There is much controversy and confusion over this modern-day teaching. It was developed centuries ago by one of the Protestant reformers John Calvin (though he got the original idea from Catholic bishop Augustine).
It’s time we analyze this teaching in light of what the Bible really says.
Wikipedia (under “Perseverance of the Saints” or “Eternal Security”) describes this teaching as follows: “Once persons are truly “born of God” or “regenerated” by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, nothing in heaven or earth “shall be able to separate (them) from the love of God…”
Many verses including Romans 8:35-39 are used to support this teaching.
Such doctrine is commonly viewed (and practiced) to mean that once a person becomes a child of God through baptism, confession, and acceptance of Jesus as Savior, there is no sin that they can commit which results in the loss of their salvation. It nicely absolves such believers of personal responsibility for their conduct and lifestyle since they believe God will do everything in His power to ensure their eternal salvation.
However, this is a very deceptive, dangerous, and unbiblical teaching.
Biblical Salvation is Not an Event, But a Process
The first major problem with this teaching is the defective understanding concerning salvation. It is usually viewed by most as a one-time, instant event (when after repeating a certain prayer the minister pronounces a person “saved” or when one claims he/she is “saved”). Rather, the Bible accurately teaches that salvation is a process consisting of four basic stages. They are:
- Call: The Father initiates the salvation process (John 6:44,65)
- Justification: All our past sins are forgiven in Christ (Romans 5:9)
- Sanctification: Set apart to live righteously (1 Thessalonians 4:3,4)
- Glorification: The final product of our salvation (Romans 8:17,30)
The Bible Contradicts “Once Saved, Always Saved”
The second major problem has to do with ignoring clear scriptures that contradict this false teaching. Here are just a few of them:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 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.
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 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?
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were [past tense] some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
~1 Corinthians 6:9-11
And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. [NOTE: Even the apostle Paul feared being disqualified.]
~1 Corinthians 9:25-27
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. 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. 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.”
~2 Peter 2:20-22
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
From these few clear verses alone, we have seen that this popular teaching of “once saved, always saved” has no biblical basis at all.