Updated: Feb 24, 2022
The case for once saved always saved
Is it possible for a true born-again believer to lose their salvation and end up in the eternal lake of fire, separated from God forever?
The question usually arises when someone we know or even perhaps ourselves, who previously professed Christianity but is now living far from Jesus and does not seem to even care.
As we begin this important study it is crucial to remember that not everyone in any given fellowship may be truly born again! Our question in this study is focused on those who have truly been born-again.
This study has three parts to it.
1. The need for holiness in the believer’s life.
2. Bible evidence to support ‘once saved always saved’.
3. Responses to those scriptures which appear to contradict this.
Part 1 It is clear from the teaching of the Bible that the Lord wants and indeed expects us to lead holy lives that bear fruit. It does matter how we live in every area of our lives and we must not grieve the Holy Spirit who indwells us by living in constant sin. The grace of God and His righteousness in us are not a license to sin. Even if we do stumble our hearts should be quick to confess our sins to the Lord.
Calvinists and Armenians
Calvinists (John Calvin 1509-1564) generally believe in Eternal Security. They believe that God knew everyone who would believe from before the foundation of the world, and because of this He called and chose each one. In this viewpoint God has done all the work for salvation in the past and the people will be saved in the future. One drawback from this point of view is that because it is so focused on the past it leaves out how the believers live in the present. When taken to extremes this could be taken to mean that it really does not matter how the Christian behaves and hence opens the door for widescale immorality.
Arminians (Jacob Arminius 1560-1609), on the other hand, concentrate much more on the present. They also believe God has called and chosen us, but that this calling works only on a day to day basis. So, if we live a holy life today, we are still saved, but if not, we are in instant danger of losing our salvation. Some Arminians become very legalistic and keep long sets of rules perhaps even to the extent of keeping all the law of Moses. Some are in more bondage to the law than any legalistic Jew!
Most of what the Calvinists believe is scripturally correct, but a balanced biblical viewpoint must take the present into account. Jesus is alive today and .... He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever liveth to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7 23-25). Israel needed a high priest to represent the people to God and in the same way Jesus Christ our high priest makes daily intercessions for each one of us.
Our eternal security and salvation do not only depend in what the Lord has done in the past but also on the fact that Jesus Christ is interceding for us today. This means there is a present aspect to our salvation.
In other words, if Jesus stopped interceding for us perhaps, we might lose our salvation. Praise God however that He can save us to the uttermost (panteles) meaning completely, utterly, or finally, or even better everlastingly (forever).
This present aspect of our salvation means that God requires something from us today!
Our present-day sin is still loathsome to God.
Although Jesus paid the price in full for all our sins when we sin today, Jesus has to say to His Father ‘I suffered and died for that sin’. So, there is still a reaction in heaven when we sin though He graciously forgives us when we repent. Our sins are still of real significance today and we must remember that obedience is better than sacrifice.
Ephesians 4 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
The basis of our eternal security is founded in two equally important things.
1. The work and calling of God in the past
2. The living intercession of Christ for us.
If we remember both aspects, they will keep us from extremes of considering sin unimportant or trying to live under the Law. Our love and gratitude to Jesus will lead us into greater holiness. Some Arminian preachers are frightened to preach on God’s grace in case it will promote sin in the believer’s lives. The Bible however teaches that as we acquire an understanding of the grace and love of God and a revelation that Jesus is constantly interceding for us, then we will be inspired to lead holy lives. The supporting scriptures for this motivation to holiness are given below .
From these scriptures it is clear that God does not employ fear or outward things to spur us on to holiness but rather it is the truth inside us that will cause a response from our hearts. We respond to God’s love and grace. Those forgiven most, love most!
Holiness needs a new nature
No matter how good on external appearances people are, only the new birth can really change their nature. People who have only received the Gospel in their heads are often more difficult to convert because they think they are already saved.
Two Views of Salvation
Some people would say that man’s work can help him earn salvation, whereas others say salvation is entirely God’s work.
If salvation can be earned or deserved in any way, based on our actions, then there is a possibility that we might stumble and lose it again. This is in effect a ‘social gospel’ a gospel based on good works. This would mean that salvation was gained by doing good works and implies a necessary standard of conduct.
If, like most Christians we believe that salvation is entirely the work of God, then we could only lose it through some failure on God’s part. This is of course impossible.
The Bible is clear on this point that salvation is a gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Four Foundational Principles for Eternal Security
1. God’s omniscience; he knows everything, past, present, and future. He knows each one of us at our worst (faults and failings) and at our best. He knew what he was doing when he saved each one of us. He was big enough to complete the task of preparing us for eternity.
Romans 8 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
See also 2 Timothy 2 13, Isaiah 46 9-10.
