The Road To Everlasting Life

Is ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ a

Biblical Teaching? 

     All Christians give in to their weak fallen character and commit sin at various times; yet most genuinely repent each time and so maintain their relationships with God and Christ. However, what is the position of those Christians who take sin very lightly and imagine that they can sin whenever they wish and not genuinely repent? What is the position of those Christians who eventually deny Christ by denying his teachings? So, the purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate from the Scriptures that such careless Christians are in grave danger of losing their salvation if they rely on the concept of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ (OSAS). This teaching is false to the Scriptures. Secondly, those repentant Christians who remain faithful as “over-comers” throughout can be assured of gaining life in the age to come i.e., they can be assured of their salvation.

Once Saved, Always Saved Is the Same Doctrine

as Calvin’s ‘Inevitable Perseverance/Eternal Security’

      Some Calvinists protest at any linking of their doctrine of Inevitable Perseverance with OSAS. However, most modern authorities see them as one and the same doctrine. Although this teaching was generally unheard of prior to the time of John Calvin (1509-1564) it really originated within Christianity with Augustine of Hippo (354-430) who was the person who introduced the following totally unbiblical concepts into the Church:

  1. Doing penance.

< > Purgatory. That Mary was a sinless perpetual virgin. That the dead Saints act as intercessors. Apostolic succession from Peter, Priests receiving divine authority, The Millennium is just the present period of the Church. Allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures     10.   The Apocrypha is part of the Bible canon.

So, along with this bad record in teaching by Augustine we have a further false doctrine in the ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ teaching. Indeed, although Calvin did not believe most of those Augustinian false teachings, he nevertheless showed himself to be a murderer of dozens of Christians including the famous Michael Servetus. So, the ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ doctrine did not originate with those who were well motivated as real Christian people.

Biblically, Salvation Is a Process – from Initial to Final

     In many ways the biblical word “saved” means ‘rescued,’ and such rescue can be in stages. This can be understood from the following illustration:

If the engine on a ship sailing through treacherous waters breaks down and cannot be fixed by anyone on board the ship, and the communication system becomes intermittent, the crew and passengers may fear the loss of their lives. If after many days they sight another large ship which acknowledges their plight, then everyone on board can say: “we’ve been saved.” Yet in reality this is just an initial hope of being rescued, but then, in anticipation of the completion of the rescue, they can say: “we will be saved.” In the meantime, they know that they will still have to go through quite a rough time including the difficulties in being saved during their transfer to the other ship and therefore, are only actually rescued once safely on board. This illustrates the pattern of past, present, and future aspects that the Scriptures provide concerning salvation.


     The Apostle Paul gives us the statements that once we have accepted Christ we have already been saved in one sense with his phrases: “...for in hope we have been saved (Rom. 8:24), and God, “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9) because, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds...” (Titus 3:5). So, Christians are in the starting position for finally being saved as they now live their lives in harmony with their “holy calling.”


     Paul also shows the steady process of one’s being saved when he speaks of, “ who are being saved (1 Cor. 1:18) and that, “...we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15). Luke also expresses this concept when he describes how, “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those being saved (Acts 2:47).


     According to Jesus it is only at his return that Christians will be saved in the absolute sense. He said that, “...the one who endures to the end will be saved (Matt. 24:13). This was later confirmed by Paul when he encouraged Christians to focus on their coming salvation with the words: “…salvation is now nearer to us than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11) and that “if any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved...” (1 Cor. 3:15). Once more the idea of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ is shown to be wrong when Paul admonishes Christians to, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching...for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). So, if one has to “ensure salvation” of oneself than one clearly could lose it. Also, the fact that “salvation is now nearer to us than when we first believed” demonstrates that Christians have not yet attained final salvation. So, it needs to be asked of the believer in the OSAS doctrine: ‘what exactly does he mean by the words ‘salvation’ and ‘saved?’

But Doesn’t the Christian Already Have Eternal Life?

     Within all the sayings of Jesus there are many that are proleptic. This figure of speech means that something which hasn’t yet happened is spoken of as if it has already happened—anticipated with certainty. The following, in John’s Gospel, are examples of Jesus’ proleptic sayings:

< > “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36 NIV). “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life … 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:47, 54 NIV). “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do”

(John 17:4 NASB). 

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: …24 Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:22, 24).

Neither Jesus nor his disciples were glorified at this time. Jesus was glorified at the time of his resurrection and the disciples will be glorified when Christ returns at “the last day.” Jesus connects the having of eternal life with being raised at the last day:

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40 NIV).

Indeed, this work wasn’t accomplished until, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3 NIV). Nevertheless, Paul looks for the time when, “we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (Col. 1:28). So, it is evident that the eternal life noted by Jesus in the Gospel of John is in prospect—in anticipation and not something that a Christian now has no matter what he does in the future. Similarly, John wrote: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son … 13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life(1 John 5:11, 13 NIV). So clearly one’s final salvation is only in the future when Christ returns.


     Paul tells us that the acquisition of ‘eternal life’ is in the future because it is a hope i.e., “faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2 NIV) and that “we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7 NIV). Furthermore, a more accurate translation of the phrase ‘eternal life’ is “life of the coming age” which obviously makes it a future event. Clearly, one cannot actually have “life of the coming age” at this moment when the ‘coming age’ itself has not yet arrived.

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