I was raised in a denomination that taught once saved always saved, and heard the OSAS theology a lot. After I came to the Lord at 14 years of age, I later began to reading my Bible. As I read the scriptures, I would come across verses that seemed to say the opposite. I sought God because I was confused. I was hearing one thing preached and reading another in the Bible. My prayer was, “Lord what do you say?” I found the truth in the scriptures and I have always found that God is faithful to answer my questions according to His Holy Written Word.
I was once asked by someone what I believed about once saved always saved. I responded by letting him know that the question “Can you lose your salvation” (which is so often addressed) is really misleading. To lose something can indicate that it comes up missing.
The question that we need to answer is this: “Can we abandon our faith in Christ once we have come to the Lord, and if we can, what are the consequences?”
Does the Bible teach that it is possible to abandon our faith once we have believed? The answer to that is yes it does (example, Romans 11:17-22; Hebrews 3:12-14).
If we conclude that we can abandon our faith based on scripture, the question we must then address is this: “Does the Bible teach that those who once believed will be saved even though they have turned away from the Lord?” Can faith we once had saved us if we no longer believe?
The Bible addresses this multiple times as well, and the answer is no, for we cannot be saved if we turn away from the Lord and abandon our faith in Him (Ex. Jude 1:5; Romans 11:17-22; Hebrews 10:23-31).
So often people will use the pat answer, “they were never saved to begin with,” which really is not a Biblical response at all. Instead, we should all seek to know the truth and get brutally honest about the teachings of the New Testament with regards to the severity of God.
As far as God is concerned, He is faithful and will never fail us as long as we trust in Him. He will keep us by His power no matter what we are struggling with. He is gracious and merciful. Yet, if we abandon Him and stop trusting in Him that’s a different subject altogether. We are saved by God’s grace THROUGH our faith! Both are just as important, for the scriptures declare “if we deny him, He also will deny us” and that is written to us who have believed.
THE REAL ISSUE THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED
Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) theology certainly is a hot button issue. Yet I think there is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed, and that issue often affects how we view such ideas as OSAS.
The issue I am referring to is the premium we place on handling the Word of God with integrity, something that means far more to me than being right on an issue.
After I came to the Lord at 14 years of age, I later began to read my Bible. As I read the scriptures, I came across verses that seemed to say the opposite of what I had been taught about OSAS.
Please understand that I was very insecure and for me OSAS was a welcomed way of thinking. I certainly wasn’t looking to disprove it, not in the least. Yet, as I read the Bible with a heart seeking to know God, I came across verses that simply were not consistent with the OSAS theology I had been taught. What was I to do? Should I have ignored those verses and act like they weren’t there? My only option was to seek God and find out the truth for myself because it really doesn’t matter what I or anyone else thinks. The truth is the truth and believing something a certain way is not going to change what the truth is. I had to find the truth so I could believe THAT regardless if I were already right or wrong.
Now please hear me when I say, I sincerely sought God because I was being taught one thing by man and reading another in the Bible. My honest prayer before God was “Lord what do you say?” That prayer has been the foundation of my sincere approach to scripture over the years.”
I have spent much of my life pouring over God’s word, and many times I have had to change what I previously thought or believed because I found out that I was wrong.
With regards to OSAS, I am convinced that there is wrong thinking on both sides of the issue. Those who think you lose your salvation every time you mess up are just as wrong as those who think that once you have been converted it’s impossible to harden your heart and be deceived by sin.
The problem with divisions over such issues as OSAS is that people generally side with one group of scriptures at the expense of others. Anytime we knowingly turn a deaf ear to certain portions of God’s word because those scriptures are in opposition to what we believe, we have handled the Word of God dishonestly.
Many years ago I had to come to terms with the portions of scripture which were not consistent with what I had been taught. I have always found that there is no basis for doctrine until the whole of the scriptures agrees. I am very versed in scripture and am well acquainted with the truth that there are many promises concerning eternal life. Yet so often these verses are interpreted in such a manner that they are slanted towards our human understanding more that lining up with the whole of Biblical thought.
I am sure that those of you who believe in once saved always saved (aka OSAS) also believe in a literal hell and eternal punishment for rejecting Christ. I do as well. Imagine for a moment that I did not believe in a literal hell or eternal punishment. Now, imagine what it would be like if you were to show me clear undeniable evidence in scripture that hell is real and there is eternal punishment for those who reject Christ, then in response I said, “God has reconciled all things to Himself (Col 1:20). He has reconciled the world and He does not hold our sins against us anymore (2 Cor 5:19). He has dealt with sin permanently by putting them away (Heb 9:26). So no one will be punished for all eternity – everyone will ultimately be saved.”
This is the kind of argument that someone in Universalism might make. Yet it is an error because the balance of scripture refutes such private interpretation of these verses of scripture. If a person does not reconcile these verses with the immediate context and the whole counsel of scripture they could come away with any number of ideas such as the one given above.
The scriptures have much to say about our security in Christ but according to the balance of scripture that security is conditional based on our faith. As far as God is concerned, He will never leave us or forsake us. The eternal life which He gives us is secure in Him so long as we believe and abide in His goodness as Romans 11 says.
