Once Saved, Always Saved: True or Not?

Once I’m saved, can I become unsaved? Is it possible to lose my salvation? I’ve heard various answers from various churches. And the Bible, in some verses, seems to say Yes, and in other verses seems to say No. So is “once saved, always saved” true or not?

Dear Mike,

The Bible teaches two truths:
1) Once you are a believer in Christ, your salvation is forever secure in him.
2) Once you are a believer in Christ, you can later reject his salvation.

To us these may appear to be mutually exclusive. Either #1 is true or #2 is true, but they can’t both be true.

But Scripture teaches both. The tension between them is the tension of God’s two words to us: the word of warning and the word of promise.

Perhaps the best way to answer your question is by asking another question: why do you want to know?

The Heavenly Life Insurance Policy

Why do you want to know? Maybe you view salvation as a heavenly life insurance policy.

If you pay your premiums, then you’re good to go. Upon your death, the benefits will accrue to you. Heaven’s gates will swing wide to welcome you in.

According to this view, it doesn’t matter how you live or what you believe. Since you are baptized and once believed in Jesus, your eternity is secure. You can murder, steal, commit adultery, gossip, slander, hate. There’s no need to pray, help others, be kind or generous or loving.

Once you’re saved, you’re always saved, right? God’s hands are tied. He’s got to stick by the contract.

If that’s why you’re asking, then the answer of God’s law is clear: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God,” (1 Cor 6:9-10). Paul repeats the same stern warning in Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:5-6, and elsewhere.

You can reject his salvation. Believers can become unbelievers. They can spurn Christ and his benefits, live unrighteous lives, refuse to repent, lose the Holy Spirit, and fall from the faith. Do not be deceived. God is not mocked.

The Heavenly Bank Account

Or, why do you want to know? Maybe you view salvation as a heavenly bank account.

According to this way of thinking, Jesus puts so much absolution cash in a spiritual bank account for believers. Each time they’re sexually promiscuous, greedy, ignore the needs of their neighbor, or do anything wrong, there’s a withdrawal. If they do too many wrong things, or not enough right things, they eventually deplete the bank account.

God declares them bankrupt, takes his Holy Spirit away from them, and they lose all hope of being saved.

If that’s why you’re asking, then the answer of God’s Gospel is clear: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:8). “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand,” (John 10:27-28). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1).

Once you are a believer in Christ, your salvation is forever secure in him. He is the Lamb slain for you from the foundation of the world. On the cross you were already pronounced forgiven of all yours sins—past, present, and future. Nothing in all creation will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Your salvation in Jesus Christ is the most secure truth in the world.

Once Saved, Always Saved? Wrong Question

“If a person is once saved, are they always saved?” is really the wrong question.

Both views—the heavenly life insurance policy and the heavenly bank account—are wrong for the same reason: they assume salvation has something to do with our performance. They assume (1) we can do all manner of evil and it won’t matter. Or they assume (2) we can do all manner of evil and it matters so much we are forever lost.

Neither are right because both are focused on us. As if salvation were in some way dependent upon us. It is not. The acquisition of salvation, the giving of salvation, and the keeping of salvation are entirely dependent upon the Savior himself.

@@The question is not can I lose my salvation, but can salvation lose me?@@

No, it can’t. All of us were justified, sanctified, and cleansed of all evil in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In other words, we were saved. The whole world. If it is finished for one, it is finished for all.

@@Like the creation of the world, God’s reconciliation of the world is an irreversible fact.@@ We can’t out-sin, undo, or reverse it. Salvation can’t lose us.

Yes, we can refuse to believe it. Or later reject it. If we do, we’re tossing into the trash the invitation to Christ's dinner party. We’re dying of thirst neck deep in a lake of water. We’re rushing into hell, slamming the door, and locking it from the inside.

Our lack of faith does not nullify the reality. It simply denies it.

But God’s grace in Christ remains true. The truest, most beautiful good news in all creation. Jesus has saved you. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are righteous in him. All is right between you and God. In Jesus all God’s promises are Yes.

Salvation cannot lose you. Once finished, always finished. Believe it. It’s yours.