One of my very favorite theologians is Watchman Nee, the great Chinese evangelist, preacher, and martyr. He was one of the very first Christians I ever read. What did Nee believe about the doctrine of once saved, always saved?
Not everyone believes that salvation is eternally secure, but they should. Nee believed it was. He saw that clearly taught in Scripture. As he explained:
The eternal life declared in John 3:16 is the life of God which the Holy Spirit plants in man’s spirit. Since this life is God’s and cannot die, it follows that everyone born anew into possessing this life is said to have eternal life. As God’s life is totally unfamiliar with death, so the eternal life in man never dies (Nee, The Spiritual Man, pp. 66-67).
When you believe in Jesus, God regenerates your human spirit. By analogy, the Holy Spirit gives birth to the spirit within you (John 3:6). That’s what we popularly call being born again. You don’t get a new body or a new mind but a new spirit. Peter calls it the “hidden person of the heart” (1 Pet 3:4 NASB), while Paul calls it our “inner person” (2 Cor 4:16).
And then, when you have that new spirit, God implants His own life—eternal life—within it. At that moment, you become a child of God (John 1:12). And that changes your status before God. In fact, as Nee explains, it permanently changes the way God treats you:
Once a man is born of God he can never be treated by God as not having been so born of Him. However endless eternity may be, this relationship and this position cannot be annulled. This is because what a believer receives at new birth is not contingent upon a progressive, spiritual and holy pursuit after he believes but is the pure gift of God. What God bestows is eternal life. No possibility exists for this life and position to be abrogated (Nee, The Spiritual Man, p. 67, emphasis added).
Did you catch what Nee said? He reasons, the sheer giftedness of salvation means you cannot lose it.
There is a growing emphasis on grace all around the world. More and more people are becoming aware that salvation is genuinely by faith, apart from works. And as Nee explains, the fact that eternal life is given apart from what you do—apart from your best efforts—means you cannot lose it. You never merited receiving, so you can never deserve to lose it. The new birth is permanent, irrevocable, and forever. Once saved, always saved.
Thought for the day: If you preach grace, you must also preach that eternal life never dies.
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