Tough Questions Answered

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Once Saved, Always Saved?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Once a person is justified (saved), can they lose their salvation?  This seems like an important question, but there are differing views within Christendom.

Calvinists, both moderate and 5-point, affirm eternal security.  Eternal security is the idea that once a person is truly saved, he can never lose his salvation.  Calvinists point to many verses that seem to teach eternal security, such as 1 John 5:13, John 6:37, John 6:39-40, and John 10:27-28.

Arminians, both classical and Wesleyan, believe that a person can lose his salvation.  Classical Arminians believe that a person who apostasizes (denies that Jesus is the Son of God) loses his salvation.  Wesleyans believe that there are several (the number varies) serious sins, that if willfully committed, cause a person to lose his salvation.  This position is similar to the Roman Catholic view.

I happen to agree with the Calvinists on this issue, that once a person is truly saved, it is forever.

But there is another question to consider.  How does a person know he was ever saved in the first place?  According to Norman Geisler, a person can know they were saved if they “manifest the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23).  He adds,

Throughout his first epistle John lists ways we can know that we are one of God’s elect:

(1) if we keep His commandments (2:3);
(2) if we keep His Word (2:4);
(3) if we walk in love (2:5);
(4) if we love the brethren (3:14);
(5) if we love in deed, not only in word (3:19);
(6) if we have the Holy Spirit within us (3:24);
(7) if we love one another (4:13); and
(8) if we don’t continue in sin (5:18; cf. 3:9).

I’ve discussed this issue with my Catholic friends and they always point out that when someone apostasizes or appears to be living in egregious sin, Calvinists like to say, “He was never saved in the first place.”  This seems like a convenient way to never allow a person to lose his salvation!  They have a point.  We truly do not know about other people’s salvation and we shouldn’t be making judgments about that.  We can judge their fruit, but never their salvation.  God just does not give us that information.

However, with regard to our own salvation, I think we can be sure if we examine ourselves, as suggested above.  I can’t imagine going through my Christian walk, wondering every day if I was really saved.  I settled that issue a long time ago.  Have you?


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Comments

  • http://ramblingtaoist.blogspot.com The Rambling Taoist

    Hey, I love your list. What it tells me is that NO ONE is saved because Christians believe we’re each sinful and only receive God’s mercy because of his grace alone. So, I guess this means I’m going to have A LOT of company in hell (a place, of course, that I don’t believe exists). I promise to save you a seat anyhow, Bill. :)

  • Patricia Meehan

    Yes, I have settled the fact that I was saved a long time ago. Otherwise, I would not have changed and love Jesus and the word of God. Your whole interests in life change and Jesus is truly the head of your life. I almost forget what my life was like before salvation, but I do know I was selfish and put myself at the head. Pat Meehan

  • kay

    Thanks for the post. I struggle with this issue. If someone supposedly gets saved, then they revert back to their old habits, then they are still saved? Doesn’t God ever get tired of us repeating the same sin over and over and over again? Was thinking there was a scripture that said something about eventually God would get tired of it. May be wrong.

    What is your opinion on divorce and remarriage? C of C thinks that is a sin — a continual sin that you are living in daily. Two preachers told me the only way to be saved would be to divorce my husband. It sorta messes up one’s sense of knowing they are saved.

  • Brad

    Kay, the book of 1 John speaks clearly to the fact that even as Christians, we will still sin, however our desire to sin should be always trending downward, as our new nature should be to please God, rather than ourselves. If someone continues to live in blatant, known sin, and continues to live that way knowing it’s wrong, then you have to wonder if they’ve received that new nature, or if they made a “lip only” confession, NOT from the heart. Kind of goes back to James 2, faith without works is dead.

    As to divorce – the Bible gives 2 basic situations in which divorce is permitted (though not required) – infidelity and abandonment. Apart from those 2, the way I read Scripture, I don’t see justification for divorce. Note also that temporary separation and divorce are not the same thing. We can get very legalistic about the whole thing. I also believe there are some differences depending on when the person was 1st married and/or divorced, i.e. whether it was before or after they were a Christian. Can be very confusing. However, if the preachers believe it is a sin, how can they say that divorcing now is the only way to be saved? Do 2 wrongs make a right? Further, must one be properly married (or not) to be saved? I’m not sure I’d trust those preachers, Kay.

