Christians can go to two extremes. One extreme is to say, "Once saved, I'm always saved, no matter what I do." The other is to say, "Nobody can claim the assurance of salvation."
The truth lies between these extremes. The Lord wants us to rejoice that we are on our way to glory and to be able to sing, "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine." At the same time, He wants us to take heed lest we fall and be willing to sing, "Christian, walk carefully; danger is near."
King David struck a very good balance when he said in Psalm 2:11, "Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling." Ponder that. "Rejoice, but tremble." "Tremble, but rejoice."
A Word to the Rejoicing
"Once saved, always saved" is a good slogan, provide you put an if on the end. "Once saved, always save if." This is no more or less than what the Bible says.
Jesus said to the Jews who believed in Him, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31).
Paul wrote in a letter, "I declare unto you the gospel... by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you" (1 Corithians 15:1-2). In another letter, he wrote, "You... hath he reconciled... to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Colossians 1:21-23).
Hebrews 3:6 says, "[Christ's] house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." Peter said, "If you do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). John added, "Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" (1 John 2:3).
Don't expect to coast to heaven. Here are a few practical things the Lord has told us to do if we expect Him to claim us in the end.
Be thankful. Paul, describing backsliders in Romans 1:21, said, "When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful."
Be victorious over sin. All sinful habits and fleshly indulgences must be forsaken. First John 3:8 says, "He that committeth [lives in] sin is of the devil."
Be faithful in praying and in reading the Bible. It is one way to abide in Jesus. Jesus said in John 15:6 that branches failing to abide in the vine are cast forth, "and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
Be obedient. Jesus said in Luke 6:46, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"
Be on fire. Share the Gospel with a friend or neighbor. That is just one way to be on fire. Jesus said to some so-called Christians, "Because thou are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16).
Beware. Verse 17 of 2 Peter 3 says, "Beware lest ye... fall from your own steadfastness."
Christian, walk carefully!
A Word to the Trembling
Perhaps you see dangers all around you and you realize that there are many more that you do not see. This is good, but remember that this strong point in you can also be a weakness. While the confident Christians need to keep the if in front of them, you might need to guard against seeing only the if in each Bible verse and look more diligently at the promise that follows it.
What was it that Jesus said? "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." What did Peter say? "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall." By inference, what did John say? "If we keep his commandments, we do know that we know him."
John said again, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). And again, "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:12).
Look also at how strong and able God is to take care of us. Jude said that the Lord "is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). Paul said, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). Paul said again, "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:32). The writer to the Hebrews said, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
At this point someone cries, "I know God is able, but I'm not sure about me!" True, just because God is able does not mean we ourselves with absolutely not fail. But are you sure that it is yourself you are doubting, and not God? Are you sure you are not displaying a lack of faith? The Bible says, "Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).
The Bible plainly says that God is not handicapped just because He has to work through frail people like us. Paul said, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
Peter spoke of "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1 Peter 1:4, 5).
Paul said again, "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Paul, knowing the Lord so well, became so confident that he said things that sound almost boastful. But even here, notice how he gives all the glory to the Lord. "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (2 Timothy 4:18). And again, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).
The following verse was spoken by Moses, and old warrior of faith, but it sounds like the trustful sigh of a child. "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27).
Blessed assurance! Once saved, there is no good reason why we cannot be always saved. Our salvation is conditional, but we can claim it with complete confidence. Let us serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.