TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Once Saved Always Saved Doctrine
- What does the Bible Say About Once Saved Always Saved?
- History of the Doctrine
Once Saved Always Saved Doctrine
The “Once Saved Always Saved” doctrine is the idea that once a person is born again and adopted as a son of God, there is no sin they can commit (even if deliberately) that can cause them to lose their salvation.
This doctrine has found popularity today and gives many people great comfort and assures them of their salvation as a one-time event that cannot be reversed. But if this doctrine is false, then it is very dangerous because it has the potential of removing personal responsibility and accountability when it comes to one’s relationship with God. After all, if we are saved, and there is nothing we can do to lose salvation, then why does it really matter how we act and why worry that much about it?
Now I know that some who believe in the doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved will say: “well if someone keeps sinning deliberately, that means they were never saved to begin with”. My answer to that is simple: “If you really believe this and apply it to yourself then God bless you and I am happy for you”. Even though I don’t believe it is biblical, I will not make this doctrine an issue with brothers who sincerely think if they keep sinning, they were never saved to begin with. If you sincerely believe in your heart that you have to endure in the faith until the end to be saved, then God bless you.
My big issue is with people who think that once they are born again or saved, they can never lose salvation even if they CONTINUE sinning deliberately. By that I mean, they continue living in a lifestyle of sin. My biggest issue of course is also with any ministry that preaches this doctrine. Please, ministers, be careful what you teach because you will have a lot of blood on your hands if you are wrong about this one.
The whole point of EternalCall.com is to spread the true gospel and I sincerely know that this doctrine is not biblical and a very dangerous one at that. I believe it can deceive people into thinking that their relationship with God is completely secure and that their salvation is assured while in reality, they are walking on thin ice because of that mindset.
Only in a later section of this article, we will talk about some of the history surrounding this doctrine.
For now let’s look at the arguments for and against the doctrine from a biblical perspective.
What does the Bible Say About Once Saved Always Saved?
I have divided the scriptures used for and against the doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved” for your convenience. You can click on each passage and go to the post showing the arguments I summarized from both sides. For each post, you can also add a comment if you find something relevant to say. If I find that your argument makes sense, I will be glad to add it in the article. This will help all of us grow in the truth of the Word of God.
For the scriptures against the doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved”, I decided to divide them by book because of the big number of passages.
If there are other passages you think I missed for any side, feel free to contact me so I add them to the list.
Scriptures Against Once Saved Always Saved
Abiding in the Vine: John 15:1-6
If ye continue in the faith: Colossians 1:21-22
Continue in the Faith: Acts 14:22
Continue in His Kindness: Romans 11:13-22
Removed from Him: Galatians 1:6
Book of Revelation – 10 scriptures
Book of Hebrews – 8 scriptures
Book of Matthew – 4 scriptures
Epistles of Peter – 4 scriptures
Letters to Timothy – 4 scriptures
Letters of John – 2 scriptures
Letter of James – 2 scriptures
1 Corinthians – 2 scriptures
Parable of the foolish virgins: Matthew 25:1-13
Parable of the Prodigal Son: Luke 15:11-32
Parable of the sower: Mark 4:1-20, Matt. 13:3-23, Luke 8:4-15
Arguments For Once Saved Always Saved
He that began a good work: Philippians 1:6
Nothing can Separate us: Romans 8:38-39
Noone can snatch us out of His hand: John 10:28
AntiChrists: 1 John 2:19
Whoever is born of God doth not sin: 1 John 3:9
History of the Doctrine
If we look back historically, the writings of the early church fathers did not really agree with the doctrine of “once saved always saved.” In fact, some passages seem to indicate in a clear manner that a Christian could indeed lose his or her salvation by sinning or falling away into unbelief.
Let’s look as quotes from some prominent church fathers.
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD)
“But I believe that even those, who have been persuaded . . . to observe the legal dispensation along with their confession of God in Christ, shall probably be saved. And I hold, further, that such as have confessed and known this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back from some cause to the legal dispensation, and have denied that this man is Christ, and have not repented before death, shall by no means be saved. Further, I hold that those of the seed of Abraham who live according to the law, and do not believe in this Christ before death, shall likewise not be saved . . .” – Justin Martyr, Dialogue Of Justin 47
We see that for Justin Martyr, it is clear that a person can come to know and believe that Jesus is the Christ, yet lose that knowledge and deny the faith. It is also clear that in this case, the person who lost the Faith will not be saved.
Irenaeus (120 – 200 AD)
Irenaeus appears also to believe that Christians are not really “once saved always saved”. Let’s look at one of his quotes:
“Those who do not obey Him . . . have ceased to be His sons.” – Irenaeus, Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book 4.41.3.
Of course, you can’t get closer to being born-again or “saved” than to be called a Son of God. If someone ceases to be a son, then he was a son and now is not a son anymore. That is losing salvation.
