Once saved always saved is a subject I’ve heard about in Christian circles for many years. The subject of eternal security is another subject that is commonly spoken about among believers. I have noticed some people will use these terms interchangeably but there is a drastic difference between them. Once saved always saved is the presumption that once you became born again, you are guaranteed heaven irregardless of the willful choices you make. Once saved always saved is a baseless idea with no biblical precedent to substantiate it, but the assurance of eternal security is a constant source of joy to the believer that abides in Christ and endures to the end. Let’s examine the idea of once saved always saved in light of scripture.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8
Before we begin, I want to mention that there are believers who use the term once saved always saved and eternal security interchangeably as well. Oftentimes it is simply a matter of differences in lexical semantics and we must remember when some people say once saved always saved, they are speaking of the eternal security of the believer who is abiding in the Lord and in Christ. As believers, our eternal security is as sure and certain as God’s word.
“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. “John 10:27–29
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25
The Lord said that He will never leave us or forsake us, no one will take us out of His hand, and nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. What about believers and our ability to backslide and walk away from the faith? Is it possible to turn away and lose our salvation? Based on scripture, I believe the answer is a definite yes. When we consider the verses listed above and the dozens of other verses describing our eternal security in the Lord, one factor becomes readily apparent. Abiding in the Lord is a key factor in eternal security. Far from being works based salvation, a disciple trusts in Jesus’ completed work on the cross. Abiding in Jesus, His word, and in God’s will is a personal choice to yield to Him the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.
“Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” John 15:5-6
We need to teach and preach the whole truth in our churches. Our eternal security is certain because we are abiding in the Lord, but be equally certain that is is possible for one to walk away from the Lord. Abiding, obeying, trusting, examining our faith, and certainly a repentant heart are all the fruit of a disciple of Jesus. On the other hand, if one has been born again in Jesus but decides to backslide and fall away, it’s clear from scripture that they are making that choice. It is a matter of personal willful action. In this case, no one snatched them from the Father’s hand, they left on their own free will. Remember that eternal security as far as it depends on the Lord is certain. We are safe abiding in Him. What we have in the backslider is something completely different. These people are not abiding, they are in blatant rebellion and the Bible equivocates rebellion with witchcraft. Jesus warned us that many will fall away in the last days and throughout the New Testament we are warned against turning or falling away repeatedly. Here are just a few of many examples:
“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 1:9
“At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.” Matthew 24:10
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them.” 2 Peter 2:20–21
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” 1 John 2:19
“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 4
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” Hebrews 6:4–6
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment…” Hebrews 10:26–27
“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. “Revelation 3:5
Please consider this article a loving exhortation. Do not take the free gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus and trample it under foot. Eternal security for His true disciples is certain. The scriptures listed above are full of warnings against continuing in sin, perverting grace, falling away, and turning back. The Bible makes it clear that if you aren’t abiding in the Lord, you are not saved.
Jesus’ words to the church in Sardis tells us that the one who conquers will be clothed in white garments, and his name will never be blotted out of the book of life. Taking Jesus’ statement at face value, it would seem that names can and will be blotted out of the book of life. People fall away from the Lord and it is certainly true of the last days as Jesus said. True disciples of Jesus will abide in Him until the end. Knowing these things are so, isn’t it wise to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith? 2 Corinthians 13:5
We have free will, choice, volition, and can decide to walk away from the Lord. I believe there is a remnant of innumerable true Christians around the world. I also believe there are in all probability, millions of people who are Christians in name only. These are people who were ‘once saved’, but have walked away from the Lord. John tells us no one who abides in God keeps on sinning. Disciples of Jesus are known to have lives of increasing holiness and Christlikeness. John is warning of those who after following Jesus, turn away and have lives marked by continuing in sin.
I have known people who were once sold out Christians and had a vibrant walk with the Lord. The fruit of their life was evidence of this abiding. They fell away and return to loving the world and the things of the world. They may still have claim to be saved and even speak as though they are still believers. Some of these backslidden people will use statements like, “He (Jesus) knows my heart” or “It’s all under the blood.” What they fail to realize is that they believing Satan’s lies and their heart’s are hardening. When these people claim once saved always saved they are not unlike the pharisees of old who claimed to belong to God but the fruit of their life said otherwise.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Matthew 7:21–23
If you repented, believed God raised Jesus from the dead, and confessed Him as Lord the Bible clearly teaches that you are saved. If you are clinging to the religious sounding platitude once saved always saved but not abiding in Jesus, not living in increased holiness, and engaging in continual deliberate sin, the Bible clearly teaches you are not saved. You have fallen away and the fruit of your life is evidence of this. We are not robots or animals and God gave us a free will to choose who we will serve.
You may be asking why I’m passionate about refuting the false notion of once saved always saved. I love the Lord and love lost souls. James said that if anyone (among you) wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, will save his soul from death. James was writing this about people who were in Christ, perhaps once in the local fellowship and wandered away.
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19–20
If you are abiding in the Lord, it is certain that you belong to Him and your eternity is secure. If you repented and trusted Jesus as your Savior at one time but have turned away and backslidden, you are in eternal danger. After reading the verses in this article you are without excuse to presume upon God’s grace after trampling the gift of salvation you once received under foot. Turn away from this world and repent while there is still time to do so. The Lord loves you and takes no pleasure in seeing the people He created choose this world and ultimate eternity in hell over eternal life. Jesus will forgive a repentant and contrite heart, so call on Him and repent while there is still time because He is coming soon.
All for Him,
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