Once Saved, Always Saved?
Jamey Escamilla • October 8, 2020
‘Once saved, always saved’ is a popular phrase circulating out there, and it stirs up a lot of questions among Christians.
Do I have eternal security in my salvation? Can I lose my salvation?
A lot of people are actually really divided on this subject.
To me, this is one of those doctrines that lead to more and more questions, which is where a lot of the confusion comes in.
So let’s take a breath, go back to the beginning, and slowly unpack what’s lying before us.
I’m hoping to lay the most important cards out on the table concerning this topic, and explain them in a simple way.
Hopefully, you’ll have your questions answered and be able to explain the ins and outs of this topic to your friends and family.
Now, for the purpose of this article, this is what I mean by “saved”:
You have believed and placed your faith in Jesus and are therefore right, reconciled, and one with God.
Here’s how you can understand the ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine.
What does ‘once saved, always saved’ mean?
Some Christians believe that once you become saved, there’s absolutely NO way you can become unsaved.
The main point of being ‘once saved, always saved’ is this:
You do not constantly lose and regain your salvation here on Earth for any reason.
But, there are people who disagree with this.
Those people would say, “No. You CAN lose your salvation IF you keep living in sin or “walk away” from God.”
Why do some people believe in ‘once saved, always saved’?
Here are some scriptures that people use to prove ‘once saved, always saved’:
I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
1 John 5:13
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
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.
As we read these scriptures, we CAN see that there seems to be an unshakable, permanent salvation that goes with being saved.
John said that his desire was that we would KNOW that our salvation is eternal.
They said that there is NOTHING or NO ONE that can separate us from the love of God.
A person who DOESN’T believe in eternal security would say that we’re forgetting another important part of the Bible:
Living right, STAYING in Christ, and confessing our sins to be forgiven.
Here are the main scriptures that they would use to counter ‘once saved, always saved’:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
So wait… these scriptures seem to be saying that we CAN lose our salvation.
So, which view is right?
When it comes to ‘once saved, always saved’…
The scriptures CLEARLY talk about “eternal” salvation.
“Eternal” means never-ending.
We just can’t get around all of the scriptures that talk about being eternally secure in our right standing with God.
The blood of Jesus covers a multitude of sins, and he said that he would never leave us or forsake us.
The Bible says that we’re ONE with God and that he lives in us.
That’s a pretty tight-knit, seared-and-sealed relationship that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
This is all good news for the ‘once saved, always saved’ camp.
But here’s the million dollar question I would ask…
Is there absolutely, positively, no way AT ALL that we can become unsaved again?
Not ONE way at all?
Because if there’s even ONE way, then technically, it’s not ‘once saved, ALWAYS saved’…
Because USUALLY when people say ‘once saved, always saved’, they mean:
Once saved, always saved NO MATTER WHAT.
And in my opinion, Hebrews 6 and 10 make me question the ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine.
Let’s look closer at Hebrews 6.
Hebrews is a warning to some Christians who were formerly Jewish (hence the name, Hebrews) to NOT go back to Judaism.
They were facing persecution, and the letter is telling them to not leave the faith.
Because if they did, they were:
Not going to be able to be renewed to repentance
Crucifying Jesus again
Trampling on the blood of Jesus
In danger of being “cursed and burned”
Worthy of death
So in context, if these Christians abandoned the faith of Christ and went back to Judaism, there would be no hope for them.
But here’s how someone in the ‘once saved, always saved’ camp would explain Hebrews 6:
“Hebrews 6 and 10 is addressing Jews who were not really saved. Notice, they “tasted” God, but they didn’t “consume” God. So the writer was not telling them that they could LOSE their salvation, because they didn’t even have salvation.”
But in my opinion, it makes more sense that Hebrews 6 is about people who are already saved.
Let’s look closer at Hebrews 6:4-6:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance…
The Greek word used for “partakers” here is metochos.
‘Once saved, always saved’ would say that the word “partakers” means someone who might be a “partner” with the saved people, but not really indwelled with God.
But that’s just an assumption imposed upon the text.
Yes, “partaker” CAN mean “partner” here.
But we can’t assume that it means “partner who didn’t fully have the Holy Spirit.”
A “partner” IS someone who dabbles in what you dabble in.
They do what you do and have what you have.
They’re on your team, and after the same thing you are… they’re IN the team…
… and YOU’RE their partner.
Besides, the word’s better translation is just “partaker”.
So, he’s saying that it is possible for metochos (partakers) to “fall away”.
And I think that it makes more sense that these “partakers” WERE saved people who the writer was warning can “fall away”.
Here’s one reason why. Flip back to Hebrews 3:1:
Therefore, holy brethren, PARTAKERS of the heavenly calling…
The same Greek word is used here - metochos.
So, here in chapter 3, he addresses the holy, SAVED brothers and sisters as partakers (metochos).
