to the authorities, doesn’t this imply that he deeply regrets ‘resisting’ the graces he witnessed throughout the entire time he was in Jesus’ company?
Lucifer knew God’s grace firsthand and still rebelled along with a third of the angels in heaven. If angels were not created with the capacity to choose to love and worship Him, then they would be like robotic slaves. If Lucifer was created to rebel and had no choice in the matter, then ultimately God Himself is the Author of Sin and the Father of Lies, not Lucifer.
In fact, John Calvin’s written Institutes of the Christian Religion says so itself…
“Hence a distinction has been invented between doing and permitting because to many it seemed altogether inexplicable how Satan and all the wicked are so under the hand and authority of God, that he directs their malice to whatever end he pleases, and employs their iniquities to execute his Judgments.” – Book 1, Chapter 18.1
Often when Christians make mistakes that lead them down difficult paths, fellow church-goers are quick to assume that they were never saved to begin with. I’ve experienced several instances in my life when I wanted absolutely nothing to do with God, and have many friends who abandoned Christianity due to the unjust treatment they received from other Christians. People who judge the salvation of others based on the decisions they make or how they feel are only pretending to understand God’s judgement.
The notion of Irresistible Grace is a passive-aggressive excuse for pharisaical Christians to label and cast stones. It does nothing but drive a wedge between elitist congregationalists and people who have been wounded by the church.
Although if Irresistible Grace were true, the only person I can think of off the top of my head aside from Jesus who was seemingly innocent of resisting God’s grace was none other than His own mother, the Virgin Mary. This is one of the reasons why I believe in Mary’s Immaculate Conception, because if Total Depravity were true then Jesus should have inherited that same depravity through His mother. The Catholic Church teaches that God rescued her and protected her from Original Sin in a unique way so that He could enter into the world as a sinless human Himself (Luke 1:28).
With these in mind, I accept Irresistable Grace, but in a sense that it only applies to both Jesus and Mary.