One And Done?

Mike Focht 5/3/2024

There is a lot of “One and Done” theology out there nowadays. There always has been, and I guess that there always will be. It comes in many forms, but the central emphasis is the same. The premise of this bad doctrine is that once you are truly saved, there is nothing left to do but allow God to “grace you” until you get to heaven. If we don’t sin in some culturally unacceptable way, then we are good with God.  

   There is a lot of sound Bible language behind this skewed emphasis. God has saved us by faith apart from our works. The grace of God is greater than any of our sins. No one is perfect, and God’s love meets those seeking to be saved from sin. God loves everyone no matter where they are. Come as you are. Though we are faithless still, He is faithful. 

   All of these statements are true in a particular context. Especially when speaking about how we obtain salvation but not in the context of how we work out obtained salvation. That said, every Biblical teaching is only true in the context in which the Holy Spirit has given it to us. The danger becomes evident when many statements defending “One and Done” theology emphasize something the Bible doesn’t. The Word of God is not trying to emphasize that our sinful works don’t matter after salvation because God is so loving. 

   The Biblical doctrine of spiritual growth gives us another emphasis altogether. New birth opens the door to a new sphere of life and growth. The possession of spiritual life anticipates the progress of spiritual life. That is how the Bible talks. The Bible talks to the sons and daughters of God as if they can grow, as if they should grow, as if they want to grow, and as if they are growing.

   The defenders of “One and Done” theology would never state their position as clearly as I have. They will always give lip service to spiritual growth. You can tell their faith is not connected to the truth because they never emphasize spiritual growth like the Bible does. They echo the Biblical voices they like and silence the ones that seem to conflict with their desired focus. 

   Another danger of “One and Done” theology is that the standard of Christian life becomes the lowest acceptable level of cultural behavior. There is very little cause or motive to press beyond where we are in personal experience with Christ. There is no reason to desire to know something of God’s love, truth, or presence other than what the status quo expects! Actual Bible passages like those in 1 and 2 Peter are out of the picture, and all of the arguments center around what “Christians” can or cannot do and still be Christians. They forget to ask what Christians should or should not do in pursuit of Christlikeness.

   Here is why “One and Done” theology will always be popular among some true brothers and sisters in Christ: Too many people want to be Christians but don’t want to be Christ-like. Salvation and new birth make us Christians. Spiritual growth and sanctification make us Christ-like. The truths of justification and sanctification are always working together in the Bible. They are complimentary and not conflicting.    

   This is no modern problem. It reminds me of a quote by A.W. Tozer: “We are saints by calling, our teachers keep telling us, and we are permitted to infer from this that there is no reason to seek to be saints by character.” 

   Let us set aside all “One and Done” theology and seek to be Christ-like believers growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.