Once saved; always saved

As a start to the 'Platypus Challenge' series, the 'one saved; always saved'  question impacts on the subject of Christian assurance. There are verses which - at first glance - give opposite views. So what is the true biblical view?
Platypus VersesPreamble: The Platypus Challenge series is designed to take a look at some of these 'awkward' verses in the Bible which rub up against one theological system or another.

An example of this is the perennial debate (mainly amongst theologians) regarding the dynamic underlying our salvation. Are we children of God because He has foreordained us to be so? Or are we in relation with him because we have responded to His offer of salvation in Christ?

These questions – often referred to in shorthand form as (components of)  Calvinism and Arminianism respectively – produce polarised responses with bible verses produced to support both (conflicting) views.
Both positions can be accused of creating a lack of assurance. The Calvinist wonders whether (s)he is indeed one of 'the chosen'; in the Arminian position the believer may be afraid that (s)he will not be able to finish the race.

The debate – mainly amongst theologians at an academic level – is usually confined to God's plan relating to coming to faith (soteriology) and the dynamic of the new birth.
However the questions also relate to the end of this life (whether it arrives through death, or when Jesus returns).

So now to the question in point. Can we say:
'"Once saved; always saved", or not?

Under 'Platypus' rules, each of the two participants (of opposite views) supplies six verses (or short extracts) directly from the Bible without any additional comments or remarks.

Each participant then furnishes a response in the form of a rebuttal to the other's view.

The verses and the responses are listed below.

Proposition: 'Once saved; always saved'

(i.e. verses offered in support of the view that one's salvation cannot be lost)


counter-arguments to these verses

(i.e. verses offered which suggest that ultimate salvation is conditional)


Counter-arguments to these verses

Verses below FOR Proposition + rebuttals
(mouse-over verses for pop-ups)
Verses below AGAINST proposition + rebuttals
(mouse-over verses for pop-ups)

Romans 8:30

Rebuttal (concerning above text):
It is with gratitude to God we read this verse and rejoice in His future plans for us. Nevertheless we must be so careful not to pick one verse out and quote it out of context. On this occasion we do not have to go far to find the context and even more than that, the grounds of "predestination."  Paul tells us or more accurately God tells us through the pen of Paul. The grounds are "foreknowledge." God in His divine sovereignty decided to give humanity free will. We are looking at the consequences today. We see Jesus in all his preaching endorsing this fact. Example "how often I would have ....... but you would not"Mat. 23:37. He does not appoint people who will follow him he calls them and strangely his ministry is continually restricted to their response. So in the previous verse to the quoted one God says the grounds of predestination is foreknowledge that is foreknowledge in relation to the 'free will' choice that a person makes.


John 3:36

Again we see the fact and the consequences of free will, either believing or rejecting. Sadly our land is populated with many who chose to walk well with the Lord and showed the fruits of it but for some reason or another decided not to live a life of obedience to the voice of God. I say obedience because as the text says "he who does not obey the Son shall not see life." Willful disobedience sounds the death knell.


John 10:27 - 29

Once again I join with the person who quoted these verses and praise God for them. The words 'hear' and 'follow' in verse 27 are "action in progress" words. Many translations of the word 'hear' translate it as 'listen' which is a progressive word. The word 'follow' is also a progressive word so Jesus is talking about sheep who are continually listening and following. That helps us to understand the type of sheep Jesus is talking about. I am greatly helped by Jh. 8:12 and 8:51 where Jesus talks about following the light and keeping his word.


Philippians 1:6

I feel rather embarrassed that I seem to be talking about the same difficulty all the time. That is the difficulty of taking a text out of its context. Hear Paul is thanking God for a company of people who are continuing in partnership or the preaching (v.5) of the Gospel and such involvement has made him feel good about them (v.7). On those grounds he feels confident that the good work that God has begun in them will continue to progress. You see God is as eager to have us with Him as the faithful are to be with their God. Rev.21:3


Hebrews  12:2

It is difficult to comment on this verse of Scripture as it starts with half a sentence. In half a sentence you get half a truth. So let's look at the whole sentence. Verse 1 is talking about the "race" (the iourney) of the Christian life with witnesses in the stadium. Paul (permit me to say Paul) there speaks about "laying aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily besets us." Now we are getting some light on the picture. In fact it is the same picture, in reverse that Paul talks to young Timothy about in 1Tim. 4:1-3. Here are men who did not "endure" and here he explains the consequences of and the reasons they fell away from the faith. We cannot as some would, say that these persons were not saved. Apart from that being the sin that Jesus strongly condemns in Mat. 7:1 it is incorrect according to the first verse of 1 Tim. 4. They had been in the faith.
So to go back to Hebrews we have learned our task as believers is to a) lay aside encumbrances, b) lay aside sin, c) endure! Now we go to verse 2 and Paul talks about "fixing" (to set fast, steadfast, fix firmly) our eyes on Jesus. In the Authorised version it is the word "Looking" the meaning of this word is 'to look away from one thing so as to see another.' Isn't that interesting. Now we can understand how Jesus will "perfect our faith."

