Seven questions about “Once Saved, Always Saved”

“…and they shall never perish….” (John 10:28)

Can you unfry an egg? Then, after being saved–genuinely forgiven and accepted and transformed by the Holy Spirit of God into something far different from what you were, more than any hen’s egg ever dreamed possible–you cannot undo it.

Once saved, always safe.

To say otherwise, and to preach it, might be something akin to insulting the Holy Spirit.

It might be. Certainly, it’s worth giving this some serious thought.

My friend and her husband have been visiting around, trying to find the church where the Lord wants them.  She sent me a message.

“We found a great church that we really like in a lot of ways. But we found out they believe a person can lose his salvation. That troubles us.”

She asked me to remind her what Scripture says on this subject. I was glad to do so.

Question 1. What are some primary scriptures teaching the security of believers?

John 10:28-29 is as solid as one could ever ask for. For that matter, so is John 3:16. In fact, every scripture that calls our salvation “eternal” or “everlasting” is making this claim, that salvation is forever and cannot be undone. (For us to say, “Well, it’s eternal so long as I keep up my end of the bargain” is insulting to the Lord.)

But there are plenty of others which speak of the eternal and lasting nature of the salvation we have in Christ. Some of these are….

Luke 10:20 —  Disciples should not focus their thanksgiving on variable blessings (like results, numbers, baptisms, etc) since they are inconsistent, present sometimes and absent at other times, but should rejoice in this, “that your names are written in heaven.”  Jesus clearly thought salvation was secure and unvarying, not dependent on anything external, and thus was everlasting.  (I suspect it upsets Him to see how little people value what He achieved on Calvary, to think it’s a temporary situation won or lost by our doings.)

Ephesians 1:13 Believers were “sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”  If that’s not eternal security, it’s nothing. He has literally made believers “tamper-proof.”  How good is that!

Ephesians 2:8-9. Everyone agrees that this teaches salvation is not of works, but of faith.  The funny thing, however, is that some will turn around and teach that, while good works cannot get us saved, bad ones can undo the Lord’s salvation.  Interesting logic. I suspect they’ve just not thought this matter through. If that’s the case, then we are indeed saved by our works.

The entire Epistle to the Hebrews addresses this in numerous places. For instance, Jesus is a better priest and a superior sacrifice than under the former system because while those priests were forever slaughtering sacrificial animals, “through His own blood, He entered the holy place one for all, having obtained eternal salvation” (9:12).  One for all.  One time for all time.

The priests of the temple had no chairs because their work was never done. “But He, having offered one sacrifice for all time, sat down at the right hand of God….”(10:12). “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (10:14).  And then, after saying in 10:17 that our sins would be remembered no more, Scripture says, “Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.” Get it? No more offering because there’s no need. Once saved, forever safe.

Question 2. What about Hebrews 6:4-6? Doesn’t that teach one can lose his salvation?

I was listening to a television broadcast in which teachers in a certain denomination were spouting their flawed doctrine in answer to rigged questions (purported to have been called in by listeners).  Someone phoned asking about Hebrews 6:4-6. The teacher said, “This passage teaches it’s possible to lose your salvation.”  And he went on to other subjects.

Not so fast, friend. That scripture states that something is impossible.  “In the case of (certain things), then if they have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.”  See that?

I grant you that it’s not an easy text for any of us, regardless of the position you take on this issue. If you believe, as I do, that the Bible presents salvation as an irrevocable gift from God which cannot be undone, then you have to admit this passage seems to teach the possibility of “falling away.”  I answer that a) it does not say someone has done that, only that “if” they did, so the writer is posing a theoretical situation; and b) “if” they did fall away, getting them saved the second time is impossible.  For that to happen, it would be necessary for Christ to return to the cross and die all over again.

Interesting that the television teacher’s denomination, which teaches one can lose his salvation and get it back, lose it again and regain it, does not baptize the person each time he/she “gets saved” again, even though they teach baptism is an essential part of salvation.  Anyone looking for consistency in many denominations’ doctrines will be endlessly frustrated.

