There is a widespread belief in Christianity that once a person becomes saved, they remained saved no matter what. Not only can you be certain of your salvation (as the teaching goes), you have God’s guarantee that you can never lose it. The question is, does this “once saved always saved” teaching agree with the biblical view of assurance? Once a person is saved, do they remain saved forever regardless of any action/belief on their – or anyone else’s – part?
Augustinian Roots of Once Saved Always Saved
The roots of this doctrine – just as with the whole of the T.U.L.I.P. doctrines – are found in the teaching of Augustine. It wasn’t until 412 AD that Augustine became the first Christian to write in support of these teachings. Prior to that, every Christian author (i.e. the Patristics/Church Fathers), including Augustine himself (386-411 AD), who addressed these issues did so from a condemning perspective. Why? Because although Augustine was the first “christian” to write in support, the arguments and doctrines surfaced first in the heresies of pagan thought and religion. Specifically, the “five points of Calvinism” (as they became known), and Reformed theology’s definitions of sovereignty, divine foreknowledge, and depravity as total, are first found in the teachings of Gnosticism, Stoicism, Neoplatonism, and Manichaeanism. In fact, the church (as early as Paul in Acts) had already previously identified and condemned these as false. (read Dr. Ken Wilson for more)
Augustine’s latter writings and teaching functionally eliminated human free will. The result was the teaching that man is completely unable to respond to God, unless and until, He first completes a spiritual work within him (i.e. regeneration). Only then will the previously unconditionally elected receive the gifts of faith and repentance. Since, according to this view, you don’t have a choice to accept God and be saved, neither do you have a choice as to whether or not you remain saved. Thus, the result is guaranteed perseverance or once your saved, you remain saved forever. This is the “P” in T.U.L.I.P.
Apparent Biblical Support for Once Saved Always Saved
Those who accept and teach this Augustinian-Calvinist theology do so with numerous Scriptures purported to support this and the other T.U.L.I.P. doctrines. The problem is that these presumed proof texts do not teach unconditional perseverance. Certainly, they teach assurance. But biblical assurance is based upon the continued consistent meeting of the condition of faith. Faith is the very condition upon which salvation was given to us in the first place. We are justified by faith…and we remain justified by that same faith. Meaning, that if a person of their own free will – the same free will with which they accepted Christ – chooses to fall into unbelief (cf. Romans 4:18-21; 1 Peter 1:5), they can forfeit their redemption.
The Bible is full of examples of how a person might “fall from grace” (Galatians 5:1-6). Others include John 8, John 15, Romans 11, Colossians 1:21-23, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Hebrews 6:4-8, the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, and many others. How does one fall from grace?
You can commit spiritual suicide. Giving up on your faith and renouncing Christ or God because of tragic or negative circumstances is the most common. You can “die to faith” through slow starvation and failing to “feed” yourself spiritually through God’s Word. This warning is persistent in the New Testament. You can be strangled by sin and continuing to intentionally live in it (we’ll study this next in Romans 6). Romans 8:13 says “if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
You Can Forfeit Grace
The point is the Bible clearly teaches conditional salvation from beginning to end. This is why the verses challenging us to remain faithful to the end are so prominent. The concept of once saved always save simply is not biblical and is in fact a false doctrine. This is the topic of this week’s podcast.
NOTE: I do not address all the specific and relevant passages of Scripture on either side of this debate. If there are specific questions or Scriptures you would like for me to discuss, please send me an email with that request. I would be happy to dig in deeper where it will be of benefit for you. GLYP!