We have been studying the concept of once-saved-always-saved. We have seen that salvation is by grace through faith. It is not based upon human merit and good behavior. We have seen that a salvation that is based upon good behavior might well reward good people with a good reward (heaven), but, since all people sin, have sinned, and will sin, a salvation that is based upon good behavior means no human beings will be saved. People are not essentially good. People are essentially selfish and it is a great struggle to do things without that self-interest being a part of our motivation. So, a key question of the dogma that once you are saved, you are saved forever, becomes a question of whether a person can be saved who does not have a penitent heart.
But that raises a host of other questions. What is a penitent heart? How does one come to possess such a heart? Is a person once-penitent, always-penitent? What happens if a person comes to repentance at some point in time, but later becomes hardened to the love of Jesus? Does the gift of eternal life come from God on the basis of repentance, or on the basis of a person's ability to maintain penitence all of his lifetime? How do we answer all of these questions?
To attempt an answer to the last question first, let me just say that answers that do not come from the revelation of God in His Word, the Bible, are answers that cannot put our hearts at rest. For example, in the last couple of articles we have heard and read about 52 more people who either entered into a suicide pact, or were murdered, who were all members of a religious group who gave unquestioning loyalty to a human leader. Doubtless these people would have told anyone who asked them that they were loyal to this man because his teachings gave them a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life. They would have claimed that they both understood and believed the truth. But, their end testifies that their faith was misplaced, and its fruits (a sense of purpose and meaning in life) were a temporary illusion in their minds. They ended up being 52 foolish people who forsook the biblical admonition to let the Word of God dwell in them richly so that they wouldn't be led astray by some strange doctrine. The sad thing about being foolish is that death lurks behind every turn and no one can tell which turn will be his last. People who put their trust in some supposedly infallible man, as opposed to putting their trust in the infallible Word of God, are hopelessly foolish. Therefore, the only safe place to go for answers to eternally critical questions is to God and His Word. He never lies.
So, what does the Word of God say about repentance? What is it? Is it a permanent attitude of mind, or does it come and go? What happens to people who repent, but then repent of their repentance?
The answers are in the Bible, and in the articles that follow we look at some of them.