Once Saved, Always Saved…Yeah, NOT!

The other day in class one of the students asked a question and inferred that they believed in a ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine.  While I appreciated the context of the question and statement, I had to make a stand as to what we believe in the Assemblies of God fellowship, and more importantly, what I personally believe and preach from my heart as I see it laid out in God’s Word.  I would love to believe in a ‘once saved, always saved’ scenario, because this would mean that more people would be saved and in heaven with Jesus; that’s always a good thing.  However, a closer look at just some of the passages in the Bible tell a different story of how our salvation process works out.  In this blog I hope to better present a biblically accurate view on this issue.

Paul said it this way, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”                            – Ephesians 2:8-10  

  • Grace is getting something that you don’t deserve. Faith is the substance (realization) of things hoped for, the evidence (confidence) of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)  A gift is something nice that you get from someone who loves you, but you have to receive it in order for you to ‘get it.’  Works are things that you do to obtain a certain goal or achievement. Workmanship means masterpiece and it describes what we are in God’s sight. 

We were created to do the good works for Jesus that God has already commissioned for us to do. These good works can never save us (only Jesus can do that), but they can make a statement of our love for the Lord and our obedience to Him.  Our salvation and our good works are two separate things; one God gives to us freely, the other we give back to the Lord of our free will.  Our works for, and obedience to, the Lord are an expression of our love for Him.  They can’t save us because we are already saved.  This is why some folks can do work’s for the Lord and not be saved.  They are two separate things; salvation and works.

Jesus said it this way, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”             – Matthew 7:21-23

  • This passage, for me, is one of the most scariest passages in the Bible. It reiterates my fear (reverence) of the Lord and my sincere faith in Him.  The context of this passage takes place at the Great White Throne Judgment, a judgment that occurs after the final battle between the devil, who at this time has been recently released from his millennial prison, and the Lord. 

The devil will be released from the bottomless pit and will deceive many millennial patrons who were born into and have enjoyed the millennial reign of Jesus on an earth that has been restored, renewed, and made whole.  This occurs after the seven-year tribulation.  

John describes it this way, “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”                                               – Revelation 20:7-10

  • My heart breaks when I read this passage because I know that in the future, when the Lord Jesus returns to the earth with His Church (His Bride) and establishes His millennial kingdom, there will be those people who will be born into this wonderful era and who will enjoy the blessings of the Lord, but who will eventually be deceived by the devil and ‘fall away’ into perdition. 

During the millennium, people born into that era will have never been tested in their faith until the enemy is released to test it.  They were ‘safe,’ but not ‘saved.’  This is similar to what a wayward believer looks like.

The Great White Throne Judgment: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”                         – Revelation 20:11-15

  • After the devil is judged, he is cast into the lake of fire, a place Jesus calls ‘the second death.’  This is the final place of eternal suffering that all people and demons will endure throughout eternity.  This is a conscience torment of eternal damnation that will never, ever end. 

Just the thought of it should send chills to anyone who would even think about walking away from the Lord, wagering eternity on your version of what being saved looks like to you.  The passage in Matthew 7 occurs in the passage above, the throne room of God’s final judgment where millions of people are brought up from Gehenna to stand in judgement at the great white throne only to be cast alive into the lake of fire.

This is why the Apostle Paul put a caveat on the condition of our salvation. He said, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally (fleshly) minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”                    – Romans 8:1-8

Let’s break this down:

  • In this passage we learn about the ‘therefore’ of no commendation. If we are in Christ, then we should not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. The problem is that there are those who say they are in Christ, but who walk according to their flesh, which begs the question, are they really ‘in Christ?’  We either are, or we are not; there is no middle ground.

While it’s true that we all struggle with sin, with making mistakes, with failure and such at times, it’s equally true that if we are in Christ, then He will help us in every situation we encounter. People who embrace a ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine will challenge the placement of the phrase, ‘who do not walk according to the flesh’ in the original manuscript.  While this would support their argument for the same, it’s not consistent with the whole text of scripture or even Paul’s position on the subject.  If we are in Christ, then we are in Christ; if we are not in Christ, it will show in what we do and what we say.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were  sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”    – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

  • If ever there were a scripture passage that confronts the idea of once saved always saved it would be this one. Here Paul refutes the concept of a believer still embracing a lifestyle of sin. He says that if they do, and think that they are saved, then they are deceived.

