Should we as Christians have assurance of our salvation? Yes! In 1st John 5:13, the Apostle John says: “I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” Do I, as I write this article, believe that I am saved? Yes! Am I then an advocate of the doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved”? No, I am not. Is this a contradiction? Not at all. I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ, and I’ve surrendered my life to Him as my Lord and Savior. Therefore, I am confident in my salvation, and I know that, if I died today, I would spend eternity with Jesus. However, I will not have the arrogance and audacity to contradict the Bible, by maintaining that it is impossible for me to choose to stray from Jesus and to return to a life of sinful and worldly indulgence at some later point in my life, and thus to become lost. Unfortunately, the “Once Saved Always Saved” doctrine does take this arrogant and unbiblical stance, by teaching that it is not possible for believers to stray or depart from God at any point in their future life, and thus to perish.
This article will provide an overwhelming amount of biblical evidence that refutes and dismantles this popular doctrine. However, I will begin by listing some of the primary scriptures that are used by those who endorse this teaching.
Proponents of “Once Saved Always Saved” remind us that Jesus said that He will not cast out those who come to Him, and that the ones who believe in Him have everlasting life and will not come into judgment, but have passed from death to life (John 6:37; John 5:24). They also bring to our attention that Jesus said that He gives His sheep eternal life, and they’ll never perish because no one is able to snatch them out of His hand (John 10:27-29).
Supporters of this doctrine also quote the Apostle Paul’s statements that, “nothing can separate us from the love of God”, and that, “God has anointed us, sealed us and given us His Spirit as a guarantee”; furthermore, that Paul said that, “He who began a good work in us, will be faithful to complete it” (Romans 8:38-39; 2nd Corinthians 1:21-22; Philippians 1:6). And, advocates of this teaching remind us of the Scripture that I referred to in the opening paragraph of this article; that those who believe in the name of the Son of God should know that they have eternal life (1st John 5:13).
The above verses indeed give us assurance of salvation. They tell us that God loves us, accepts us and saves us. They assure us that no one can separate us from that love, and that no one can take our salvation away from us. We can be sure of our salvation! But, is that the same as “Once Saved, Always Saved”?
Does God take our freedom of choice away when we’re saved, so that we can’t choose to depart from Him if we want to? If God takes our freedom of choice away, why didn’t He do that in the beginning with Adam and Eve, thereby avoiding all the misery that sin has caused? Also, the Bible says that God does not change (Malachi 3:6), so, if He allowed Adam and Eve to choose to depart from Him when they were “perfect”, why wouldn’t He allow us to depart from Him? Do we with our sinful, corruptible natures have greater strength to resist departing from God than Adam and Eve did with their sinless, incorruptible natures?
Of course, the answer is obvious. The doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved” is illogical, and it is also unbiblical, as shall be demonstrated. It is comforting and assuring to know that no person, demon, power, circumstance or even the devil himself can take away our salvation that Christ has given us. But, if we choose to give it up ourselves by departing from Jesus, God will respect our choice, just as He did with Adam and Eve. The following scriptures clearly show that it is possible to “fall away” or depart from God; there are conditions to remain in your saved state.
The Apostle Paul stated that some will depart and stray from the faith (1st Timothy 4:1; 1st Timothy 6:9-10), so it obviously is possible to do so; furthermore, he warned us to “take heed lest we fall” (1st Corinthians 10:12), thus indicating that we can fall.
The Apostle Peter warned that a person can turn away from Jesus, and that if he does, he is worse off than before He knew Jesus, which would have to mean that he would be lost (2nd Peter 2:20-22). And, Peter also warned us to beware lest we fall and be led away with the error of the wicked, so it is clearly possible for this to happen (2nd Peter 3:17).
The Bible states that it is possible to fall from grace and become estranged or separated from Christ (to be separated from Christ is to be lost); likewise, that it is possible for a “brother” (a “brother” is a fellow saved Christian) to violate his conscience and perish (Galatians 5:2-4; 1st Corinthians 8:8-11). The Scriptures also say in Hebrews 2:1-3, that it’s possible to drift away if we’re not careful, and that if we do, how shall we escape for neglecting so great a salvation? Therefore, we obviously can drift away from our salvation.
God’s Word states that it is possible to depart from the living God, and that we are “partakers of Christ” if we hold fast until the end (Hebrews 3:12-14); moreover, the Bible says that we must “continue in the faith” to remain reconciled (Colossians 1:21-23). Therefore, the Scriptures clearly teach that there are conditions for remaining in our reconciled relationship with Christ. Similarly, the Apostle Paul states that we’re saved if we “hold fast” to the gospel, otherwise we’ll have believed in vain (1st Corinthians 15:1-2). So, once again, there are conditions for remaining in this saved state, and it is possible to have believed in vain, which plainly indicates the possibility to become lost if we stop “holding fast” to the gospel. Likewise, Hebrews 10:35-39 says that we must endure to receive the promise; stating that people can “draw back”, resulting in their perdition or destruction. This is yet another passage declaring that people can “stray”, “draw back” or “fall away”, resulting in their being lost or destroyed.
