A popular doctrine in the religious world is the teaching that once one is saved there is nothing one can do to lose that salvation. Sometimes this is called “Once saved, always saved” or “Once in grace, always in grace.” The technical term is the Impossibility of Apostasy. The point is that once one is saved, there is nothing one can do to somehow lose or jeopardize his saved standing with God.
Does the Bible teach this? In short, no, it does not, for “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith…” (1 Tim. 4:1). If “some shall depart from the faith,” then it is a possibility, is it not? This verse settles the question. However, let’s explore this question more. If it is true that the Bible teaches “once saved, always saved,” then what are the consequences?
For those who insist the Bible teaches “once saved, always saved,” I have three questions.
1. Why Are We Warned About the Possibility of Falling? Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” This passage uses the term “lest” two times. “Lest” means if or perhaps (Strong’s). In other words, this passage allows for the possibility of departing. There is a warning to take heed “if” or “perhaps” one might depart from the living God!
2 Peter 3:17 warns us that we can be “led away” and “fall from (our) steadfastness.” If once we are saved, we are always saved, why the warning? Let us be reminded that this is not a passage warning people of the possibility of never being saved at all! The people Peter wrote to saved people, and they were warned about falling away!
1 Corinthians 10:12 reminds Christians to “take heed lest ye fall.” Why say this to the Corinthians? We know they were saved from sin (Acts 18:8)! These words are written because one can fall away from God! These and many other passages serve as warnings. Are we listening?
2. Why Do We Read of Those Who Fell Away? If “once saved, always saved” is a true doctrine, why are we given examples of those who fell? Demas forsook Paul for the world (2 Tim. 4:10). These words to Timothy mean very little if Demas was saved anyway!
Do we remember Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:16-18)? These men preached false doctrine concerning the resurrection and caused some to “overthrow their faith” (v. 18). We often focus on the false teaching of the men, and rightly so, but notice their victims. Those who listened to Hymenaeus and Philetus overthrew their faith. Can one go to Heaven after overthrowing his faith? Reading Hebrews 11:6 will help us answer this question.
Judas was one who betrayed our Lord for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-16, 47-56). After he realized the enormity of his sin, he threw the money at the chief priests and elders in the Temple and then hanged himself (Matt. 27:1-5). Acts 1:25 states, “Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” Two questions that must be answered by those who teach the impossibility of apostasy is, “From where did Judas fall?” Some claim Judas was never saved. If he never was a saved man, then he was always fallen and had nowhere to fall, and this statement in Acts 1:25 makes no sense. Second, “Where is his own place?” Is that Heaven or Hell?
3. Why Are We Told What to Do When We Fall? When Simon was converted (Acts 8:13), it was not long before he was tempted to try to purchase the ability to impart spiritual powers from Peter and John (Acts 8:18-19). Notice that Peter responded, “Thy money perish with thee” (Acts 8:20)! Simon had committed a sin, and he was doomed to perish if he did not repent and quick! Peter exclaimed, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:22-23). We can add 1 John 1:9 to our study and see that we can be forgiven and cleansed when we confess our sins.
These were not commands given to a person who had never obeyed the gospel but were words given and applied to the wayward child who needed to be forgiven and be right in the sight of God. No, we have no record of God ever teaching, “Once saved, always saved!”
- Jarrod M. Jacobs