Jesus said it this way, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”     – John 14:21-23

  • The law does condemn, but a true believer in Jesus has a new and different relationship with the law based on their faith and trust in Christ.  As a result, because they are in Christ, they cannot be condemned by Christ.  While this benefit only works when we are in Christ, there are those who believe that Christ still maintains a person’s position of salvation even when they blatantly and willfully walk away from Him.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”          – (vs.2)

  • If we are in Christ, then we have been made free from the law of sin and death; we now have life in the Spirit!  If we are in Christ, we have moved into a new sphere of life where the law has no jurisdiction over us. We’re dead to the law and freed from the law if we’re in Christ.

“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,”                             – (vs.3)

  • If we are in Christ, then the law cannot condemn us because Jesus has already suffered that condemnation for us on the cross.  The law can’t save, it only condemns.  God sent His Son to save us from the law and do for us what the law could not.

Jesus came as a man, in the likeness of sinful flesh, but He Himself was sinless.  He bore in His body our sins on the cross for us.  If we receive that precious gift from Him, we will be saved.  It wasn’t enough that Jesus died on a cross for our sins, everyone must receive Christ’ gift of salvation by faith.  Everyone in Hell right now is suffering because they did not receive this gift, even though Jesus had already made it available to Him. 

The law of double jeopardy applies here in that we can’t be tried for our sins that Jesus has already paid for. Everybody suffering in Hell right now and everyone who will ever suffer in Hell doesn’t have to do so.  Their sins were paid for by Jesus, but for them to receive His forgiveness, they have to receive Jesus, otherwise they will have to pay for their own sins, suffering for an eternity in Hell, because they can never pay the price for sin.

“that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”                                     – (vs.4)

  • The righteousness that God demands is fulfilled in us through Christ’ forgiveness.  The Holy Spirit’s power then works in us as a result of that forgiveness.   We see that we can be in Christ, but we still must walk according to His Spirit and not according to our flesh.

While we can try and obey God’s law in our own strength, we really must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us strength, encouragement, and discernment when it comes to holy living.  As Spirit filled believers, we must yield ourselves to the Lord in order to experience the sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives.  This has everything to do with walking in the Spirit and not according to the flesh.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”                                                                      – (vs.5-8)

  • Paul is describing two kinds of believers here, one spiritual and one carnal. He is contrasting a saved person from a non-saved person.  Understanding this will help you to understand this passage and to live out your faith, trusting Jesus and living in a godly manner. An unsaved person doesn’t have the Spirit of God within them, they live in the flesh, and for the flesh. A saved person has their mind fixed on the things of God and of the Spirit; not on the things of the flesh.

This doesn’t mean that an unsaved person won’t do good things, or a saved person won’t do bad things; rather, it means that one lives their life for the flesh and the other, for the Spirit. The unsaved person is alive physically, but dead spiritually. They may be moral, upstanding, and religious, but they lack the life-giving Spirit of the Lord working within them that can only come through Jesus.

An unsaved person is at war with God; they are not at peace with God, and they can’t be if they are unsaved.  An unsaved person lives to please their flesh and not the Lord, they are ‘in the flesh’ which means ‘to be lost.’  They say, ‘I will’ instead of ‘Thy will.’  An unsaved person is in a dire place. The concept of ‘once saved, always saved’ only works for those who are IN Christ.  The same people who embrace this doctrine of a demon, if you follow them home and examine their life, their marriage, their family, then you will come to see that they themselves would never tolerate a spouse who cheats on them, sins on them, disrespect the covenant of marriage or family.  They would drop them like a bad habit, yet these same people think that the Lord would never do the same if someone embraces a lifestyle of sin after accepting Christ.