Question 3. Is there any place in Scripture that flat-out teaches about some saved person losing his salvation?

I know of none. In fact, when the Apostle John spoke of people who had departed from the faith, he said, “they went out from us because they were not of us” (I John 2:19).  He adds, “If they had been of us, they would have remained with us.”

They were never truly saved in the first place.  That’s what he’s saying.

Question 4. Are there Old Testament allusions to the security of believers?

The best one I know concerns the priesthood.  When a man became a priest, he was given a ceremonial bath. From head to toe, he was drenched.  He stood there, passively “taking it.”  However, the process was never repeated. From then on, every time he arrived at the tabernacle (and later the temple) to do his priestly work, on entering he went first to the laver (wash basin) and washed his hands and sometimes his feet.  No one did it to him; he did it himself.

This is a picture of believers–in Christ we are priests of God (I Peter 2:9)–receiving salvation as a gift from God, through no works of our own. We stand there and take it. Thereafter, we never need to be saved again. However, each day of our lives, on our own initiative we come to Him and receive the daily cleansing as we pray, confess, and recommit ourselves.

See Exodus 40:12-15  for the initial washing of Aaron and his sons, and then 40:32 for the daily hand-washing.  I cannot take credit for this. Woodrow Flynn, the man who preached the ordination sermon for Billy Graham, spoke to our seminary class one day in the 1960s and shared this insight with us.  I think it’s pure gold.

Question 5. Why then do some entire denominations (and a lot of wonderful pastors and churches) teach the possibility of losing one’s salvation?

I’ll give you my opinion.  There are two issues here.  One: I think it just makes sense to think, “Hey, I came in on my own and I can walk out on my own.”  It’s all about free will. It just seems it would be this way. And two: there are some scriptures that on the surface at least suggest saved people can be lost.  The first is the big one, methinks.  “It seems to me…”

We look around at people who once were faithful church members and now are living in big-time sin, and it seems logical to think they’re no longer saved.  However, applying that test–concluding that what seems logical must be so–would also lead us to a doctrine of works salvation. It seems logical to the average person that good people go to heaven and bad people to hell.

This is why Scripture says “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:14). They are foolishness to him.

My wife’s step-grandmother, a devoted Catholic if ever there was one, said, “Joe, don’t you think when we stand before the Lord, He will add up our good works on one side and put our bad works on the other and if the good outweighs the bad, we’re in?”  All over her apartment, Grandma Ethel had pictures and images of Jesus on the cross.  I gently asked, “What do you think the point of the cross was all about?”  She recited the proper words–“He died for our sins”–but the meaning of  that seemed not to be able to penetrate the mind of this one who had spent a lifetime believing in works salvation. (Was Ethel saved or not? I vote for “saved.”  We are not saved by proper doctrine or correct understanding, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t we thank Him for that!!)

Question 6. Are people who get this wrong bad people? Or do good people disagree on it?

Clearly, there are good people (as we say) on both sides of this issue. And yet both cannot be right.  We are not calling “the other side” bad people or saying they are ignorant.  We love the brethren. We believe they are mistaken because they choose to discount some of the great teachings of Scripture for the simple reason that “it doesn’t seem right to me.”

Question 7. Are there other reasons for believing in the security of believers?

Let me give you two that mean a lot to me.

First. Scripture teaches that the saved are “sons of God” and “children of God.” (See John 1:12, Romans 8:16; and I John 3:10.)  Now, if we can have salvation and become God’s children, then lose salvation because of what we did or did not do, and thus are no longer God’s children, it’s a terrible metaphor the Lord chose to use.  And yet Scripture uses it repeatedly.  (See 2 Corinthians 6:18 and Galatians 4:7.)

Or should we believe that God will have sons and daughters in hell?

My wife and I have three adult children. We love them dearly, but as they were growing up each one gave us their share of headaches and worries.  We spent sleepless nights worrying about them and praying relentlessly. They went through periods of rebellion against us and God (and came through it, thankfully). At no point did they cease being our children.  Once my child, always my child.

