Frequently Asked Questions
About Eternal Security
[Excerpt from Chapter 16 of the book, "The Believer's Conditional Security" by Dan Corner.
There are 100 more OSAS "arguments" cited and Biblically refuted in the book.
The footnotes for this chapter are available in the book.]
Before you read these, keep in mind the following two-part command:
Test everything. Hold on to the good (1 Thess. 5:21). This means it is our own personal responsibility to verify or disprove a teaching from Scripture and hold on to our Scriptural findings.
Harmony with all other related Scriptures must be considered to assure truth. In other words, since the Bible is free from all contradictions, if a teaching is not consistently taught throughout the Scriptures it can't be the right interpretation. We should then reject that view as we hold on to the good, or truth, for our own sakes. Remember, the stakes could not be greater, for we are dealing with an issue which has eternal consequences.
These are some of the most common once saved always saved (OSAS) arguments. They are used by millions throughout the world as backing for OSAS. Are these arguments solid or are they really Scriptural distortions, assumptions, etc. which should be rejected? You must answer this for yourself.
(Already mentioned elsewhere were Jn. 6:64; Rom. 7:15-20; 8:35-39; 2 Tim. 2:13 and 1 Jn. 2:19. Therefore, OSAS arguments based on these texts will not be dealt with here.)
Objection #1. Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, no one can snatch them out of my hand" (Jn. 10:28). Therefore, if, having received eternal life, we could lose it and perish, it would make Christ a liar.
Notice a triple promise here concerning the security of God's sheep. First, Christ gives them "eternal" life. Second, they shall "never" perish, and third, neither shall any pluck them out of Christ's hand.(1)
Answer. Jn. 10:28 is a wonderful and true promise, but only as Jesus meant it to be understood! To discern this, we must examine verse 27 carefully to learn who the pronouns them and they are referring to in verse 28. Together these two verses from the NIV read:
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (v. 27). Verse 27 clearly describes the type of person who will never perish, as mentioned in the next verse! He said his sheep are listeners of his voice, whom he knows and who follow him.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand (v. 28).
The word translated follow is present indicative active(2) in the Greek, which means that it expresses continuous action. In other words, as long as we remain faithful and continue to follow Jesus, he will, indeed, assure us that we will never perish, verse 28. To disregard verse 27 is to twist Jn. 10:28 out of context and distort Jesus' teaching.
The promise of never perishing, as cited in verse 28, does not exist anywhere in the entire Bible for one who would turn away from a dedication to Christ. For example, Paul knew of widows who turned from Christ and started to follow Satan (1 Tim. 5:11-15). That apostle knew this could and did happen! (Unlike many in our day, Paul did not say of those widows that they were never really saved to begin with because they turned from their dedication to Christ and started to follow Satan.)
To read into Jn. 10:28 the words, under any circumstance after the words never perish, is to distort the passage. Jesus did not include these words in his promise and neither should we! The description of his sheep shows that the security cited in the next two verses is a conditional one.
All this refutes the OSAS primary proof text or what one proponent called, "the greatest safekeeping passage in Scripture ...."(3)
Objection #2. Jesus taught:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16, NIV). Jesus said shall not perish! This teaches OSAS.
Answer. The word believes in Jn. 3:16 is a present active participle.(4) Therefore, Jesus was promising only those who continue to believe on him the assurance that they shall not perish.
This verse does not cover others who just believe for a while then fall away, as the Lord also mentioned (Lk. 8:13). According to Jesus, one can truly believe and receive spiritual life, but this doesn't mean the same will always continue to believe afterwards! Such a person who would afterwards cease to believe is not referred to in Jn. 3:16, but is mentioned in Jn. 3:18, which says:
... he who is not believing hath been judged already ... (Young's Literal). Finally, the same one who gave us Jn. 3:16 also gave us Mt. 10:22 which states we must endure to the end to be saved.
Objection #3. Our fellowship with God can suffer because of sin, but never one's relationship as a son.
Answer. As adopted sons (Eph. 1:5), we can fall away (Lk. 8:13), lose our inheritance of the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21), be disowned by Christ (Mt. 10:33), have our share in New Jerusalem taken away (Rev. 22:19), die because we chose to live according to the sinful nature (Rom. 8:13) and as the Prodigal Son, become spiritually dead and lost (Lk. 15:24)! This obviously describes a much greater loss than just our fellowship with God (or rewards), as some would wishfully like all others to believe.
Objection #4. Can you be born again, again?