When I first moved to Missouri, I found myself working in the backyard of my daughter and son-in-law’s home. I was clearing trees and making a way for a lawn and fence.  There was an old man who sat on his balcony which overlooked the yard I was working in.  The Lord impressed upon me to go and witness to him. I approached him one day and gave him a pamphlet from the late Bill Bright called Who is this Jesus?  It’s a brief study on the person of the Christ and the plan of salvation.  The old man, who was smoking and drinking, told me that he was saved already because he went to a Billy Graham crusade years earlier and received Jesus.  Now I am not judging the fellow, but here he sits, smoking, drinking, cussing at times, and basically waiting for death.  He needs Jesus. I wouldn’t want to trade places with him, but if I did, the first thing I would do is receive Jesus, repent of my sins, and for Pete sake, quite smoking and drinking, it’s hard on your lungs and liver.  If this man passes away, where will he go? Some say, to heaven, because he once asked Jesus to forgive him at a Billy Graham crusade.  Others say, to hell, because he is far from Christ.  The doctrine of eternal security only works if we’re in Christ. We don’t get to make up our own version of what God has placed in His Word.

The Hebrew writer said it this way, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”      – Hebrews 10:23-27 

The phrase, ‘Let us hold fast’ is a challenge from the writer to his readers, many who were new believers, who may have been tempted to forsake their confession of faith in Jesus because of the severe persecution being waged against the Christians, especially in the first century when this letter was written.  Holding fast to one’s confession of hope is akin to holding on to one’s faith in Christ; He really is our only hope.  The concept of salvation isn’t in question here as much as the hope our salvation provides us in a genuine relationship with Jesus.

The phrase, ‘without wavering’ means just that; we must be single minded in our confession of faith and stand fast and firm in the fact that Jesus’ promises to us are as sure as our faith in Him to bring it to fruition. The Hebrew writer challenges us that ‘our confession of faith in Jesus must be made ‘without wavering.’ We can do this because He (capitol ‘H’), referring to Jesus, our only hope, has promised us and He is FAITHFUL!

That word ‘faithful’ (Greek: pistos) used here in verse 23 is an adjective used in two senses, passive and active. 

  • Passive:   It speaks of God’s faithfulness, His trustworthiness and His reliability.
  • Active:     It signifies God’s faithfulness, we can always rely upon the Lord, always. 

In short, the word pistos speaks to God’s faithfulness to us and His expectation of our faithfulness to Him.      NOTE: Even when we fall short in our faithfulness at times, God is still faithful to us!

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”                        – (vs.24,25)

The phrase ‘let us consider one another’ is a challenge for us to look out for the other person; more specifically, in our interaction with a local church mission or Bible study fellowship. Fellowship with the Lord must never be done selfishly; we must also fellowship with other believers as a vital part of our Christian life experience.  A major problem with people who embrace the ‘once saved always saved’ doctrine is that they have fallen out of fellowship with other believers.  This is a death nail to any believer who desires to grow in their faith.

A student once asked me, ‘Pastor Rob, do I have to go to church to be a Christian?’ I said ‘No, however, you do need to go to church to be a healthy Christian.’ There are a lot of so-called Christians out there who don’t frequent the house of the Lord or participate in the many aspects of worship that are afforded them in a healthy church environment. Too many weak or self-centered believers will short themselves on a genuine experience with the Lord only to find out that the way they live their life is not consistent with God’s will for them. The Lord would have us walk in a right relationship with Him. He desires to bless us; but all too often people who embrace the doctrine of eternal security will miss this blessing and become lost in their own perverted version of faith that is not consistent with God’s Word.  This is why the Hebrew writer stressed the proper assembling of believers in the faith so they could grow and mature by fellowshipping, worshipping and studying God’s Word together.  A major (elementary) part of fellowship is tithing and giving to missions. This is something that is lost when a believer forsakes the assembling of themselves with other believers in a local church dynamic.

The phrase, ‘not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together’ is used here in the verb tense and is described by its action; ‘to assemble, to gather together.’  The word used in this passage for ‘assembling’ (Greek: episunagoge) is used only 2x in the NT.  It’s where we get our word for ‘synagogue’ from.  It literally means to assemble, to come together, of people or things, and the assembling (gathering) together.’  The name of the denominational fellowship that I am ordained with is Assembly of God, it uses this word, ‘episunagoge,’ in the title meaning assembly. The only other time this word is used is in this tense is in 2 Thessalonians.

The Apostle Paul is speaking, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…”                  – 2 Thessalonians 2:1

In context, this passage speaks to the ‘gathering together,’ the ‘episunagoge’ of the Church of Jesus Christ in heaven at the Rapture.

