Is “Once Saved, Always Saved” Biblical:
The Bible on “Once Saved, Always Saved”
by Betty Miller
Coming from a background that taught eternal security to the degree that “once you are saved, you are always saved,” I am very well versed in all the Scripture that supports this view. However, when I came into the Spirit-filled walk, I began to study and read opposite views on this subject and came to embrace them. However, I could not find a peace in the extreme of needing to be saved again every time I sinned, as that certainly had no security in God’s keeping power. Both extremes cause problems in the body of Christ. Let us look to God’s Word and find the balance between these two extremes.
God does not want us to take our salvation lightly, nor does He want us to be constantly insecure with the fear of losing our salvation. Therefore, He gives us Scripture to prevent both of these extremes. First, let us look at Jesus’ words in John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
At first glance this Scripture does seem to guarantee immunity against spiritual loss. However, if we notice the condition for this promise, we will see that it is only those sheep that are listening to and following the Lord that cannot be plucked away from the Lord’s hand. If they choose to, they may jump out of His hand at any time.
Nowhere in Scripture does God even hint that He will violate the freedom of choice of His followers. Christians can choose to leave God and be lost again, just as surely as sinners can choose to be saved. When we are “born again” we do not lose our power of choice, for God never overrides the will of man as long as he lives. The Lord desires that all grow in Him to become overcomers, ruling and reigning; yet He does not force anyone to make this choice, even if they are a child of His. Freedom is one of the most beautiful gifts He gives to man. The Lord will bring His people along only as far as they are willing.
There are many Scriptures that show plainly that if a person is not willing to continue to follow the Lord, he can lose the gift God gave him. Just think how useless all the hundreds of Biblical warnings of apostasy would be if it were impossible to fall away.
If this could not happen, the Holy Spirit never would have led Peter, Paul and others to pen such solemn admonitions against eternal loss. The parable of the sower and the seed is a perfect example of those who believe for a while, but fall away in times of temptation.
“Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have not root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” Luke 8:12-13
These people had believed, but they fell away. “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38-39).
Some do cast away their faith and draw back ending up in perdition (hell). To those of us who love God, it is very difficult to understand how anyone could desire to leave the Lord and turn back to the world. Nevertheless, it does happen because the Word declares that some will do this. The Lord is the only one that can set people free from demonic influence. We may not understand how eternal life can be terminated if it is eternal. Certainly eternal life is eternal, but the Bible declares that eternal life cannot be possessed by men apart from a living union with Christ.
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11-12
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:1-6
“Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.” Romans 11:20-23
We can see that we must keep our faith in God to maintain our union with Him. We have no life apart from our union with Him. Losing our salvation or falling from grace is not an instantaneous occurrence. It takes time for a branch to wither. We need not fear that if our flesh is weak and we sin we shall instantly lose our salvation. It is difficult for a person to lose his salvation because the Holy Spirit will do all He can to draw that one back to Himself. He will inspire others to pray and will do all within His goodness, mercy and grace to influence the straying one to return. However, if man does not respond to His goodness, then severity falls as the judgment of God is automatic against all sin.
God loves the sinner, but hates and judges the sin. If the sinner refuses to part with his sin, then he comes under judgment because of his own choice not to follow God. God does not want anyone to suffer destruction. But if one chooses that path, He will not prevent it.
“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” 1 Corinthians 3:17
“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.” 2 Timothy 2:12
Man can walk in rebellion for a season without losing his salvation. But if he continues, eventually he will cross a line where he no longer has the life of Christ in him.
This does not mean that he will be totally lost forever, for he can repent and come back to the Lord at any time before death.
Making Sure of Our Salvation
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Revelation 3:5-6
We need to give diligence to making our salvation sure. When we become overcomers we will never need to fear the Lord blotting our name out of His book of life. However, from this scripture we can see that it is possible to be blotted out of the book of life.
