Should we say we are saved?

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The following is number 3 in Dirk Anderson’s list of contradictions between Ellen G. Whites writings and the bible:

Ellen White:

Those who accept the Saviour, however sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say or feel that they are saved. Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 155

The Bible:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God: that ye may know that ye have eternal life… 1 John 5:13

His comments:

NOTE: The reason the apostle John wrote his letter was to assure the believers that they had obtained eternal life. In Ephesians 2:8 the New King James Version Bible says, “For by grace you HAVE BEEN saved…” The Greek verb for “have been” is este which is in the perfect tense. The perfect tense conveys a completed action. “

Our Response

Of course, without a reading of the context, this will seem like a crazy statement by Ellen White, but we got a different picture of what she was talking about when we actually read about 3 pages before. We wont paste a whole three pages of writing, but we will paste the above quote one more time, but with some more surrounding context. Count how many times the words “self, themselves, and feel” appear below:

“Unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others,” Christ spoke the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee goes up to the temple to worship, not because he feels that he is a sinner in need of pardon, but because he thinks himself righteous and hopes to win commendation. His worship he regards as an act of merit that will recommend him to God. At the same time it will give the people a high opinion of his piety. He hopes to secure favor with both God and man. His worship is prompted by self-interest.” –page 140

“Peter’s fall was not instantaneous, but gradual. Self-confidence led him to the belief that he was saved, and step after step was taken in the downward path, until he could deny his Master. Never can we safely put confidence in self or feel, this side of heaven, that we are secure against temptation. Those who accept the Saviour, however sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say or to feel that they are saved. This is misleading. Every one should be taught to cherish hope and faith; but even when we give ourselves to Christ and know that He accepts us, we are not beyond the reach of temptation. God’s word declares, “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried.” Dan. 12:10. Only he who endures the trial will receive the crown of life. (James 1:12.)

Those who accept Christ, and in their first confidence say, I am saved, are in danger of trusting to themselves. They lose sight of their own weakness and their constant need of divine strength. They are unprepared for Satan’s devices, and under temptation many, like Peter, fall into the very depths of sin. We are admonished, “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” 1 Cor. 10:12. Our only safety is in constant distrust of self, and dependence on Christ. {COL 155.2}

Within the surrounding context the above words appear at least 6 times. It should be apparent what she was talking already.

Notice that after she speaks about all who come to Jesus for salvation, she says that they would be ones who “know that he accepts us.” She makes it clear that we are secure in Jesus, yet some feel that while enjoying their security in Jesus they are not “beyond the reach of temptation.” This is the problem she is addressing. The primary example she uses is Peter, who, believing he was saved, thought he would never deny his master… but he did. The idea that once you are saved, you are always saved (meaning you can not lose your salvation) is one of the errors she is addressing here, and is probably why our critics have such a problem with her statement. To illustrate how this doctrine is unscriptural, we bring your attention to a parable spoken by Jesus… the prodigal Son:

Luke 15:11-12
(11) And he said, A certain man had two sons:
(12) And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

Already we know the son is “safe” with his father, for it was after he left his father that his problems began. If he would not have left the security of his father, he would not have fallen away as he did. But he made the “decision” to leave, and the merciful Father did not try to control him or his decisions.

In this same way, when we come to Christ, we are safe with him, he holds us in his security, and never lets us go. Jesus said:

John 10:27-29
(27) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
(28) And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
(29) My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

We notice that Jesus gives us “eternal life” and that “no man” shall pluck us out of his hands. This means that no one can take away our security in him… yet the bible tells us to hold fast:

Hebrews 3:6
(6) But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

In other words, we are the house of Jesus, but only “if” we “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” Same with the progital Son… “if” he would have held unto the hope of the security of his Father, he would have never fallen away. Notice in this same chapter, verse 12:

Hebrews 3:12
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

Since Paul here calls them “brethren” we automatically know they are saved individuals. He compares them to those who were “saved” from Egypt by God when they were about to enter the Promised Land. Yet he urges them not to “depart” from God as those Israelites did in the wilderness, which resulted in their losing their salvation. In other words, once we are saved, yes, we already have eternal life, and no man can take that from us. But if at any point we sin, and do not return in confession to our father for forgiveness, as the prodigal Son did (Luke 15:21) we will end up “lost.” Notice this next verse in Luke 15:

Luke 15:24
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

At first he was not lost, but saved (verses 11-12) yet now that he chose to depart “from the living God,” his Father, he was lost.

The life that the prodigal son lived while lost and away from his Father was echoed by Ms. White when she said, “Those who accept the Saviour, however sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say or feel that they are saved.” He left confidently with all his wealth (verses 12-13). Lived his life wasting every penny (verse 13). The thought that he might end up in the streets like the beggers never came to his mind.

Some of us feel, or have been taught, that once we are saved, we need not worry much about the future, for since we are saved, we will make to heaven anyway. This is how the prodigal son felt. Remember, he left with all his Father’s “wealth.” With his wealth, he felt he was safe and secure. He was worry free!

