Once Saved…Always Saved?
(The Doctrine of Eternal Security)
Many Christians believe in a concept known as “eternal security,” also known as Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS). This is the belief that once you’ve accepted Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior, then you are guaranteed a place in Heaven, no matter what. Once you’ve accepted Christ, you have absolute assurance that you are saved forever – eternal security. But, is this a truly Christian belief – a truly biblical belief? Let’s look at the arguments and see.
1) The Argument From Sin
This is the main problem cited in regard to a belief in eternal security. If, after a person is saved, they cannot lose their salvation, no matter what they do, no matter how many sins they commit, then we are left with a reality where there is , essentially, no consequence for sin. There is no consequence of sin for the unbeliever, because he is already going to Hell for his unbelief, so whether he sins or not, it makes no difference; and there is no consequence of sin for the believer, because once he believes, he’s on the Salvation Express headed to Heaven, so whether he sins or not, it makes no difference. In a Once Saved Always Saved belief system, there is no serious consequence for sin. Is that what Christians really believe?
Sin and the Bible
From the beginning of the Gospels, Jesus makes it a major point of His ministry to talk about repentance from sin and to warn of the consequences of sin. “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,’” (Matt 4:17). Why do we need to repent, though, if sin holds no consequences regarding our salvation? Why didn’t Jesus just say, “Believe, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand?” Why repent? Because, as Jesus shows us in the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere, there are indeed serious consequences of sin. In Matthew 5:29-30, Jesus said that if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Or, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Why? Because it is better to lose an eye or a hand than to have your whole body tossed into Hell. Can Jesus be any more clear that sin can cause believers to end up in Hell?
Maybe, though, Jesus was referring to unbelievers here? Not a chance. Jesus cannot be talking about unbelievers because He is holding out the possibility of salvation for those who take the drastic measure of cutting of their hand or plucking out their eye in order to avoid sin. Even if unbelievers take such drastic measures to avoid sin, they will still be headed to Hell, not Heaven, for their unbelief! Which means Jesus is speaking of the consequences of sin for believers! Unrepented sin, if you believe Jesus, will get you thrown into Hell. This flies in the face of the doctrine of eternal security.
Also, in pretty much every letter he wrote, Paul warns the believers he is writing to about the consequences of sin. Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” The Word of God says that there are consequences to sin – that sin leads to death – and Paul makes no distinction between the believer and the unbeliever.
Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger…I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Ephesians 5:5, “Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man…has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.” Sin has consequences, and there is nothing in these passages, or the many others like them, that indicates believers are exempt from the consequences of these sins.
So, contrary to the doctrine of eternal security, Scripture shows us that sin does indeed carry consequences, for the saved and the unsaved, with the worst of those consequences being the loss of one’s salvation.
2) The Argument from the Bible
There are any number of Scripture verses that are in direct contradiction to a belief in Once Saved Always Saved. So many, in fact, that it is difficult to decide which ones to mention, but here are just a few:
Eternal Security and the Bible
Romans 17:-24, “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen [the Jews], but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.” Paul is talking to Gentiles who have been grafted into God (v.17), who have been saved. Yet, what is Paul saying to these saved persons? He is warning them that if they do not continue in God’s kindness, they, too, will be cut off – they will lose their salvation – just as the Jews were.
Hebrews 6:4-6, “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come if they then commit apostasy…” Could an unbeliever ever be described as being “enlightened,” or as being a “partaker of the Holy Spirit,” or of having “tasted the heavenly gift?” Absolutely not! Which means, this passage is talking about believers; yet, what does it say? It says that believers can commit apostasy; they can reject Christ even after being saved!
John 15:1-6: Jesus is the vine (v.1). Those who believe in Him are the branches (v.5). Can an unbeliever in any way be said to be a branch of the vine that is Christ? Absolutely not. So, what will happen to the branches, to the believers, if they do not produce good fruit? Are they still saved? No! If there is a branch of the vine that does not produce good fruit, then it is cut off from the vine – from Christ – tossed into the fire and burned. A not so subtle reference to Hell.
Ezekiel 33:13: “Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that he has committed he shall die.” Sounds like the righteous people spoken of here thought they couldn’t lose their salvation either, doesn’t it?
All of these passages, and many, many more, state very plainly and clearly that we can indeed lose our salvation, that we can indeed turn away from Christ, of our own free will, even after we’ve been saved.
3) Arguments For Once Saved Always Saved
There are a few main verses of Scripture that OSAS believers point to in support of their belief, but do these verses really teach eternal security? Let’s take a look at them and see:
From the Bible
John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall 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.”
Romans 8:1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.”
Romans 8:38-39: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
John 5:24: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
The arguments are that since a believer cannot be snatched out of the hand of God and that there is nothing that can separate them from the love of God, then once they are saved, they are saved for good. Plus the fact that there is “no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus, and they have passed “from death to life,” further cements the case in the mind of the OSAS believer that he cannot lose his salvation.
Twisting the Scripture?
Is that really what those passages say, though? Or is that simply someone twisting scripture (2 Peter 3:16) to make the Bible fit what they believe? In John 10:27-29, for example, is this passage really teaching that you cannot lose your salvation, or is it simply saying that no one can forcibly remove, or snatch, you from the hand of God against your will? Where does this passage say that you cannot walk away from God of your own free will? It doesn’t, it just says you cannot be pulled away from God against your will.
In Romans 8:1-2, there is indeed no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; as long as you stay in Christ Jesus. But, nowhere does this verse say one will automatically stay in Christ Jesus regardless of how much sin they commit. And in Romans 8:38-39, did you notice that sin is not mentioned as something that cannot separate us from God? Also, if you stop to think about what that verse actually says, you will see it is speaking of God’s unconditional love for us, not unconditional salvation.
John 5:24: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Yes, if you hear Jesus’ word and believe in God, you have passed from death to life. But, nowhere does it say that you cannot pass from life to death, as the Prodigal Son did. He was alive, then was dead, then alive again (Luke 15:24)! And, nowhere does this verse say you cannot lose your faith in Christ at some point after believing in Him, which is exactly what happens in the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, where Jesus talks about how some will receive the Word with joy, but then fall away from the Word when they are persecuted (Matt 13:20-21).
There is no verse in the Bible that says once you are saved, you are guaranteed to always remain saved. There is no verse in the Bible that says sin has no consequences. There is no verse in the Bible that says we can have absolute assurance of our salvation. In fact, Paul himself tells us not to judge ourselves as being saved, because that judgment is reserved for the Lord when He comes (1 Cor 4:3-5).
4) What About Babies?
Not all, but many, adherents of OSAS believe that if a baby dies, he or she will go to Heaven. They believe babies are, in essence, “saved.” But, what happens when someone does not die as a baby, and they grow up and never accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – are they still saved? No. Which means they were saved as babies, but then they lost that state of salvation when they grew up and did not profess a belief in Christ. If OSAS is true, however, that can’t happen. If OSAS is true, then if a baby is saved, it shouldn’t matter if they profess Christ or not as adults, because they cannot lose their salvation. Yet, no believer in Once Saved Always Saved would agree that was the case. This presents quite a logical dilemma for believers of this doctrine.
5) Does This Make Any Sense?
Finally, there are a number of Scripture verses that make absolutely no sense whatsoever in a Once Saved Always Saved world. Here are just a few for you to check out yourself: Phil 2:12; Heb 4:1,11; Col 1:21-23; 2 Cor 13:5-6; Heb 10:38; 1 Tim 4:1; and there are many more.