The “once saved always saved‘” (OSAS) mantra is not scriptural. Where does this idea come from?
“Once saved, always saved” or
“Once Justified Always Justified” or
Unconditional Eternal Security
This idea was not understood in the early Church the way it is understood today in certain Protestant denominations.
Security and predestination were understood.
They are written about in the Bible.
They are promises made by God.
We have an assurance from God.
Following God’s Word and God’s teaching, we can have that Blessed Assurance that we are safe in God’s hands.
Although Calvin used the terms from the Bible: “elect,” “predestination,” and an “assurance of salvation” Calvin’s doctrine as taught by Calvin does not reflect Scripture.
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Can We Lose Our Salvation?
Favourite verses used to “prove” the once saved always saved type of assurance of salvation are:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Jesus mentions the word “elect” many times, for example in Matthew 13:22 “For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.“
But it is Paul that is their greatest inspiration, as in Romans 9:11: “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls.”
And Peter in 1 Peter 1:2, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.“
Predestination is found in Romans 8:29-30, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.“
And in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:5, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
Another popular verse quoted on this subject is from Paul writing to the Romans:
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:38, 39
This verse is a typical example of how we can misinterpret the Bible by seeing a verse in the wrong context. This verse does not speak about the preservation of salvation, or even salvation to eternal life at all. This verse speaks about God’s agape LOVE towards us. Something very important to notice is that in that list of things that cannot separate us from God’s love, there is no mention of the word “sin.” Sin does separate us from the love of God.
Now what happens when we are saved and willfully sin? Paul helps us understand in his letter to the Hebrews:
“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaines no more sacrifice for sins.”Hebrews 10:26.
Election and Predestination
Elect and predestination are clearly mentioned in the Bible, but these terms are easily misinterpreted. Nowhere in the writings of the first 400 years since Jesus walked the earth is the once saved always saved idea mentioned. The group that did have that idea were the Valentinians and other Gnostics. And the Early Church Fathers warned believers very strongly against these Gnostics.
The Early Church Fathers taught free will and that we can have assurance of salvation if we obey God and keep close to God. The doctrine of Unconditional Eternal Security as described by John Calvin, was not a part of the Christian Church tradition, until Calvin. Was that 1,500 years of ignorance?
John Calvin taught that the elect (chosen by God) will be indwelt by the Holy Spirit will be kept by the power of the Holy Spirit and are eternally secure and can never lose their salvation. And thy can infallibly know that they are secure. They are in effect puppets without any free will choice. That is Gnosticism.
The Modern Error
Millions of Christians who claim to follow Jesus and the Bible, and who sincerely believe in “Once Saved Always Saved,” are either weakened by this fraudulent error, or have a niggling doubt in their souls that they are really saved.
This is a double whammy. In Calvin’s day, there was a general understanding of an ever-present God. Today, in Western culture, after the Enlightenment, Modernism, and in the last 60 years, post-modernism, the concept of God has been diluted. God’s presence is not so clear and real in the modern 21st Century. Something like: “Yea, God is out there somewhere, I’ll call Him when I need Him, otherwise I will get on with my life my way.”
So the idea that I need to make a decision to “invite God into my heart” together with Calvin’s idea that the salvation and later preservation of our salvation is all God’s work, leads to the dangerous attitude that we can say a short prayer and then are OK. That is the surest way of losing salvation. Possibly never having salvation in the first place.
Jesus did say:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.John 10:28-30
But we can take ourselves out of God’s hand ourselves. Jesus did also say that we must abide in Him. That is an instruction to use our own free will. Jesus uses the conditional word “if“:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.John 15:4-6
Paul writing to the Colossians made this “abiding” clear. He too uses the conditional word “if“:
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;Colossians 1>21-23
Perseverance of the Saints
The Calvinistic tradition believes election as unconditional, that regeneration as permanent, and the certainty of final perseverance towards salvation for the elect. That’s fine up until I ask myself, “Am I elected?”
I have met Calvinists who were absolutely sure of their salvation, but then turned away from God. Total rejection. The Calvinist explanation is standard, “They were not saved, actually saved.”
Yet they believed they were. So how can I be sure that I will be walking with God in a year’s time?
The answer is there in the Bible. Peter tells us how we can have assurance of salvation: “For as much then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind. ” (1 Peter 4:1) And
Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.2Peter 1:3-10
Assurance of Salvation comes from choosing Christ and not the “World.”
If we really choose Christ, then we live according to Christ, and not according to the “World.”
Then we do not need to doubt.
Good intentions do not guarantee good results. Relying on our own strength we are sure to fail, but with the help of the Holy Spirit through grace, we can persevere to the end.
Featured image by Tumisu