Tag Archives: once saved always saved

Eternal Security Debate Recap — B.J. Clarke

In 2016, in Lafayette, Tennessee, a Missionary Baptist Preacher by the name of Michael Brawner had a public discussion on the subject of baptism with brother Jack Honeycutt.   That discussion brought about so many positive results and conversions that the elders of the Willette Church of Christ (in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee) sought to shine the light of Truth in the community on other matters of doctrinal importance. I received an invitation to participate in a public discussion with Michael Brawner concerning the matter of eternal security.

Mr. Brawner and I corresponded and agreed to participate in a public discussion at the Macon County Junior High School auditorium in Lafayette, Tennessee on May 26-27, 2017. We consented to follow certain rules, and we submitted propositions to one another for review and approval.

The Propositions

On Friday night, May 26th, Michael Brawner affirmed: “The scriptures teach that those who have been born again cannot so far depart from the will of God as to be finally lost in hell.”

On Saturday afternoon, May 27th, I affirmed: “The Scriptures teach that one saved by the blood of Christ can thereafter fall from grace by departing from the living God, and thus be lost eternally.”

The Presentations

Does the Bible teach the doctrine of “once saved, always saved”? Does the Christian have any security at all in Christ?

Michael Brawner’s Affirmatives

In his first presentation, and throughout the discussion, Mr. Brawner affirmed that if man could do anything to bring about his salvation, or to keep it, this would constitute salvation by works and nullify the grace of God. He argued that since grace is God’s doing, then once a man is in God’s grace that man is always in God’s grace; otherwise God’s efforts to save him would have failed, and man would be greater in power than God.

The problem with this argument is that it forgets the fact that God chose to give man the responsibility to obey His will in order to receive the benefits of His grace (Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:8-9; Eph. 2:8-9). Thus, when man obeys God, in order to receive His promised blessings, he is not wresting the role of Savior away from God.  Rather, he is humbling himself before God. This is true, not only in becoming a Christian, but also in remaining a faithful child of God.

The argument also fails to recognize that there are different types of works spoken of in the New Testament. Salvation is not by works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21), works of the Law of Moses (Rom. 3:28), or works of human devising wherein we may boast (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). However, works of obedience, while not meritorious, are essential to be accepted with God (Acts 10:34-35; Psa. 119:172; James 2:17-24).

One of the chief arguments made by Mr. Brawner in the discussion had to do with the composition of man as both flesh and spirit.  However, Mr. Brawner’s position was/is that, because the flesh and spirit are different in nature, what one does in the flesh does not affect the salvation of the soul.  This is not a new argument.  Famed Missionary Baptist preacher, Ben Bogard, affirmed the same. He taught that once one becomes a Christian his soul becomes incapable of sinning. He cited 1 John 3:9 as proof of this. Consider the following quotation from the debate Ben Bogard had with N. B. Hardeman:

“But the reason given why they cannot sin is not because they can’t do it consistently — his seed remaineth in you — therefore you cannot sin!  Jesus Christ remains in us!  That prevents sin.  My soul Sin?  No.  ‘Has Brother Bogard ever sinned?’  In my soul, I do not.  I am as perfect as God himself as far as my soul is concerned.  Then what about my body?  It does sin.  (Hardeman-Bogard Debate, pp. 309-310).

Whereas the Bible certainly does recognize that man is made of flesh and spirit, the teaching of Scripture is emphatic that what we do in the flesh affects our soul/spirit. Paul concluded: “…I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23). If one’s soul is automatically preserved blameless once and for all, why would Paul pray for something to be that was already guaranteed to be?!

Furthermore, Paul warned the Corinthians, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). This settles it—the things we do in our body, in our flesh, are the very things we will answer for when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ!

Does the Christian have a God-given responsibility to avoid the sins of the flesh because those sins will contaminate the soul? Let Paul answer the question: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

B.J. Clarke’s Affirmatives

The Teaching of Ezekiel. Ezekiel 18:24-32 is a devastating passage for the proponents of the once saved, always saved doctrine. This text states emphatically the possibility of a righteous man turning from his righteousness (18:24), and also states the consequence of this turning—“for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die” (18:26).

The Teaching of Jesus. Many words of Jesus have been isolated by some in an attempt to prove unconditional eternal security. Mr. Brawner brought up passages like John 5:24; John 6:37, and John 10:28-29 in an attempt to prove his proposition. However, upon closer inspection these texts actually deny his proposition because they all employ present continuous action verbs to indicate that the promised blessing is only for those who keep on hearing, believing, coming, and following. You can have a driver’s license right now and yet lose it in the future because of future crimes. Possessing something right now does not necessarily guarantee permanent possession.

In my very first speech, (my first negative) I made certain to emphasize that I/we believe in the eternal security of the believer, as long as he remains a believer. Jesus did teach the doctrine of eternal security in John 10:28-29, but He promised it unto the sheep described in John 10:27. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Accordingly, the sheep that will never perish are the sheep that keep on hearing the voice of Jesus and following His lead. But what about the sheep who quit following the Shepherd? They are not the ones promised eternal security! In fact, Jesus further taught that a branch that did not remain connected to the vine would be cast forth and burned (John 15:1-6).

The Teaching of Paul. Paul knew that men in a covenant relationship with God could fall and thus he warned, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:1-12). He informed the Galatians that their decision to seek justification in the Law of Moses meant that “ye are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). In one of the most compelling passages, Paul affirmed that he kept his body in subjection lest he himself should be a castaway (1 Cor. 9:27). Paul was cleansed by the blood of Christ, and yet knew that he could end up castaway from God if he did not keep his body under control! Does this mean that Paul lived in constant doubt and fear? Far from it—he affirmed his readiness to die and knew that he would receive a crown of life (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

The Teaching of Peter. One text from Peter’s pen deals a demolishing blow to the once saved, always saved doctrine. In 2 Peter 2:20-22, he described those who had escaped the pollutions of the world and had become entangled again therein. Are they still saved, according to Peter? The inspired writer affirmed, “The latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” Does their apostasy mean they were never washed in the first place? No! They were washed but went back to the muck and mire of sin (2 Pet. 2:20-22).