  • The phrase, ‘the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ refers to the Rapture.
  • The phrase, ‘our gathering together to Him,’ is the result of the Rapture.

Continuing in this passage in Hebrews we read the phrase, ‘but exhorting one another,’ which is a command from the writer for believers to engage in the ministry of exhortation.  The word used in this passage for ‘exhorting’ (Greek: parakaleo) means ‘to call to a person’ (para – ‘to the side,’ kaleo – ‘to call’), ‘to call on, to entreat, to beseech, to admonish, to exhort, to urge one to pursue some course of conduct (always prospective, looking to the future), to desire.’ The message for us in the NT era is to assemble ourselves together regularly for the purpose of being encouraged and to encourage others in the Lord through our service, worship, giving, ministry in the Word, fellowship, prayer and evangelism. We are the Church of Jesus Christ, this is how we roll!

This last phrase in verse 25 reads, “and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  The phrase, ‘the Day’ with a capitol ‘D’ (NKJV) references the ‘Day of the Lord.’  The word used in this passage for ‘day’ (Greek: hemera) has multiple meanings, depending on the context of use.  In context to this particular passage in Hebrews 10:25, we see it referencing the ‘Day of the Lord.’ 

“The Day of the Lord is the seven-year tribulation period. This is different than the ‘Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.’  The Apostle Paul also used the phrase, the ‘Day of Christ’ for the seven-year period in 2 Thessalonians.”          –Dr.  Ken Johnson in his book ‘The Rapture’

The Greek word hemera used in this passage for ‘day’ speaks to a period of undefined length marked by certain characteristics, a judgment exercised in the present period of human rebellion against God, aka ‘the Lord’s Day.  It denotes the time of the parousia of Christ with His saints, subsequent to the Rapture. The word parousia is a Greek word used 24x in the NT and it refers to a person’s ‘presence, arrival, or official visit.’ The word parousia is used…

  • 6x in reference to the arrival of certain individuals to a specific place.
  • 1x it is used in reference to the ‘coming of the lawless one” referring to the anti-Christ 2 Thessalonians 2:9.
  • 16x in reference to the Second Coming of Christ.
  • 1x in reference to the coming “Day of God” 2 Peter 3:12 and His renovation of the earth with fire.

The word parousia is mainly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. While it is clear that the NT believers living in the first century all believed that Christ’s parousia would happen in their lifetime; it is equally clear to us today that it did not happen.  This being the case, the book of Hebrews is more relevant to us today than ever. The role of the NT Church in these last days is extremely important. What we do in response to God’s Word for our lives will have an adverse effect on those the Lord has called us to reach; beginning with those who are closest to us. This passage speaks to the responsibility that all believers have in assembling regularly with other believers in a church context for the specific purpose of edification; especially now as we see the Lord’s parousia and pending seven-tribulation, aka ‘the Day,’ quickly approaching.

The OT prophet Micah said, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”                                                                            – Micah 6:8

A brief reminder that…

Justice is getting what you deserve; this is usually in the form of punishment.

Mercy is not getting what you deserve; this references a ‘commuted sentence.’

Grace is getting what you don’t deserve; referencing God’s blessing upon us.

Each of us must remember that in our own humanity we are imperfect and flawed. Although created in the image and likeness of God Almighty, we still are housed in flesh that is vulnerable to sin and its harsh consequences. This being the case, we must do what is right in God’s sight; because He has called us to do and to be, just. We must love mercy, because we all live in glass (flesh) houses that are vulnerable to ‘rocks.’  We must walk humbly with the Lord, because compared to the Lord, we are humbled. The justice spoken of here by the OT prophet Micah and again by the Hebrew writer is more about us living righteously than it is a judgment sentence.  If we are truly ‘just,’ then it’s only because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Our justice is found in God’s mercy toward us; even in our sin, Jesus died for us.  If we are truly ‘just’ then we must live out our justification by faith in the One who provided it for us in the first place.  This is a strange thing, being justified in God’s sight yet called to holiness.  Our challenge is to be a good steward of our faith. 