Second. When we come to Christ and are genuinely saved, something happens at that moment which is divine, life-changing, eternal, and irreversible. We become children of the Heavenly Father, our names are written in the Book of Life, our sins are forgiven, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and nothing is ever the same again.  This is why one cannot walk out the way he walked in.  From this moment on, he/she is not the same person. In Christ, we are “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I hope this helps.

It does not answer every objection, of course. Huge books would be required to do that. But it’s important to emphasize this is not (as some accuse) a man-made doctrine to give sinning church members carte blanche to come and go and they please and still go to heaven.  Far from it.

The person who goes on sinning as before, as I John puts it in several places, is not saved and never was.  (The wonderful Adrian Rogers used to say, “The unbeliever leaps into sin and loves it.  The believer lapses into sin and loathes it.”)

The person who has no desire to live close to the Lord Jesus and to please Him and never has had, is probably not saved and never was.

However, that said, we say without fear of contradiction that in Heaven there will be people we never expected to be received.  We will be surprised again and again.  And, just as certain, there will be people we expected to find in Heaven who never made it.

God is the judge and not us.  We see through a glass darkly, the same way we do everything else.  We see doctrine through that darkened glass also, and no doubt get some things wrong.

Let us always come with humility to these matters of eternal significance. And let us pull back from the foolish who have all the answers and tolerate no dissent.

Help us, Lord.  And help us to encourage one another.






24 thoughts on “Seven questions about “Once Saved, Always Saved”

  1. The Book of Hebrews shows how Jesus is better. Hebrews 10:14 show how he is so much better as our High Priest. “By one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Joe I think you can explain this as part of.the security of the believer

  2. Good Word. I believe in eternal security of the believer. The Scripture supports noted supports it. I do believe you can fall back and be totally dependent on the grace and mercies of God and His Holy Spirit to make intercession for you as is described in Romans 8. I believe Jesus spoke of the Prodigal to also demonstrate this. Now I do believe that if in this state and one passes away, they will have to answer for their life as we all do. I do believe in degrees of reward. I also believe that if you are depending on the “once saved always saved” doctrine, you probably have never actually been saved and you need to meet your Savior Jesus the Christ.

    I was raised in the ministry and in my experience every single person that I have ever met that “enjoyed” teaching or preaching of being able to fall away out of the grace of God or that “enjoyed” teaching or preaching on election and predestination, is never concerned with their own salvation. They consider themselves the chosen by some righteousness of their own. They are elitists that use Scripture out of context to bolster their belief.

    I do believe that salvation is Jesus the Christ must be more than a recitation of the Sinner’s Prayer, baptism, or a warm fuzzy feeling. To meet Jesus the Christ through the Holy Spirit as the Truth is revealed to our soul calls for something more than club membership. It is indeed a life and soul altering event. Jesus must be more than your favorite story.

  3. Dear Pastor,
    Thanks for your text on the topic of salvation that is lose or not lose salvation.
    Have an interpretation much like the shepherd, not that he has to take a stand, but I clearly identified with his explanation.
    However, when reading the various biblical passages that I was quoting John 3:10, could not help but read some verses that speak of God’s children. For example the verses “8b And the Son of God was manifested precisely to destroy the devil’s work. 9Todo one born of God commits sin, because it remains the seed of God. Might not sin because it is born of God” in these verses we see that the child of God can not commit sin. We know that naturesa of Man is sinful and so it will always sin. In short, I continue to believe in the free gift of God’s salvation. But these verses that I mentioned like an explanation if possible.
    God continue to do good work in your life and your community.
    Amen and thank you.
    Jonatas de Portugal

    • Jonatas, we must always compare scripture with scripture. Otherwise, we will take one passage and build our entire doctrine upon it and go off on a tangent. When Scripture says the saved will not continue in sin, we believe it’s saying “will be changed,” and “will not live as they previously did.” My friend Adrian Rogers used to say, “An unbeliever leaps into sin and loves it; a believer lapses into sin and loathes it.”

