Once Saved Always Saved?
While I can’t say with certain accuracy I think it is safe to say that a large majority of the religious world today believes in the doctrine and teaching that once someone is “saved” it is impossible for them to fall away. Defining all of the particulars in that teaching varies with each group and sometimes with each individual.
There are of course those who disagree with this doctrine and teaching and seek to prove otherwise from a biblical stance. Often passages like Matthew 7:21-23 and 1 John 1 are used to show that it is possible for someone who has been saved to not inherit eternal life. It’s been my experience when discussing this teaching with others that the conversation usually ends up with the statement being made that “If someone who is a Christian gets to judgment and doesn’t inherit eternal life, they were never truly a Christian and obviously never truly saved.”
The Hebrew writer was writing to some early Christians that were going through a great deal by wearing the name of Christ. Hebrews 11:32-38 records just some of the ways they were being persecuted and the faith they held during it. The problem though is that many were drifting and neglecting their salvation (Hebrews 2:1-4). The problem was that many of them were dull of hearing and weren’t where they should have been developmentally spiritually and in knowledge and discernment (Hebrews 5:11-14).
The Hebrews writer is warning these people of abandoning their faith and turning from it. It’s in the sixth chapter that we find yet another problem they were facing. “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
Did you notice who the writer is talking about? We aren’t just talking about the world in general. We aren’t just talking about people who are good people. We’re talking about those who have been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of the word of God and THEN have fallen away. Now ask yourself how is it possible for one who is in darkness to be enlightened by the light of Jesus Christ, for one to taste the goodness of the word of God and share in the Holy Spirit WITHOUT being saved?
Paul had some things to say about this as well to the Corinthians, Galatians and to Timothy.
It Can Happen – “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12)
It Has Happened – ”…By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith.” (1 Tim. 1:19)
It Will Happen – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…” (1 Tim. 4:1)
In Galatians 5:4 he says “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”
We understand that Paul isn’t writing these letters to just anyone but rather to Christians in these various places. Paul affirms that those in Corinth were truly saved (1 Cor. 1:2), Timothy is being given instructions to teach and edify the saints in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3), and though he is upset with them, Paul writes to the churches of Galatia (Gal. 1:2).
Common logic says that I cannot fall from somewhere I never stood. I can’t fall from a table if I’m not standing on it. If it is true that once someone is saved they can never fall away, why the warnings? If it is true that once someone is saved they can never fall away, why does Paul say it can, has, and will happen?
Scripture is clear that it is possible for a disciple of Jesus Christ to neglect such a great salvation (Heb 2:3). It is possible for someone who had been cleansed by Jesus’s blood to once again become entangled in the defilements of sin (2 Pet. 2:20-22). It is possible to fall from the grace in which a child of God once stood (Gal. 5:4).
But the encouragement those reading the Hebrew letter and for us today is also found in the sixth chapter. "Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Heb 6:9-12)
While it is possible to fall from grace, sadly many spend so much time thinking about all the ways one can fall from it they don't appreciate and know how to stand firm in it (1 Peter 5:12). Let's strengthen our faith, knowledge, and application of God's will for our lives and live as people who are truly set apart and vessels for honorable use. Let’s spend more time growing and having confidence to stand firm in God's grace than we do worrying about falling from it.