Are We "Once Saved, Always Saved?"

Email author: Bob Williams ++ Return to:  (Source: )


Confidence and Assurance of Salvation

As Paul approached the end of his life, he spoke with great confidence regarding his eternal salvation. "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8)." Paul had great confidence, not in his own perfection, but in the saving grace of God.

The Bible does not teach that "Once saved, always saved" is guaranteed. But it does teach that such is certainly possible. In fact, it teaches that it is even probable... if we continue faithfully. Being faithful doesn't necessarily mean being perfect or without sin (such is not possible), but rather it means (at least in part) continually holding to Christ as one's Savior and living as His child.


Teaching by John

1 John 5:11-13 (We can know that we have eternal life.)

John wrote in 1 John 1:6-7, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." We can have great confidence in our eternal salvation as long as we faithfully walk in the light. We are promised a continual cleansing by the blood of Christ as long as we do so.

1 John 1:6-7 promises the continual cleansing as long as there is continual confessing of sin. But such then indicates: if we fail to walk in the light, then there is no longer a cleansing of our sins. Perhaps related to this is what John later says in 5:16-17 about sin that leads to death and sin that does not lead to death. According to what he said in 1:9, our sins are forgiven if we confess them. It would seem then that sin that is not or cannot be forgiven is sin that we refuse to confess. Walking in the light must then include a continual confession of sin and a continual striving to turn away from it. John says that such a life brings about a continual cleansing. But one who does not walk in the light, one who turns back to a life of sin and refuses to repent and confess such, is committing a sin unto death and is therefore not being continually cleansed by the blood of Christ.


Teaching by Jesus

Jesus Himself said in John 8:31, "If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed."

Jesus also wrote to the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3. He urged all of them to remain faithful and warned some that they could be lost; consider what He said to each...

2:5 Ephesus "Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place-unless you repent."

2:10 Smyrna "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life."

2:16 Pergamum "Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth."

2:25 Thyatira "Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come."

3:3 Sardis "Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you."

3:11 Philadelphia "I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown."

3:16 Laodicea "So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth."


Teaching by Paul

Paul warned about the need to remain faithful in order to receive that eternal salvation. In Colossians 1:21-23, he reminds the Gentile Christians of their former life that was filled with evil. He says they are now reconciled to God and will be presented to Him "holy and blameless and beyond reproach--if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel."

In 1 Corinthians 9:25, he admonished the Corinthian church to exercise self-control in all things. Paul then spoke of himself in verse 27 and said, "I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (KJV: "should be a castaway")."

In chapter 10, Paul further warns them about those who fell because of their disobedience (see Numbers 25:1-9) and tells them in verse 12, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." Finally, he encourages them in 15:58, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."

Paul warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18-20 to continue to "fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience." He spoke of Hymenaeus and Alexander, two who apparently failed to do so, but rather "rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith."

In Galations 5:1-4, Paul warned those who were tempted to turn back to keeping the Law. He declared that they would then be "under obligation to keep the whole Law." To those who would do so, he said, "You have been severed from Christ; you have fallen from grace." If one no longer has access to grace and is not able to perfectly keep the law, how can there be salvation?!


Teaching by Peter

The apostle Peter warned about falling from salvation in 2 Peter 2:20-22: "For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandments delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, `A dog returns to its own vomit,' and, `A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.'"

Surely those mentioned here were at one time in a saved condition. They had "escaped the defilements of the world [through] Christ." They had "known the way of righteousness." They had been faithful to "the holy commandments," but they turned away and went back to a life of sin. Peter says they would have been better off to have never been saved, than to have done so and then turned away. His illustration in verse 22 should be enough to show us the awfulness of making such a terrible mistake.


Teaching in Hebrews

The Book of Hebrews was written primarily to Christians with a Jewish background. The writer's intent is to encourage them to remain faithful and not turn back to their old way of life. The Hebrew writer said in 3:6 that we are part of the house of Christ "if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end." In verses 7-11, he speaks of the children of Israel who were stubborn and rebellious. He then warns in verse 12: "Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God." In verse 14 he said, "For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end."

Hebrews 6:4-6: "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame."

Some wish to say that those described here were never in a saved relationship in the first place. To believe such, though, is to ignore the most obvious sense of the passage. The writer lists 5 specific characteristics that clearly apply only to saved Christians. The Bible teaches that Christians are enlightened; Paul says, "[We] were formerly darkness, but now [we] are light in the Lord [and are to] walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8)." To taste of the heavenly gift must surely include forgiveness of sins, justification, and all that pertains to our present and eternal salvation. And the Bible teaches clearly that it is those in a saved relationship with Christ who receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17; Romans 8:9-11; 1 Cor 3:16; Galations 4:6).

The writer hear speaks of a truly hardened apostate who has completely turned away the faith and refuses to repent and confess his sin. Such a one, the Bible says, has fallen away and has, in effect, become guilty of once again crucifying the Son of God. To say that such a one was never truly saved is to contradict the very point being made. The writer heaps clause upon clause to show that there was once a genuine saved relationship with the Lord. And it is that fact which makes it impossible to renew them when they do fall away so completely.

The author of Hebrews also warns in 10:26, "For is we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins."  The warning here is not to the faithful Christian walking in the light who continually confesses his sin. The warning is to the one who willfully and deliberately has decided to reject Christ and persist in sin without any intention of repenting of such. There is certainly a difference between the two (see discussion about 1 John 5:16-17; see also Numbers 15:22-31 about sins done in ignorance and sins done intentionally).

This warning is to one who was once saved; such a one had received a knowledge of the truth and had been cleansed by the sacrifice of Christ. In verse 29, we are told that the one had "by the blood of the covenant [been] sanctified." But the writer states clearly that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is no longer available or applicable to one who has thus turned away. There is no longer a cleansing for one who will not repent and confess his sin. There is, for such a one, "a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries (verse 27)."

Later in the same chapter, in verses 35-38, the writer says, "Do not throw away your confidence." He says, "You have need of endurance [if you are to] receive what was promised." And he warns once again, if we "shrink back," then God "has no pleasure in him."



The Bible indeed teaches that once a person is saved, he is always saved... if he continues faithfully to walk in the light. But it does not teach that salvation is guaranteed no matter what one may do thereafter. Salvation is given to those who have faithfully endured, not to those who have turned away. To teach otherwise is to teach false doctrine.