What Do We Know About
"Once Saved, Always Saved?"
We all know people who believe the doctrine of "Once saved, always saved." In our day everything has new a title. Some examples are jails are called correctional facilities, nursing homes are called health care facilities and barbers are called hair stylists. The old doctrine of “Once saved, always saved" is now called "Perseverance of the Saints." This is the idea that once a person becomes a Christian there is no sin that they can commit that would cause them to lose their salvation, even if they die while continuing in that sin. Many love this doctrine and find comfort in it because it totally removes personal responsibility in our relationship with God. This false doctrine causes people to believe that their relation with God is eternally secure even though Jesus said, "I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come." (John 8:21) How could it be plainer? If you die in your sins you can not go and be with Jesus.
Those who hold the doctrine of "Once saved, always saved" or the "Perseverance of the Saints" try to justify their ungodly conduct by faulty reasoning. They say things like, "When gold is submersed in filth it does not lose its beautiful qualities." They reason that the filth has no power to harm the gold just as sin has no power to harm the Christian. The problem with this reasoning is that it is just not true. There are things that God told Christians that if they did they would not inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Others want us to believe that the purpose of the grace of God and the blood of Jesus is to cover all the sins of a Christian. The blood of Jesus does cleanse Christians from sin but the condition is that we "walk in the light." We read, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) We must also remember that God's grace is received as we do what God commands. (Genesis 6:8, Genesis 6:22)
Observe what has been said in defense of this doctrine: (a) Billy Graham was very wrong when he said, "I am convinced that once a person sincerely and honestly trusts Christ for his or her salvation, they become a member of God's family forever -- and nothing can change that relationship," (b) Edward Hiscox was wrong when he said in "The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches" "We believe that the scriptures teach that such as are truly regenerate, being born of the Spirit, will not utterly fall away and perish, but will endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation," (Hiscox, page 67, 1939) and (c) The Westminster Confession of Faith (used by the Presbyterian Church) states regarding the perseverance of the saints: "They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved."
The teaching of John Calvin: John Calvin was born on July 10, 1509. Calvin became a part of what is know as the Protestant Reformation movement. He, like others of His time broke away from the Roman Catholic Church because of its religious error. Calvin was a political leader and a religious scholar. His work "Institute of The Christian Religion" is known world wide. We need an understanding of Calvinism because he taught many solid truths, and we also need that understanding because of some very serious religious error that he taught. Today some of our preachers are trying to lead us into many of Calvin's errors.
While Calvin was not the first to teach these things his teachings crystallized into a system of teaching that could be explained with the acrostic "Tulip." The "T" stands for "Total Depravity." The idea is that the entire human race inherits Adam's sin at birth, and thus becomes totally depraved and incapable of doing any good. The "U" in the tulip stands for "Unconditional election." This is the teaching that God chose to save some before the foundation of the world, and God’s choosing is not based on any foreseen response or obedience on the part of the sinner. The "L" in the tulip speaks of "Limited atonement." This says that Jesus died only for the sins of the elect and that this is God's sovereign decision concerning who will be lost. According to Calvin this number is unchangeable. The "I" in the tulip stand for "Irresistible grace." Calvin said that when God calls His elect into salvation, they cannot resist. Calvin said this call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. The "P" in the tulip speaks of the "Perseverance of the Saints." This says you cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. Those who hold this position agree that one may willfully sin in the flesh, but they say that does not affect the relationship that one has to God and salvation.
The doctrine of perseverance of the saints: Many churches and individuals say that grace overcomes all sins of the Christian regardless of the individual's attitude toward the sin. The teaching is that there is nothing that can cause the one who is saved to lose their salvation. They say that most likely a Christian would not chose to live in sin but even though they did, they could not lose their salvation. This would mean that the practice of righteousness would mean nothing. Yet, the Bible says, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:11-13)
Some people hold false doctrine for which not one single New Testament Scripture is offered in support of the teaching. However, there are some Scriptures that are often perverted in hopes of giving support to this false doctrine. They say Christians are eternally secure because Jesus said His sheep will never perish. (John 10:27-28) They say Christians already have everlasting life. (John 6:47) They say God started a good work in us and He will finish it. (Philippians 1:6)
The condition upon which security is promised: In John 14-16 Jesus told His disciples that He was going away. He told them how they could abide in Him and thus be with Him in eternity. In John 15:1-8 Jesus used the figure of a vine and its branches to teach this great lesson. We learn that Jesus is the true vine and His disciples are the branches. Those that abide in the vine by being fruitful branches will be saved. Those who did not would be cast out and burned with fire. Jesus set forth the condition upon which salvation is dependent, namely, being a fruitful branch connected to the true vine.
The Bible does teach security for the believer, but it is conditional. We read in John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” The words of Romans 8:38-39 are likewise encouraging, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 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.” Jesus said that the security He provides is for those who “hear my voice” and “follow me.” Those that love the Lord have protection against all external threats. What most people fail to observe is that these and other similar passages do not discuss what happens if an individual chooses to sin against God, or to leave the love of God.
What is wrong with the doctrine of the "Perseverance of the saints? Consider what is written in 2 Peter 2:20-22 “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” The Bible also says “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26)
A doctrine with terrible consequences: This doctrine of the eternal security of the believer is dangerous because it provides "false security" regarding salvation. Since these people think they cannot be lost or that the grace of God covers them, then they become lackadaisical regarding their relationship with God. The Bible teaches that to go to heaven a Christian must (1) Assemble faithfully with the church to worship God (Hebrews 10:25), (2) be involved in doing good works (Ephesians 2:10), (3) Seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), and (4) Love God with all the heart, soul, strength and mind. (Matthew 22:37-40) Many who believe "once saved always saved" do not take sin seriously.
Will you accept God's wonderful good news that Jesus died for your sins? Will you be baptized into Christ to put on Christ so that your sins can be forgiven by His blood? (Galatians 3:26-27) Believers contact Christ's saving blood by being baptized into His death. Those that become children of God have reason to rejoice. (Acts 8:39) Rejoicing follows man's response to God's good news of forgiveness by the death of Jesus.
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA