First of all, this article is not about the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” I do believe that once a person commits their life to Jesus Christ, they are saved forever and can never lose their salvation. This article is about something far deeper and not a subject that a majority of Christians know much about. For the unsaved this article might come as quite a shock and even, perhaps, offensive.
Imagine a Being who has been alive forever. He has no beginning and is perfect in every regard. There is nothing that He doesn’t know, nothing He must learn. Every event of human life was already known to God before He created the universe. He knew who would receive Jesus as their Savior and who would reject Him.
In spite of this knowledge, and because of God’s love, He still sent His Son to die for us on the cross. When Jesus died, He gave His life for every person who would be born upon the earth. Even those whom He knew would never receive Him, Jesus still took their sins and suffered, dying to remove their judgment.
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ~2 Peter 1:10-11
- Calling: from the Greek, κλῆσις klēsis, an invitation.
- Election: from the Greek, ἐκλογή eklogē;, God’s sovereign choice.
From 2 Peter 2:10-11, we can see that God has sent out an invitation to the whole world to be saved, but He also knew before He made the universe who would accept His invitation, and so He chose these individuals for salvation.
Because God knew who would be saved ahead of time, He can speak of these individuals as “chosen.” It does not mean that God haphazardly chooses some people for heaven and others for hell. It simply means that God, knowing who would be saved, chose these individuals for eternal life and all the blessings of eternity that He has prepared for them.
This choosing is based upon God’s foreknowledge and in no way impedes or obstructs the personal choice of the individual. If a person wants to be saved, they will be saved. If a person does not want to be saved, God will not force them.
When we meet an individual who is adamant that they do not want Jesus to forgive their sins, nor to go to heaven, this means they are not chosen. If we meet someone who embraces Jesus, loves Him, and eagerly receives the salvation He died to give us, it means that these persons are chosen by God.
We can see indications of this truth in certain places throughout the New Testament, primarily by the words and phrases that Jesus uses.
For example, in John’s Gospel chapter 10, Jesus calls Himself “the door,” and begins His description of those whom He calls, “His Sheep,” who “hear His voice,” and do not recognize the voice of any other person who claims to be the savior.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. ~John 10:1-6
This is our first indicator that there is something special about people who have placed their lives in Jesus’ hands. As those whom He has chosen, they are able to hear His voice and follow Him. This is indicative of a personal relationship and one where these individuals enjoy a closeness that the rest of the world cannot experience.
First and most important, those who believe, receive a Revelation. Those who hear Jesus voice, listen to what He says as they read His words in the Bible. Because Jesus is living inside us, He reveals secret things, deep principles about His word that the unsaved do not have access to.
The saved also have a significant benefit that is nearly impossible for the world to comprehend. Jesus is living inside the bodies of those who love Him and so He is speaking to their minds, the things He wants to communicate with them. When someone who loves Jesus says that “the Lord told me,” they are describing the voice of Jesus as He speaks to our mind.
For 43 years I have been hearing the Lord’s voice by way of thoughts that come from Him which He imparts to my mind. I know that it is His voice and not my own thoughts because what He says is never something I would have thought of at the time. It is a revelation or word of wisdom, a discernment, or knowledge about a situation or person that I would have no way of knowing by myself. Sometimes I get it wrong and it is my own thoughts I heard and not the Lord. This is okay with Jesus because He expects us to make mistakes but loves it when we try and step out to act because we sincerely believe He has spoken to us.
It is my opinion that once we arrive in heaven, this will be a primary way that God will speak to us and the way we will speak to Him and other persons. This is the power of thought. There is a good chance that we will travel at the speed of thought. All we must do is think of a place we would like to go, and we will be there. Being released from our three dimensional world and having no time to constrain us, we can move about and communicate instantaneously, by the spirit, and though thought.
One of the things that the world does not understand about a relationship with Jesus, is the intimacy that is involved. With other gods and religions there is no close, personal relationship. None of the gods or religions of the world have a relationship with their followers where they chose to live with them in the bodies of those who believe.
How Jesus speaks to us and lives through us is one of the most exciting parts of belonging to Him.
I Will Bring To Your Remembrance
In the course of my writing about the reliability of the New Testament, people inevitably want to know how mere men could write the words of God? People are curious about how 20 or 30 years went by after Jesus died and rose again, before the writers of the Gospels put into words the things Jesus said and did. How could these men remember the exact words of Jesus and specific events which took place, many years after these things took place?
Those whom God has chosen for eternal life, hear His voice and He brings to their remembrance the things He has said. This is a unique and distinct attribute that only those who follow Jesus have. This is a supernatural artifact of Christianity that is seldom known or understood by the world. It is God’s ability to speak to those who love Him, by His Spirit, which enables us to remember what God has said to us.
Jesus explained to His disciples that after He left earth and returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit would come and “bring to their remembrance all things He said to them.”
How were the writers of the New Testament able to remember the exact words that Jesus said? The Holy Spirit brought these things to their remembrance and these words they wrote for us in the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament.
These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. ~John 14:25-26
The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity. The Bible is clear that the Living God is One God who has revealed Himself in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to reveal who Jesus is and the purpose for His coming into the world. Once Jesus took the body of a man, He could no longer be everywhere at the same time. It was the task of the Holy Spirit to continue the work Jesus began, after He returned to Heaven.
Jesus told the disciples to wait for His promise of the Holy Spirit, at Jerusalem.