Justification is an event that God bestows upon us when we receive Jesus into our heart as our personal Lord and Savior.  This is the moment when He forgives us our sin and cleanses us from our unrighteousness.  This is when the Holy Spirit of God regenerates our spirit – the moment of our salvation.  ‘Just-if-I’d-never-sinned!’ However, this justification is NOT a license to sin or live our life in a sinful manner, thinking that we are saved because we accepted Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade years earlier.  We walk by faith, and our faith in in God, through Jesus. We have received a great salvation in Christ and we must remain under His almighty shadow.

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,”                                                            – (vs.26)

The concept of ‘sinning willfully’ results in despising God’s Word which is evidenced by willful acts of sin.  We all struggle with sin at times, but when we no longer struggle with sin and willfully allow it to be part of our Christian life and thought; this is when we have crossed over into a place where our sin has superseded our faith.  To despise something is to abhor it and when we abhor God’s Word and His standard for our lives, than we will drift into a place of complacency in our faith walk with Jesus.  This will move us outside of God’s grace and into His judgment.  This is something that eternal security embracers don’t accept, yet the alternative of living a lifestyle of sin and degradation after once living for Jesus speaks to the truth of this statement.

The phrase, ‘if we sin willfully’ speaks not so much to a particular sin as it does an attitude of apathy toward sin that leads to a lifestyle of repeated disobedience to God’s Word.  The context to the Hebrew writer’s statement addressed the OT covenant where there were no scarifies for deliberate and willful capital crimes (sins).

“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.14 “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.”              – Exodus 21:12-14

In the OT, we see the requirement for capital punishment for a capital crime; in this case premeditated murder. The phrase, ‘a place where he may flee’ is a reference for a ‘city of refuge.’  These were selected towns God provided for certain qualified individuals to flee to.  The real shock in this passage is found in the phrase, ‘you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.’  This is a profound passage dealing with the inability for an individual to be forgiven for a premeditated capital crime in the OT. This is why Jesus said for us to not even be angry with our brother that we might not kill him.  Even in this David found grace in God’s sight and repented of his sin and God forgave him.  It wasn’t a once saved always saved scenario, and it still isn’t.  The idea here isn’t so much that a person who wants to repent can’t, rather, it’s that they no longer want to.  Their heart has hardened.  This is similar to how a trib-saint will be faced with taking, or not taking, the infamous mark of the beast during the tribulation. Once a person takes the mark, they can’t be saved; again, not that they would want to repent, because they don’t.  This is why in the tribulation the mark is not forced on a person.  The choice is, take the mark and enjoy a temporary provision for a short season, or be put to death for not taking the mark. It’s far better to die not taking the mark and suffer for a short time than to take the mark and die in your sin and suffer for eternity. If you’re reading this after the Rapture, don’t take the mark!

In the NT if we sin before the Lord and come to a place of genuine repentance, then God will forgive us.  Thank God for His grace provided for us in the new covenant. The eternal security crowd believe that even after a person has received the knowledge of the Lord (walked in His ways) but for whatever reason, have fallen back into a lifestyle of sin and perdition; they are still saved.  Yet in the tribulation, when a person takes the mark, they can’t be saved, or in the OT, when a person willfully kills another person, they must be removed from God’s altar.  This is called ‘backsliding’ and it has eternal consequences.  I remember witnessing to a person who believed in ‘once saved, always saved.’  He told me that ‘the Bible says that God is forever married to the backslider.’ I said that is just a cliché and it’s not scripture or even true.  His problem was his mindset toward a lifestyle of sin that conflicted with a lifestyle of holiness before the Lord.  Even though a person can repent of their sin in the NT, they choose not to do so.  Instead, these unrepentant sinners choose to remain in their sin because for them, it’s their desire. They choose to live that way; they choose to be that way’ they choose to stay that way and to not repent. Their choice to embrace a lifestyle of sin and degradation is just that; a choice, their choice.  If they don’t repent of their wickedness; then they have made their choice.

Some people ‘justify’ their lifestyle choices by saying things like.

  • ‘Well, God made me this way so it must be okay.’
  • ‘I am not hurting anyone living like this; leave me alone.’
  • ‘I am a good person and God would never condemn a good person to Hell.’ 