  • http://loveacceptforgive.wordpress.com/ Doulos Christou

    Bill, this a fine overview of a complex topic but I think you could have been a bit more detailed on your presentation of the Arminian position. Wesley’s construct is that apostasy puts one at risk for the loss of salvation but that the mercy and grace of God would grant them numerous opportunities to repent and be restored. Only one who turned away from Christ permanently could “shipwreck their faith.” Arminius and the Remonstrants never took a firm position on the possibility of become apostate from your regenerate state. He saw the Spirit as the director of perseverance and though the possibility of final apostasy existed, he never spoke to how far one would have to go to reach the state of exhausting the Spirit. In this idea he follows Calvin.

    Calvinists also do not blindly follow the once saved, always saved ideal. Spurgeon warned against those Christians whose faith has all the appearances of being sound on the outside but is weak or nonexistent on the inside as being at risk of perdition despite the show they put on.

    Personally, I rather like the assurance of Philippians 1:6. Peace.

  • http://www.musingsonmormonism.blogspot.com gloria

    How can some one be born again and then not born again? That makes no sense to me. My wonderful pastor believes a person can lose their salvation – out of sheer willfulness to disavow their Lord. I can see both points… don’t you think the scriptures teach both points of view? I believe they do…
    In any case, if we truly are born again, we will live a life pleasing to the Lord and never need worry about losing our salvatio. Geesh – did that make any sense? I hope so!
    God bless,
    gloria

  • kay

    thanks, k

  • julie

    Calvinists do believe in assurance as you pointed out. However, they don’t necessarily say that one who is backslidden was never saved. King David is an example of one who walked away in disobedience for a time. But he was brought back and he repented of his sin and rebellion. So, we don’t want to judge others for we do not know their hearts. Certainly we pray that one who has backslidden will repent and turn to the Lord. This is the hope when church discipline has been administered. However, if someone truly turns their back on the Lord after once having believed, and it is shown clearly over time that they repudiate all belief in Christ, then isn’t it safe to say that they were never truly saved?

  • Kathy Brickert

    The Bible says that when we are born again, we have a new nature… like butterfly coming out of cocoon. I’ve never heard of a butterfly changing back into a cocoon. Keep in mind that we are saved “by grace” through faith and the faith to even believe, is a “gift from God” so we can’t brag about how great “our faith” is. Remember, we are all saved by the same gospel, same LORD. Some like to have their ears tickled by leaving out the word “repent”. Ray Comfort has some good messages about false conversions you may be interested in. God bless you! Dave

  • http://www.algonet.se/~allan-sv/INDEX.HTM Allan Svensson

    Hi.
    I found your Web Site by Google
    And I wish you the best you can get,
    the peace of God through Jesus Christ.

    Welcome to visit my Site.
    Allan Svensson, Sweden
    http://www.algonet.se/~allan-sv/INDEX.HTM

    Once saved – always saved?
    The doctrine of election, which William M. Branham preached,
    that the elected cannot fall away from the Lord, it can entice
    people into a false safety, which can be their fall. Branham’s
    doctrine of the election does not agree with Ezekiel 33:12-19
    or Rom. 11:17-22.

    If the elected ones cannot become lost, why then are there so
    many warnings in the Bible? Why did Jesus warn us about
    false teachers and false prophets, if it is impossible that the
    elected ones become lost?

    If it is no risk to lose our salvation, then we do not need to
    hold us awake or be careful against false teachers. Why then
    are Israel’s sins and punishments under their wandering through
    the desert, written down as warnings for us? Why then did Paul
    write, “Now all these things happened unto them for examples:
    and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of
    the world are coming. Wherefore let him that thinketh he
    standeth take heed lest he falls.” 1 Cor. 10:1-12.

    A usual reason that Christians fall away from the Lord, is that
    they follow false doctrines, which lead away from the sincere
    faithfulness to the Lord. They believe more on preachers and
    priests than on the Bible.

    A remarkable phenomenon is, that the most resistance against
    revival comes from those Christians who have been praying for
    revival during many years. They have prayed for revival, but
    when the answer to prayers comes, then they become angry.
    They do not like to hear the truth of the Assembly of God, the
    Body of Christ. Instead to praise Jesus, they are irritated and
    afraid. Why? They are spiritually blinded of Satans false
    assembly doctrine. They do not have the knowledge of the
    Assembly of God. This truth has never been preached in the
    churches.

    Churches and denominations are Satan’s tools to hold control
    over the Christians. The purpose of the churches is that with
    false doctrine defend churches and denominations, and to hold
    their members in religious slavery, and hinder them to
    understand God’s word.

    In the time of the apostles any church did not exist, and
    therefore the word “church” does not occur in the Bible.
    Everywhere in your English Bible where you see the word
    “church” it is a grave translation error. It ought to be
    “assembly”.

