In the course of researching the topic of eternal security, one of the books I read was R.T. Kendall’s Once Saved, Always Saved. Kendall takes a unique position in the spectrum of opinion on this subject, a hybrid theological stance that comes to the conclusion indicated by the title. Once a Christian has been truly saved, he or she remains saved, unable through their own efforts or as a result of their behaviors to reverse this state. His pastoral concern is not focused on proving the truth of this doctrine as much as he is providing assurance of salvation to his congregation and his readers. In this effort he succeeds. Whether or not he makes his theological point requires further study and consideration because the chapters are based on sermons, not extensive theological arguments. There is rapid fire proof-texting that is often assembled into sentences in order to support a point and one must disassemble the grammar and examine each verse/passage in its context to ensure that it says what the pastor says it does.
Kendall emphasizes two requirements of salvation: 1) belief in Jesus Christ and His work and 2) the confession of His lordship. This is enacted through a ‘heart’ belief (as opposed to simple mental assent) in the resurrection followed by the act of confession of Jesus as Lord. It is people who are deficient in one or both of these conditions, whether they call themselves Christians or not, who are at danger of a false assumption of security. Though they may label themselves and appear to be Christians, without meeting these conditions, they have no salvation. On the other hand, if the Christian has met these conditions, Pastor Kendall finds not scriptures that threaten their eventual salvation.
When he examines the scriptures that appear to point to insecurity, Kendall’s view is that these verse and passages point to a loss of inheritance rather than salvation. This inheritance is revealed as reward in eternity. Thus, Christians who backslide are forfeiting their eventual reward but not their salvation. They may arrive in heaven and be secure there for eternity but find themselves devoid of reward as a result of their continued sinfulness while still in the world. God does not take a hands-off approach to those who move against the plan of holiness however. He actively pursues and chastens His children in order to continue their sanctification and gain the reward that He wants to award to them. When the heart hardens so that the voice of God is no longer heard is when the Christian’s assurance should falter.
Kendall presents a doctrine of assurance that appears to seek the center of the theological positions we looked at earlier. He does not allow for the salvation of God to be in any way conditional but he makes the case against Antinomianism, saying that our sin do have an affect into eternity that we should pay careful attention to.