John reminds us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”                                                                                             – 1 John 1:8-10

The phrase, ‘if we say we have no sin’ or ‘have not sinned’ speaks to a person who either believes that how they live or what they are doing is okay or they acknowledge that what they are doing is wrong and they continue to do it anyway. The phrase, ‘if we confess our sins’ speaks to a person who genuinely repents. Can God forgive sin?  Yes. He can and will if we genuinely repent. Does God forgive an ‘unrepentant’ sinner?  No. We must confess our sin to God in order to receive His forgiveness. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  This passage doesn’t convey a once saved always saved scenario.

The Apostle Paul said it this way, “The coming of the lawless one (the anti-Christ) is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”          – 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

The concept of an individual choosing to embrace a sin-filled lifestyle is contrary to the will of God and the Word of God for our lives.  However, when people chose to embrace a lifestyle of willful sins, in spite of their faith in Jesus, they forfeit the benefit of what Christ has done for them in providing atonement for their sin.

As a result, there remains only one thing for these unrepentant sinners…

“…a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”       – (vs.27)

The people who need to understand this truth the most are the individuals who have received Christ’ salvation and who benefit from His atoning grace in their lives.  These are the ones who have confessed Christ as Lord and our now engaged in a relationship with the Father through the Son.  Even though many Christians tend to struggle with sin and temptation at times; they struggle, knowing that the Holy Spirit of God consoles them in righteous living and convicts them when they stray.  The Lord woos them back to a place of propriety in God’s sight through their genuine repentance and righteous living.

Ezekiel 18 presents a very powerful argument against the doctrine of eternal security for a person who walks away from the Lord. It is a close up on how God refutes and forgives a person’s sin if they repent and how each one is responsible to God for their actions and cannot blame their sinful deeds and lifestyle on that of another.  Here the Lord very clearly explains that each person is responsible for his or her own sin.

“The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, “What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live,” says the Lord God, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.”                                                        – (vs.1-4)

  • In this passage we see this familiar phrase ‘the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’  It means that the fathers have committed iniquity and their children get the sour taste of it.   

This phrase referenced how the children suffered because of what their fathers did. The feeling was that the problems the children faced were not their fault and they were not to blame. In context to the time Ezekiel wrote this, the Jews were exiled from the country of Judah because of what their fathers did. The law says that the sins of the fathers will affect the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate God. (Exodus 20:5) This means that the sins of a father would affect the grandchildren and their children as well. This principle refers to only those who hate God; and this happens when the children copy their parents’ wicked behaviour.

In Ezekiel’s day we saw that many exiles were referring to this rule for a different reason. These exiles were using this rule to avoid blame; however, each person is to blame for his or her own sins. A child could choose not to copy their father’s behaviour. God declares that each person belongs to him, the father is His and the child is also His; each of God’s children are responsible to God for their own sin. If a sinful person dies in their sin, it’s because of their own sin and not because of the sins of another person.

Jeremiah was living in Jerusalem when Ezekiel received this message from the Lord and coincidently enough, those people in Jerusalem were also saying the same thing (Jeremiah 31:29); ‘it’s not fair.’

“But if a man is just and does what is lawful and right; If he has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, nor defiled his neighbor’s wife, nor approached a woman during her impurity; If he has not oppressed anyone, but has restored to the debtor his pledge; has robbed no one by violence, but has given his bread to the hungry and covered the naked with clothing; If he has not exacted usury nor taken any increase, but has withdrawn his hand from iniquity and executed true judgment between man and man; If he has walked in My statutes and kept My judgments
faithfully— he is just; he shall surely live!” Says the Lord God.”              – (vs.5-9)

In this passage we see how Ezekiel is now writing about a good father.  In verses 10-13 he writes about a bad son and in verses 14-18 he writes about a good grandson.  Some scholars believe that Ezekiel may have been associating these three passages with the three kings of Judah: Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah. Hezekiah was a good man who loved the Lord. His son Manasseh was a wicked man who did not trust in the Lord. The grandson, Josiah, did what was right, and he served the Lord faithfully.

In contrast to our lives today, here is the picture of the OT man that God considers to be good.

  • This man does not pray to other gods. He does not serve them or eat at their altars. He serves and worships only the Lord.
  • He does not have sex with any woman, apart from his own wife (Deuteronomy 5:18). He does not have sex with his wife during her monthly period (Leviticus 18:19).
  • He always does good things for other people and does not cheat or rob them. He gives to those who need his help, and he does not try to make unfair profits from people who are weak or poor.
  • He is always kind and fair. He will lend money to other people, and he will not take any profit from them (usury). This was a rule in Israel (Exodus 22:25) but the law allowed Israelites to profit from foreigners.
  • This man lives by the laws of Moses, and he trusts in God. No person is perfect, but this man has a right attitude to God and to other people.