God, though his beloved Son, also imparts us with “wealth,” and that wealth is our free gift of Salvation. But the bible warns us not to enter into such a comfort state (as the progital Son did), but rather to fear…

“… lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest (entering heaven), any of you (the brethren already saved –verse 12) should seem to come short of it.” Hebrews 4:11.

This attitude, produced by the “once saved always saved” doctrine… saying “I am saved I am saved” without taking heed “lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12) can lead many individuals to trust in themselves, for, if they are saved, what worry have they if they sin or offend? Dont you think the progital Son also felt “saved and secure” with all that wealth he obtained? Yet how did he end up? He ended up “lost” -Luke 15:24.

Notice the following few verses in Hebrews:

Hebrews 10:26-29
(26) For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
(27) But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
(28) He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
(29) Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

We see here that a man can be sanctified by the blood of Christ, yet if he “sin willfully” and does not return in humble repentance, he will be lost. Note these next verses:

2 Peter 2:20-22
(20) For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
(21) For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
(22) But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned (returns) to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

It seemed obvious to Peter that the proverb, “a dog returns to his vomit,” (ISV) applies to those who, after having received Jesus Christ, return to their former lusts, resulting in their being in a worse state… lost.

1 John 5:13

1 John 5:13 is brought to our attention. Yet a reading of this little book from the beginning will lead the reader to see that John is speaking to mature Christians (1 John 1:12-14) not babes in Christ. Notice that these mature Christians have “known the father” and “have overcome the wicked one.” Verse 4 of chapter 5 says that who ever is born of God “over cometh the world.” In other words; he is telling those who have over come through “will of God” (1 John 2:17) which is a life of sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3) that they have eternal life. We are not only to believe and accept Jesus as our personal savior; we are to, as a result, live a life of sanctification, and “hold on” to the eternal life he has so freely given us.

The greek word translated “have” in this verse has the following Strong’s meaning:

echō: A primary verb (including an alternate form σχέω scheō skheh’-o used in certain tenses only); to hold (used in very various applications, literally or figuratively, direct or remote; such as possession, ability, contiguity, relation or condition)

This greek word implies much more then to simply “have.” It means to “hold” in order to “have.” This agrees with what we have been saying… we are to “hold fast” our faith in Jesus, and to maintain our daily relationship with him, in order to continue to “hold” on to the eternal life granted to us.

And this is exactly what Ms. White is talking about if you read her in context. Peter had his faith in Jesus, and believed with all his heart that he would never deny him. He trusted in himself with the salvation granted him that he would never fall, yet as soon as asked if he was one of Jesus’ followers, he denied him three times. What if Peter would have died in his denial, or never repented of his sin, would he have still been saved? Jesus answers:

Matthew 10:33
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Some have felt 2 Timothy 2:13 teaches once saved always saved, but let’s read it with the verse just before it:

2 Timothy 2:12-13
(12) If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
(13) If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

Verse 13 does not say he cannot deny us, but rather that he can not deny himself. Verse 12 confirms the exact same thing Matthew 10:33 says, that if we deny Jesus, he will deny us.

Peter’s denial would have lead him to his ruin, if he did not confess his sin and repent. This is why Christ prayed for him, not so that he not deny him (for he already knew he would deny him) but that he return to his faith and turn away from his sin.

The greek word este

Finally, we are given another verse to read; Ephesians 2:8. Mr. Anderson says that the greek word “este” is in the perfect tense, and that “the perfect tense conveys a completed action.”

Let’s take a look within our Strong’s concordance together:

este: Second person plural present indicative of G1510; ye are: – be, have been, belong.

Above Mr. Anderson said this greek word was in the “perfect tense.” Yet, the definition according to Strong’s says it is rather in the “present tense.” This actually helps our case stand the more, for as we have shown above, we are saved in the “present tense” unless in the “future” we decide to forsake our Father like the prodigal son did!

With all this in mind, we can understand why Ms. White made her statement. She is not saying we are not saved as soon as we believe in Jesus, she is simply warning against teachings that once we are saved we can not fall into temptation and sin against God. And we can appreciate such a warning, for those of us who have been freely saved should always keep the apostles words in mind:

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
-1 Corinthians 10:12


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About The Author

Edwin Cotto

With over 13 years of experience in apologetics, evangelism and youth directing, Edwin has worked with various ministries both in English and Spanish. Having had the opportunity to travel to various states in the USA, and also to Venezuela and Mexico, he has enjoyed the privilege of conducting evangelistic meetings and apologetics seminars. His education includes training in the Medical Field, Adult Education at Valencia College, Biblical Hebrew with the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, and Evangelism with Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism. He is furthering his academic studies in theology while also working as a bible worker for the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Ordained as an elder, Edwin's passion for ministry begins first at home with his wife and kids.

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