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Once Saved Always Saved: Gospel or Lie?


The doctrines of "Once saved, always saved," along with the Calvinistic version called " Perseverance of the saints," in their most basic forms, are teachings which claim that once a person has truly believed and put their faith in the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are forever or eternally saved. There is absolutely nothing that this person who has been born again can do which could nullify or forfeit that salvation. Almighty God takes over at this point and will hold them, keep them, and sanctify them regardless of anything that person might do.

Some of the extreme OSAS (once saved, always saved) proponents may go so far as to say that one who has been saved can live any immoral way they want to, yet not suffer loss of salvation, only loss of some rewards in heaven. The more moderate position (perseverance of the saints) would disagree, claiming that if a person is not continuing or persevering in their faith, and growing in holiness, they could never have been saved to begin with. But both sides would, once again, essentially agree that once a person has truly been saved, they will remain saved, and since both groups make this claim we will consider them together as OSAS for the rest of this article. 

Many teachers today make the claim that this doctrine (OSAS) is an intrinsic part of the gospel and that if you don’t believe it you are preaching a works-based salvation, or in essence, another or false gospel. Is OSAS an indispensible part of the gospel and what the Bible teaches, or is this the same lie that the old serpent, Satan, has used since he deceived Eve in the Garden when he assured her, “Ye shall not surely die”?

Most would agree that 1Cor. 15:1-4 describes the essence of the one, true gospel. The Apostle Paul writes, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory (or hold fast) what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” Here we see Paul in verse 1, preparing to declare the gospel once again to the Corinthian believers. In verse 2 he mentions that this gospel will save them if they keep in memory or hold fast to what he has preached or taught to them. Paul then warns these believers of the consequence of not keeping in memory or holding fast to what they had been taught. He tells them that they would have believed in vain or, in other words, that their initial belief would not produce its intended result, the salvation of their souls. He did not insinuate that they had never believed, no, he was sure that they had believed but was letting them know that their initial belief would be in vain if they did not hold fast to what they had been taught. Please notice also that he makes no mention of God holding fast for them, he clearly places the responsibility upon them.

Paul speaks about the results of believing in the gospel and how these results are attained in another passage. In Col. 1:21-23 we read, “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard.” In verse 21 Paul declares one of the results of believing in the gospel, reconciliation with God. He then proceeds to explain that this reconciliation, with being presented to God as holy, unblameable, and unreprovable, will only finally be accomplished if they continue in the faith grounded and settled. He does not say that they will attain this no matter what, but that they (not God for them) must continue in faith and not moved away from the hope of the gospel. So once again we see Paul in discussion about the gospel clearly attaching a condition to the attaining of the hope of it. He exhorts believers that salvation is contingent upon them keeping themselves in the faith to the end. It appears from these texts that the one, true gospel is conditional and not unconditional as many would profess.

Did the Lord Jesus teach that one moment of faith would guarantee eternal salvation? Speaking to His disciples as He was sending them out to preach the gospel and heal the sick, He warns them, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: BUT HE THAT ENDURETH TO THE END SHALL BE SAVED." (Matt. 10:22) In John 8:31-32 we see Jesus speaking to some Jews that the Bible says had believed in Him. Jesus tells these believers, “if ye continue in my word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus tells these believers that THEY MUST CONTINUE in His word to come to know the truth and to be made free. In Luke 8:13 we see Jesus in the process of explaining the parable of the sower to His disciples. He makes the point to them that there are some people who “believe” for a while but in time of temptation or trial, they fall away. Can this statement be any plainer from our Lord? Here we need to ask ourselves a question, can someone fall away from something if they had never been there in the first place? It doesn’t appear that Jesus believed that one moment of faith would guarantee eternal salvation as many teachers today believe and teach..

As we continue our study on this topic, it should become obvious to all that if we can simply cite one example of a saved person falling out of faith, or not attaining salvation, we would prove that OSAS is a false doctrine worthy of rejection. Are there any examples of saved people falling out of faith in the Word of God? Jesus seemed to describe this type of happening in the parable we just discussed, but are there any actual examples?

In 1Tim. 1:19-20 we see Paul urging Timothy to hold on to “faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” Here we have Paul mentioning two individuals by name. He says that they have put away their faith (can you put away something that you never possessed to begin with?) and consequently shipwrecked (or utterly destroyed) it.

Later in the same letter, chapter 5, Paul mentions some others that apparently turned away from a previous faith they had once had. We read in verses 11-15, “But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan.” Here Paul speaks of some younger widows, of whom he apparently knew of, who had, cast off their first faith, turned aside to follow Satan, and will now be facing damnation.

In the very next letter, 2Tim. chapter 2, verses 16-18 we again read, “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.” Here we have two false teachers who, because of their erroneous teachings, had overthrown the faith of some. Could Paul have made this statement if he hadn’t known of any whose faith had been overthrown? It seems pretty clear from these three examples alone that Paul believed one could fall away from the faith and that he actually knew of individuals that had done so.

Paul seems to confirm his belief in 1Tim. 3:6. While in the process of listing the qualifications for elders in the church, Paul writes, “Not a novice (a newly planted convert), lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” If Paul did not believe that there was a distinct possibility that a new convert (believer) could fall into the condemnation of the devil, it would be completely nonsensical for him to write this. It seems pretty clear to this writer that the Apostle Paul did not believe nor teach the doctrine of OSAS.

What about some of the other writers of the New Testament? We previously discussed some of the words written by the Apostle John in his gospel. What about James? In James’ letter chapter 5, verses 19-20 we read, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him (or turn him back); let him know, that he which converteth (turns) the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Here we see James speaking to the brethren and telling them that if one of them should err from the truth (meaning they once had the truth) that they would then be classified as a sinner, in need of having their soul saved from death. Did James believe that one of his brothers in Christ could eventually fall and die spiritually?

What did the Apostle Peter teach and believe? He writes in 2Peter 2:20-22, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” The absolute, only way to escape the pollutions of the world, to know Jesus Christ, and to know the way of righteousness is to have been born again by the Spirit of God. In 1Cor. 2:14 we are told, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto them: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” It is impossible for an unsaved person to know Jesus Christ and the way of righteousness. So here we see Peter teaching that those who had once known the Lord (had been saved) and then turned and rejected Him, would have been better off if they had never been saved to begin with. They will face a much harsher judgment. Does it make any sense at all for Peter to write this if this was an impossibility?

He also writes in chapter 3, verse 17, of this same letter, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” Does he say, beloved, rest easy, once you have been saved, you can never fall? No, he warns that if we are led away with the error of the wicked that we may fall from where we currently stand. Did the Apostle Peter believe and teach that a once saved believer was guaranteed to be a believer forever?

If the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostles Paul, Peter, John and James all believed and taught that a believer could cease to believe and fall from their faith, should teachers today be teaching contrary? Does the one, true gospel tell us that with one moment of faith, we will be eternally saved or does it tell us that we must believe and continue in that faith to the end and that, if we do not, the potential to fall is a clear and present danger? It looks to this writer that Satan has duped multitudes upon multitudes into believing that one moment of faith is all they’ll ever need. Believe once, he tells them, and “Ye shall not surely die.” Please do not fall for the same lie that old serpent has used from the beginning. May God bless you as you seek out and confirm these eternal truths.

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