Once Saved, Always Saved
Once Saved, Always Saved – The Biblical Evidence
The Bible teaches “once saved, always saved” -- that we can be saved once and for all only through a repentant, saving faith in Jesus Christ. Once a person has accepted Christ as Savior, they may wonder if it is possible to lose that salvation. What if they commit a sin? What if they commit a lot of sins? What if they do something very, very wrong? Is it possible to be saved, and then lose that salvation?
Fortunately, the answer is a resounding “no.” Once a person has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, he/she is forever saved. This fact is referred to as the doctrine of “eternal security,” often summarized as “once saved, always saved.”
There are several reasons why a person can be confident in their “eternal security.” First and foremost is the evidence of Scripture. John 3:15-18 says about Christ: “The Son of Man must be lifted up, 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.”
The salvation in Christ is not temporary, it is eternal.
In John 10:28-30, Jesus says: “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." The forgiveness of God through Christ is sufficient to cover all of our sins -- past, present, and future. There is nothing a person can do that God cannot forgive. This doctrine is supported by Romans 8:38-39, Ephesians 4:30, and Jude 24; among others.
Once Saved, Always Saved – The Logical Evidence
As with many other scriptural doctrines, the idea of “once saved, always saved” is also supported logically. Eternal security is consistent with everything else the Bible teaches about mankind, and God. Examining the doctrine in relation to the rest of Scripture demonstrates that it is consistent with all other biblically sound teachings. The idea of losing our salvation is not only unscriptural, but it creates monumental problems with other doctrines, including salvation by faith, the sin nature of man, and the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice.
The Bible teaches that man is inherently sinful -- that a sinful nature is a part of all of us (Romans 3:10). This means that even after being saved, every single believer is going to sin from time to time. Thinking that we can live a perfect, sinless life after our salvation is not only unscriptural, but arrogant (James 2:10). If we are not eternally secure, this sinning will cause us to lose our salvation, but how much sin is too much? There is no scriptural “yardstick” given to tell us how many or what kind of sins are enough to void our salvation. Without eternal security, the Bible would describe a situation where Christianity is a perpetual game of Russian Roulette; a life in which condemnation and salvation alternate every time we sin and confess, and we never know if we’re saved or not.
Scriptural passages (Ephesians 2:8-9, Isaiah 64:6) indicate that our attempts at good deeds will never earn us a place in heaven. We cannot make up for our past, present, or future sins by doing good works. A saved believer will, as a natural product of their faith, shun sin and practice good works (James 2:18). If “once saved, always saved” is not true, then by necessity we are saved both by our faith and our works. If we can do sinful things, or not do good things (James 4:17) and lose our security, then our good deeds are a part of our salvation. This concept is contradictory to Scripture. It also creates an unlivable scenario where we have to try to do enough good to outweigh our sinful natures. The doctrine of “eternal security” goes hand in hand with the doctrine of “saved by faith alone.” To deny eternal security is to endorse a “faith plus works” salvation system.
Jesus Christ made some powerful statements about morality during His earthly ministry. In those three short years, He talked the talk and walked the walk of the toughest moral and ethical system in human history. Most religions focus on the external actions, but Christ took the concept of sin and holiness to a much deeper level. For example, most religions are satisfied to condemn the physical act of adultery, but Christ said “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
Christ set the bar for holiness at a level all Christians are called to aspire to, but none can ever fully live up to, because of our sin nature. Just as the law of Moses was meant, in part, to demonstrate to Israel how impossible it was for mortal man to obtain the moral perfection of God, the standards of Christ also remind us of how shallow our best efforts at goodness really are. Thankfully, God has always provided a way for us to be forgiven for our shortcomings. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross served the same purpose for all mankind that the sacrificial lambs did for specific families before His ministry. Christ was a sinless, blameless substitute for our sins. The Bible clearly tells us what Christ’s moral expectations are for us. If we lost our salvation every time we fell short of those ideals, then none of us would be saved for more than a few minutes at a time. If that were true, what purpose was there in His death?
Also, according to the Bible, if we could lose our salvation, then it would be lost forever, because Christ only died once. Hebrews 6:4-6 is an often misunderstood passage, which strongly supports the doctrine of eternal security in two ways: it implies that Christ’s sacrifice must be sufficient for all sins, and states that if it were possible for a person to lose their salvation, it would be forever lost. According to this passage, if a person could do something that cost them their salvation (which they cannot), then it would be “impossible” for them to be re-redeemed.
Once Saved, Always Saved – The New Creation
Critics of the “once saved, always saved” doctrine claim that it gives Christians a license to sin. They presume that those who believe in eternal security intend to accept salvation, and then continue to willingly sin. This is inaccurate, because anyone who has been truly saved is a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), has the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:8), and now wants to live for Christ. Someone who continues to willingly and blatantly live in sin has not truly accepted Christ (1 John 2:19; 1 John 3:6; James 1:26). While this false belief may be held by some, it is not a part of the teachings of any true Christian church (Romans 3:8).
A person who willingly, humbly, repents of sin and turns towards the cross, trusting Christ as their Savior, will be saved (Acts 16:31; John 6:37; John 14:6). That salvation is once and for all, eternal, and secure. Those who truly trust in Christ are saved once, and always saved.