God never imposes anything on us he leaves us, he allows us to make our own decisions. That is why it has taken so long for us to be more like Jesus. We keep on saying no to the Holy Spirit and that is why people are still free to walk away from Christ if they choose.


1 Peter 1:23

In this verse we have a lovely and perfect description of the seed which is God's word Luke 8:11. The seed is perfect it's the ground that is the problem. Jesus makes that clear in the parable of the sower. Peter also makes it clear that it is the seed that is imperishable. Jesus in fact says the person whose heart was 'stony ground' became a believer but fell away. Let me just add that falling away is clear from scripture to be an act of separation from God. It is made so clear in the parable of the prodigal son Luke 15. We hear people say "Once a son always a son." Sounds so good and it's true in relation to behaviour in the natural world. If my sons commit terrible crimes they are still my sons. But Jesus says otherwise in relation to our sonship. He says in the parable  "This brother of yours was dead and is alive again...... ." Lk. 15:32. Willful sin separatesus from our God. The young mand chose to go from the father's dwelling.
Romans 11:19 - 22

Rebuttal (concerning above text):
"if... otherwise":
Paul warns his readers to beware lest they are not regenerate, lest they have the wrong attitude of spirit which demonstrates that they are unconverted. Paul considers the subject collectively, and the branches which were broken off were unregenerate Jews who did not believe in Christ - not regenerate Christians who had believed in Christ. Paul address a hypothetical Gentile Christian who boasts that he believes in Christ v20, while boasting against unbelieving Jews vv18,20. He is to beware lest his boasting against the Jews demonstrates that he is not regenerate at all, and that he is not a true disciple. Jesus taught the very same doctrine to those who claimed to believe on Him Jn 8:30-32 but who were unregenerate Jn 8:34-38. In the context of this passage, Paul asserts that God does not call and then change His mind Rom 11:29.


Colossians 1:21 - 23

"if ye continue in the faith":
Paul qualifies the comforting doctrine in v22 with the warning that such comfort applies only to those who persevere. He does not say that there is doubt about regenerate believers persevering; rather Paul tells us that he is warning every hearer v28 to ensure that they are regenerate believers, which manifests itself by perseverance in holiness v22. He is warning against antinomianism.


Hebrews 3: 14

"if we hold":
This is conditional language as in the previous texts. The context is a collective warning lest anyone among them should prove to be unbelievers v12. It does not teach that regenerate believers are in danger of not persevering. Rather, it teaches the opposite: those who do not hold steadfast to the end are not partakers of Christ at all. It does not teach that they were once partakers of Christ but lose it.


Hebrews 6:4 - 6

"if they shall fall away..."
The context of this falling away is not simply perseverance but developing Christian usefulness vv1,10-12. By way of warning, the apostle considers the case of nominal Christians who have evidently fallen away not simply from usefulness but from Christianity itself. The phraseology in vv4-5 does not say that the person was regenerate, but describes the spiritual privileges they had. These phrases can apply to people like Judas Iscariot and many others who were stony ground hearers. Having known so much about Christianity, nothing more can make them change their mind, especially as they think that they have tasted and experienced it all vv 4-5. This describes the condition of many nominal Christians who have abandoned Christianity. Nothing in the passage suggests that these people were regenerate believers. The word repentance simply means changing their mind; it is not a technical term for a change of mind effected by the Holy Spirit. If anyone should interpret it as Spirit-wrought repentance, in order to try to prove that the person was regenerate, are they bold enough to say that it is impossible for the Holy Spirit to change their mind again? The apostle says it is impossible v4. The impossibility is not in the Holy Spirit's power to change their mind, but in the apostate person's changing their mind of their own volition. There is no proof that the person described here was a regenerate believer. They had received showers of blessing from God v7, but not regeneration. Their lives still brought forth thorns and briers v8 instead of spiritual fruit v7. They received much, but nowhere does it say that they produced the fruits of repentance Mat 3:8; Lk 3:8.