And then back again to Hebrews 6:4, he says that these SAME, SAVED people (partakers, metochos) can “fall away.”
So I don’t think he’s talking about two different kinds of people – saved and unsaved.
On that note, if we stay in chapter 3 and skip down to verse 14, look at what it says:
For we have become PARTAKERS of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end
Again, he says that they (even the writer) are partakers (metochos) IF they keep on believing.
So to me, it makes more sense that Hebrews 6 is saying that it was possible for these saved people to “fall away” and for it to be “impossible to renew them again to repentance.”
Another reason ‘once saved, always saved’ would say that these “partakers” weren’t really saved is:
"They were just “tasting” Christ and hanging around.
Like a person who “tastes” the free samples at the grocery store.
They “taste”, but they don’t buy the product.
Paul is saying that if these “tasters” turned away and didn’t fully “eat” Christ, they’d be lost completely and wouldn’t be given another chance to be saved."
That’s a very fair argument, and the scripture COULD be saying that.
In English, “tasting” is NOT exactly the same thing as “eating”.
They gave Jesus sour wine to drink on the cross… he “tasted”, but didn’t “drink”:
They gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.
If we use the word “taste” in Hebrews 6 to mean, “taste, and not drink”, then ‘once saved, always saved’ would probably be right about this scripture.
But again, I think we’re imposing our assumption on this text because of the DEFINITION of the word.
But we need to look at the MEANING and HOW it’s being used in this context.
The word “taste” is mostly used in the New Testament to mean, “fully consumed”.
Within the same book, Hebrews 2:9 says that Jesus “tasted death” for every man.
No one would say that he just “dabbled” in death, but didn’t really fully die.
In Luke 14:24, the king invites people to his supper, but no one shows up.
So he says, “None of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.”
Surely, he didn’t intend for his guests to just come and taste, but not eat.
We often quote the scripture and say, “I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good!”
Are we saying that we’ve ONLY tasted, but haven’t eaten?
The Greek word for “taste” is actually just plainly translated as “eat” a few times in the New Testament, anyways.
To me, it’s easy to see that tasting is often used to describe “fully eating”, and I think that’s what’s going on in Hebrews 6.
I used to be a bicycler.
I once rode a bike 900 miles to the east coast.
But I don’t anymore. The bike just sits in my dad’s shed accumulating dust.
But one thing I can say is that I’ve TASTED the glory of cycling.
Do you get the impression that I’m saying that I’ve only “tasted” cycling, but was never really a cycler, fully embedding myself in it?
So we shouldn’t impose that thought on Hebrews 6, either.
It all just seems to resonate with Galatians, when Paul tells them practically the same thing:
You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace.
Notice two things about this scripture:
He says that they would be ALIENTATED from Christ
He uses that same word that he uses in Hebrews 6 – “fallen”
So Hebrews 6 is simply saying, “Let US (the saved Christians) go onto perfection and go after God.” (Hebrews 6:1-3)
He then starts with verse 4, “FOR (or “because”) it’s impossible to be renewed again if someone falls away.” (Hebrews 6:4-8)
Then he says, “Even though this is possible for people who turn away from the faith, I’m confident that you won’t do this.” (Hebrews 6:9)
It’s that simple.
He was not saying that this COULDN’T happen to them, the saved people.
He was warning them not to draw back, because it COULD happen to them, IF they draw back.
“So Jamey, do you believe that this can happen to people in our day?”
I really don’t see why not.
But first, I need to say this.
I’m not going to say much about it, because I don’t want to open up a can of worms and get off subject.
The writer of Hebrews says that fire, death, and judgment await those who “fall away”:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
I do NOT believe that the fiery judgment and death apply to ANYONE who might “fall away” today.
I believe that the scriptures that talk about judgment coming to those who refuse Christ is talking about the judgment that came upon Jerusalem in AD 70.
The reason why the writer of Hebrews is urging them to not fall away is because if they did, they would be lumped into that group of nonbelievers.
And these nonbelievers would be destroyed in AD 70 when Rome came to destroy Jerusalem, according to Matthew 24.
Just google “preterism”, or search other blogs on this site to learn more.
So the judgment, in my opinion, just simply can’t happen to anyone today, because it already happened almost 2000 years ago.
However, I DO still think that it’s possible today for people to “fall away”, be “alienated from Christ”, and be in a state where it is “impossible for them to be renewed”.
Maybe they just quit believing in God because they’re fed up with life.
Maybe they convert to an orthodox Jew where they don’t believe in Jesus anymore and live by law.
Maybe they become atheist or become so wrapped up in sin and give themselves completely to it.
I don’t know.
But they turn back and want nothing to do with God.
I guess one could argue and say that this “falling away” and not being able to return was something ONLY for the Jewish people in Paul’s day.