The Bible book of Hebrews also teaches that it is possible for people who were clearly very close to Jesus and “filled with His power”, to fall away, and that it’s impossible to bring them to repentance again, obviously indicating that they’re lost (Hebrews 6:3-6). Similarly, the prophet Ezekiel declared that if a righteous person turns to iniquity, he will die (Ezekiel 33:18); once again, clearly teaching that righteous people can turn back to a life of sin and be lost (and the reference to righteous people in this passage has to be referring to “saved people”, because only saved people could be called righteous).
James 5:19-20 states that it’s possible to wander away from the truth, and if you do, someone needs to turn you back from your error to save your soul from death. In other words, it’s possible to wander away and need to be “resaved”. Also, in Romans chapter 11, the Apostle Paul compares God’s Church to an olive tree, and he teaches that, if people don’t “continue in belief”, they will be broken off or separated from God’s olive tree (Romans 11:17-22). And, if we have been removed from God’s “olive tree church”, we are certainly in a lost state.
In Revelation 3:5, Jesus states that those in the Church who overcome will not have their names blotted out of the Book of Life. Therefore, it obviously is possible to have your name removed from God’s Book of Life, or else that subject would never have been brought up by Jesus. And, if your name is removed from God’s Book of Life, you surely would no longer be saved. Thus, this text also contradicts the “Once Saved Always Saved” doctrine. And, similarly, Hebrews 10:26-29 says that it is possible for someone who was sanctified by the blood of Jesus, to turn away and “sin willfully”, thereby bringing upon himself the fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation (in other words, the hell fire). So, previously sanctified people, which would have to have been saved people, can turn back to a life of willful sin, thus resulting in them going to hell.
The Apostle Paul states that we will reign with Jesus Christ if we endure, and he also says that Jesus will deny us if we deny Him (2nd Timothy 2:12). Paul is writing to Christians, so it is clearly possible to “not endure” and to deny Jesus, thus resulting in His justly denying us. And, in fact, we have an unfortunate example of one of Paul’s fellow laborers in the gospel who did not endure. Demas, who Paul referred to as his fellow laborer in Philemon verse 24, was later said to have forsaken Paul because he loved this present world (2nd Timothy 4:9). And, we know that the Bible states that if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him (1st John 2:15). Therefore, according to Scripture, Demas, who had previously labored alongside of Paul, had turned backed to the world and no longer loved God. Obviously Demas was not “once saved always saved”.
In fact, according to 1st Corinthians 9:27, even the Apostle Paul knew that it was possible for him to be rejected and to become disqualified, a castaway, or a reprobate (depending on your Bible translation), if he was not spiritually disciplined. And, don’t let any modern “seeker sensitive” preachers deceive you concerning what Paul meant here, by telling you that he was not referring to the loss of his salvation, but only to losing extra rewards in heaven. The Greek word used by Paul is adokimos. He said he disciplined himself lest he should become adokimos. What is “adokimos”? It means rejected, unapproved, disqualified, worthless, a castaway or a reprobate. A reprobate is defined in modern dictionaries as being a wicked, immoral, depraved or corrupt person. Paul said he disciplined himself so he would not become like that. The original Greek word makes it clear that Paul realized that even he could fall into the depraved, immoral, corrupt and wicked condition of a disqualified castaway or reprobate.
Think about it. If the Bible states that this could even happen to the Apostle Paul, couldn’t it also happen to modern Christians? And, do you think that wicked, corrupt, depraved, immoral, disqualified, castaways or reprobates are still “saved” people who will enter heaven? Of course not!
It is also highly significant that the same Greek word, adokimos, which Paul said that he could become if he was not disciplined, was the word he used to describe the list of rejected sinners in the last days that we are to turn away from or avoid (2nd Timothy 3:1-8). He said in verse eight that these people were adokimos (reprobate-KJV, rejected-NIV, disapproved-NKJV) concerning the faith. In other words, they were reprobates who were rejected and worthless. Remember, Paul admitted that he also could become adokimos (a rejected, disapproved reprobate) just as these rejected sinners. Are the adokimos sinners listed in 2nd Timothy 3:1-8 still saved? Of course not! This is a description of people who are lost; Paul said that even he could also become like them if he was not disciplined.
