Once saved always saved?
By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries
For some, once saved always saved is one of the most powerful and meaningful doctrines of the Christian faith. For others, once saved always saved seems to be a damnable heresy, straight from the lips of Satan. Why is this debate so heated?
For starters, there are biblical texts that seem to argue for once saved always saved (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 4:3), and there are biblical texts that seem to argue against once saved always saved (Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26). So, biblical interpretation is definitely part of the debate. Secondly, there are the theological systems of Calvinism and Arminianism, with “perseverance of the saints” being a core truth within Calvinism and with “conditional security” being a core belief of most Arminians. Firmly held biblical and theological beliefs are a major part of the once saved always saved debate.
In my experience answering questions for GotQuestions.org, though, the biblical and theological arguments are not the reason once saved always saved is opposed. It always seems to come back to the issue of: “If once saved always saved is true, then we can live our lives any way we want to.” So, in reality, most who reject once saved always saved do so for a practical reason: how can we teach people to stop sinning if they remain saved no matter what they do? According to this line of thought, hellfire and eternal damnation are the only threats powerful enough to get people to stop sinning.
As someone who firmly believes in once saved always saved, I am often asked, “If once saved always saved is true, does that mean we can live our lives any way we want to?” And, what is my answer to that question? Ultimately, I have to answer “yes.” The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is so absolutely perfect and sufficient that it did indeed pay the penalty for ALL of our sins. Christ’s death paid for the sins we committed before the moment we received Him as Savior, and Christ’s death paid for the sins we commit after we receive Him as Savior.
So, while I would say “yes” to the idea that we can live our lives any way we want to without losing salvation, I would also say that a person who has truly received Jesus Christ as Savior will not live his/her life any way he/she wants to. When you understand the depravity of your sin, the eternal penalty you have earned, and the tremendous price Jesus paid, it is a transformational experience. When you become saved, you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), all things have become new. Once saved always saved is not a license to sin. Rather, it is an understanding that we could not earn salvation on our own merit, and therefore, nothing we can do will cause us to lose the salvation God has purchased with the blood of Christ.
Once saved always saved is the realization that God’s plan of salvation is absolutely perfect. A person whom God has chosen for salvation cannot be unsaved, unredeemed, unreconciled, unforgiven, lost, forsaken, abandoned, or thrown away. Good works and obedience cannot earn salvation, and neither can a lack thereof result in the loss of salvation. The biblical truth of once saved always saved puts the focus of salvation where it should be – on the holy and omnipotent God who finishes what He starts and never fails (Jude 24).
Related GotQuestions.org article: once saved always saved