2. The nature of a gift from God; Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
A wage is earned, but a gift is given, the Greek word for gift charisma means a gift. Eternal life is a gift and the Scripture says in Romans 11 :29 ... the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
If we could lose our salvation, then surely God’s omniscience and grace would be in doubt!
3. The work of the Trinity in our salvation
All three personalities of the triune Godhead co-operated in our salvation. The idea that any or all of them failed is absurd.
a) The work of the Father.
Ephesians 1 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Father God planned our salvation and has adopted us into his family.
Philippians 1 6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
It was the Father who began the good work in us, and He will faithfully complete it.
b) The work of the Son
Jesus died for every sin; past, present, and future. If even one sin was not covered by his blood, then we would be in grave danger. But thank God that no sin can now affect God’s plan, because they have all been considered since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world.
Jesus is our advocate (1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:). The parakletos (advocate) means one called alongside to help. Jesus does not turn his back on us when we sin but rather, he rushes to the Father saying, ‘Yes I know he is guilty, but I paid for that sin on the cross’.
When we get to heaven there will be great rejoicing ‘He (Jesus shall see the travail of his soul and be satisfied (Isaiah 53 11).
Jesus is both judge and advocate (John 5 22+27). The court is biased in our favour!
c) The work of the Father and Son Together.
John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day.
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
The Father gives men to the Son and He will lose none of them!
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man can pluck them out of my Father's hand.
30 I and my Father are one.
d) The work of the Holy Spirit.
We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which is the earnest  of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
We are sealed now of salvation. This implies a ‘done deal’. God owns us from that moment forever. The King of King’s seal cannot be reversed.
4. The family or kindred relationship.
We are born-again into God’s family; Galatians 3 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
Even if we deny Our Father, He remains faithful to us.
Responses to scriptures which appear to be against eternal security
There are Christians who believe that they can lose their salvation.
It is worth considering just for a moment, that there are only two positions on this matter. Either you can or you cannot lose your salvation!
In general, two types of error can be made when trying to interpret a passage of scripture.
1. Either or the verse or passage is misapplied i.e. it is talking about a different subject altogether (and not salvation in this case).
2. A verse can be taken out of context and so it is meaning becomes distorted.
An example of such an error is where some people say that because Galatians 5:4  says that we can ‘fall from grace’ then this means we can lose our salvation. This passage is talking about how to lead the Christian life not about salvation!
Scriptures used to oppose the doctrine of eternal security
Generally, they can be divided into five main groups.
1. Passages dealing with fruit and the judgement of believers works.
e.g. In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9) the main thrust of the story is about people’s hearts and the fruit that they will produce when salvation comes. Only the first category the hard-hearted person who refuses the seed of God’s word is an unbeliever.
See also Hebrews 6:7-10 and 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
2. Passages about God disciplining believers.
Although God does discipline his children, he does not throw them out of his family.
The unforgivable sin is of course the sin of not believing what the Holy Spirit and the Word God say about Jesus Christ and can only be committed by unbelievers!
In Acts 5:1-11 Annanias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and died! This does not imply that they lost their salvation, but it was a judgement of their works. Their dead works will be burned up in heaven just like ours!
See also the story of King Saul in 1 Samuel 28 and especially v.19 ...you and your sons will be with me.
3. Passages taken out of context.
Matthew 24:13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. The context of ‘saved’ here is that of delivered i.e. will not die but survive.
Matthew 7:21-23 ...I never knew you; depart from me your evil who practise lawlessness. This talking about judgement day (every knee ...) and is clearly talking about unbelievers.
4. Passages exhorting believers to live in fellowship.
Hebrews 6:1-6 careful study of this passage shows that the ‘repentance of v.6 is referring to the same repentance from dead works’ as verse 1. This is talking about believers who are out of fellowship with the Lord and need to get rid of their dead works.
5. Miscellaneous scriptures.
Revelation 3 5 ‘Overcomers’ Some people assume that some believers will not be overcomers and hence lose their salvation. However, in 1 John 5 4-5 defines who the overcomers are i.e. one who has faith in Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 2:11-13; ‘If we deny (disown) Him....He will also deny us. If God remains faithful our salvation is secure in Him.
The grace of God should promote holiness in our lives. We are in a relationship with God which cannot be broken although our fellowship can.
Your eternal life has already begun so let us live and act in a worthy manner!
Jude:24-25 24 Now unto him that can keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion, and power, both now and for ever. Amen.
Teaching adapted in part from BBS TAPES 9-11 by the late Roger Price (Chichester CF)
see additional resources for links
 Titus 2 11-13. Ephesians 2:8-10. Romans 6:11-15. 1 Corinthians 6:15-20. Ephesians 3:20 -4 22. 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12. Collossians 3:1. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. 1 John 3:13.  Double negative in Greek for emphasis ‘never ever’.  Guarantee or down-payment.  Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.