What About "Once Saved, Always Saved"?
There is a very simple problem with the dogma of “once saved, always saved.” That problem is that it is just not biblical! The truth is, the dogma of “once saved, always saved” is part of the doctrines and commandments of men. Consider Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23 → Galatians 1:6-20 and II John 1:7-11!
The following passages clearly and simply refute the dogma of “once saved, always saved”:
John 15:1-6 – Notice that Jesus makes it very clear: IF you abide in him you are saved. IF you do not abide (i.e., continue to remain) in him you are lost. The most important thing to note is that our salvation is conditional not unconditional. (Consider just some of the conditional statements of Scripture from the Gospel and Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation: John 6:51; 7:17,38; 8:31,36,39,42,51,52; 10:9; 11:40; 12:26,47; 13:17,35; 14:15,23; 15:6,7,10,14 … I John 1:6-10; 2:1,3,15,19,24,29; Revelation 2:5,10,16; 3:3,5,20; 22:18,19; etc.)
Romans 8:12-13; 11:19-22 – Again notice that Paul says that IF we (believers) live according to the flesh we will die but IF we (believers) live according to the Spirit we will live. We believers thus have a choice to make – even we who are already saved! Our salvation is thus conditionally based by and on God’s terms. And so it is possible that a Christian can be “cut off” and thus lost. (Notice the conditional statements in Romans 8:9,10,11,13,17; 11:17,18,21,22,23,24; etc.)
II Peter 1:2-11 – And notice that Peter clearly tells us that our salvation is conditional and that “IF we do these things we will never stumble, and a glorious entrance will be given to us into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” What if we don’t do the things Peter mentions? Then we are eternally lost! It is that simple. We should realize by now that Scripture everywhere is filled with the very conditions of salvation and damnation often denoted by that little word, “IF”! Everyone seems to ignore this little word.
Galatians 5:1-6 – The Apostle Paul clearly states that Christ has set us free. He has saved us! And yet he goes on to say to believers that if they follow another gospel (Galatians 1:6-10 cf. II John 1:7-11) they are “cut off from Christ” and “they have fallen from grace.” See Galatians 5:4. You cannot fall from somewhere you have never been! In other words the argument that “Anyone who is lost was never saved in the first place” or “Anyone who is lost was never really a believer” is nonsense. While that may be true of some it is not true of all. Christians can fall from grace! Paul said so. A saved believer can fall from grace. And it is a lying heresy to say that they can’t.
II Peter 2:18-22 – The Apostle Peter clearly tells us that the believer can fall from grace and be lost! Peter is talking about those who “escaped the world through the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” who then become “entangled” and “overcome” by sin and the flesh. And then he specifically says of them, “their latter end is worse than the beginning and it would have been better if they had never known the way of righteousness than to have turned from the way of truth.” See II Peter 2:20-22. There is no way to explain any of this away by saying, “Well, they were never really Christians to begin with.” Peter says they were believers and now they are worse off than if they had never believed. It would have been better if they had never become Christians!
Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-39 – The inspired writer of Hebrews also gives us clear and simple statements of the possibility of apostasy and of losing our very salvation. If one loses one’s salvation it is not God’s fault it is their own fault and they have no one to blame but themselves for their sin. The writer talks about those who were once “enlightened” who have “tasted of heaven” and who have “become partakers of the Holy Spirit” and who have “tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come” – if these aren’t true believing Christians who is? – and IF they “fall away” they are only good for being “cursed” and “burned” in hell. Later the writer of Hebrews goes even further when he says that we can “sin willfully” (the background for “willful sin” is found in Numbers 15:30-31,32-36) and if we do we will never be saved, only the wrath of God and hell awaits us. Notice all the ways that the writer says we can and will be lost if we turn against the Lord. That is why the writer of Hebrews says this: “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-2)
The following passages are frequently used to prove the dogma of “once saved, always saved” but upon a more careful study they actually are found to refute the heretical idea of “once saved, always saved”:
John 10:26-29 – This is one of the favorite passages for those who would attempt to prove the false doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Tragically many neither see nor understand what the passage actually says. Our Lord says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.” Now here is what most fail to notice: The very promise of eternal security is not unconditional but conditional! Those who are given the promise of eternal life are those who “hear and follow” Jesus. Both of these terms are in the present tense and indicate continuing action! This passage does not say that all you have to do is to have “heard and followed” Jesus once when you “got saved” and then God will forever save you. What is more, the term for “hear” means, “to listen, to hearken … to obey”! This is what discipleship is all about – “the obedience of faith.” In order to be given the promise of eternal assurance we must continue on in the hearing and obedience of faith. There is no “once saved, always saved” in this Word of the Lord. Such a dogma as “once saved, always saved” is not taught in Scripture and it is especially not taught in this passage. If you quit “listening to” God; if you quit “obeying” the Lord; if you quit faithfully “following the Lord” … then you will not, you cannot be saved.