Furthermore, in Romans 1:28, Paul states that the sinners that he lists, which includes fornicators, murderers, idolaters and haters of God, had forsaken God and developed an adokimos (reprobate-KJV, depraved-NIV, debased-NKJV) mind. Their minds, thoughts, attitudes and purposes had become depraved, immoral, corrupt and wicked as those of a reprobate. These adokimos minded sinners in Romans chapter one, were not saved people. They are presented as rebellious, wicked and rejected by God; Paul uses that same word, adokimos, to describe what he could become if he was not spiritually disciplined. Even Paul could become like them. Even Paul could fall into such a state of depravity and wickedness, thereby resulting in him being rejected as a depraved reprobate.
This Greek word, adokimos, is only used eight times in the entire New Testament. Every single time, without exception, it describes people or things that are wicked, depraved, debased, worthless, rejected, disapproved, disqualified, reprobate etc. It never depicts anything good or of saving value. We have already studied three of these adokimos texts. We will now examine the other five passages.
Titus 1:16 refers to a group of people that it describes as having denied Christ, and as being abominable, disobedient and adokimos (reprobate-KJV, disqualified-NKJV, unfit-NIV) for every good work. Remember, the Apostle Paul said that he could also become adokimos (an unfit, disqualified reprobate) like these people mentioned by Titus if he was not disciplined.
Hebrews 6:4-8 describes people who forsake Christ, and compares them to land that drinks in God’s blessings of rain, but then bears only useless thorns and briers. It then declares that land to be adokimos (rejected-KJV&NKJV, worthless-NIV), and whose end is to be burned. Once again, remember that the Apostle Paul stated that he could also become adokimos (rejected and worthless) like that land if he did not discipline himself.
In 2nd Corinthians 13:5-7, Paul uses adokimos three times. In verse five he states that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are adokimos (reprobate-KJV, disqualified-NKJV, failed the test-NIV). He then said in verse six that he trusted that the Corinthians knew that he and his companions were not adokimos. And, in verse seven, he prayed that the Corinthians would avoid evil and live honorably, whether or not they viewed him as being adokimos. Of course, the key verse in this passage is verse five. Paul clearly states that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are “adokimos”. In other words, to be adokimos is to not have Jesus within you! Once again, remember that Paul declared that he could also become adokimos. In other words, even the Apostle Paul could end up not having Jesus within himself, if he did not maintain spiritual discipline. And, if you do not have Jesus in you, you are certainly “lost”.
That’s why Paul said that he disciplined himself. He did not allow himself to have a careless or lazy spiritual attitude. Paul did not believe in once saved, always saved, and neither should we.
It is also certainly not a coincidence that, immediately after Paul admits the possibility for himself to become adokimos, he uses the example of Old Testament Israel to teach us not to repeat their sinful compromises (1st Corinthians 10:1-12). He reminds us that many of the Israelites who had been “baptized” in the sea, eaten the spiritual food (manna), and drank the spiritual drink from the “Rock” (Christ); nonetheless, later perished through various sinful compromises with lust, idolatry, sexual immorality and complaining. He concludes his point by saying, “therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall”.
Paul’s message is clear, and it should be a wakeup call for today’s unbiblical, “once saved, always saved” preachers! Immediately after Paul admits the possibility for himself to become adokimos in 1st Corinthians 9:27, he then shares examples of how large numbers of God’s “Old Testament Church” (Israel) fell into sin and perished, after initially having been delivered from Egypt. He concludes his point by stating that these things were recorded as examples for our admonition; moreover, that we, therefore, who think that we’ll stand, should take heed lest we fall (1st Corinthians 10:11-12).
In summary of these verses in 1st Corinthians, Paul’s message is certainly powerful and clear. He reminds us that even he, the powerful and inspired apostle, could fall into the depraved, wicked and lost condition of a “reprobate”, if he did not keep himself spiritually disciplined. He additionally reminds us that many Old Testament Israelites who had initially been delivered from the sins of Egypt, did later fall into sin and perish. He then instructs us to be admonished and to learn from their example, lest we fall due to our arrogance! It is undeniably obvious to any honest and unbiased person that this passage unequivocally refutes the Church’s “Once Saved, Always Saved”doctrine.
The Bible is clear on this issue. A “righteous” or “saved” person can choose to depart from the faith (1st Timothy 4:1), perish (1st Corinthians 8:8-11), have his previous faith to have been in vain (1st Corinthians 15:1-2), and thereby resulting in him being devoured by the fire and dying (Hebrews 10:26-29; Ezekiel 33:13). That’s why the Bible warns us in these verses to: “hold fast to the gospel”, “continue in the faith”, “endure”, “beware” and to not depart from God. Why would God give us numerous warnings not to “depart” or “turn away” from Him, unless it can happen?
You have seen the biblical proof, and it is obvious that this “Once Saved Always Saved” doctrine contradicts the overwhelming weight of biblical evidence. In addition to contradicting Scripture, the proclamation of this teaching is very problematic in that its message is the exact opposite of what our complacent, compromised and sleeping American Christian Church needs to hear.