    As you can see in my Web site, I am no member in any
    church. In the year 1965 I left Babylon the great, and since
    then I have been outside of all churches and denominations,
    according to the command of the Lord. Rev. 18:4.

    This command of the Lord is the most powerful revival
    message we can find in the Bible. Yet, this truth of the Bible
    has not been preached among God’s people, and therefore the
    Christians are entirely unprepared for Jesus’ coming. Only
    few Christians have obeyed this command of the Lord to
    come out of the great Babylon.

    Just this is revival, that all God’s people become free from
    all churches and denominations, the great Babylon. Many
    preachers are speaking that Jesus shall come, but they do
    nothing to prepare themselves.

    On my Homepage I have written very much about the
    Assembly of God and about churches and denominations.
    It is very urgent that all God’s people get the knowledge
    of this.

    None be saved by works of the law, Gal. 2:16,
    and none be saved without works of faith. Matt. 7:21-23.

    Prepare you to meet Jesus!
    http://www.algonet.se/~allan-sv/PREPARE.HTM

    Evil spirits in the churches
    http://www.algonet.se/~allan-sv/SPIRITS.HTM

    Why did the Pentecostal Revival take an end?
    http://www.algonet.se/~allan-sv/CRISIS.HTM#end

    What does hinder the Antichrist to appear?
    What is the Restrainer?
    http://www.algonet.se/~allan-sv/MESSAGE.HTM#Antichrist

  • Elizabeth

    Maybe the problem is that we tell people to ask Jesus into their hearts, but neglect the part about making him Lord of their lives. A lot of people go forward, say a prayer, get baptized, even get involved in church without ever truly giving their hearts and lives to God. They are just after “fire insurance.”

    I think that is what happened with my husband. He even went into the ministry. He is now “backslidden” for almost 20 years. Says he is a Christian, but does not involve himself with other Christians in any way, is hostile about my continued involvement in church, and most telling, there is no evidence of personal prayer or Bible study.
    However, looking back, in the early days of our marriage he resisted and then out and out refused to pray and study the Bible together as a couple, left all spiritual training of the children totally up to me, all while pursuing a ministerial degree and then pastoring. At the time he said I wasn’t spiritual enough for him to pray with and he now says there aren’t any local churches spiritual enough for him to be involved in or attend. (Incidently, all 3 kids are now adults and active involved Christians, one in seminary.)
    I suspect he had a religious experience of some kind but never fully gave his life to Jesus. But, maybe he was really saved and will come back.

    Maybe Calvinists are wrong and Arminians are right. I used to be absolutely sure of “once saved always saved,” but now i sometimes wonder. I’ve looked at the scriptures that both sides use.
    Ultimately, no matter what we and the theologians decide, it is God who is in charge not us. And God knows the hearts of those we call backsliders, and He knows who among them are His, and whether they ever were His. Thankfully, our entrance into Heaven will be based on His attonement for our sins and our relationship with Him, not on how right we got our theology.

  • Bill Pratt

    Elizabeth,
    Thanks so much for your comment. I firmly believe that backslidden or carnal Christians will enter heaven but that they will lose the rewards promised only to those who persevere in faithfulness to Christ to the end of their lives (this is the thrust of sections of the Book of Hebrews and many other NT passages). The loss of rewards will be no small thing, as these people will be severely disappointed at the judgment seat of Christ. They will not be allowed to reign with Christ and they will receive no honors from him. His disappointment in them will cause great pain and regret. Clearly this pain won’t last for eternity, but it will nonetheless last for a time.

    Continue praying for your husband, that he may return to Christ. Recall how King David also went through a long period of time where he strayed from God, but he ultimately came back. Maybe that will be your husband. My wife prayed for me for many years to be the spiritual leader of the house, and her prayers were finally answered, but only after several years. Don’t give up!

    God bless,
    Bill

  • Luke
  • pade

    well,heb10;24-if we deliberatly continue living in sin,there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,but a fearful judgement which may come upon the adversaries of God.

  • David Story

    If you were never truly saved then it stands to reason that one is not redeemed. However, even if we are saved we may at times sin making the life of redemption one of repentence. As scripture states, we work out our faith in fear and trembling. Moses was chosen and obedient to God, yet he broke the tablets.

  • Jashobeam

    John 10:27-28 is not a passage which supports eternal security. Rather it supports the teaching of conditional security. The security of one’s salvation is conditional according to vs 27 and promised only to those believers who “listen” and “follow” the Lord. No such assurance is given to those who are disobedient and unrepentant.

  • Tomasz D

    Remember Simon the Magician from Acts 8:9-24 Even though he believed he almost lost his salvation. But he realized he sinned and repented.