Jude 1:24-25 – This is another favorite passage for those who want to believe the dogma of “once saved, always saved.” Here is the problem with all heresy: Any Scripture can be taken out of context and made to teach anything. (The Devil does this! Just consider what he did in the beginning in Genesis 3:1-5 and in the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:9-10.) First let it be clearly stated that God is “able to save us completely” and he is “able to save us forever”! Consider Hebrews 7:25. The fact is He has given us the blessed assurance of salvation. See I John 5:11-13 – “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” The Apostle John tells us very clearly that the way we have eternal life is to “walk in the light” in the obedience of faith. See I John 1:5-2:6! Now go back to the context of Jude 1:24-25 and realize that Jude is telling us the very same thing. Jude tells us that we must be, “building ourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep(ing) ourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” See Jude 1:20-21! Here is the bottom line in all of this. God will save us only IF we continue on in faithfulness. But if we ever stop believing and quit being faithful we will be lost. Scripture is just too clear on this simple fact, no matter what the doctrines and dogmas of men may teach.
Perhaps one of the most powerful proofs that a child of God can be eternally lost is seen over and over again across the pages of the Old Testament. All we have to do is consider what the New Testament writers said about the problem of Israel’s continuous apostasy. See I Corinthians 10:13 and Hebrews 3:7-4:7. In fact, the Apostle Paul (and the writer of Hebrews) says that as Israel fell so can we: “Take heed if you think you stand lest you fall!” (I Corinthians 10:12) If the people of God can’t fall from grace and salvation, then all of these warnings mean absolutely nothing. One more thing. Paul realized that if he did not “run the race” in the way that God wants he could be “disqualified” – in other words, he would “lose it”! See I Corinthians 9:24-27.
Addendum to “Once Saved, Always Saved”:
When it comes to God’s purpose and plan in predestination, the greatest statement of its wondrous mystery is found in Ephesians 1:3-14. Perhaps we just need to accept all this with the faith of Job (Job 42:1-6) and David (Psalm 139:1-24) and Paul (Romans 11:33-36). When men try to fully explain the sovereignty of God’s purpose and plan they usually end up looking like fools. What we need to do is simply bow before the Lord God and believe! But what we also need to do is realize that Scripture just as clearly shows us that in the midst of God’s sovereign will and purpose the Lord has given us the freedom to will and to choose! From John 3:15,16,18,21,36 to Revelation 22:17 the principle of “whosoever will may come” is one of the greatest invitations of promise in all the Word of God. And to realize the incredible loving will of God found in II Peter 3:9 should tell us that our God is anything but a monster who predestines some to heaven and some to hell apart from their will and any choice they could make.
When it comes to the sovereign call of the God who loves us, the Scripture is very clear that we can say “No!” to the lovingkindness of God. There are three simple passages in the New Testament that especially show us the horrible state of those – even those who were once believers! – who choose to live against the will of God.
- Matthew 23:37-39 (37 cf. Luke 13:34 – “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” See Psalm 81; Proverbs 1:20-33; Isaiah 30:15; Jeremiah 6:16; 7:22-26; 44:4-6; Hosea 11:1-11; Matthew 22:1-3f; etc.
- Luke 7:29-30 (30 – “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.”
- John 1:10-13; 3:16-21 → John 5:39-40 (40 – “yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”)
If we were to “bottom line” all of this we would say that God loves us more than we can ever know and he wills to save us, but if we don’t want to be saved and loved by God he will allow us to be lost to our own foolish choices and suffer the eternal consequences of our sin. Perhaps we need to rethink the possibility of apostasy and realize that we can lose our very salvation because we can refuse to accept and believe in the Lord; we can turn against Him and rebel against His will and purpose; we can fall from grace and be forever lost because of our own free and foolish choices. If that happens, it is not God’s fault, it is ours.