It's Wednesday night, and just before prayer meeting you spot some visitors to the church. After introducing yourself, one of the visitors says the church he came from taught that you should walk in holy fear of losing your salvation. "I hear you Baptists believe in 'once-saved-always-saved.' Where'd you get an idea like that." You graciously respond with the following illustration:
When I was a child, a neighbor lad gave me his pet squirrel for the very good reason that his mother had told him to get it out of the house! My parents spoke with his parents, and agreed to the gift. I was quite thrilled with my new possession and greatly enjoyed the animal until the same kind and generous neighbor lad came back three days later and told me that his mother changed her mind, and therefore I had to give him back the squirrel.
I protested; I complained. A gift was a gift. I beseeched my own parents to intervene, but the decision went against me because of certain conditional arrangements made with the boy's mother of which I was unaware. So the squirrel was gone. My parents then gave me a brief lecture concerning gifts. There are gifts which are given permanently — such as birthday presents — but some gifts came with "strings attached," which might be revoked under certain circumstances. Here the "string attached" was a reversed decision by my friend's mother, which my parents knew could occur.
I learned some theology that day, though it was expressed in mundane terms. God provides two types of gifts: some are absolutely free, but some have conditions attached. We speak of these as God's covenants; some of God's covenants are "conditional" while others are "unconditional."
In a conditional covenant, the recipient receives certain blessings from God, bestowed freely, provided that certain conditions of obedience are met and maintained. Should those conditions no longer be fulfilled, God reserves the authority to withdraw any or all of those blessings at His pleasure. The conditional covenants of God are invariably accompanied by an attached "if" string: "IF you do thus and so, THEN God will do this for you"; or "IF you do not do thus and so, THEN God will not do this for you." A conditional covenant is like that squirrel gift — strings are attached BEFORE the blessing is bestowed, and the blessing can be withdrawn if conditions change.
In an unconditional covenant, however, God freely bestows blessings upon a people with "no strings attached." He will NEVER take away blessings of this type; they are a permanent gift which the recipient retains forever.
Some sincere believers confuse God's covenants and think that salvation itself is conditional. According to this view, should God become offended by sin in the believer's life which is sufficiently great or too frequent, He might totally withdraw His grace gift of salvation and eternal life from that believer. If this were true, then grace would become meaningless, and salvation would be dependent upon one's continued good works and acts of obedience.
The Bible clearly states, however, that salvation is with "no strings attached." Although sin and disobedience may result in the divine discipline of the believer (Heb. 12:6), it is the corrective discipline of a loving Father and not the severe judgment of a wrathful Deity.
Salvation is a gift, given in grace to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. There is NO "if"-string attached to the gospel declaration: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you SHALL be saved" (Acts 16:31). Neither are there any strings attached to the promise that "everyone who believes in Him should not perish but should have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16).
Jesus Himself declares the unconditional nature of the salvation covenant:
"The one hearing my word and believing the One having sent me HAS eternal life and does NOT come into judgment, but has passed over from death into life" (Jn. 5:24).
"All whom the Father gives me shall come to me, and the one coming to me I will in no way cast out" (Jn. 6:37).
"I give to them eternal life, and forever they shall in no way perish; and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father ... has given [them] to me ... and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand" (Jn. 10:28-29).
While they must not take sin lightly, avoiding its every temptation, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should not live with continual worry whether their sin might cost their salvation. Jesus Christ settled the sin question on the cross once and for all. We instead should rejoice that the salvation covenant has "no strings attached," and that from the moment we made the faith decision trusting the Lord Jesus Christ our eternal salvation is secure. Besetting sins and temporary failures which may occur in our lives will NEVER cause our salvation to be forfeit; rather, we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ permanently and confidently retain the glorious hope of eternal life with Christ in the New Heavens and New Earth.
This episode of the Wednesday Night Chronicles is written by Southeastern Seminary professor Maurice A. Robinson. All Bible quotes are his own translation.