Hebrews 10:26 - 29

"if we sin wilfully..."
The apostle is considering a similar situation to Heb 6:4-6. The person spoken about is wilfully v26 despising v28 what he knows of the truth v26, considering the blood of Christ's covenant an unholy thing v29 and despising the Spirit of grace v29. There is a difficulty for those who interpret the phrase "wherewith he was sanctified" as meaning that the person was regenerated and saved. However this interpretation cannot be sustained, so that the difficulty disappears. Sanctified means "set apart for a sacred or holy use"; it is not a technical term suggesting a person regenerated by the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament priests were set apart for their holy duties, but they were not all regenerated believers 1Sam 2:12. The people mentioned here were not heathen, but like Heb 6:4-6 they had received privileges, such as "the knowledge of the truth" v26 and had been set apart by the blood of Christ's covenant. This shows that they were nominal Christians but it does not prove that they were regenerate believers. There is no evidence that they were regenerate. Rather, they despised the Holy Spirit, Who is described as "the Spirit of grace" v29 because in despising Him they were despising His grace.


2 Timothy 2:12

"if we deny Him...".
This statement is very succinct and needs careful exegesis, because Peter denied Christ and was forgiven and restored by Christ. On the day of Pentecost Peter accused the crowd of denying Christ Act 3:13-14, but he went on to offer these same people the Gospel Act 3:19 and thousands of them believed Act 4:4. So one cannot prove that this text teaches that the regenerate may lose their salvation. It teaches that there are serious consequences of denying Christ, but it does not teach that the regenerate may lose their salvation. Those who persist or persevere in denial of Christ will discover that He will deny them at the Day of Judgment Mat 10:33; Lk 12:9. The text is about perseverance in denial of Christ, rather than the regenerate failing to persevere in holiness and confession of Christ. Further, we need to distinguish denial under torture and denial in a calm and reasoned situation. It is not possible to prove from this text that Paul thinks that he or other regenerate people will deny Christ as Saviour. I have seen nothing in these verses which suggests that a regenerate person can lose grace and fail to persevere to the end.

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The Editor, 02/05/2013

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John Miller 20/01/2014 10:40
I have had another post deleted although I felt that I was sticking to the rules. However, here goes again!If further posts are deleted without explanation where I believe that the rules have been observed I will desist from any further involvement. Others are making posts that plainly ignore the "rules".

I do not beleve that it is possible to be lost after God has save me through His grace by the gift of repentance and faith in Christ, thereby giving me the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:23
Romans 11:29
Colin Ford 20/01/2014 17:16
Of course we NEED a head knowledge, in order to "know the way of salvation" Acts 16.17 KJV, Romans 10.17 KJV etc. I can see where you are coming from regarding the word "imposter"; but sometimes I wonder (sounds daft I know, especially in light of 1 Corinthians 2.8 KJV?) if there are people who actually and really KNOW they are doing the Devil's work? Romans 1.20 KJV tells us clearly that "they are without excuse"? The Bible therefore tells us plainly that Creation speaks to ALL of us Psalm 19.14 KJV?
As regards OSAS, as mentioned in my last post there are those who accuse some of being "Lordship Salvationists" (teaching salvation by works): We are ONLY saved by grace alone Ephesians 2.8-9 KJV. The next verse Ephesians 2.10 KJV, tells us we "are created for good works" and "we should walk in them". James 2.14-19 KJV (and onwards) tells us that "faith without works is dead", He even says "the devils also believe"!
Luke 6.46-47 KJV among other Scriptures is telling us that we have to "DO", not to earn salvation, but because we are saved. I can't see what the controversy is about, because IF one is TRULY saved, he or she would DO "works meet for repentance" Acts 26.19 KJV? At the very least, if there is no change in the lifestyle of a man or woman pre and post conversion/regeneration/saved, then we can wonder if such an one is truly saved?
But again, it is IMPOSSIBLE for a TRULY saved person to lose his/her salvation, it is opposed to what God's Word teaches. But.....
Colin Ford 20/01/2014 17:20
Should read Psalm 19.1-4 KJV and Acts 26.20 KJV (should anyone care!)
Editor 20/01/2014 17:48
John, I will check back to see which (deleted) post you refer to and either (a) offer an explanation or (b) re-instate it (with apologies).

Note to Colin: I will be deleting further posts from 'Guest' unless (s)he makes themselves known to me. I have no intention to let this site become a pulpit for those who are not prepared to make themselves known.
Colin Ford 21/01/2014 08:59
Amen and Amen!
Provided we are saved in the first place?
WHO has access to the "Book of Life"?
Could someone tell me why Paul says what he does in Philippians 2.12 KJV?
Why the so-called 5th petal of Calvin's acronym TULIP? (perseverance of the saints).
John Miller 21/01/2014 09:27
Phil.2:12 is an excellent demonstration of the breadth of meaning of God's salvation revealed in His word.