"The destruction of Jerusalem was upon them, and these scriptures are ONLY written to Jews in those days who go back to Judaism."
Here’s what I think.
Hebrews 6 and 10 seem to go well with what Paul said in Romans:
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…
Here, Paul seems to be talking about ANYONE throughout all time who refuses God.
If you go up a few verses, you’ll find out who the “they” are in this scripture:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…
ALL unrighteous men. And he’s writing to gentiles, not Jews.
It says that God can allow people to walk in their corrupt mind if they want to.
I think this is what the writer of Hebrews is warning them about.
Look back real quick to Hebrews 6:7-8:
For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is REJECTED and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
He just got done saying that believers can “fall away”.
Then he compares them to land that receives water, but grows thorns, not producing fruit.
What happens to them? They’re REJECTED.
The Greek word for “rejected” is adokimos.
What does adokimos mean and how is it mainly used in the New Testament: REPROBATE.
It’s the same Greek word used in Romans 1:28 – the reprobate mind.
So the thought in both Hebrews 6 and Romans 1 is that if people walk away and refuse Christ, there’s a danger that they could become reprobates, impossible to be renewed.
Because God would have allowed them to go down that path… in their corrupt minds.
So I DO think that it’s possible that this COULD happen to someone today.
But I think it’s rare.
After saying all of this, I need to make this clear:
You CANNOT lose your salvation or “fall away” because you sin.
Drinking, smoking, cussing, barhopping, fornicating, and fighting WON’T cause you to LOSE your salvation.
Hebrews is NOT saying that.
Again, the issue was that they were going back to Judaism and not believing in Jesus anymore.
THAT’S what might cause someone to fall away.
But sin will not.
This is the theme throughout the New Testament.
People sinned, and Paul told them to stop, because they’re saved and need to start living like it.
The Bible never says that if you SIN, you are LOST again.
But unbelief? That seems to be God’s biggest pet peeve.
One last thing we need to consider, that I’m actually not quite sure about…
The scriptures we read say that people can be “alienated”, “fall away”, “given to a reprobate mind”, etc., etc.
But this doesn’t mean that we can automatically equate “fall away” with “lose your salvation.”
Remember, salvation is being one and right with God.
Can people become separated from the Spirit of God and be “unborn” after being “born again”?
Put back into the spiritual womb?
That’s what I’m not sure about.
It could be possible that these reprobates could not be renewed because they were walking down a dark path and wanted nothing to do with God…
… yet they still remained one with God and were new creations.
Maybe this is good news for them once they do finally die and see Jesus, who embraces them not because they were renewed to repentance…
… but because they were still in His hands, where nothing can snatch them away.
So although I’m not sure if people can “lose their salvation” and their right-standing with God, I’m pretty convinced that people can “fall away”.
So with all this insight, here’s what I think we should do.
1. Assure people that they cannot lose their salvation because they sinned
I can’t stress this enough.
The only way that a person MIGHT “fall away” is if they choose to give it up.
2. Don’t try to figure out who has fallen away and who hasn’t
That’s between them and God.
And besides, there’s NO WAY that WE can know that for sure.
We can’t see people’s hearts. We don’t know what they’re going through.
We can easily look at someone and see that they left the church.
They started drinking again.
They’re saying that they hate God and want nothing to do with Him.
But still, we don’t know if it’s IMPOSSIBLE for them to be renewed, because we don’t know their situation.
Our job is to keep preaching to them. Tell them about the love of Jesus.
If they come back, and they say that God embraced them, celebrate with them and don’t question.
It turns out that they were just a prodigal son.
Not a reprobate who fell away and refuses to acknowledge God.
3. Remind people of their identity in Christ
When people fall back into sin, they could just be going through an identity crisis.
They just forgot who they are, so they’re acting like someone they’re not.
But they never stopped having God’s last name.
4. Focus on the patience of God
Even in the Hebrews 6 scripture, after he gives them the warning of turning back, he says:
Even though we are speaking this way, dearly loved friends, in your case we are confident of things that are better and that pertain to salvation. FOR GOD IS NOT UNJUST; he will not forget your work.
He’s saying that even though it’s a possibility for you to draw back and not be renewed, God is not unjust.
He’s not going to just let you face the persecution and heartache alone, forget all the good you’ve done and become, and let you fall down to a nonrenewable state.
Even in the Romans scripture about God handing people over to corrupt minds, he says this:
Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
He continues to be good to us so that we’ll repent of that unbelief, because he’s not willing that any should perish.
If we do these four things, then it doesn’t matter if someone can “lose their salvation”.
Sometimes, we’re asking the wrong questions and focusing on the wrong things.
Although it seems to be possible to fall away and to not be renewed, we should be encouraged that this is not us.
Because we know how much God loves us, it causes us to cling to Him.
That’s why I believe that today, you CAN be secure in your salvation.