Once Saved, Always Saved?

You have heard it said “Once saved, always saved”. I find that statement to be a little simplistic. When I’m asked the question of eternal security, I like to give the following answer:

Can you lose your salvation? Absolutely!

Can you lose your salvation? Never!

I think that about sums up what the Bible has to say about eternal security.

When looking at the question of salvation and the kingdom of heaven, a good place to start is Matthew 13 and the Parable of the Sower (or perhaps more appropriately titled “The Parable of the Soils”). Here, we see one seed not taking any kind of root (unsaved), two seeds taking root, but not living, and one seed taking root and ‘working’ by producing lots of harvest. But let’s back up to the two seeds that don’t survive. These verses, along with many others, seem to teach that we can lose our salvation; that we can turn away from being saved. For this reason, many people (and denominations) teach that we can lose our salvation. Here are a few such passages.

“You, then, listen to the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. And the one sown on rocky ground–this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. Yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now the one sown among the thorns–this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But the one sown on the good ground–this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown.” Matthew 13:18-23

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples. “As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. John 15:1-10

For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either. Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you–if you remain in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. Romans 11:21-22

If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; 2 Timothy 2:12

Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. Matthew 24:11-13

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of the immoral and fall from your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:17-18

Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly, or box like one who beats the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. Matthew 10:22

However, once we hit the book of Hebrews, we see a new piece of the puzzle. Hebrews 6 repeats the language that we can ‘lose our salvation’, but a new element is added to the picture: once we ‘lose our salvation’, it is impossible to regain it. This is stated in Heb 6:4-6, as well as in Heb 10:26-27. Unfortunately, many of those denominations that teach you can lose your salvation, also teach that you can regain it. This is inconsistent with Hebrews 6:6. Regaining one’s salvation is likened to re-crucifying Christ. It simply can’t be done.

For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, became companions with the Holy Spirit, tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away, because, to their own harm, they are re-crucifying the Son of God and holding Him up to contempt. Hebrews 6:4-6 (this looks for all the world like they are believers, but we’ll get to that in a sec)

For if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries. If anyone disregards Moses’ law, he dies without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know the One who has said, Vengeance belongs to Me, I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge His people. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God! Hebrews 10:26-31

Then we come to 1 John 2:19. It states that those that “went out from us” never belonged to us in the first place. Meaning, if you lost your salvation, you were never saved in the first place. This helps to explain why in Matt 7:23, on judgment day, Jesus says “I never knew you” and not “I once knew you” or “I would accept you, but you fell away”.

They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us. 1 John 2:19

With this understanding, we can now see that the verses that appeal to people to not fall away would be more properly understood as appealing to people to make their salvation secure; to have a proper faith in Christ – a faith that not only produces works, but stands the test of time. Real faith!

So – are there verses that say we can’t lose our salvation? Absolutely!

But you don’t believe because you are not My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish–ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:26-29

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Romans 8:28-31

Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Romans 8:35-39

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift– not from works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  John 6:37-40

Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever. Amen.  Jude 1:24-25

Salvation is a free gift from God, graciously given to His sheep. We don’t earn it. It is secured by Him, and once He gives it, it can’t be taken away from us by anything or anyone – unless that person is bigger and stronger than God (don’t hold your breath). These folks will never lose their salvation, because their salvation is legit. It is rooted in the name and character of God.

But there are lots of fakers – people who act like they’re believers and some who even think they’re believers, but they’re really not, and they don’t produce real, lasting fruit. These people, like Judas, will be weeded out and to them, Jesus will say “Depart from me, you worker of iniquity. I never knew you.” These folks will lose their salvation because their salvation is fake. They base their salvation on their egos, their works, their will, their ideas – something other than the person and work of Jesus Christ.

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