Brother Ron Barnes
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Once Saved, Always Saved

Dear Brother Ron

Is "once saved, always saved" a scriptural teaching? Please support your answers with scripture.


Dear Zorro

The great Protestant reformer, John Calvin, taught in the 16th century that people were "predestined" to either be among the elect (those who will spend eternity in Heaven) or the damned (those who will be punished for eternity in Hell). From that belief was derived the doctrine of "once saved, always saved." Protestants who follow Calvinism teach that a person who is once saved will never lose their salvation. Their followers can relax in the security that they are certain to spend eternity in heaven. This is known among theologians as "inadmissible grace" (a.k.a. " unconditional perseverance" and "perseverance of the elect.").

Those who believe in this doctrine point to the following scriptures as support for their belief:

John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

The key words in this verse are "whoever believes...shall...have eternal life." "Whoever" certainly appears to be a totally inclusive term, granting salvation to everyone who believes - irrespective of their behavior. It would seem to apply to persons of both sexes, all races, all nationalities, all sexual orientations, all degrees of ability, etc. The "shall" makes salvation definite and permanent.

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."

Presumably the phrase "him that cometh to me" refers to anyone who is saved. Jesus apparently says that he will never reject a saved individual.

John 6:40: "....every one which seeth the Son and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day".

This passage appears to imply that every person who is saved will be raised from the dead; none of those who had been saved will be lost. The first phrase is presumably not to be taken literally, as people today cannot visually see Jesus during their life on earth. The NIV translates it as "everyone who looks to the Son." The Amplified Bible says "everyone who sees the Son and believes in and cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Him..." This is an enormous expansion of the original Greek and introduces many concepts not present in the Greek original.

John 10:28-29: "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."

This is a very strong statement on the permanence of salvation. Jesus appears to state that after he gives an individual eternal life, they shall never perish but continue to have eternal life, even though others might try to interfere.

Romans 8:38-39: "...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."

This passage does not directly mention salvation. However, a connection might be inferred: to have the love of God could means that the person is saved and will go to Heaven; to be subject to the wrath of God would mean that they were unsaved and will end up in Hell.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22: "...[God] anointed us. set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

This passage apparently states that, once we are saved, God guarantees our salvation; we are secure.

1 John 4:13-17: "By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit...and the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him...we may have confidence in the day of judgment..."

This passage appears to indicate that once saved, we can have confidence that we will enter heaven.

Opposed to this belief was John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. He taught that it was possible for an individual to fall from grace and lose their salvation.

The following scriptures would seem to support this belief:

Matthew 10:22: "...he that endureth to the end shall be saved."

The implication is that someone who does not stands firm to the end will not be saved. Some theologians dismiss this interpretation; they believe that a person who does not stand firm never was saved in the first place; thus all that are truly saved will continue in that state.

John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but may have eternal life."

This verse implies that everyone who believes "shall" have eternal life. The Amplified Bible agrees. But other translations use alternative words: "should," "may," or "might." These latter version of the Christian New Testament imply that saved persons may have eternal life or possibly may perish. Presumably they could lose their salvation by their actions.

This is superb example of how Bible translators can select words which match their own theological belief systems. The NAB translation is used extensively by Roman Catholics who believe that an individual can lose their salvation may times during their lifetime, and frequently regain it by sincerely participating in church sacraments. Those conservative Christians who believe that one cannot lose ones salvation frequently use the NIV translation.

John 15:6: "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up , thrown into the fire and burned."

A person who "does not remain" in Jesus is apparently a saved person whose behavior or thoughts have become unacceptable. Throwing the formerly saved person into the fire and burning them is an obvious reference to Hell.

1 Corinthians 15-2: "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain."

Paul apparently believes that a person is only saved if they continue to believe in the gospel. If they lose faith in the gospel, presumably they lose their salvation. Some conservative theologians believe that this verse also refers to those who were not really initially saved.

Galatians 6:8-9: "The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in going good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

This passage appears to make salvation dependent on an individual continually working towards their goal of attaining eternal life. If a person gives up prematurely, then they would lose their salvation.

2 Timothy 2:12: "If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us."

Elsewhere in the Bible a number of verses refer to saved persons reigning with Jesus. So, the "we" in this passage apparently means saved individuals. But if we "deny and disown and reject" (Amplified Bible) Jesus, then he will do the same to us, and presumably terminate our salvation.

Hebrews 6:4-6: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come. If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the son of God afresh and put him to an open shame."

The first two verses define precisely an individual who had being saved and was receiving the benefits of salvation. The last verse states clearly that a person is quite capable of falling away from the faith...and if they do so, that it is impossible for their salvation to be renewed.

So we see the Bible can be used to support both viewpoints. Personally, I refer to the numerous references in the Bible to the fact that "salvation" is dependent on faith, not works:

Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

If nothing I can do is good enough to get me into heaven, than nothing I can do is bad enough to condemn me to hell.

But that's just my opinion.

Best always