“If he begets a son who is a robber or a shedder of blood, who does any of these things 11 And does none of those duties, but has eaten on the mountains or defiled his neighbor’s wife; 12 If he has oppressed the poor and needy, robbed by violence, not restored the pledge, lifted his eyes to the idols, or committed abomination; 13 If he has exacted usury or taken increase—shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.”             – (vs.10-13)

In this passage we can see how Ezekiel is writing about the bad son of a good father. The son does all those things that his father did not do; that is, he uses people who are weak and poor in order to make himself rich. He robs people and he is guilty of murder and of wrongful sexual activity. He eats at the altars of the false gods, and he turns to them, and he turns away from the real God. This son will not live and even the good deeds of his father will not save him. He will surely die for his own sins.

If, however, he begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers but does not do likewise; 15 Who has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, nor defiled his neighbor’s wife; 16 Has not oppressed anyone, nor withheld a pledge, nor robbed by violence, but has given his bread to the hungry
and covered the naked with clothing; 17 Who has withdrawn his hand from the poor and not received usury or increase, but has executed My judgments and walked in My statutes—he shall not die for the iniquity of his father; he shall surely live! 18 As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, robbed his brother by violence, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.”                     – (vs.14-18)

In this passage we see that this does not mean that a bad man will have bad sons. King Manasseh was a bad person, but Josiah, his son, was a good person. The good son sees the bad things that his father does, but he does not imitate his father because he knows what is right and wrong. He chooses to do what is right of his own volition because a good son does not worship false gods. He does not fornicate, and he cares about other people and is kind to them. His father will die and be judged for his own sins, but the son will not be judged for the father’s sins when he dies; this good son will live.  By good and bad, I am referring to righteous and unrighteous in God’s sight in accordance with the OT law. In the NT, good and bad are conditional with a right standing before God through Jesus.  Our actions will reflect our love for the Lord in both the OT and NT.

“Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”             – (vs.19,20)

In this passage we see how God orders His people to behave in a manner that pleases Him. The person who does so will live, but the person who rebels and does not live righteously will die in their sin. Each person is responsible for their own life. The person who sins will die for their sin, but they will not die for the sin of their parents or children. 

Remember: It’s not how you die that determines whether or not you go to heaven or hell; but how you lived when you die.

“But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. 23 Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?”            – (vs.21-23)

Here we see that sometimes people do change the way that they live. A bad person may turn from their sins and do what is right in the sight of God. If this act of repentance occurs, then God will not count those sins against that person because now this person is changed and will live according to the Lord’s Word. God does not want anyone to die. His desire is that they should all repent and turn to him for life (2 Peter 3:9). People can choose to change; their past sin need not rule their future; they can have a new life in Christ.

“But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.”                                                                                                                     – (vs.24)

In this one verse we see that a person can change their good behaviour and choose to do what is wrong. The good things that they have done will not save him because they have not been loyal to the Lord. That person will die because of their sin.  This is the OT version of truth that refutes eternal security for a wayward soul.

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. 28 Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?”

– (vs.25-29)

In this passage we see that many Israelites thought that they were good people. Abraham was their ancestor and therefore God would show His kindness to them (John 8:33-41). They even supposed that their own behaviour did not matter because of who they were affiliated with. They felt that God was not fair when He punished them, but they were wrong. God will be the final judge of what we have done. Each of us is responsible for what we do. Those who do bad things will die because of it. That is fair. Those who do good things will live because of it. That is fair. People can change or not change. If the wicked man becomes a good man, he will save his life. If a good man becomes a wicked man, he will lose his life. God is fair in what he does.

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!”          – (vs.30-32)

In this passage we see that God will be the judge of all people. But God does not want anyone to die. He appeals to these exiles and also to us today.  We must repent of our sin, or we will die in them. There must be a real change in the attitudes of sinful people, and they must have a complete change of heart.  Ezekiel does not teach that we can achieve eternal life by our own efforts; no person can earn their salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). God gives eternal life to those who trust in Jesus if they repent of their sin and ask God to forgive them.  The idea of a once saved, always saved position is a dangerous theo.

