By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
Whether we are “once saved, always saved” can spark intense debates within Christian circles. Those in favor and those opposed draw on biblical passages to support their stances.
At its core, the doctrine addresses the issue of eternal security. According to proponents of once saved, always saved, once someone truly accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, they are saved. Once they are saved, their salvation is eternally secure and cannot be lost. Their subsequent actions or behaviors do not disqualify them from their secure position.
This idea of eternal security is not without challenge. However, as you look at this doctrine, it forces us to consider important questions about salvation and the assurance of faith. Among them is, can you be sure that your salvation is secure in Christ?
While some will argue that “once saved, always saved” is a comforting assurance of God’s grace at work in your life, others will argue it gives people a free pass to live how they want and think they can still go to heaven. As we explore this topic, we will dive into some of the Biblical foundations for this teaching while considering practical implications for you as you grow in your walk with Jesus.
Is “Once Saved Always Saved” in a Bible Verse?
If you are looking for the term once saved, always saved in the Bible, good luck because you won't find it.
There is no specific Bible verse that uses those exact words in that order.
However, that does not mean it is not true because there are scriptures that point to this truth, which I will share with you in just a moment.
Do We Know Who Coined the Phrase “Once Saved Always Saved”?
It's challenging to trace the exact origin of the phrase to one person, as numerous theologians and preachers throughout Christian history have adopted it. It likely developed naturally as part of the wider discussion on salvation and the certainty of faith.
This discussion is not new and has been ongoing for centuries in the church. Some even date this discussion to writings as far back as the second century.
What Bible Verses Seem to Say Once Saved, We Are Always Saved?
Let’s address the question many of you may have. Does the Bible support the “once saved, always saved” position? I believe it does, and here are a few scriptures that align with this doctrine.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
What do these verses tell us about salvation, and how does this align with once saved, always saved? Here are three things these scriptures tell us.
- God is the author of your salvation.
- God is the sustainer of your salvation.
- God is the perfecter and completer of your salvation.
The idea of eternal security or anything eternal must begin with the one who is eternal. Our salvation, which is eternal, was not given to us because of anything we have done. In the same way, securing our salvation is not by anything we can do by ourselves. Salvation begins with God, as he is the author of our salvation.
When God saved you, he marked you with a seal, who is the Holy Spirit. A seal represents ownership, which means you belong to God. Seals are not meant to be temporary but permanent and so is your salvation. If you notice, we are not sealed only for a moment, the Holy Spirit seals us until the day of redemption.
In addition, the Holy Spirit is a deposit that guarantees our inheritance. When someone makes a deposit, that means they intend to return and purchase the item they have placed that deposit on. The deposit God has made in us is for our eternal redemption, and he will return and make good on his deposit.
That would be enough there, but we also see that the one who preserves our salvation is Christ. Because we are in him, then no one will ever snatch us out of his hand, and he will complete the work he has started in you.
Let's consider “once saved always saved” from another perspective. The process of salvation is known as being born again. If we are born again in Christ, then can we become unborn again outside of Christ? The answer to that question is no.
How Can We Ask about Being Once Saved, Always Being Saved?
Because there are varying opinions on this topic, the first thing you must do is search the scriptures for yourself. Don't take anyone else's opinion on this. Do the hard work and examine the scriptures to see what conclusion you come to.
While it is okay to talk with your pastor or other Bible teachers, remember they will most likely steer you based on their position on this topic.
I always encourage people to reach out to me if they have questions on these and other Biblical topics. However, I should say up front that my position is clear: as I have studied this topical, I have fully come to believe that once saved, I am always saved. Not because of my ability to keep myself but because of God’s ability to keep me.
What Do We Need to Remember about “Once Saved Always Saved”?
One argument against “once saved, always saved” is that it will encourage people to live in sin. After all, if my eternal salvation is guaranteed regardless of my actions, I can freely choose to live in sin and still be assured of going to heaven when I die. Let me show you why this idea is mistaken, and anyone who thinks they can live this way is not saved at all.
“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:4-6)
Salvation is about transformation. Anyone who has been saved has been made new in Christ. This new nature, which the Holy Spirit empowers, changes your attitude towards sin. This is what it means to be born again. If there is no change of attitude towards sin, then you must question whether that person has been saved in the first place.
I believe the heart of this question lies with whom you are trusting for your salvation. If, after salvation, I am the one who must keep myself, then I don't see any hope of eternal security because my salvation would solely depend on me. However, scripture teaches that God saves us, gives us his Holy Spirit, and Jesus holds us in the palm of his hand. That is the hope I put my trust in and why I believe that once saved, always saved, is an accurate understanding of our salvation. Christ is the one who purchased our salvation, and he is the one who will sustain you from now and throughout all eternity.
“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 1:23-24)
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
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