“Once Saved Always Saved” Interpretation of Romans 8:28-30

“Once Saved Always Saved” Interpretation of Romans 8:28-30

In this study, we are going to look into the passage of Romans 8:28-30 from the perspective of Once Saved Always Saved believers. This passage is popular in defence of this false doctrine and therefore we need to study it in order to see how it relates to the concept of "Eternal Security" coming from our brethren from the other camp.

Bible Study

Let’s look at the verses used in the King James Version:

 

Passage

Romans 8:28-30

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

 

Objections of “Once Saved Always Saved” Believers

Now it is important to know what “Once Saved Always Saved” believers say about the concept of predestination. This Calvinist teaching says that God predestines or predetermines people to salvation before the foundation of the world and that there is nothing that can be done on the part of the believer to reject that salvation as it is the sovereign will of God. They call it “Irresistible Grace” in Calvinist circles. So they use this passage of Romans 8 to back up that idea. 

Let’s look to some of their arguments

 

Objection 1: Everything works out together for good to the already chosen elect of God

For example, this is what they say for verse 28:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

 

So to OSAS believers, since God calls people according to His purpose before the foundation of the world, all things will work together for good to them in order to get them guarantee their salvation. Basically, there is nothing that is done on the part of the believer that can disrupt the work of God to save that person.

 

Now if “Once Saved Always Saved” believers are going to use this verse, they are of course considering that it is designating born again Christians. And of course, they suppose that there is nothing on the part of the believer that is being done in God’s calling on their lives.

However if we look closely, we can notice something very easily. In order to remove the responsibility of man from the equation, OSAS believers must downplay any part of the verses that pertain to any action or response coming from man.

In that, we see that some words are being ignored.

Here is the verse again with some comments:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them (Who is this them?) that love God (it is the Christians who LOVE God, so God will work all things for good only to those who love God), to them (to the same Christians who love Godwho are the called according to his purpose.

 

In other words, all things work together for good for them that:

  1. Love God
  2. Are called according to His purpose

So yes, we can easily say those who love God are called according to His purpose and all things work together for good to them.

Now another question arises, how do we know if someone loves God?

This is what Jesus Christ said:

John 14:15 –  If ye love me, keep my commandments.

 

So the ones who love God will also keep His commandments (these commandments being ALL the words and teachings of Jesus Christ). This “Keep my commandments” doesn’t sound to me as a one time thing but more of a mindset and determination where we follow the teachings and words of Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. To illustrate this let’s look at other words from our beloved Lord:

John 15:9-10

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

 

Now I don’t know about you brothers, but I am a programmer and I know how “if statements” apply. If we keep Jesus commandments we abide in His love, that means if we don’t keep Jesus’ commandments, we don’t abide in His love.

Or what about this verse:

1 John 5:3 – For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

 

So dear brothers, if we want the verse of Romans 8:28 to apply to us, if we want to be part of the ones called for His purposes and that all things work together for good for us, we have to be part of those who love God. That means also we have to keep His commandments to abide in His love.

Now I know some OSAS believers will say “well if someone keeps sinning deliberately that means they were never saved to begin with”. To this my answer is simple, if you are honestly going to apply this to yourself and say “if I keep sinning deliberately then I have not been really saved”, then God bless you and go in peace. My issue is not with this camp of OSAS believers (even though I don’t find it scriptural). My issue is with the camp of OSAS believers that say “it doesn’t matter what we do after we are saved even if we sin deliberately” and my biggest issue is with those who TEACH it.

 

Objection 2: “Forknew”, God did not look down through History to predestinate people

This is an objection that I saw on a Once Saved Always Saved website, it also comes back over and over with other OSAS believers in various discussions. In verse 29, they say that the word “Foreknow” doesn’t mean that God knew before the foundation of the world who would love and believe in Him and He predestinated them.

Let’s look at the verses again:

29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

 

So by reading these 2 verses, we see clearly why the word “foreknow” is important because it is the first clue to who all the other works of God apply (did predestinate, called, justified, glorified).

This is what one OSAS believer wrote:

“This is the meaning of “foreknow” (8:29). It does not mean that God looked down through history, saw who would believe in Him, and decided to predestine those people to salvation. That would make God’s eternal purpose depend on the fickle will of sinful men. It would make man sovereign, not God. It goes against the many Scriptures that show that apart from God’s initiative, none seek Him. It would give sinners reason to boast. And, it goes against the meaning of the word as used in other verses, where it means that God foreordained to set His love on someone so as to enter into a relationship with him.”

 

It is clear that this brother understands the implications of the word “foreknew”, that is why he starts by trying to remove these implications out of the way. As already stated, the concept of predestination from a Calvinist’s perspective is based on the idea that man’s response or actions have nothing to do with his salvation.

Foreknowledge means to know something beforehand. So God knew who would love and believe in Him before the world began, and that is very logical considering God is Omniscient. So let’s look at his objection again:

“It does not mean that God looked down through history, saw who would believe in Him, and decided to predestine those people to salvation”

Well, no one is saying this exactly. But if we apply the implications of the word “foreknew” on the verse, we can very confidently say that God knew something beforehand about the people that He predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son and who will eventually be glorified. So simply stating that “foreknow” doesn’t mean this doesn’t make it so just because this does not fit with any preconceived doctrine already set in one’s mind.

