Is "Once saved, always saved" true?
Some Christian teachers teach that after we are saved we cannot lose our salvation, and we will always be saved. However, the Bible never makes that statement precisely. These teachers quote many Bible verses to support their teaching, for example:
John 3:15-18 “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son”.
John 10:28-30 “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. I and the Father are one”.
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”.
Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”.
Jude 24 “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. . .”.
These teachers say that these verses prove that our salvation is not temporary, but eternal. We have been forgiven for all our sins (past, present and future) and no-one can snatch us away from God’s hand.
These verses are true and very compelling. However, other Christian teachers warn us that the Bible also teaches about the importance of standing firm until the end, for example:
1 Corinthians 15:2 “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain”.
Matthew 10:22 “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved”.
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”.
Hebrews 3:14 “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first”.
These teachers say that the formula “Once saved, always saved” gives us an excuse to sin because although we may lose a “reward” from God, we will still get to heaven. Indeed, the Bible never guarantees that people who persist in living a sinful life will get to heaven. Instead we are repeatedly warned about the danger of sin, for example:
Romans 8:13 “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live”.
James 1:14-16 “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers”.
James 5:19-20 “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins”.
Galatians 5:19-21 “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life”.
We are sure that every part of God’s word is true and useful to us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So, what are we to make of these verses which appear to contradict each other? The truth is that the Bible teaches both that our salvation is secure, and that we are responsible for working out that salvation in our daily lives. We are saved from all our sins, nothing can separate us from God and no-one can snatch us away from Him. However, we must also acknowledge that we are called to persevere until the end, we are called to live a holy life (Galatians 5:16, Ephesians 4:17-5:2, 1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Peter 1:13-15) and are repeatedly warned about the consequences of persisting in sin.
We cannot pick and choose which parts of the Bible we want to live by, because every part of God’s word is useful to us as we seek to live and work for God.
All scripture quotations are taken from the NIV84