Once Saved, Always Saved?

Christianity has a number of different denominations, all too many of which don’t act very lovingly towards those that disagree with them. Probably the thing that divides Christians most frequently has to do with the interpretation of Scripture. No matter how true I believe the Bible is in its entirety, I’m the first to admit that the Bible contains many things I cannot hope to understand with certainty.

And one of those is a doctrine known to those who believe in it as “once saved, always saved.” In layman’s terms, that means that once a person becomes a Christian–confesses his sins, asks God’s forgiveness, and places his life under the lordship of Jesus Christ–he or she has an irrevocable ticket to Heaven.

At its most extreme, I would assume that someone who became a Christian at an early age and later chose to become a devout Muslim would still be counted a Christian at death. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it?

I have a cousin who grew up in a fine Christian home and undoubtedly became a Christian when he was younger. I forget the name of the group he now follows, but it’s one of those religions that rejects Christianity’s claim to be the only way. Jesus Himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

That’s pretty specific, don’t you think?

But how can my cousin still be counted a Christian at the time of his death? Again, it doesn’t make sense.

People who believe in “once saved, always saved” tend to put a disclaimer on the idea. Anyone who TRULY becomes a Christian–not someone who simply goes through the motions–is permanently saved. And, yes, that makes sense.

But it still doesn’t answer the question about the Christian-turned-Muslim or the cousin-turned-whatever.

I think about this often because I pray regularly for my cousin as if he is not a Christian. But then I start thinking about some well-known folks who seemingly became very devout Christians, but whose faith I know nothing about now.

One case in point is Eric Clapton. I loved his song, “The Presence of the Lord.” And the song he wrote after the death of his son, “Tears in Heaven,” still has Christian references. But did he abandon his relationship with God during that time? And if he did, would he still be considered a Christian?

I honestly don’t know.

Another case in point is Bob Dylan. You younger readers may not be as familiar with him, but he was the voice of his generation back during the 1960s and 1970s. And he became such a strong Christian that he not only recorded three Christian albums, he quit singing his old secular songs in concert for a while, which greatly displeased the non-Christians in the crowd. To the best of my knowledge, he’s gone back to secular music, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But does he still have that saving relationship with God through faith in Jesus?

I wish I could tell you.  But I don’t know the answer to that, either.

I’m going to sum this whole question up in the way that seems most satisfactory. God knows the hearts of everyone. And He’s the one who’ll make the proper determination when the time comes. The perfect determination, because God Himself is perfect.

How thankful I am not to have His job!

Do you have an opinion about the “once saved, always saved” doctrine or about any of the questions I’ve raised? Please share a comment if you do.


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4 thoughts on “Once Saved, Always Saved?

  1. One of the ugliest dogmatic statements I’ve ever heard. It makes my ears burn to hear some boastful sinner claim for a certainty he is going to heaven. Dear God, save me from the grotesque and pompous.

    Paul’s second letter to the Phillipians states at chapter 2:12 Christians must ”work out thier salvation with fear and trembling.” Doesn’t sound permanent to me…

    I suppose folks could think being chosen as an apostle of Jesus would also make you immune to losing out on heaven. Go ask Judas.

    I dunnno. I’ve seen so many people go around with these ridiculous T-shirts and bumper stickers that say ”in case of rapture this car wll be empty.” and so forth. It’s wrong-headed. Not only that, it’s uneducated. I leave those folks alone like I leave boogers alone.

    I think no one is saved until the day of his death. Whereas one may be in a relationship with Jesus (sometimes referred to the ”bride of Christ”) permanence is no gaurantee. Just as in a normal marriage, if a spouse is mistreated or cheated upon there is an option of divorce. So to spiritually, if your are in a relationshio with the Lord and then break your vows… well…


  2. Sorry it took me a few days to get to this one, Tom.

    If you’re referring to “some boastful sinner” who isn’t sorry for his sins or repentant, I agree they’re really missing the boat. I forget exactly where in the New Testament it says something like, “Since we’re forgiven, doesn’t that mean we should be free to go on sinning?” (Horrible misquote, but I’m sure you know the verse I mean.) And the response? “By no means!”

    There’s a big difference between sinning on purpose (knowing that something is sinful and continuing to do it anyhow) and sinning in other ways simply because we’re weak-willed human beings. If those T-shirts and bumper stickers belong to people who think they can take advantage of God’s forgiveness without asking His forgiveness and repenting of their sins–repenting means turning around and going the opposite direction–then I would agree.

    Otherwise, I approve of Christian T-shirts and bumper stickers, although some are worse than others.

    I disagree that no one can know of his salvation for sure until the day of his death.. Yes, the Scripture you quoted is pretty strong, but it’s not talking about earning our salvation. Christianity is a matter of faith that results in works, not something that requires works in order to please God.

    I feel confident that Judas never believed in Jesus as being the Son of God. He thought Jesus was to be the ruler who led the people to rid the Jewish nation of Roman rule. He wanted to be in a position of power (as did some of the other disciples before they came to understand and accept Jesus for who He really was). So being one of Jesus’ disciples did him no ultimate good spiritually. Ironically, Jesus would’ve forgiven Judas if he’d repented.

    Interesting comparison with human marriage and divorce. Of course, biblical references to the “Bride of Christ” are to the church–to Christians collectively, not to an individual’s relationship with Jesus. But the question of followers getting a divorce from Jesus actually brings me back to the original question, which I still have mixed feelings about..

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about being certain of our salvation. I am certain. If I weren’t, whatever good things I do would be for the purpose of trying to earn my salvation, and no one is capable of living that good a life. (That’s why only Jesus’ one-time sacrifice was sufficient to replace the old sacrificial system.) My efforts to do good result from my desire to please Him–not that He loves me any less when I fail–and to thank Him.

    The prospect of eternal life is just part of what I enjoy about Christianity. Jesus promised a more abundant life here on earth. Not necessarily abundant in terms of wealth or possessions, but in terms of satisfaction. I hate to think what my life would be like if I were focused totally on myself.

    The Bible must be studied in relation to its entirety. But when John said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” he pretty well summed up the entirety and significance of the New Testament.

    Whew! I think I’ll stop there for now.


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