Once Saved Always Saved?
This is a very popular teaching. It is the idea that if you have truly been saved you cannot live in such a way as to finally be lost.
So, someone becomes a Christian and then decides they hate God and His laws and goes back to sin - yet they are still saved? Some will say that if that was the case then the person wasn’t truly saved in the first place. So that is something we need to look for: When the Bible warns that our behavior could cause us to be lost, is it sometimes speaking to Christians?
I believe there are several scriptures that clearly challenge this teaching. Please consider the following texts:
2 Peter 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
Peter is speaking about some who had “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Jesus”. He is talking about Christians. (For more on this idea of escaping the corruption of the world through the knowledge of Jesus see 2 Peter 1:3-4).
Peter says, if they go back to the world and are overcome with the things of the world, then the latter end is worse than the beginning. He says it would have been better for them to have never known the way than to know it and turn from it and that their latter end is worse than the beginning. How can that be if they are still saved? In the beginning they were lost – now they are worse off than when they were lost but at least they are saved? It makes no sense!
Consider this warning at the close of the book of Revelation:
Revelation 22: 18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Concerning those who add to or take away from the things written in the book God says He will take aware their part from the book of life and the holy city (heaven).
Related to this is a warning given earlier in the book of Revelation to the church at Sardis (ancient city in Modern day Turkey). Revelation 3:5 speaks about the challenges they were going through and then promises "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
Isn’t the implication that God could blot their name out if they did not “overcome”.
Hebrews 6:4 says, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame."
This passage speaks about some who were once enlightened, they tasted the heavenly gift, and here is the key one – they became partakers of the Holy Spiritwarns and it says, if they "fall away" it is impossible to renew them to repentance.
A little later in the book of Hebrews we see a similar warning:
Hebrews 10:26 begins, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
This is a fearful warning. It warns of a certain, fearful judgment for those who sin willfully. Some versions say those who "go on sinning willfully" or "deliberately". We are not talking about someone who struggles in their efforts to be a Chrisitan. Rather the text is about someone who gives up trying to do good. The writer says there is no longer a sacrifice for sin for them.
Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-12. Here, the apostle Paul is warning the church at Corinth (Christians) about continuing in sin. He refers back to the example of the nation of Israel who frequently sinned after they had been delivered from Egyptian slavery.
1 Corinthians 10:5 says that “with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness”. (This is what happened to the children of Israel after the Exodus. In fact only 2 of the men who came out of Egypt actually made it to the land of Canaan.)
Then verse 6 says “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
Then again he says their disobedience and punishment is an example and warning for us: 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
And finally he gives the warning in verse 12 – “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Finally, in Galatians 5 Paul tells Christians to “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (5:16).
In 19-21 he lists the works of the flesh, 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like”
And concludes by saying “that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”. What if a Christian practices the works of the flesh?
In denying the idea of ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAVED we are not suggesting that we do not enjoy great security in Christ as God’s children. We are all weak and we sin and fall short of all God wants us to be. But God loves us. He understands our weaknesses. He allowed his Son to die to save us and will not quickly reject us.
But if we persist in rebellion against God, especially after God has been so good to us, the Bible teaches in these scriptures that we can be lost.
Romans 8:1 says, There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
This wonderful state of “no condemnation” is promised to those who are (1) in Christ and (2) walking according to the Spirit, not the flesh!
There is great comfort and security in Christ: "no condemnation!". But this is conditioned upon our living according to God's teaching.