This is but a small sample of the many passages discussed.  The full discussion is available on DVD.  As for measurable results, a young man came up to me during the discussion and said, “I was converted to Christ after the discussion last year on baptism. I left the denominational church my family raised me up in, and it has been very difficult. However, the truth you have preached here this weekend has confirmed for me that I made the right choice. Thank you.” If that is the only good to come of this discussion it was certainly worth every hour of preparation!

B.J. is a faithful gospel preacher of the Lord who is also involved in teaching future preachers at the Memphis School of Preaching, teaching on the Gospel Broadcasting Network, and many other fruitful works in the kingdom.





Perseverance Of The Saints – Mike Mitchell

The doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved,” also known as “The Perseverance of the Saints,” promotes the idea that a child of God cannot so sin as to be eternally lost. This is an idea as hold as man himself. It was preached in the Garden of Eden by that old serpent, Satan (Gen. 3:4-5). This evil doctrine was first preached to Adam and Eve. God had said to them, “for in the day you eat of the forbidden fruit you would surely die” (Gen. 2:17). In contradiction, Satan said, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). In our present day, he was saying, “You as a child of God shall not be condemned because it is impossible for you to fall and be lost.” However, the evidence that he lied is overwhelming. The Word of God, the suffering of the human race, and the marble stones found throughout cemeteries all over the world show him to be a liar.

In order to correctly represent this doctrine that was born in the heart and soul of Satan himself, we quote the following: “We believe that the Holy Scriptures teach that such only are real believers as endure unto the end: that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes these from superficial professors: that a special Providence watches over their welfare: and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” (What Baptists Believe and Why They Believe It, Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

The Southern Manual For Baptist Churches, edited by Edward T. Hiscox, says: “We believe the Scriptures teach that such as are truly regenerate, being born of the Spirit, will not utterly fall away and perish, but will endure unto the end.” (p. 67)

The Issue

We ask, “What is the issue?” When one rightly divides God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15), these scriptures emphasize God’s love, his power, and his desire to save mankind.

The truth is salvation from sin is conditional. Eternal salvation is conditional. No one goes to heaven accidentally. The future inhabitants of heaven will have planned to go there. They desired to go there, and they sacrificed to go there. The child of God who refuses or neglects to comply with God’s conditions of eternal salvation can no more be saved than the alien sinner who refuses or neglects to comply with God’s terms of pardon (Heb. 5:8-9; 2:1-4; Matt. 7:21).


This matter of obedience has always been a problem of mankind. Ask the average believer, “What is the meaning of obedience?” They will readily say, “Obeying God’s commands.” That is correct. However, in this day and time we must seek a deeper meaning as to what obedience entails. It means to do what God says, the way God says, and for the reason(s) God says.

Paul wrote, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). When we go to the Old Testament, we see how the Lord in his goodness has given us two examples which define the meaning of obedience:

Moses. In Numbers 20:1-12, the record says that the children of Israel complained and quarreled with Moses because they did not have the comforts of Egypt and no water to drink (vs. 3-4). Moses and Aaron took the matter to the Lord (v. 6). The Lord gave them instructions on what to do. Notice what God said: “Take thy rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water” (vs. 8-9). However, Moses did not comply with the meaning of obedience. He struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it as God had commanded him, and suffered the consequences of his disobedience when God decreed he would not bring the children of Israel into the Promised Land (v. 12). Moses, a child of God, saw the Promised Land but died outside of it due to his disobedience.

King Saul. Scripture records how the Lord’s servant, Samuel, came to King Saul and told him what the Lord wanted him to do (1 Sam. 15:2-9). Saul’s armies were to destroy everything of Amalek, all men, women, children, and their possessions. With this in mind, remember the meaning of obedience: doing what God says, the way God says, and for the reason(s) God says. If one does not comply with any of these facets, they disobey God. The record shows that Saul disobeyed the Lord by sparing King Agag, the best of the sheep and cattle, and all that was good (v. 9). As a result of his disobedience, he lied to Samuel (vs. 13, 20) and disobeyed the Lord by doing evil in his sight (v. 19). Note what the prophet said to Saul in verse 22: “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Because Saul did not listen and do exactly what God commanded, he lost his kingdom and perhaps his soul.

Today’s generation needs to listen to what Samuel said to Saul: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (v. 22; cf. Acts 3:22-23; Matt. 17:5). We should listen to Jesus, the Son of God, because he and only he has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

God’s Desire That All Men Be Saved

God wants everyone to be saved (2 Pet. 3:9). He finds no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23). However, mankind must comply with the conditions God has given in his Word in order to insure our eternal salvation (Tit. 2:11-12; Mark 16:16). Old Balaam said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Num. 23:10). However, one cannot die the death of the righteous if one does not live the life of the righteous.

This is why God repeatedly warns the righteous to continue holding fast to his Word in order to avoid a meaningless faith (1 Cor. 15:1-2). This is why Christians are exhorted to walk in the light and confess our sins in order to continually receive the cleansing power of forgiveness through the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7-9). This is why the saved are urged to grow in Christian graces, being specifically warned that “IF you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Pet. 1:5-10).

Let us think on these things as we travel the highway of life. Our salvation and our eternal destiny depends on it.