Tertullian (150-220 AD)
Here is another relevant quote from Tertullian:
“But the world returned unto sin; in which point baptism would ill be compared to the deluge. And so it is destined to fire; just as the man too is, who after baptism renews his sins: so that this also ought to be accepted as a sign for our admonition.” Tertullian, On Repentance, 2.9
Tertullian is talking about returning to sin meaning he had in mind people who had their sins washed awat. He says that after baptism, him who renews his sin is destined to fire.
Summary for the belief for these fathers
These three notable men who wrote about 100 AD to 220 AD seem to all agree that men can indeed fall away from the faith and lose their salvation. If we look also in more detail at their writings, there seems to be this consistent close relationship between faith, repentance and good works. In other words, the TRUE faith will be demonstrated by good works and one has to endure until the end in the faith.
Gnosticism: Ancient Form of the Doctrine
Historically, another form of this false doctrine has been around for quite some time. Look at some writings of the church father Irenaeus who lived during the second century (130 – 202 AD). He wrote a book titled, “Against Heresies” in which he called believers to take heed against what was called “Gnosticism”. In this work (Chapter 5 of Book I) he says this concerning these Gnostic teachings:
“But as to themselves, they hold that they shall be entirely and undoubtedly saved, not by means of conduct, but because they are spiritual by nature. For, just as it is impossible that material substance should partake of salvation (since, indeed, they maintain that it is incapable of receiving it), so again it is impossible that spiritual substance (by which they mean themselves) should ever come under the power of corruption, whatever the sort of actions in which they indulged. For even as gold, when submersed in filth, loses not on that account its beauty, but retains its own native qualities, the filth having no power to injure the gold, so they affirm that they cannot in any measure suffer hurt, or lose their spiritual substance, whatever the material actions in which they may be involved. Wherefore also it comes to pass, that the “most perfect” among them addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that “they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Now notice the similarities between this Gnostic teaching and the doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved:
- If one is saved, it is not because of his own conduct, but it is because of his nature. While Gnostics and Once Saved Always Saved believers differ on the source and how this nature came about, the concept is still the same.
- One is saved on account of one’s election. The Gnostics said that they were of the “elect seed.” Calvinists today say the same that they are the elect. Both agree that being part of the elect is independent of any action on our part.
- While one may willfully sin in the flesh, that does not affect salvation.
- Grace overcomes all sins regardless of the individual’s attitude toward sin. Gnostics say that grace flows freely regardless how much sin they willingly commit. Calvinists say that it is an irresistible grace and Christians cannot help but be forced by it. Both agree that nothing can cause the one who is saved to lose their salvation.
- While Gnostics use their doctrine to pursue their own lusts and passions without restraint. Calvinists, on the other hand, say that the Christian who is saved generally won’t choose to live like that, even though if they did, they couldn’t lose their salvation.
Notice how the parallels are indeed very striking, they are simply too numerous to be able to ignore. I cannot count myself how many times I heard a “once saved always saved” believer say a child of God cannot fall from grace, that the call cannot be revoked, or that a true Child of God cannot sin in a way to lose their salvation.
The point of this section is to show that It was the practice of the apostles to reject the doctrine of Gnosticism. I personally don’t see how one can honestly read the New Testament and come out with the idea that one can still sin deliberately or live a lifestyle of sin because they are already saved.
Many passages in the New Testament are very clear in saying that some may sin and indeed fall from grace. For three of my favorite passages against this doctrine please refer to the following post:
Where did Once Saved Always Saved come from?
Augustine affirmed unconditional election but also taught that believers didn’t have an infallible assurance of their election. Luther believed that a Christian can have the assurance of his present state under grace but not of their future state and final perseverance. Luther did not see the regenerative work of the Spirit as inextricably linked with final salvation. Calvin and Wesley agreed that if election were unconditional, then final perseverance would logically follow. So the Calvinistic tradition has understood election as unconditional, regeneration as permanent, and certitude of final perseverance as a genuine possibility for the believer.
“Once Saved Always Saved” as a doctrine did not appear in any literature of the church until the Reformation. Before Calvin, there was no one who taught that predestination to grace is same as predestination to glory. Calvin was the first to teach it.
This is a problem even for those who say the doctrine is biblical. How could such an important doctrine remain completely unknown for the first 1500 years of Church history? If it was taught prior to Calvin, I welcome any evidence.
What should we do about it?
If you know someone who believes in Once Saved Always Saved, do you care about their souls? Aren’t you concerned they might get to the gates of heaven only to find out they are eternally lost? I urge you to please wake them up. Invite them to study the Bible with you, send them this article about the history of that doctrine, do something. It is not good to stay silent, let’s shine the light of truth and God will continue the work.
Believing this doctrine can cause someone to take sin lightly and not regard it as serious. A Christian is truly forgiven and under grace but this gift of grace has to be preserved and cherished. If after we are forgiven by grace, we fall back into a lifestyle of sin, WE WILL FALL FROM GRACE.
May the Lord keep you all brothers and sisters.