    In Acts 8:13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Phillip. Yet later in Acts 8:20-24 But Peter said to him, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! …. for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

    And what about Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 5:1-11? We don’t know if they really believed in Jesus, but we can assume this as they sold their property to join Christians. Yet through their evil-doing they dropped dead and most likely got condemned for eternity.

    Acts 5:4-10 Peter said “How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God”. When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died … Immediately she fell down at his feet and died.

  • http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/ Gary

    Here is my story: I grew up fundamentalist Baptist. I repented of all my sins and accepted Jesus Christ into my heart to be my Lord and Savior at age nine…and again in my early teens…just to be sure. In my early 20’s my family moved to another state where we attended a non-denominational, evangelical mega-church (which taught Baptist doctrine) for several years. In my mid to late 20’s I stopped going to church because I didn’t “feel” God inside me and he didn’t seem to listen when I prayed.

    I remained unchurched until I was married in my forties. I started attending liberal churches. When we had children, I started looking again at more conservative/fundamentalist churches, something closer to what I had believed as a child and teenager. We joined a conservative, orthodox Lutheran church. I became very involved in the church. I was happy and content in my orthodox Christian belief system. I read the Bible and prayed regularly.

    One day I was surfing the internet and came across an atheist’s website. He was a former fundamentalist Baptist/evangelical pastor! I was shocked! I started to engage him in conversation, and also tried to bring him back to the Faith, to belief in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

    However, this man pointed out to me some very big assumptions in my Christian belief system which I had never thought of, such as:

    1. Just because there is evidence for a Creator does not mean that the Creator is the Christian God, Yahweh.

    2. Our current Bibles contain thousands of scribe alterations, most of them inconsequential, but a couple of them are shocking. Why did God allow scribes copying the original Scriptures to change, delete, add, or alter his inerrant, Holy, Word?

    3. How do we know that the books of the New Testament are the Word of God? Is there a verse that tells us? Did Jesus give us a list? Did Paul?

    4. Do we really have any verifiable eyewitness testimony for the Resurrection or is it all hearsay and legend?

    5. Modern archaeology proves that the Captivity in Egypt, the Exodus, the forty years in the Sinai, the Conquest of Canaan, and the great kingdoms of David and Solomon are only ancient Hebrew fables.

    At first I fought him tooth and nail. I fought him for four months. At the very end I had to admit that there are no verifiable eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus in the Bible or anywhere else. All we have are four anonymous first century texts full of discrepancies and contradictions. The only thing I had left to attach my faith to was the testimony of the Apostle Paul: why would a devout Jewish rabbi convert to a religion he so hated unless he really saw a resurrected dead man on the Damascus Road?

    But after studying the five Bible passages that discuss Paul’s conversion, I had to admit that Paul never says he saw a resurrected body. All Paul says is that he saw a light…and that this event occurred in a “heavenly vision”. Visions are not reality…not in the 21st centurynor in the 1st.

    And as for the improbability that a Jewish rabbi would convert to a hated religion, there is a Muslim cleric in Israel today who not too many years ago was an ardent Zionist Jewish settler and rabbi, intent on ridding the Muslims from Jewish land.

    Strange conversions occur. They do not prove that the new religion is true and inerrant.

    I was broken-hearted, but I saw my Christian Faith was nothing more than an ancient superstition that had been modified in the first century by Jesus, a good man, but a dead man. There is zero evidence that this first century Jew is alive and the Ruler of the Universe.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Gary,
    As we’ve already established with your other comments on other posts I’ve written, you don’t read different perspectives on the issues you raise.

    You read 1 side of an issue and then draw your conclusions. And after you draw your conclusions, you go on to every website you can find and tell people that your conclusions are correct.

    So, what should you do? Read different perspectives. Educate yourself, because you are definitely coming across as a village atheist.

  • Gregg Powers

    We retain our free will after accepting Christ and can grieve and reject the Holy Spirit, What about the person who demonstrates or manifests the fruit of the spirit only to change later on and reject those fruits or does God somehow control the will of those who accepted Christ (and we know that does not happen because Christians still sin)? Or those who initially were committed to following the Bible and are now committed to not following it (ex.there are a lot Christians who did not believe for example in homosexuality which now do). There are verses (not quoted above) which make it very clear you can lose your salvation and we must look at the entire body of scripture, not just a given passage which can be taken out of context. See the warnings in Hebrews 3 after God promised the Israelites they would enter the promised land in Exodus 3 (the ones who actually received the promise were killed because of their unbelief even though they witnessed the power and miracles of God). Hebrews 3 makes it very clear that this unbelief was tied to their sin…..

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