Once saved always saved

Once Saved Always Saved… Maybe

In Christian RealTalk, Tough Questions by Antwuan Malone16 Comments

Some of the most lively conversations I’ve had with Christians come from the question, once saved always saved?

It’s a subject, like many here at Candid Christianity, that’s hard to cover in a little blog. Truly giving it the consideration it needs leads us into fundamental conversation about God and his motives, grace and it’s purpose, and the definition of salvation.

The popular Bible verses used to support the once saved, not always saved view are:

  • “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins.”  Hebrews 10:26
  • 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. 2 Peter 2:21,22.
  • “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” Luke 8:12, 13.

Strong passages. They certainly seem to support the idea that salvation can be lost. Now, we  could address each of these verses, but we don’t have the time to do it. However, a different passage, Hebrews 6:4-6 presents the most convincing argument. Let’s look at that one for a second.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

That one’s a doozy.

False Start

The issue is how to deal with sin after salvation. Which, to me, means we must begin by defining salvation. I’ll admit to my disenchantment with verbiage like “salvation” and “saved” because I think it caters to our sinful survivor nature. The emphasis of salvation from Hell, while certainly true, has created a generation of Christians who see salvation as survival rather than surrender. In other words, many (so-called) Christians have decided following Jesus simply helps keep them from Hell.

I don’t believe salvation is meant to be received that way.

The gospel of grace, while good news to us because of  Jesus’ payment of our sin, is only good news because of the opportunity it affords us to choose to be near God. And as the scriptures indicate, in order to draw nearest to God, we must be ready to surrender all. If Jesus showed us nothing else on the cross, he showed us that salvation is the result of sacrificing our lives to God — picking up our crosses to lead a life driven by Him. Salvation is not simply a decision we make to escape Hell. That’s a selfish decision. God calls us to be selfless.

This is important because I believe many Christians, should they interrogate themselves about their “salvation,” might find they are driven by selfish motives (surviving/escaping Hell) rather than selfless motives. And if that is the case, there is no reason to believe such selflessness will cease now that you think you are on the other side of eternity. Said more simply, many who profess Christianity may not be Christians after all. So maybe the real question is not can you lose your salvation, but rather were you ever really “saved” to begin with.

Survival is not the only misapplied motive to so-called salvation. Works (doing what we think will make God happy) is perhaps an equally shared motivation of many so-called Christians. Saying the prayer, coming to church, singing in the choir, giving to the poor — these are all actions some Christians think makes God happy. And they are right. But doing such works will never qualify us to be “saved.” Again, the reason Romans 10:9 says “if you confess with your mouth,” is because doing so in Roman society at that time was  risky. A public profession could very well mean your life, and thus, making a public confession revealed faith in, trust in, and surrender to God. It was not a good to-do item in God’s How-To-Be-Born-Again handbook.

Perhaps then it is true that most inquiries about once-saved-always-saved can be best challenged by investigating the integrity of one’s own salvation.

Amazing Grace

The Hebrews 6:4-6 passage, however, could be read as presenting true believers as backsliding. Dr. Constable’s notes read…

“The writer could describe Christians fairly as those who were once ‘enlightened’. The ‘heavenly gift’ of which they have ‘tasted’ at conversion seems to refer to salvation. Any attempt to interpret tasting as only partial appropriation (i.e., the idea that they tasted it but did not swallow it) is not credible.”

The good Dr. seems to believe the folks represented in this passage are true believers. Me, I’m not so sure. Enlightened in the passage could simply mean they understand (mentally) the gospel, and the heavenly gift may simply be making reference to their understanding of grace. Partaking of the Holy Spirit presents a challenge, but the Bible has shown how the Holy Spirit can move in those who do not claim him… and so on.

A much more significant case against the ideas some think this verse propagates is the very doctrine of grace. True salvation is not something you worked your way into, so it does not stand to reason you can work your way out of it. If the presence of sin, maybe even the same sins one struggled with prior to salvation, removes your salvation (as Hebrews and 2Peter suggest) then I don’t suppose anyone’s salvation has lasting power. We are all struggling with the same sins. Even the great trailblazer Paul expresses his disdain with his own actions (Romans 7,8). Paul knows he should do one thing, and yet finds himself doing the opposite. Is there no repentance then for Paul?