So no one is saying “after God knew them by looking down through history, then He decided to predestine those people”, but what we say is “God predestines those who love Him to be conformed to the image of His Son”. Simple really.

Also, God doesn’t need to look down through history to know something, He already knows in eternity. This is just man’s attempt to comprehend how God operates. Let’s just keep it at that.

Now another question arises: What did God foreknow about the people He predestinates? The answer is we only have to look again at verse 28 before it:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God (those who love God), to them (to the same Christians who love Godwho are the called according to his purpose.

 

So God foreknows the ones who love Him and He sets them apart, and we already proved from scriptures that those who love God OBEY HIS COMMANDMENTS (John 14:15, John 15:10, 1 John 5:3, etc..). It is interesting to look at Jeremiah 1:5

Jeremiah 1:5 – Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

 

Now, of course, there are always going to be critics of what I am saying here. But why don’t we let the scriptures speak for themselves? You see, I am not trying to push something on anyone, I am only reading out of the scriptures. But it is our Calvinist brothers who are trying to fit this passage with their preconceived doctrine.

I know some Calvinist brothers can say “well it is God who creates people so He will put in them that love and therefore they are still the elect because of His sovereign choice”. That is why the whole issue is summed in this question: Does God’s sovereign will conflict with His love? (follow this link to read about this).

Let’s continue with his objection :

“That would make God’s eternal purpose depend on the fickle will of sinful men. It would make man sovereign, not God. “

This is a loaded statement. No one is saying that God’s eternal purpose and sovereignty depends on the will of sinful men. If a man is sovereign OVER HIS OWN CHOICES, that doesn’t remove the sovereign will of God. This is the power of God, that He operates above the free will of man and is sovereign over all creation despite the tiny will of man over his own choices. He will carry out His plans despite the fickle will of sinful men.

Argument continues:

“It goes against the many Scriptures that show that apart from God’s initiative, none seek Him.”

This argument “it goes against “many” scriptures that say different” is always used. But there are scriptures on both sides of the equation. In fact, the scriptures showing that man has to hold in the faith, endure until the end, run the race to be saved are MUCH MORE and MUCH CLEARER than the ones supposedly saying the opposite.

Also, no one is saying that we are responsible for our salvation, it is God who chooses us before we choose Him, it is God who draws but man also can respond or resist the Holy Spirit. It is a beautiful cooperation between God and man based on a truly loving relationship. God does all the work, man has ONLY to surrender to His will but He still has to surrender willingly.

And lastly in this brother’s objection :

” And, it goes against the meaning of the word as used in other verses, where it means that God foreordained to set His love on someone so as to enter into a relationship with him.”

So this brother is saying the real meaning intended by the word “foreknew” is “foreordained” and not “knew beforehand”. Even though the original Greek word can indeed mean that, let’s see how the word “foreknow” is used in the 4 other occurrences in the other verses:

Acts 26:5 –  Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

 

In Paul’s defence before Agrippa, he speaks about how the Jews knew him from the beginning (not foreordained) when he lived as a Pharisee.

Romans 11:2 – God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying,

 

When Paul talks to gentiles about God not rejecting the nation of Israel, his answer is “no”. In this instance, the word does mean “appointed” most likely but notice also that this speaking about the PEOPLE, God has appointed a people, set them apart. But agreed here it does not mean “knew before”.

For the next instance speaking about Jesus Christ, we will put three versions

1 Peter 1:20 (ESV) – He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

1 Peter 1:20 (KJV) – Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

1 Peter 1:20 (YLT) – foreknown, indeed, before the foundation of the world, and manifested in the last times because of you

 

So in this case, it can be both but most translations use “foreknown”. A case can be made for both.

And lastly, the last instance:

2 Peter 3:17 – Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

 

In this verse, Peter is warning not to fall from steadfastness (Clue: yes we can fall). In this instance, it means “knowing before”, not “foreordained”.

So we have 2 occurrences where it means “know before”, one occurrence leaning toward “know before” in most of the versions and one occurrence meaning “foreordained”.

 

Conclusion

For the sake of being fair, let’s suppose that in verse 29, the word “Foreknew” means “Foreordains”. Let us suppose that what Paul meant is that God had chosen them before the foundation of the world.

Now does that mean that He chose them by pure luck? Were they just part of the lucky ones that are destined for eternal life and not part of the unlucky ones destined for hell? Does that mean that man’s response to God’s calling doesn’t have to do anything with his salvation? Not really. That is not what that would mean. In fact, verse 28 would still be a problem because Paul says that those who are called are the SAME who love God and keep His commandments.

One thing is for sure, these verses are not part of the scriptures that one should consider clear and therefore should be interpreted in light of the clearer passages. This is because the concept of predestination is not simple and the whole paradox of the Sovereign choice of God vs the free will of man is in play.

For Once Saved Always Saved believers to hang on these verses to back up this Calvinistic doctrine is just pushing too much on these verses and pure conjecture.

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