What is the biblical defense of the security of salvation, or “once saved, always saved”? “
Once Saved/Always saved”… I personally think that this cliché is a misstatement of the issue. The statement sounds like “Once I am saved, I am always saved.” The real phrase should be more like “Once Christ saves me, I am saved indeed.” I also think that this concept is best seen in scripture through the pictures that Christ and others create of our relationship to Him and how that is connected to salvation. There are reams that could and have been written on this subject, and I am not going to even try to do it justice in a short blog. However, I was asked about what I believe about it, and this will offer the evidence from scripture and reason that convinced me of what I now believe.
(1) Adopted son/daughter-ship
My favorite of all of these pictures is the parent child relationship. Jesus, Paul and John all make this relationship very clear.
Check out John 1:12: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (NASU)
Gal 4:1-7 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Once given the position of Father/Child cannot be removed. We cannot cease to be sons of God the Father. Paul actually, in the Galatians passage and in Romans 8 uses the word “Abba” – the family name that Jewish children call their fathers!: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba ! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Chris…”, (Rom 8:15-17, NASU)
Imagine the concept of a father that is in constant evaluation of his children and rejecting them and denying their condition as his child under any circumstances – much less daily and constantly when their child fails them. Sin. “You are not my son.” Repent “Now you are my son again.” Sin again. “Now you aren’t my son again.” Repent… etc. This would be a terrible father! Is this the image of a father presented in the passages above? Does that image fit with Jesus’ powerful parable of the “prodigal son?” Sons may run, sons may fail, but sons are still sons. Though I am not going to make a separate point of it, another close connector is the image of us as bride to Christ as groom. Is it a positive picture of a father who denies His children when they fail Him? In the same way, what kind of husband picture is a husband who divorces His wife whenever she sins (especially in the common yo-yo picture of divorce, remarry, divorce, remarry, etc. that a sin/repentance life would represent) I think both the marriage imagery and Father imagery throw the question of security into clear light. However, there are two other biblical principles that I want to cover as well…
(2) The Priest/sacrifice.
The whole of the Sacrificial system of the Jewish Scriptures is a foreshadowing of the work of Christ on Earth. He was/is the Passover lamb, and the rest of the sacrificial system is all bound up in His person as well! The image is that of Jesus as the final, complete, sufficient sacrifice and “it is finished.”
Heb 9:18-28 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” 21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. 23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another– 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
Hebrews creates a picture of salvation that is connected to the absolution through the blood of the bull and the protection of the believer from God’s wrath as the Passover lamb. This was done once a year in a “shadow” of the real tabernacle in heaven. Now, Christ remains in the real tabernacle in heaven with God – offered once for the sins of many. Now Christ sits in the throne room – the true Holy of Holies – interceding for us as the priest and sacrifice interceded for the Jewish people.
Heb 9:11-14 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all , having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
(3) The Savior
Titus 3:3-8 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
Christ is portrayed as our savior – a savior is one who offers salvations and safety. Furthermore, his salvation is offered or given not on merit, but grace. It is clear in scripture that salvation cannot be worked for. It is given, and perhaps accepted, or it does not exist. Christ is a graceful savior, and once you are set free by the Son, you are free indeed. If He saves us based His grace, then why would He lose us by our sin? Is Christ an untalented enough savior as to be unable to hold onto those He has been given by the Father? (John 18:9).
The other Viewpoint?
When I was researching my own thoughts on this, I was brought to this question: For which sins did Jesus die? The answer I got from everyone – even people who do not believe in security of salvation – was “all of them.” I wonder, if that is the case, for which sins could I lose my salvation? I think Hebrews 6 teaches that if we were to somehow get sin back on our account – if we were to discover a sin that Jesus has not covered, then our only hope would be to crucify Him again for ourselves. This isn’t going to happen. Take a look at this passage, which is one of the main defenses for the idea that a Christian could fall from their right condition with God: Heb 6:4-6 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
I believe that this passage is clearly talking about a true follower of Christ… and this passage either indicates that such a person can lose their salvation or it doesn’t. However, notice that if it does, it also makes a following fact clear: “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.” According to this passage, if a true follower of Christ can lose their salvation, they cannot get it back. I was raised in a church that taught that I needed to ask God to forgive me each night because I had likely lost my salvation each day (I seem to recall being told that a reason for not attending a rated R movie was that it would be a real bummer if the rapture came while I was there, since anyone in such a movie would certainly not be raptured). I think this passage is trying to make clear that Christ’s sacrifice is so sufficient that there would be no hope for someone who managed to find a sin Jesus did not die for. This, in the same book that above made clear that there were no more sins for Christ to die for…12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all , having obtained eternal redemption.
So, considering all of the passages that refer to salvation as a gift of grace unearned (like Ephesians 2), merely accepted (if that)… and the consistent biblical pictures of God as Father, Groom, Sacrifice, and Savior… and the closed door of being lost and saved repeatedly through life, I am left with a confidence in the Savior and the security of His salvation. I know there are a number of other questions that follow (like, what about someone who claims to have been saved at some point, but then totally denies Christ later? What about the unforgivable sin?, etc) These will have to be held over for another entry.
Thanks for the great question!