No matter how difficult the road gets and no matter how difficult our struggles with any sin may be, God will continue to be faithful to help us if we trust in him to do so. Yet if we harden our hearts, the possibility exists that we can depart from Him and that is what the writer of Hebrews is telling us in Hebrews 3.
TAKE HEAD TO SCRIPTURES THAT WARN US
In Chapter two, the writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.”
If it were not possible to let the things concerning the great salvation we have received slip, Why the warning “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”
Escape what? What are we in danger of?
If it is impossible to never depart from the Lord once we have known the way of righteousness what are we in danger of? Is it just a gold ole scolding before the judgment seat of Christ for not being a good Christian? What are we in danger of? The repeated warning throughout Hebrews is the danger of apostasy or abandoning our faith which has eternal reward if we hold on to it and eternal consequences if we abandon.
The second warning given in the book of Hebrews exhorts us not to harden our hearts through unbelief. In this section we are reminded that God swore in His wrath that those who provoked Him in the wilderness also died in the wilderness and they did not enter into His rest. The writer of Hebrews warns us to fear God so that we do not fall after their example and become like those in the wilderness who fell short of entering His rest (which according to the context is eternal rest for our souls). It is clear from the context that the same God who swore in His wrath, “They shall not enter my rest,” and did not spare those who rebelled in the wilderness will not spare us either if we become hard hearted through unbelief and the deceitfulness of sin.
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 To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end (Hebrews 3:12-14).
Jude, in his brief epistle, also draws on this account when he writes to the brethren exhorting them to contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Jude 1:3-5 says:
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
Why would this exhortation be necessary if it were impossible to fall from (abandon) the grace of God once we have been saved? Both Jude and the writer of Hebrews address the importance of persevering in the true faith.
Many think of the book of Hebrews as a doctrinal book and it does contain many very helpful doctrinal truths but in the mind of it’s author, it was a letter of exhortation. In 13:22 he says, “I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of EXHORTATION: for I have written a letter unto you in few words.”
Too many times Hebrews is approached only from a doctrinal standpoint and the exhortation is missed. At its heart, Hebrews is an exhortation. In case you are one of the ones who have missed the exhortation of this marvelous book, it is an exhortation for the first century Hebrew believers to persevere in the faith and not to forsake Christ because your faith has a great recompense of reward if you do not turn back.
The exhortations given by the writer of Hebrews was written to fellow Hebrew believers. Nowhere in the entire letter is he talking to unbelievers. He calls them brethren throughout the letter (2:11, 12, 17; 3:1, 12; 7:5; 10:19; 13:22). He also includes himself by using the pronouns we (51 times) us (31 times) and our (16 times).
Someone has made the argument that he calls them brethren because they were his Hebrew brethren but this cannot be the case because in Hebrews 3:1 he says, “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.”
These same brethren to whom he refers to as holy brethren and partakers of the heavenly calling are the ones he is talking to throughout the entirety of the book and in verses 12-14, he says “take heed brethren.”
Take heed to what?
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the Living God.
The writer of Hebrews certainly did not think that it was impossible for a believer to abandon his faith in God, nor is there any hint in Hebrews that he thought everything would work out in the end for those who do.
He refers to Jesus as the apostle and High Priest of our faith (3:1) and tells the holy brethren who have come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through faith to “take heed,” and not to allow in them an evil heart of unbelief, which can cause them to depart from the living God. He tells them to exhort one another daily, so that they will not be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Again, this is not a warning for unbelievers. He is talking to the brethren and warning them against the deceitfulness of sin which can cause a hard heart and lead them away from the Living God.
The Bible does not teach that once a person is saved they cannot turn away from God or abandon their faith. Paul says in 1 Timothy, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
Departing from the faith is the same language that the writer of Hebrews uses in chapter 3 and exhortations to continue steadfastly in the faith throughout Hebrews comes through loud and clear. For instance, in chapter 12 we read the following:
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:22-29)
We must remain faithful to God.
CONTINUE IN THE FAITH
The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not once saved always saved, as some might think. The good news is that Jesus died and rose again and salvation through the grace of God is freely given to all who believe.
Throughout the New Testament, believing in Jesus means that we must continue in the faith. Paul says in Colossians 1 that we will be presented holy and unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight if we continue in the faith and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.
The hope of the gospel belongs to those who continue or persevere in the faith because even after one comes to faith there are many temptations to go back into the world.
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
Paul says the following.
1. He preached the gospel to them.
2. They received the gospel.
3. They were standing in the gospel.
OSAS theology teaches that God honors that original belief in Him and that is what saves us. If this is so, why does Paul tell these Corinthians that they are saved if they keep in memory (hold fast to) what he has preached to them, otherwise they will have believed in vain?
Paul did not seem to think that their original belief would profit them if they did not continue in the faith and that is why he says they would have believed in vain if they do not hold fast to what he preached to them.
In John 8:31 Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. We must continue in the faith as Hebrews 3:6 and 14 also tell us.