Sure there is.

Because we are pure spirits living in sinful bodies. And the natural tension between these two natures battling it out in us often result in the very sin we are delivered from. Repeatedly. Does this mean God has forgotten us? That He does not forgive us those sins? If so, where do you draw the line for sins that are not forgiven.

I am under the influence that once one has truly surrendered his life to God, there is no going back. Yes, we will fail. But God’s grace is sufficient. If it were not, then we would never have been saved in the first place.

So what are you thoughts? Do you think you can lose your salvation?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.

Antwuan, you've hit the nail square on the head with this post. 

We have buildings full of people on Sunday mornings who are attempting to work their way to heaven. If I'm good enough, do enough good works, don't beat my wife or husband and kids, then I'm heaven bound forever. Problem is, I can never be good enough. I can never accomplish enough good works to stand in righteousness before the Throne of God. I know because that's where I lived for many years. Thinking walking an aisle along with my friends, getting dunked in the pool, doing all the right stuff and saying "I'm a Christian" made it so. 

I knew Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world. But I was a good kid, then a reasonably good teen, then a sort of good adult...until I wasn't because I couldn't. Life happened and I had no advocate, no helper. Then Satan pulled the rug from under me with the lie "God would never forgive you for that." And I believed him for a number of  years.

Until I met the Lord Jesus Christ, face to face, and realized He died because of me, just for me. And His desire is for me to give my heart, my mind, my body, my everything to Him. Like you said surrendering. Everything. So that His will becomes my will, His thoughts my thoughts and believe me, that took lots of crucifying. Still does.

And just last night, in the middle of the Lord's Supper, the Spirit spoke to my heart, "He went to the cross willingly." That stopped me in my tracks. How many times do I do anything willingly ? Restoring relationships gone awry when I wasn't the one tearing the relation apart? And the list would go on for pages. 

The question really is "was I saved in the first place?" For me the answer was no. When we are truly saved the work of the Spirit is to transform us into the image of Jesus. And the Spirit will accomplish the task given Him. When there is no change on the outside, there is no Spirit inside. "God is at work in me to will and to do His good pleasure." Some of us are not quick studies and He has to get our attention, the easy way or the hard way. But if a person is a true believer, it will be God's way. Because the Father holds each and every believer in the palm of His hand and nothing, absolutely nothing, can remove us from His almighty hand. Our walk through this life may be two steps forward and one step back, but there is still the initial gain of a step. But once we have been truly changed, truly saved, we are saved forever. We didn't do it. Jesus did. We didn't guarantee it. God did.



Thief on the cross - Jesus had not died yet....that would be a very different method for salvation than I have received.  (not saying he is not in heaven, just that it is not a part of the New Covenant)  I think that the simple reading of the passages you posted would indicate that you can choose to reject Jesus as you would choose to accept him.  I don't think it is accidental or based on behavior but if one wanted to get out I think God would let them.  

Grapplers Church
Grapplers Church

I once asked my mentor if one could lose their "salvation"? He looked very shocked and replied, "Well, why would you want to?" ;-) It is actually pretty deep if you think about it.....lol

Adron Ung
Adron Ung

Man, I wish I could give you a written copy of my Pastor's sermon last night...but, that would take like 5,000 words. I'm not going to do that...but, I'd like to drop a verse like it's hot!

On the next day Moses said to the people, "You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the L ord , perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." Then Moses returned to the L ord , and said, "Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin-and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!" The L ord said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin." Then the L ord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made. (Exodus 32:30-35 NASB)

Notice that God states that people can have their name blotted out of the Lamb' Book of Life. Scary right!

Also note that the greatest sin against God is to reject Jesus Christ as LORD AND SAVIOR. That is, you cannot forgiven if you do not repent and do not ask for forgiveness.

