I was converted at 8 years of age, was baptised and received into fellowship at 14. I started to preach at 17.
While I was in my teens I became aware of the power of sin in my life and sought deliverance from it. I had no-one to turn to as everyone I knew appeared to take sin for granted as the normal Christian experience. For my part I was deeply distressed by my inability to please God as I knew I should. I was especially convicted by reading Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel. It appeared to me that other Christians were not interested in holiness so long as they were saved. I yearned for freedom from sin.
It was at this time that I noticed that OSAS was used as an excuse by some people to deliberately disobey clear commands of Scripture. I firmly believed in OSAS but had no answer to those who (in my view) misused the teaching in this way. I also found a certain comfort from OSAS myself in those times when I was sowing to the flesh, although I always bitterly regretted my sin later.
When I turned 20 I met a man who denied OSAS for the first time. We had a violent argument and it showed just how deeply emotionally I held this teaching. His arguments did absolutely nothing for me, but two of his remarks stung me. He said, "John, I have noticed that those who believe in OSAS are either practicing sinners or the parents of children who have made a profession of faith and fallen away." His second comment was, "Well John, I went through the whole of the New Testament and underlined all those verses which taught OSAS and all those which didn't and it seemed to me to be 50/50 so I plumped for the safer side. If you're right and I'm wrong then it doesn't matter. But if I'm right and you're wrong ...."
I was furious and decided to do my own study to show that the Bible was 100% solid on OSAS. Feeling tender on the issue, I used my influence as an elder's son to have all the books in the assembly library vetted to weed out any potentially subversive material and tried to get a man banned from the platform for being (in my view) "soft" on OSAS. I can honestly say that I hated those who denied what I took to be the fundamental gospel truth of OSAS.
While I was slowly coming round to the truth I experienced firsthand the effect of the OSAS teaching on the lives of young Christians. One of our elders was a fervent OSASer and what is more, taught that many of the warnings of the New Testament were either hypothetical, or did not apply to Christians, but rather to the Jews or unbelievers. There was in that assembly a natural leader of the young people, and he started throwing parties at which people were getting drunk and committing fornication. This young man had his theology worked out to the nth degree. He had taken the OSAS teaching and followed it through to its logical conclusion and had become what I would now call an Antinomian -- that is to say -- someone who believes that God's grace can be abused with impunity ("let us sin that grace may abound"). There were several cases of immorality amongst the assembly's young people. When the matter was reported to the elders the chief witness was intimidated to such a degree that unbelievers were involved and the police became interested. At an emergency church meeting the culprit swore on the Bible that he was innocent. I realised how that OSAS had completely removed the fear of God from his heart.
I could go on and on relating sordid stories of my encounters with professing Christians and the wicked things they do, and how they justify their actions by appealing to OSAS, but it would not be edifying to do so.
I remember one day how the scales fell from my eyes when I realised that the promise in John chapter 10 that the Lord's sheep would never perish applied only to those who followed him. What a blessed relief! The Scripture meant what it said but offered no hope for OSASers or practising sinners.
But the thing that impressed me most of all was the very clear teaching of the New Testament that we must persevere to the end in order to be saved. And my favourite passage for this is Colossians 1:21-23. And this killed OSAS for me for good.
One of the results of my deliverence from OSAS has been that I have been freed from that fatal temptation to make light of sin. I fear it. I am afraid of going to the Hellfire. But I have discovered that the Bible teaches we can overcome through our union with Christ in his crucifixion and resurrection, which is the gospel.
I have never yet found an OSASer who was prepared to sit down with me and discuss from the Bible how they justify their teachings from it.
Circumstances had it that just over a year ago I challenged a Brethren youth leader over his claim that Christ's teachings in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel were not binding on Christians today, and this quickly turned into an emotionally-charged debate on OSAS. After months of procrastination, and shortly before my 40th birthday, the elders of the assembly (almost all of whom have lost children into the world) and offering no defence for their system of belief, finally removed my name from the list of members.
I firmly believe that OSAS is one of the greatest lies of the Enemy. I would prefer to call it the doctrine of Balaam. May God open your eyes to this and release you just as he released me. Amen.