  4. Joe, you knew Adrian Rogers? I get to hear him once in a while on BBN. I love listening to him! Such a solid preacher he was. And his voice reminds me a bit of Zig Ziglar.

    • Had Adrian in my church for a weeklongrevival in the late 1970s, and we were friends thereafter. Spent the morning with him in his office in 1999, picking his brain on some stuff, as I was having a 6 week sabbatical from my church. Yes, that voice was really something. I sketched him on a plane once and rather than give the drawing to him, which is the usual routine, I had him sign it. It’s in a book somewhere.

  5. ** Warning – Disagreement ahead **
    Dr. McKeever,
    I read Charisma News on a regular basis and many of your articles have been posted there. You often have insight that is helpful and encouraging. But here’s the “However”. I don’t know if you are aware which articles are posted there or not. As I am sure you do know that there are very intelligent people, and as you noted God loving sincere people, on both sides of this issue. There are several scriptures used to support both sides. Some are troublesome to the other side, some not. Some scriptures that each side hold up as such great evidence or even proof look so “full of holes” to the other side. The idea that salvation is based on a current faithful relationship with Jesus is not without warrant.Serious theologians have written works supporting one side and refuting the other so convincingly. Both Sides. When you state: “Once saved, always safe. To say otherwise, and to preach it, might be something akin to insulting the Holy Spirit.” Insulting the Holy Spirit? Those that disagree with the “once saved, always saved” could just as well claim that the “once saved, always saved” teaching is insulting to the Holy Spirit and the Word. There is no need for divisiveness and insulting to other God fearing, Bible believing Christians. After all, you could be wrong on a subject that is no way made plain in the Scriptures. If it were there wouldn’t be such polemic disagreement. We have plenty in common. The things we believe we all believe strongly. We should not be wishy-washy. We should not be afraid of disagreement. However, we can give each other believer the honor they deserve. After all you have beliefs in some areas that are not absolutely correct. Also, you criticism of using logic and reason is something you do on more than one occasion in this article. Christians are supposed to be thinking people and the Word of God does make sense. Anyway… Thanks for your service and continue to let God bless through you.

    • I came across the reposting of this on Charisma Magazine’s site this morning and was completely surprised. I knew it would not fit with the Arminian theology of their readers, and have wondered ever since why the bold, courageous, foolhardy (lol) editor made the decision to pick it up. And yes, I read those comments, all 50 or so of them at the time. I tried to leave a response, but the complex steps to sign up to do that left me baffled, so I abandoned the effort and put the link on my FB page with a comment or two. I noted that a) doctrinal uniformity has never been the mark of a believer but love, and many of the commenters sure did fall short on that; b) one either believes that salvation is by grace through faith or he doesn’t, and many of these want to have it both ways; and c) almost all the scriptures cited by those leaving comments were from Paul, meaning none (that I recall) dealt with the clear-cut statements of our Lord such as “shall never perish” and “no one shall snatch them out of my hand” or “my Father’s hand.” — I did say in the article that some scriptures are tough no matter which position you hold, and called for humility. And when I said that about the possibility of insulting the Holy Spirit, I said it “might be something akin to” that. So please don’t make me saying anything worse than what I actually said. Thanks for the note.

    • I’m about to prepare a write-up to answer and rebut (from scriptures) the 7 points used to support OSAS in the article above. I think it is quite clear from the bible that once saved always saved is the message the old serpent preached to the CHILDREN OF GOD in the garden (Genesis 3 :4): “you shall not surely die if you sin; you are children of God.” Let anyone who believes the doctrine of unconditional eternal security tell me the difference between this doctrine and the “doctrine” the devil himself espoused to Eve in the garden. I think it is very clear from the scriptures that the believer’s eternal security is CONDITIONAL.
      The word of God says;
      “When I shall say to the righteous, THAT HE SHALL SURELY LIVE; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, HE SHALL DIE for it.” (Ezekiel 33:12)
      “For if YE live after the flesh, YE SHALL DIE: but if YE through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, YE shall live.” (Romans 8:13)
      “BRETHREN, if any of YOU do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from DEATH, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19,20)
      It is very clear from these verses and from many others, that spiritual death is the result of persisting in sin. ANY believer who persists in sin without repenting shall (surely) DIE. According to the scriptures. The first person to deny that this is so was SATAN himself (Genesis 3:5). Spiritual death is the SAME condition of the unbeliever (Ephesians 2:1).