Suppose anyone thinks that the Old Testament is irrelevant. Read this:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17 NASB)

Re above reference are the words of Jesus in red. So, suppose anyone thinks that the Old Testament is irrelevant, Jesus refuted your claim a long time ago.

However, some things have changes:

We don't offer sacrifices anymore

Physical circumcision has been replaced with a non literal circumcision of the heart

It's not necessary that we celebrate all holidays...since those are culminated in Christ

Dietary laws have changed...but, it's not health to eats pigs, ravens, eels...so God knows what He's talking about.

Source for above notes: Acts 15


In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, salvation is only partly about avoiding hell or our standing before God. Instead, it's about being redeemed from the effects of sin in order to live as we were created to be - images of God. It's the result of submitting to God's work on us and the work of the Holy Spirit in us and available to us through the work and teachings of Jesus. In this understanding, the moment of conversion is the start of our salvation. The final result of salvation is called theosis - it's union with God. Over time, I've come to see this teaching as more consistent with scripture and with our real-life faith walk than what we are usually taught in the western church. I write more about it here: http://theupsidedownworld.com/2012/05/18/what-is-salvation-anyways/

antwuanm moderator

@Adron Ung Interesting. I hadn't heard this passage (the moses one) in defense of being able to lose salvation. I'll have to research what "blot out" means for that passage. Thanks again dude, for "dropping it like it's hawt!"   :)

antwuanm moderator

@upsidedwnworld "... the start of our salvation." So you are suggesting that salvation is a process occuring over a time period? Do I understand correctly?


@antwuanm@upsidedwnworld Consider Phillipians 2:12-13:

"continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."

I do think that full salvation is a process. I suppose in the western church, we tend to think of it as a process of sanctification, but in the Eastern Orthodox church and going back further to the early church, this distinction was not made. Choosing to work out one's salvation through following the way of Jesus was necessary - the conversion experience - but salvation itself has to do with being redeemed from the effect of sin. And that's an ongoing process which we do not know how to do for ourselves and cannot do apart from God working in us. So, positionally, conversion commits you to the path, but relationally, salvation is the process by which we are redeemed and therefor able to enjoy the full union with God we were created for.

Adron Ung
Adron Ung

@antwuanm @upsidedwnworld

I think that Salvation is a lifestyle, as well. Concerning this, I know that the writer of 1st John contrasts our sin nature vs. living in the Spirit (of God).

The letter states that whatever you are bound to is what you serve. Since Jesus said that we can only serve one out of 2 masters, one either serves sin (as a lifestyle) or God (as a lifestyle). You cannot serve both or ride the fence.

If you are chained to sin (as a lifestyle), then you are not free because you are still saved...and what is salvation, but freedom and life and light in Christ?

So, it's what you live for

Adron Ung
Adron Ung



 I suppose you're right. I want everyone to repent and receive forgiveness and salvation from God. I wish I was a better witness. I'm not really much of a witness...more like I'll give my counsel.

It's just that when someone prays for Christ to save them...yet lives like someone that doesn't know Christ or what He did for them.

That's what I mean.

I don't want to be heavy on words, though.

 2‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5‘Therefore remember 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. 6‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’(Revelation 2:2-7 in NASB)

Jesus promises the Kingdom of Heaven to those that overcome.

It's just that I don't feel like a very good witness. I'm grateful that I have known Christ since a young child. I'm still trying to understand how unbelievers think and act and all. It's like I can't make connections.

antwuanm moderator

Hmm... I do currently hold the view that Salvation is fairly immediate. The best example of this is the thief on the cross, but I suppose there may be others. What you describe worries me a bit because it places salvation dependent on us in some degree. I hold that Jesus work is enough to save us from Hades, and afford us the choice to be with or away from God. 

You're right that I would have called what you described sanctification (which is what I was going to mention in my first comment). This Phillipians passage, as I understand it, means to live driven by your salvation, not to work to achieve that salvation. 

Adron Ung
Adron Ung

@antwuanm @upsidedwnworld

Wow, I made a mistake. Sorry.

"And you are not free because you are still saved" should be, instead, "you are not free because you are still bound (to sin).