Men and women are to be saved from the guilt of sin through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. They are to be saved from the power of sin on the basis of His death and resurrection by the inward working of God's Spirit given to all who are redeemed. This is what is envisaged in Phil.2:12. They will be saved from the penalty of sin when the dead in Christ are raised and changed along with those who are alive and remain until the rapture of the church.

Salvation is therefore a great inclusive description of the fullness of God's plan for all who come to Him in repentance and faith in The Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is in none other.
John Miller 21/01/2014 09:35
I hit the OK button too soon! When a soul receives Christ by repentance and faith Paul teaches that we are SEALED by the Holy Spirit. That is the seal of God. It cannot be broken or removed. No effort of Satan can break it. It is an eternal seal.

When a person is thus saved they must remain saved for time and eternity. Our appreciation, enjoyment and experience of salvation are quite another matter.
Colin Ford 21/01/2014 13:25
That word TRUE is the lynchpin?
To any that have the correct understanding of the parable of the "wheat and the tares" in Matthew 13.24-30 KJV would KNOW that there are true and false Christians growing together, they WILL be separated at the end of the age Matthew 13.41-42 KJV. Are there not many "tares" that have a false assurance of salvation?
Editor 21/01/2014 14:22
Admin note: The 'response' facility to this article is now restricted to logged-in site members only.
Mini 04/09/2016 16:13
It is a difficult subject to deal with just by commenting on a web forum. But John 6:66 says: “From that time on, many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him”. If there are warnings, the warnings must be real. But are the warnings there as sentence from The Divine Word on those who fail to heed them?

The 2 Timothy verse: “If we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we believe not, yet He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself” is both a warning and a reassurance for people wandering on the brink. I agree that the denial must be persistent. But how many Christians have been encouraged by the latter part of that verse: “if we believe not (or lose our faith), yet He remains faithful”!

Sometimes, you have to get away slightly, from the actual words and start seeing through to the meaning more.

There’s a verse in Revelation 13: 8:

“And all who dwell on the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain”.

And I often think this is the most discomforting, comforting verse in the whole Bible!

When that time comes, (and it could be in our own lifetime!), how many of us will remember that verse and be thrown into doubt because of it? Just like all the disciples were momentarily thrown into doubt at The Last Supper, each one afraid that they would be the one to betray Him. We will start to question ourselves, thinking: “is my name written in His Book of Life?”; “Am I saved?”. And the thing is, it won’t MATTER. That’s what the verse means.

We can doubt and be scared out of our living wits that we will lose Him, and our eternal salvation, but if He has written our names in His Book, we will not be lost. It’s nothing to do with our fear or our courage. Our lack of faith or our trust.

There are mysteries here, to do with the Will of God, and as we know things mainly through our brains, we can’t understand fully. God does not have a brain: He just knows.

I would say ANYONE who is afraid of losing Jesus, will not be lost. There is recovery and restoration for that person through the Blood of Jesus, which always has the last word.

I don’t want to go on about Jonathan Edwards, but he isn’t remotely worried about losing Jesus is he? He’s never been happier in his life! (I suspect his whole conversion was a lie, but how would I know. I just feel very sorry for his wife and children)

This kind of trial, which is truly horrible, has been experienced by all generations of Christians, including some of the great ones. You always come out the other side stronger and more God-dependent.

It is also remarkable how there have been cases of people deliberately lying as to their conversion, yet many years later they have repented and found salvation. The reason why St Theresa of Avila was persecuted half to death by priests and officials of the Catholic church in Spain, is that a few years beforehand, there was a huge scandal. There was a nun, who was famous not only for her miracles, but for her VIRTUES (!!). But when she became old, she got ill. Unexpectedly, she sent for a priest and an exorcist, confessed that when she was five years old, she sold her soul to the devil. She said all her miracles were done with satanic power, and she asked for deliverance. Unfortunately, they forced her to live in solitary confinement after that, which was exceedingly ungracious and unloving. But what an amazing work of God, that someone like that could be given the gift of repentance!

We can’t understand all these things, but Jesus can deliver anyone and having done so, will keep them to eternal life. It depends on Him not us. I believe it’s quite wrong to make doctrines out of these things. We can be assured of eternal life – but God can allow us to go through certain trials where we temporarily lose our assurance. (not our salvation) At other times, we fall into sin and that is the reason we temporarily lose our assurance (not our salvation). But we repent and He restores us.

I've been a Christian for 50 years, and if I've learnt one thing it's this: Jesus is faithful, faithful. Faithful to the smallest and weakest of His children. He sticks to us like superglue and won't let go.

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