One of the most recognized and memorized Bible verses in the world is John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Many non-Christians will be familiar will this passage – however, its familiarity can lead to us missing things. The whole of John 3 is a fantastic summary of the gospel but there are assumptions in mainstream evangelical Christianity that are very dangerous. One of these is the ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine that is promoted by many churches – this states that if you have made a profession of faith at some point in your life, you are saved no matter what you believe for the rest of your life. We have blogged on this before as there is a multitude of Bible passages that teach the believer needs to endure to the end to be assured of salvation, but there is also a hint of this in the Bible verse above that can be easily missed. Here is the verse above in the Greek:
οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ᾽ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. (Joh 3:16 BGT, emphasis added)
The verb πιστεύων (in bold) means ‘to believe’, or ‘have faith’ or to be ‘convinced of’. In this verse, the verb comes as a participle and is in the present active form. This suggests that belief spoken of here is something that needs to continue to be exercised in order to have everlasting life – in other words, he who ‘continues to believe’ will have everlasting life. It’s not something you do once and then forget about – you have to continue to actively engage in the ‘belief’ to be a partaker in the reward – the obvious implication is that if you stop believing in Jesus, you forfeit the everlasting life that is spoken off. Saying something like this is tantamount to blasphemy in some Christian circles but it appears to be what the text implies.
Having said this, it is essential to point out that the Bible is absolutely crystal clear in reassuring believers that no-one can snatch their salvation away from them – however, this is very different from a person who becomes saved and then at some point in the future consciously makes a decision to walk away from Christ. We have to exercise ‘free will’ to repent of our sins in order to be saved in the first place. God never forces His way into our lives – would God forcibly stay in the life of someone who wanted Him out? Of course not! We do not surrender ‘free-will’ when we are saved – we have to continue to willingly walk with God and exercise our faith in order to produce fruit – there are many parables that explain this.
The big question for each of us is this: Are we continuing to exercise faith in Jesus Christ? If the answer is no, there is a problem and now is the time to re-commit and actively walk with the Lord!
But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:23)