Where in the Bible does it say once saved always saved?

The doctrine of eternal security, also referred to as “once saved, always saved,” is the belief that a Christian who is saved by faith in Jesus Christ can never lose his or her salvation. According to this belief, once a person sincerely accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and has been born again by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, they become eternally secure in their salvation.

This doctrine has been a source of much debate among Christians throughout church history. Those who hold to eternal security believe several passages in Scripture confirm that salvation cannot be lost, while those who reject this teaching argue other verses indicate salvation can be forfeited if a believer falls away from the faith.

So what exactly does the Bible say about eternal security and whether salvation can be lost? Are there clear passages that settle this issue one way or the other? Looking closely at key Scriptures provides insight into the biblical evidence for and against the doctrine of once saved always saved.

Verses Used to Support Eternal Security

There are several verses advocates of eternal security point to as evidence that salvation cannot be lost:

John 10:27-30

In John 10, Jesus states He gives eternal life to His sheep and “no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). He further declares: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29). Jesus promises eternal security here based on His ability and the Father’s ability to protect their own.

Romans 8:35-39

The apostle Paul declares nothing in all creation can separate believers from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). Even death cannot sever the relationship between God and those who are in Christ.

Ephesians 1:13-14

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

According to Ephesians 1:13-14, believers have been sealed with the Holy Spirit as a promise and guarantee of their eternal inheritance. The Holy Spirit is given as a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (NIV) until the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Believers are described here as having been sealed by the Holy Spirit for redemption, which points to eternal security.

Verses Used Against Eternal Security

While several verses may seem to support eternal security when isolated, those who reject the doctrine of once saved always saved would argue other passages indicate salvation can indeed be lost:

Galatians 5:4

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

This verse warns that those who attempt to be justified by the law have fallen from grace. Advocates of conditional security argue this is one example of how believers can fall away from salvation.

Hebrews 6:4-6

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.

This passage describes those who at one point experienced many spiritual blessings, including partaking of the Holy Spirit, and yet fell away. It then declares it is impossible to bring such people back to repentance.

James 5:19-20

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

The mention of believers wandering from the truth and needing to be brought back implies one can drift from sound doctrine and fall away from salvation.

2 Peter 2:20-22

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

Peter describes false teachers who had once known Christ but became entangled again in the world’s corruption. He states they would have been better off not knowing the way of righteousness then to know it and turn from it. This implies believers can turn from salvation.

Key Passages Addressing Both Sides

Beyond isolated proof texts, each side of the eternal security debate seeks to build a biblical case from the broader context of Scripture. Several key passages address both the assurance of salvation for believers who endure as well as warnings against falling away:

The Gospel of John

John’s Gospel presents salvation as the definitive passing from death into life (John 5:24). Those who believe in Jesus have eternal life (John 3:16). Yet John also emphasizes the need to remain and continue in the faith. He warns against those who went out from among the believers and proved they were not truly saved (1 John 2:19). He declares believers must remain in Christ to be confident at His coming (1 John 2:28). Overall, John’s writings affirm eternal life for those who believe while also urging perseverance in the faith.

Romans 8

In addition to declaring nothing can separate believers from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39), Romans 8 calls followers of Jesus to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit (Romans 8:13). Paul warns of present and future consequences for unrepentant sin in the lives of believers (Romans 8:12-13). Romans 8 confirms salvation through faith alone while also emphasizing the importance of persevering in holiness by the power of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 9:27

No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

In the context of warning against sin and disqualification, Paul expresses his own need to discipline his body so that after preaching to others he does not become disqualified. The strong warning implies believers can forfeit their salvation through sin. Yet this passage does not contradict others affirming eternal security for those who endure in faith.

Colossians 1:21-23

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

This passage affirms reconciliation through Christ’s death. It then gives the conditional “if” they continue in the faith. Remaining steadfast appears necessary to realize the hope of the gospel.

Hebrews 3:12-14

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

The writer of Hebrews affirms we share in Christ if we hold firmly to our faith to the end. He also warns believers against developing hard hearts that turn away from God, which implies salvation can be lost.

James 2:14-26

James argues that faith without works is dead and useless. He declares even the demons believe correct doctrine about God. True, living faith will be accompanied by actions. James addresses the importance of persevering in fruitful faith, not merely having an empty profession.

Synthesis and Conclusion

In synthesizing the various passages related to eternal security and possible loss of salvation, several key points emerge:

  • Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Good works play no role in earning or maintaining salvation.
  • At the moment of salvation, believers are given eternal life, sealed with the Spirit, and held securely by God and Christ.
  • Nothing can separate genuine believers from the love of God and their eternal inheritance.
  • Perseverance in the faith provides strong assurance of salvation. Defection from the faith may indicate one was never truly saved.
  • Scripture issues serious warnings against falling away from the faith due to unbelief, disobedience, and continued sin.
  • Believers are called to endure and abide in Christ through faith evidenced by the fruits of the Spirit.
  • Self-examination is critical to assess if one is remaining steadfast in the faith.

In conclusion, Scripture affirms salvation is secure for those who by God’s power endure in faith to the end. Also clearly taught is the real danger of apostasy for those who lack genuine saving faith marked by persevering obedience. Passages supporting eternal security emphasize God’s work in preserving believers. Verses warning against falling away exhort human responsibility to persevere in fruitful faith.

Regardless of the extent one believes salvation can be lost, all Christians must heed Scripture’s call to self-examination, perseverance, and endurance to the end. Our security rests in Christ alone, and the evidence of genuine faith is a life marked by faith working itself out in the power of the Spirit. The Lord remains faithful to keep His own until the day of His return.

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