And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” ~Acts 1:4-5
The coming of the Holy Spirit marked the birth and beginning of Jesus’ church. This event and the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of the Holy Spirit are recorded for us in the Book of Acts.
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. ~Acts 2:1-4
It was a primary purpose of the Holy Spirit to remind the disciples of all the things Jesus had said and done during the years of His public ministry. For this reason, we can have confidence that what was written for us in the four Gospels was given to these men, by Jesus, as a part of this promise. The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
Let me explain to you how this happens. Jesus asked the disciples who they say He is. Peter replied that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus told Peter that this information did not come to him by his own thoughts, but as it was imparted to Peter’s mind by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. ~Matthew 16:15-17
On one particular morning as I was reading a totally unrelated verse of scripture in my Bible, the Holy Spirit spoke to my mind and reminded me of this verse of scripture from Matthew 16:15-17. He wanted me to use this as an explanation for how the Holy Spirit reminded the disciples of Jesus what He had said and done, so that they could write these precise words in the New Testament.
This has happened to me many times as I was teaching the Bible before a church congregation, at Bible College in Europe, and while writing my books. The Holy Spirit reminds those who are receptive to receive God’s wisdom, things that they need to know, say or write. This is for the purpose of making Jesus known and to reveal the truth of God’s word.
Paul later said that these words in the New Testament are scripture, the word of God, equal to those of the Old Testament.
Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe. ~1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NLT)
In John 17, as Jesus is praying to the Father, He said that these men, who had been with Him for three and one-half years, would write a record of all they heard and saw so that the whole world would know the truth about what Jesus said and did.
I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word… I have given them Your word…I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word. ~John 17:6-20
The God, who is described in Genesis 1:1, as the one who created the universe, who is described by Paul in Colossians 1 as Jesus who made all that exists, is the same God who has the power to cause the men He chose, to remember and record exactly what Jesus wants the world to know about Him. He has the power to preserve His word through every generation, so that it comes to us today uncorrupted as a truthful account of what really happened. If we think this is not possible, it is because we do not understand the power of God whom we are considering.
Those Who Are Not Chosen
A person might object to the idea that God has not chosen them. In this case, they can exercise their right to believe upon Jesus and be saved. At that point, they also are a part of those who God has chosen. The reason that people are not chosen for eternal life, is due to their choice to not believe in Jesus for salvation, and God’s sovereignty in knowing that they would never choose Jesus.
Those who are not chosen, achieved this designation from God because He could see ahead of time that they would not search for Him, nor seek to know Him. To these persons God has hidden Himself and He cannot be known.
An important principle of God is that He can only be known by the sincere. Those who seek to know God for purposes of mocking Him, or scoffing at His word or what His word states, will only be able to do so by very limited and superficial knowledge. This is the reason that atheists who conduct web sites for the purpose of discrediting God or His word, are irrelevant. They do not know who God is, nor can they understand Him, because He has hidden Himself.
Why Evidence Is Never Enough
Jesus tells us how a person can begin as a believer in Him and then lose their trust because of deception from people who do not believe.
He begins by telling the parable of the Sower:
Then Jesus spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.
But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” ~Matthew 13:3-9
Upon hearing this parable, the disciples of Jesus asked Him why He is speaking to the people in this manner and not telling them plainly what He means.
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’ ~Matthew 13:10-15
To the disciples, it has been given by God to know and understand; but to the majority of the world, it has not been given to understand.
Jesus is not saying that God doesn’t want people to know the truth but that in the hearts of many people, they do not really want to know. God understands this, and so He hides Himself and the truth of His word from those who do not really want to know.
We might think God would desire that people would know who He is, and we would be right. The problem is that because He is God and knows all things, He realizes that many people don’t want to turn from their sins and be saved. They like the way they are living and do not care to seek God.
There are others who begin as alleged believers; but when they are presented with doubts about God’s word they cannot stand up against these doubts. Over time they begin to change their mind, and the true heart of the person is observed.
As Jesus explains the meaning of the Parable, He said that when anyone hears the word of God but does not really understand it, the devil comes to steal away their trust and they fall away (Matthew 13:18-23). This is what happens to many people who say they once believed. Only those who endure with Jesus till the end were truly saved to begin with.
These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us. But you are not like that, for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth. ~1 John 2:19-20 (NLT)
When an atheist tells us that they don’t believe God exists, or that they have seen no evidence for God, what they are really saying is they were not chosen by God. In this regard, not everyone can be saved. Not that it is impossible for God, but that it is impossible for God to save them because this person has chosen not to believe.
We see an example of people who have “tasted’ of the good things of Jesus and heard the word of God about Him, but fall away and never go on to salvation. Paul wrote in the book of Hebrews that it is “impossible” to bring these persons back to Jesus so that they can be saved.
For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. ~Hebrews 6:4-6 (NLT)
By the condition these people have placed their hearts in, it is impossible for God to bring them back to repentance and salvation. To these people, God will remain hidden and they will be lost forever.
What we do with the knowledge we have about Jesus today, very well may determine whether or not we can ever be saved. Each time a person hears the Gospel of Jesus and rejects it, they grow increasingly more distant from God and they move closer to a place where the Holy Spirit can no longer reach their heart. At some point, those who continually reject Jesus, become impossible to save.
This is why it is extremely dangerous to hear the Good News about Jesus and reject it. We don’t know how many opportunities we will have before our heart and mind will close and we will never be able to be saved.