Q & A: Once Saved, Always Saved
“Faith is simply the way we say yes to God’s free gift
of eternal life. Faith and salvation are not one and the same
anymore than a gift and the hand that receives it are the same.
Salvation or justification or adoption … stands independently of
faith. Consequently, God does not require a constant
attitude of faith in order to be saved—only an act
“… Forgiveness/salvation is applied at the moment of
faith. It is not the same thing as faith. And its permanence is
not contingent upon the permanence of one’s faith” (Stanley,
Charles. Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure. p 80.).
In a desire to give Christian people confidence that no
matter what they have done they will be saved, teachers such as
Charles Stanley have propagated a doctrine such as the above
teaching, commonly known as “Once Saved, Always Saved” or
“Perseverance of the Saints.” Sadly, this doctrine gives false
hope to people. Let’s examine the Bible to see if this doctrine
is Biblical or man-made.
Defining the doctrine of “Once saved, always
“Eternal security is that work of God which
guarantees that the gift of salvation, once received, is possessed
forever and cannot be lost” (Ryrie, Charles C. So Great
Salvation. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1989, p 137.).
“… but not one of those whom Christ has once
ingrafted into his body will he ever permit to perish, for in
securing their salvation, he will perform what he has promised
…” (Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion.
First, let us note how one is saved.
According to Romans
10:9-10, if one desires to be saved he must believe Jesus is
the Christ and confess his faith that Jesus is Lord. Of course,
this presupposes having heard the gospel of Christ, for Romans
10:17 teaches faith comes by hearing God’s word.
According to Acts
2:38, if one desires to have the forgiveness of sins, he must
repent and be baptized for the remission of his sins.
We note these passages because an important
assumption of the “once saved, always saved” doctrine is
unconditional salvation. After all, if a person is saved
unconditionally, it doesn’t matter what he does, he is saved by
Christ and won’t lose that salvation. However, the scripture
clearly demonstrates salvation is conditional. Understand
this—anything which is conditional can be forfeited.
Secondly, we must note God is actively working to
help us inherit eternal life.
God is not just sitting on the sidelines hoping you
and I will continue in faith and be saved. He is working toward
demonstrates that God, who sacrificed His Son for us while we were
enemies, freely gives us all things—that is, all that we need in
order to continue in salvation. Secondly, this passage
demonstrates God will not allow anything to take us away from Him.
We do not have to fret that we will accidentally be forgotten or
that we will be stolen away.
says God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness.
He has not left us alone to figure it out, but has shown us the
way to eternal life. Additionally, I
Peter 1:5 says God protects us by His power through faith for
teaches that God even restricts our temptations to only those
things we are able to handle and provides a way of escape for us.
All this demonstrates that God desires our
salvation. It demonstrates that God is actively working for our
salvation. But it does not mean God forces us to be saved against
our will. Matthew 23:37-38 points out God does not force what He desires to
happen regarding salvation. He leaves man up to his own free will.
we ask, what if we stop loving God? … step out of Christ? …
lose faith? … don’t take the way of escape?
Is the above possible? Some say, “No.” Some
say, “These things are possible, but they do not matter, you
will be saved anyway.” What does the Bible say?
The Bible demonstrates that it is possible to leave
Christ and therefore lose your salvation. Take note of the
overwhelming message of scripture.
– The seed on the rocky soil believed for a while but fell away.
– The servant who had been forgiven, lost forgiveness.
– Note, this was a servant, but the servant became evil not
expecting the return of his master. He was destroyed.
– The passage says all 10 of the virgins were a part of
Christ’s kingdom, but five did not maintain preparations and
were not allowed to enter the wedding with the bridegroom.
– Again the kingdom is likened to the master granting
stewardship to these three men, but the one who was not a good
steward was cast into the outer darkness.
– Paul teaches we are not to continue in sin even though we are
under grace, because that will lead us back into death out of
which we have come.
– Paul looks at the example set for us by the Israelites, saying
we can lose our salvation if we turn away from God as they did.
– This passage says we can be severed from Christ and fall from
– Paul says he had not yet attained the resurrection from the
dead, but had to continue to press on to that goal.
– Paul says Christ will present us holy and blameless if we continue ...
– The Hebrew writer speaking of Christians, says they will not
escape if they drift away, neglecting God’s salvation.
– The Hebrew writer says if we fall away after having tasted the
blessings of salvation we are worthless and will end up being
– This passage again refers to Christians who willfully sin
after having been set free by the truth. They can only expect a
certain terrifying judgment.
– This passage speaks of those who have returned to the
world’s defilement even though they had once escaped them
through Christ. It would have been better for them never to have
been forgiven, than to have been forgiven and then return into the
But I have sinned since becoming a Christian? Does
that mean I am lost forever?
There is a part of me that does not like to preach
on this doctrine. I think at times we are so militant in our stand
against this false doctrine that some misunderstand, believing
there is no hope for them. They believe they must have sinless
perfection to enter heaven in the end. This is a misunderstanding.
They do not understand that Jesus died for us because we have
sinned, that we might be saved by grace (Romans
In fact, John demonstrates even the apostles sinned
after being saved. But, as Christians, they, and we, have an
advocate with the Father, Jesus who died for us (I
John 1:8-2:2). Thus, all we must do is confess our sin to God
and He will forgive us.
Does this mean then that I must perfectly recount
every transgression I have made to God in order to be saved?
No. Consider the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee.
The Publican went away justified, not because he had perfectly
recounted all his sins to God, but because he had recognized his
sinfulness and need for God’s mercy (Luke
18:13-14). That is what God wants from us. He doesn’t need
us to recount all our sins, He already knows them. He wants us to
humbly submit to Him for grace.
Finally, we recognize from scripture that
faithfulness to God is not about where we are at the moment but
about where we are growing. II
Peter 1:5-8 demonstrates that Christianity is about growth.
The fact that we have room to grow does not make us lost. However,
if we have stopped growing and turning to God for forgiveness when
we sin, then we have lost our salvation.
This all demonstrates a balance we must maintain.
That is, recognizing we are saved by grace gives us confidence
even though we have continued in sin. But recognizing we are saved
by grace does not give us license to continue in sin without
repentance and growth, overcoming the sins which beset us.
Therefore, when the whole matter is considered,
those of us who are already Christians are not allowed to sit back
and do whatever we choose believing the matter of our salvation
has been resolved. Rather, we must continue to grow in
Christ, which means overcoming the sins into which we have
fallen. We are comforted knowing we are not alone in this
endeavor, God is actively working to help us be conformed to the
image of His Son. However, if you are not a child of God,
you are in a sad situation. You have no advocate with the
Father to help in your time of sin. You can remedy that
right now. Submit to Christ through faith, confession,
repentance and baptism for the remission of your sins. Then
you too will have God on your side working to help you to heaven.
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