Is Once Save Always Saved Biblical?

This article is a response to the video blog Allen Parr did on the same question. That video can be found here:

Before I address some of the points made in this video I would like to lay some groundwork. First lets cover some terminology. The OSAS (once saved always saved) view is formally or theologically known as the doctrine of Eternal Security and falls under the doctrinal discipline or category of Soteriology. It is very much rooted in some Reformed Systematic Theology, particularly Calvinism’s views on predestination and its, TULIP, core principles. Many good Christians have quite different views on Eternal Security and while it shouldn’t be a dividing point it often does cause robust disagreement and at times division and can affect how one views the Christian faith and life circumstances. So, while it is not something that should divide the church it is not an unimportant doctrine.

An example of how one’s view of Eternal Security affects their perspective is that of the individuals such as well known Christian Leaders and many of us may have had close friends in the church who seemed to be such strong Christian’s but have now walked away from the faith and may even identify as Atheists. Those professing OSAS, Eternal Security, point to verses like 1 Jn 2:19 about those that went out from us but were really never a part of us. They are seen as never having been regenerated or filled with the Holy Spirit. However there will be this nagging feeling, “wow, they sure seemed like they were filled with the Holy Spirit and regenerate…” Where as those that believe you can loose your salvation have little issue with this. This highlights a potential negative impact of the OSAS view of salvation in that those professing Eternal Security may wonder if the person next to them is really saved resulting in a more judgmental posture. Another potential negative impact is that of “License”, believing that since I’m predestined and cannot loose my salvation, I can do whatever I want. The potential negative impact of believing you can loose your salvation is never being able to have an assurance of salvation. Many may wonder regularly “I’ve messed up quite a bit recently; am I still saved?” This should make us aware of just how important this topic is but also how complex it can be.

Personally, my views on the topic have developed over time through prayer and reading God’s word. I haven’t really joined into the debate except for the occasional time with fellow Christians when someone broaches the topic. I don’t necessarily want to be a source of division in the church so I always try to tread carefully around hot button topics. But it may be time to throw my hat into the ring. Let me present some of the realizations which I have come to over the years that have helped me to develop my understanding.

  • While not necessarily a more recent realization but one which I’ve more recently formalized or got a better handle on is the truth that the world around us is not just the physical but also there are other realms which the scriptures address. The book The Unseen Realm by Dr Heiser is of immense help in realizing that there is a spiritual supernatural realm which we cannot see, and it is just as real as the one we can see. The term elohim is not just used of God with the capital “E” but also other beings when made manifest in the physical world. When the witch of Endor called up Samuel he was described as an elohim. The word describes those from the realm we do not see. In prophecy this becomes important because what is being described may or may not be literal and just because something isn’t literal does not mean it is any less real.
  • Secondly the realization that the third realm of God the Father, I call the unbound realm, is outside of time. Scripture says that God declares the end from the beginning. It says that He has set the boundaries of our habitation so that we might seek Him. It may be helpful to visualize God as the director who has the storyboard and knows how it’s to play out. He is aware of every frame before it is even recorded in time or in the camera. But further I realized God goes even beyond this and He knows all the possible ways it could play out and the ways He could set the scene to ensure it plays out one way or the other. This results in two realizations:
    • One is that when God speaks in scripture, He may be speaking in terms of something as if it is already a reality but for us living life as it happens it is still up in the air, so to speak, for us. We can see this in 2 Timothy 1:9, Ephesians 1:4, Romans 9:10-13 (Jacob and Esau loved and hated before born).
    • Secondly, God as a director outside of time is also not unaware of the flow of time because He has stepped into time; like how Mel Brooks often stepped into his own movies or Stan Lee’s cameos God steps into time as Jesus Christ or in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord. Therefore, how God speaks in scripture may or may not necessarily be in sequential order. Particularly in Prophecy this can cause confusion when “recapitulation” may be used. One suggested instance is the seals and trumpets in Revelations which both seem to end in the second coming of Christ which has caused much debate about whether it is a recapitulation or a third coming of Christ.

It is the reality of the Unseen Realm and the Unbound Realm which may be able to help unravel some confusion. When you read scripture two diametrically opposed views seem to be true. Scripture seems to both present the supreme will and providence of God while also acknowledging the free will and culpability of man. To explain and defend their doctrinal views Clavin and Arminius had to spend some time explaining away the passages where free will and choices were made or where God’s will and predestination are put forth, respectively. This tells me that neither view has the complete picture since scripture comes from God and therefore should be united and not have to be explained as to how it doesn’t mean this or that. I’ll save the free will and predestination reconciliation for another time as that could be a whole book and focus on Eternal Security here.

Our salvation was not earned by moral perfection and therefore cannot be lost by moral imperfection.

Dr Michael Heiser

In the presentation of Eternal Security it is usually assumed that the opposite position is that someone can lose their salvation due to X amount or kind of failures. While there are some doctrines and traditions that may teach this such as the doctrines of Mortal Sins most protestants do not take this point of view. Presenting the arguments in this way is a Strawman because Protestants that believe something different than Eternal security do not believe in a works-based salvation either and would whole heartly agree with Dr Heiser’s statement. For such Protestants the opposite point of view is not that someone loses their salvation but that they give up their salvation. From this point of view the question is; “Will God drag someone kicking and screaming into heaven who accepted Jesus but now no longer wants anything to do with God?”

A Response to and from Scripture

Both John 5:24 and 3:16 talk about eternal life as the result of salvation. It doesn’t necessarily follow that it is eternal salvation or permanent salvation. In fact it defines eternal life in Jn 17:3 as knowing God and therefore it is a relationship that starts at the point of conversion.

In the doctrine of the Preservation of the saints several verses are highlighted. For example John 10:28 states that “no one can snatch them from my hand”. The logic that everyone is included in “no one” can snatch is nonsequitur. For example an Embassy is considered a sanctuary outside normal jurisdictions therefore saying that no one can snatch you out of an Embassy we wouldn’t necessarily include those in the Embassy as being included in the “no one” especially since snatch out infers an outside force or actor not an internal one. Certainly, someone could leave the Embassy of their own accord.

The most difficult passage for Eternal Security is Hebrews 10:26-31 which states that to continue willfully sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth (Salvation through Christ) their no longer remains a sacrifice for sin. The indefinite article a means that it includes any sacrifice even what Christ did on the cross. So is it works based then? By no means. Salvation is not a get out of jail (hell) free card but the start of a relationship with God the Father under the Lordship of Christ. It is about a relationship but if you want to make grace an excuse to do whatever you want then you are heading into troubled waters.

Regarding Election, Predestination, Preservation and Perseverance to understand the you have to realize that God the Father is outside of time and therefore knows what will happen but beyond that what could happen and therefore scripture says He establishes boundaries that will result in achieving His ends which are the primary causes but even Calvin recognized us as being secondary causes functioning within the bounds of those primary causes. Could it be an assumption then that statements about a person’s eternal destiny are God declaring the end from the beginning and therefore address one’s final state not necessarily how one got there. Does this nullify God’s choice in the matter; no because He declares the end from the beginning and therefore knows those that will remain in the faith and those that won’t so He will not loose those He intended to retain, those that continue in the relationship graciously made available to them when they repented and believed in Christ. We actually see this in John 17:12 where Jesus said he didn’t lose anyone except the one who was going to be lost, Judas.

Here is another presentation with this alternative view of salvation which is closest to what I personally believe.