Friday, February 6, 2009

Once Saved, Always Saved # 3

This time it'll be short. I stumbled across another parable that doesn't square with the common Protestant notion of "Once Saved, Always Saved" (for other two see Part 1 and Part 2).

Let's look at Matthew 13:18-23:
"Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

"The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

"The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

"But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
This gives us four kinds of people. The first hears the truth, but never accepts it. The next two hear the truth, but they fall away. The last one is saved.

The two who fall away are familiar images. The first "receives with joy. But... lasts only a short time." He is like the new believer who gets excited and goes forward at an altar call, but falls away after the excitement fades. He may even go forward on more altar calls in the future, always hoping for a dramatic change. But perhaps some of us don't have one life changing moment. Perhaps he's missing the fact that salvation takes more than a one-time mental assent. He has tried, and failed to give this assent in a satisfactory manner. What must he do? Perhaps he needs to realize that the faith must be lived out if it is to continue to grow in us.

The second who falls away has better roots, perhaps, but "the worries of this life" interfere with his faith, slowly killing it. We can probably all identify with this man to an extent. We have experienced "weeds" grabbing at us. Once again, the solution may be perseverance. We have to do what we can, and use what the Church provides, to help kill the weeds that strangle our faith. Perhaps confession can be used to help separate us from our sins. Perhaps balancing our life so that ample time is given to God and his Church will help nourish us. If we can get through this phase, where we seem so weak, and the weeds seem overpowering, perhaps our faith will grow stronger. And this stronger faith will be like that of the fourth example. It is possible that there will still be weeds, but our stem will be thicker, and our roots will be deeper, and our branches will poke out beyond the weeds, so the weeds will no longer strangle us.

But the man in the third example fails to persevere. He does not nurture his faith, and his faith is killed by the weeds.

These examples are natural and identifiable. They speak to our human experience. Why should we try to force them into an uncomfortable "Once Saved, Always Saved" mold?

Protestants rightly observe that we need a "personal relationship with Jesus" to be saved. But what relationship persists when one party rejects and ignores the other? Jesus may wait eagerly for us to return so the relationship might resume, but how can we have a relationship as long as we reject him?

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