We are His house, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end (Hebrews 3:6).
We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end (Hebrews 3:14).
This is about as simple as it can be said. When anyone implies that the scriptures teach, “believe only and holding fast to our faith is not necessary,” such theology is in direct opposition to New Testament doctrine.
WE ARE SAVED BY FAITH AND CONTINUING IN THAT FAITH
The scriptures teach that we are kept by the power of God “through” faith unto salvation (1 Peter 1:5) and when we see Jesus we will receive reward for the end of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9). The scriptures never teach that we are kept by God if we stop believing. Neither do the scriptures ever teach that it is impossible to turn away from Christ after we have come to Him.
The concept that God will be faithful to keep us if we are faithless and no longer trust Him is not a Bible teaching. It is actually a very deceitful concept.
In Romans 11 the apostle Paul tells us, “Boast not against the branches (Israelites who did not believe). But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, the branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of UNBELIEF they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed least He also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again” (Romans 11:18-23).
I am not sure how anyone could fit OSAS into these verses.
They tell us that we are not to be high minded (prideful, haughty) but fear the Lord because if we do not continue in God’s goodness through faith we will be cut off. This is consistent with what the writer of Hebrews is saying.
There is so much in the New Testament that refutes the idea that holding fast to our faith isn’t necessary. It is necessary and the concept that it isn’t necessary is at the heart of the error in the OSAS theology.
The Bible teaches that we must continue in the faith and to teach otherwise is unsound and unwholesome doctrine.
THE WORDS OF JESUS
OSAS theology is not consistent with the rebukes Jesus gave to the churches in the Book of the Revelation. Why did Jesus say to the church in Ephesus, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.”
If it is impossible to forsake the Lord once we have been saved, why did Jesus say this?
Why did Jesus say to the church in Sardis, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Rev. 3:1-3)
These words of Jesus in the book of the Revelation are consistent with His words elsewhere. For example, Matthew 24:48-51
“But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
These words are spoken in contrast to the servant who kept himself ready and was doing the will of God.
Revelation 16:15 says, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”
If OSAS is true then why do we need to be watching and keeping our garments, i.e. living godly lives in the faith?
1 John 2:28 tells us “little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.”
Consider also 2 Peter 3: 10-14
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
Why are these admonitions to be ready at the coming of the Lord given to believers if OSAS is a Biblical doctrine?
Why did the Lord rebuke the believers in Laodicea, telling them that they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17)? Why did He threaten to spit the Laodicea congregation out of his mouth (Rev. 3:16) if indeed, OSAS is a true Biblical doctrine?
If OSAS were true biblical doctrine it would harmonize with Jesus’ message to the churches in Revelation. It does not.
God loves us and that is why He rebukes us, not to condemn us. Perpetual sin in the life of a believer will eventually bring about a hardened heart and lead a person away from the faith. This is why the writer of Hebrews says, “take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” and that is why he goes on to say, “exhort one another daily so that none of you are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Paul tells us that we are to hold on to faith and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck (1 Timothy 1:9).
Can shipwrecked faith save us?
If we embrace OSAS theology we are rejecting the New Testament admonitions that Israel’s disobedience in the wilderness serves as an example to us (Hebrews 3-4; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12; Jude 1:3-7).
In 1 Timothy Paul speaks of Hymenaeus and Philetus “who have departed from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and destroy the faith of some.
How is departing from the truth and destroying the faith of some consistent with OSAS doctrine?
In Galatians, Paul warns the believers that if they seek to be justified by the works of the Law that they will be cut off from Christ and will have fallen from grace.
How does this work with OSAS theology?
In 1 Corinthians 8:11 Paul speaks of a weak brother perishing because he is embolden to violate his conscience.
How does this work with OSAS theology?
The apostle Peter tells us, “when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get entangled and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. Peter then tells us, “It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”
Peter certainly did not think that it was impossible for a person to forsake the truth after He had come to the saving Knowledge of Christ. He later says, “I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends. Be on guard so that you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:17-18 TLB).
Peter tells us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that we will not be carried away and lose our secure footing. We have secure footing in Christ if we abide in Him but if we go away from the truth in Christ we can lose that secure footing.
James also tells us “if someone among us (believers) wanders away from the truth and is brought back, we can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back (the one who fell into sin) will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.
All the scriptures which tell us of God’s power, and faithfulness, and love to keep us are true. They are strength to us for He will never leave us or forsake us. He is faithful and these verses reveal God’s character. Yet, we must comply. We must continue in faith.
There is not one scripture in all of the New Testament which supports that we will be saved if we forsake Him. In fact the scripture tells us emphatically, if we deny Him, He will deny us. This is said to believers and not unbelievers.
“It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us: If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself “ (2 Timothy 2:11-13).
The Biblical view that we must continue is the faith isn’t bad news. God is faithful and He will keep us secure in Him so long as we trust Him. That is good news.
It is good new because God gives us the grace to serve Him faithfully if we will keep our trust in Him. God will always uphold His promises. If we do not cast away our confidence as the writer of Hebrews puts it, we will have great reward.