Once Saved, Always Saved?
by Alissa Racines Dove
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Or can one’s salvation be lost? Many do not recognize this issue as a crucial one and, therefore, simply accept either stance. By doing this, however, they are automatically aligning themselves with whichever side is incorrect. So which outlook is the correct one? First, let’s consider both sides:
Once Saved, Always Saved takes the position that, once a person receives salvation, they remain saved and nothing they do can take that salvation from them. It also claims that a person who strays far enough from the faith was probably never truly saved from the beginning. The opposite side of the argument claims that one who receives salvation will remain covered by Jesus’ blood IF they remain with Him. Salvation can be lost if they fall away from the faith.
Looking at both stances, one can conclude that each portrays God in different ways. The first makes God out to be more lenient - if we can remain covered by Jesus’ blood no matter what, then God must not require much from us. The latter, on the other hand, views God as One who cannot be walked all over - if we go on living a life of continuous sin after being saved, having no remorse, God will not remain with us because we would then be taking advantage of His Son’s sacrifice on the cross.
Which God would you rather have: the laid back one or the God with more of a backbone? Obviously, God does not conform to who WE want Him to be. He is who He is because He is. Therefore, ONE of the stances on salvation has to be correct. So, what does the Bible say about it?
Those on the side of Once Saved, Always Saved give these verses to support their stance:
o John 10:26-29 - “…My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
o Romans 8:38-39 - “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The purpose of these Bible passages is to emphasize how much The Lord loves and cares for those who follow Him. They were not written with the intent that people should become lenient about their salvation. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that all who want to follow Christ will be persecuted. So, when the above passages are read in their context, they serve as an encouragement to believers who are being persecuted, reminding them that The Lord’s love and power are more than enough to help them conquer any hardship and that they should press on towards reaching the Kingdom of God (Philippians 3:14). After all, even the strongest believers are human and still need encouragement.
Here are some more verses generally given as “evidence” of Once Saved, Always Saved:
o 1 Peter 1:3-5 - “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in Heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
o Ephesians 1:13-14 - “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.”
The two passages above seem to be claiming that this inheritance in Heaven is being kept right at this very moment for all believers. Many will reason and say that, since this inheritance cannot fade away, then neither should our salvation. But they would be forgetting that God is able to see the future. He knows exactly who is going to press on until the very end and He is the One who rewards them with the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Lastly, the verses below were obtained from the website of a fairly large church, where they were classified as evidence of eternal security.
o Hebrews 7:25 - "Therefore He [referring to Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.”
o Hebrews 10:10, 14 - “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all"… "because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
o 2 Timothy 1:12 - “…Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”
Whoever reviewed the above verses and came to the conclusion that they serve as evidence of Once Saved, Always Saved is quite mistaken. These verses are simply stating the powerful attributes of Christ. To “save completely” means exactly what it says - Jesus saves us completely when we come to Him. Jesus is perfect so He certainly does not save “incompletely.” Falling away means we messed up, not Him. Jesus died on the cross as the final sacrifice for sin, “once for all.” The phrase “being made holy” implies that it is a continuous action during which they are made perfect, meaning their sin is forgiven because of Jesus’ one-time sacrifice on the cross. Again, He “makes perfect forever” those He knows will press on to the end. Finally, God is certainly able to guard our salvation. If He were unable then we would have an imperfect God. Like the inheritance in the previous verses, our salvation can be kept and guarded, but The Lord knows whether or not we will press on and remain in His security.
The Bible does, however, give evidence that salvation can be lost. According to Revelation 20:15, people whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. Psalm 69:28 says, “May they be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be listed with the righteous.” The Book of Life contains the names of those who are righteous and, therefore, on the path to Heaven. But the fact that names can be removed from the book shows that salvation is not necessarily set in stone and we can fall away from righteousness.
o 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “…If we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us.”
The word “disown” implies that a relationship with The Lord was once acknowledged, but no longer is. So, yes, John 10:29 does make it clear that no one can take us out of The Father’s hand, but that doesn’t mean we can’t jump out of His grasp.
o Colossians 1:22-23 - “But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under Heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”
Paul says IF they continue in their faith, which means they have the ability to leave it.
o Hebrews 3:12 - “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
o Hebrews 6:4-6 - “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace.”
o Ezekiel 18:24 - “But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die.”
These passages clearly state that one can fall away from God. The fact that Paul calls them “brothers” in Heb. 3:12 shows that He was talking to fellow Christians. One cannot “turn from” or “fall away” from something they never had. Therefore, the “they never knew The Lord to begin with” argument does not apply.
Saul is a prime example of someone who was clearly righteous (1 Sam. 10:6), but fell away from The Lord. 1 Samuel 16:14 says that the Spirit of The Lord (referring to the Holy Spirit who lives within all true believers) departed from Saul. Later on, 2 Samuel 7:15 says that The Lord’s love departed from Saul. Many people assume that God’s love is unconditional, but this clearly was not the case for Saul. Therefore, if it happened to Saul, it can happen to any of us. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 10:28 to “be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.” The capitalization of “One” indicates that Jesus is not talking about Satan, but God, His Father. So, if God’s love is unconditional, how could He send anybody to Hell? Just as one cannot argue that Saul never knew The Lord to begin with, the “maybe God never loved them in the first place” argument doesn’t work either. When God says He loves, He means it with the utmost sincerity and He loves more than any human could love.
Here’s the bottom line: Jesus has the ability to save us completely from Hell. However, God expects us to remain in Him. If The Lord remains with us even if we no longer concern ourselves with Him and continuously ignore Him when He tugs at our heart, He would be a pushover. The Lord is not a pushover. If we stay afraid of Him, this will prevent us from becoming careless and, therefore, we will not fall away. It’s as simple as that. God cares and wants us in Heaven with Him. Therefore, if we sincerely ask Him to keep in us this attitude of fear, He WILL do it.
Please contact me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions. I look forward to hearing from you!
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