When I was in college I had close friends. We all walked with Jesus and worshipped Him.  However, as time went on, some of these brothers strayed away from their faith and embraced a lifestyle of sin.  One of them, when I challenged his lifestyle, said that he was going through a ‘religious phase’ at that time in his life.  Another friend of mine (now deceased), who once walked with Jesus, but who succumbed to his own emotional tirades of anger and rage due to unresolved issues from his past, embraced a lifestyle of sin and died in his sin at the hands of his wife who killed him.  He loved the Lord in his younger years, but strayed away.  I had a close relative who once walked with the Lord, but who fell away and embraced a lifestyle of sin.  Some would say that they were never saved, however, I beg to differ; all these brothers were saved in every sense of the word; they just chose to walk away from the faith that they so desperately needed.  This is why I have such a strong opposition to this doctrine.  If people think that they can walk away from God and live how they wan, even after walking with God, and still be saved; it conflicts with the doctrine of the Bible.   

Why are people so bent on defending this doctrine of a demon? I believe for three main reasons:

  1. It’s a coping mechanism to help them deal with the loss of a loved one who died in their sin, but who once walked with Jesus. 
  2. It’s justifies their choice to embrace a lifestyle of sin, even though they once walked with Jesus.
  3. It gives them a false hope that no matter what happens in this life, they can never lose their salvation based on something that they willfully do, primarily walk away from Jesus.

As I said earlier in this long-winded blog, I would love to believe that a backslidden person can never lose their salvation, but it’s not consistent with scripture.  If a person is hidden in Christ. If they are truly trusting in Jesus by faith and they have confessed Christ as Lord and are believing upon Him for their salvation, then they are saved and will remain so, if they remain in Christ.  However, if a person willfully walks away from their faith and begins to embrace a lifestyle of sin and degradation, somewhere in there they lose what they once had. This is not the Lord’s doing, it’s a free choice that a person makes when they decide to give up their faith, for something far less.  While it’s true that nobody can take your salvation away from you, it’s equally true that you can forfeit it of your own volition. 

The idea of eternal security for a believer is strongly supported in scripture. The idea for a backslidden believer to remain saved is this blog topic.  The question remains, ‘Are you willing to wager eternity on a bad choice supported by bad theology?  We either love Jesus or we don’t.  If we love Him, we will obey Him.  This is what we would want from others we are in relationship with. Why would we think it’s any different for the Lord?  He wants us to walk closely with Him in and through this life.  If we stray, He will convict us and draw us back to Himself, but we must yield to His wooing Spirit.  If we refuse Him and walk away, we get everything that goes with it.

This reminds me of the lady who, in the 1800’s, wanted to hire a stage coach driver. She ask the applicants, ‘How close can you get to the edge of a cliff and not go over?’ One man said that he could get within 1 foot, another within six inches, and still another 3 inches.  Then one man said, ‘I would stay as far away from the edge of any cliff.’  He was the man who got the job.  As believer, we need to stay as far away from the cliff of perdition once we have chosen Christ.  This is the way. 

I challenge you my brother (and sister) to be faithful to the Lord in your walk with Him and remain on the path of righteousness.  Don’t look to the right or left, just stay focused on your faith walk with Jesus, who, by the way, said it this way,

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult (confined) is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”                                                                                                – Matthew 7:13,14

We’re almost home, hang in there, Jesus is coming soon!


Encouragemen is a blog written by Pastor Rob Lee, recently relocated to Northwest Missouri.  He lives with his wife of 32-years, near their three adult children, their spouses, and children (their grandchildren).  Pastor Rob is an Ordained Assemblies of God minister, a former Lead Pastor (25 years), police chaplain, and community advocate.  He continues to serve, consult, and disciple men of God, including those who are in the ministry. 

2 thoughts on “Once Saved, Always Saved…Yeah, NOT!

  1. Rob, Dustin Im hoping S.A.L.T will be Reading and recording Romans Ch 1-4 today…would love if you both were on the call to bless others. Maybe in about 45 min to an hour I would like to start recording Im gonna try to wait for you both..hope u can make it RYAN


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