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:3-11
If we have spiritual ears we shall hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us to press on and “make our calling and election sure.” We can lose that which we have been given if we do not nurture it and yield to the Holy Spirit so that it might grow. One argument for “once saved, always saved” is based on the analogy of sonship. The reasoning goes, “My child is born into my family and he will always be my child. He cannot be unborn. Whether obedient or disobedient, he will always be my child.” This line of reasoning avoids the central issue. The question is not whether a child can be “unborn,” but whether it can become sick and die. In fact, if the baby is not fed it will soon die. Unless the Christian lives by the Word of God, he cannot continue to partake of the spiritual life derived through the Holy Spirit. To disconnect salvation from obedience and its resultant spiritual growth goes against the Word of God. To focus eternal life on a past moment when one once made a decision for Christ is not consistent with the Scriptures. This would eliminate man’s free will from that point on, which the Lord never does. We can obey or disobey subsequent revelations of truth, and as we do this, it will undoubtedly affect our final destiny. Willful sin shatters the relationship by which eternal life is obtained. There is an eternal “if” in every consideration of eternal security.
- “…if we walk in the light…the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
- “…if that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.” 1 John 2:24
- “…if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38
- “…if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire…” John 15:6
- “…if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” John 8:51
- “…if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Romans 11:22
- “…if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” 2 Peter 1:10
- “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” Hebrews 3:14
- “…if we deny him, he also will deny us.” 2 Timothy 2:12
- “…if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Hebrews 10:26
- “…if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15
- “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” John 15:14
- “…if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” Romans 8:13
All of these Scriptures are conditional, if we, as men, take our responsibility in the plan of salvation; God’s sovereignty certainly holds no flaws. All of the Scriptures fit in their proper place when we look at them in a balanced perspective. We do not have to throw any of them out to make our doctrine fit. There are Scriptures directed to those who are in danger of falling away, others which are directed to those who have no hope and have sinned unto death; some are for those who have overcome and therefore cannot fall from grace, and still others are directed to those who are striving to reach that place. Looking at the Scriptures in this light, we can see they do not contradict one another.
We should be encouraged not to turn back, as we are only saved through faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour.
The Believer’s Security
“…There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
As Christians we show our faith by our works. It is a manifestation of our love for Him. Keeping God’s commandments and doing right are merely the result of His Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart. These are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We do these things not to be saved, but because we are saved. As long as we love the Lord with all of our heart, we are going to be obedient to Him and cling to Him. He will not let go of us unless we cast Him away through our continued sin and indifference and willful disobedience. We cannot lose our salvation, but we can forfeit it.
Satan (Lucifer) lost his estate through willful sin. Adam and Eve lost their estate also because they sinned and fell from God’s original plan. However, Jesus made a way for mankind to be restored simply because man did not have the light. Lucifer had full knowledge when he sinned; Adam and Eve were not walking in full knowledge when they sinned, so God made a way for them to be restored to their original place in God through Jesus Christ. Let us not forget what we have in Christ but press on so that we do not end up shipwrecked.
“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.” 1 Timothy 1:19
“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
Work Out Your Own Salvation
Actually salvation is a process. We are saved at the time we give our life to Jesus; we are being saved daily as we walk in the spirit and we will eventually be eternally saved when we get to heaven. We can complete our salvation by seeking God to cleanse us and perfect us to become like Jesus. This is accomplished by learning and obeying the Word of God. For now we are admonished to “work out our salvation.” We are transformed through our obedience.
“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:11-13
There is a possibility that a person can lose their salvation and their name can be “blotted out of the book of life,” so the Lord directs His warnings to those people who are rebelliously walking away from God in an attempt to turn them back to Himself. God will not drag people to heaven, as ultimately, we must desire to go there and come through the Biblical way of getting there; which is to repent of our sins and accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ by faith and receive the salvation that God provided for us by His death on the cross and His burial and resurrection. When we do this and follow and obey Him we can be absolutely sure we will go to heaven.
I will share another blog article soon entitled, “The Security of the Believer” so that all who are following Him and have a relationship with Him can know the scriptures that assure us He will never leave us, nor forsake us, and we can know of a certainty that we will go to heaven.
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