  6. I’m convinced that the question should be formulated differently, because if it is, it is very easy to answer FROM THE BIBLE. Instead of asking “can a Christian lose his salvation”, I will ask “Can a Christian DIE?” because the bible provides a very, very clear and simple response in many places.
    The word of God says;
    “When I shall say to the righteous, THAT HE SHALL SURELY LIVE; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, HE SHALL DIE for it.” (Ezekiel 33:12)
    “For if YE live after the flesh, YE SHALL DIE: but if YE through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, YE shall live.” (Romans 8:13)
    “BRETHREN, if any of YOU do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from DEATH, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19,20)
    It is very clear from these verses and from many others, that spiritual death is the result of persisting in sin. ANY believer who persists in sin without repenting shall (surely) DIE. According to the scriptures. The first person to deny that this is so was SATAN himself (Genesis 3:5). Spiritual death is the SAME condition of the unbeliever (Ephesians 2:1).

    • My friend read the article again.John the beloved says if u persist in sin you were not saved 1JN 2;19.u cant relate with Jesus and enjoy sin.Peter told Jesus go away from me am a sinful man.grace is powerful than the law.

    • You could not be any more wrong! Your trouble is that you simply cannot accept the full efficacy of God’s grace. I suppose you think of yourself as sinless. Take a moment and read I John 1:8, If WE say WE have no sin, WE deceive OURSELVES and the truth is not in US.

    • The death referred to in Gen. 3 is spiritual death. God said they would die on the day they partook of the fruit, and they did die on that day- spiritually, not physically!

  7. Joe i love your articles.i read them almost daily.You are an old pot that must have some goodies u

  8. Great lesson on security of every true believer! Some folks just cannot grasp the unlimited sufficiency of God’s grace. I am a SBC pastor and wanted to share some insights into the conundrum of Hebrews 6. The writer is addressing Jews who have professed faith in Jesus. Some had come to the very door of receiving salvation, only to turn away from the Gospel and revert back into Judaism. The writer says of this group that they can never again be brought to repentance. The Holy Spirit will never again “trouble” them!

    Bottom line… The choice is Jesus or judgment.

  9. I’m convinced by God and His word that the true believer in Christ is eternally secure. Salvation that isn’t permanent isn’t real salvation. Everlasting life that can be lost is NOT everlasting life. And it’s an insult to Christ and His full and complete atonement for our sins on the cross. I feel sad and sorry for those who believe their salvation depends partly on them and do not get that Jesus paid it ALL.

  10. Ezek. 18:4 “The soul that sinneth it shall die”

    1 John 8:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

    Rev. 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

    Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

    20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

    21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

    All those who sin will go to Hell. That is infallible Bible truth.
    If you can sin and go to heaven, why was Lucifer cast out?
    If you can sin and go to heaven, why were Adam and Eve kicked out of the garden?

    1 Cor. 6:9-10 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

    10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

    This man preaches false doctrine that everyone sins because he sins and he knows it.
    You can lose your salvation and you must live free from all sin to go to God’s Heaven. There are no un-believers in Hell.
    John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

    • “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 It’s about time you started believing that, friend. The next couple of verses tells why this is so: “FOR THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS HAS SET YOU FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND OF DEATH.” Do you know what this means? One law can nullify another one. The law of sin and of death is the one you cited to begin your tirade: “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” That WAS the law in effect until Jesus came. Now, do you know what the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” That’s it. Now, do yourself a favor and decide to believe God’s word and not your fears.

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