Answer. To ask if we can be born again, again is a rhetorical question that has confused some. To be born again is the same as getting saved or believing in Jesus (Jn. 3:3-18). But if one would stop believing in Jesus, then later start believing again, he would indeed get saved again, as Rom. 11:23 declares. Remember also the Prodigal who became alive again after he repented (Lk. 15:24,32).
Objection #5. Those who truly get saved will faithfully endure to the end and never follow another.
Answer. This was not true for King Saul, King Solomon, the Apostle Judas Iscariot, the unnamed disciples of Jn. 6:66, and certainly many others throughout the centuries!
Objection #6. Jesus taught:
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (Jn. 5:24, NIV). The verse clearly says will not be condemned. Therefore, one cannot lose his salvation!
Answer. Again, the word believes in Jn. 5:24 is a present active participle(5) in the Greek. Therefore, the Lord is saying here that we must continuously be believing the Father, that is, his testimony about Jesus. This implies that Jesus alone is to be the focal point of our trust for our soul's salvation. See Mt. 17:5 cf. Jn. 14:6. We will never be condemned, as long as we keep this condition—a continual 100% trusting-submitting faith in Jesus for our soul's salvation.
Objection #7. Paul believed one could be sexually immoral and saved at the same time, according to 1 Corinthians 5.
The man who had "his father's wife"—a terrible sin—didn't lose his salvation thereby ....(6)
In spite of the sin of fornication, Paul still regarded the person as a saved man.(7)
Some have regarded 1 Corinthians 5:5 as the strongest verse in the Bible for once saved, always saved and I would not disagree.(8)
Answer. In spite of what Dave Hunt, Gromacki and Kendall say, the unnamed man in 1 Corinthians 5, who was sexually immoral, was never identified as a true Christian while sexually immoral! Instead, Paul identified this man by the term wicked in verse 13, which is the same word in the Greek (poneros) found in Mt. 13:49,50 describing those who will be cast into the fiery furnace:
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (NIV). Note: Paul knew the man was wicked based on his sexual immorality, regardless of any past moment of faith.
Paul goes on to say of the same person in 1 Cor. 5:5:
Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (NKJV). Again, Paul knew that this sexually immoral man wasn't saved, for the Corinthian congregation was told to hand him over to Satan so his sinful nature (flesh, NKJV) would be destroyed, that his spirit may be saved. If that man was still saved in his sexually immoral state, Paul would not have issued that directive for this to be accomplished.
Also, the same Greek word translated flesh (sarx) in 1 Cor. 5:5 is also found in Gal. 5:19 and includes fornication (porneia), the very sin the unnamed man of 1 Corinthians 5 was guilty of (v. 1). In light of Gal. 5:19-21, with especially the warning of verse 21 in mind, Paul wanted his flesh, or sinful nature (sarx) destroyed, not his body (soma), so that he could inherit the kingdom of God and not be lost.
Beyond all of this, in the very next chapter, Paul specifically mentioned the sexually immoral, states they are wicked and then says, don't be deceived, they will not inherit the kingdom of God:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9,10, NIV). In spite of this clear teaching from Paul, who knew more about grace than anyone in our day, many remain deceived about the sexually immoral. True grace teaching does not allow the sexually immoral into the kingdom of God. Only the counterfeit grace message, which is a license for immorality, tries to do this!
Objection #8. A child cannot become unborn, and the relationship of a father and a child cannot be ended. Once a son, always a son. Therefore, once we are saved we will always be saved. Or as Hal Lindsey wrote:
When you're born into your earthly family, you may be a winner or a loser in your behavior, but you're still a member of that family. There's no way to be unborn just because you don't measure up to the standards of your family. It's just the same when you're born into God's family. You may be disciplined for wrong behavior, but you won't be disowned.(9)
Answer. This argument is based on natural fact, then applied to the spiritual, which doesn't always hold up as truth. (OSAS adherents frequently make this kind of mistake of arguing from the natural to the spiritual.) This type of error can be demonstrated by the following facts: Before we became Christians, we were all "children of the devil" (Acts 13:10; 1 Jn. 3:10) and "sons of the evil one" (Mt. 13:38). In other words, the devil was our spiritual father (Jn. 8:44). However, this spiritual father-child relationship changed at the point of salvation, according to Scripture! Aren't you glad that spiritual, father-child relationships can be ended?
We are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26), yet it is possible to stop believing (Lk. 8:13), have our faith destroyed (2 Tim. 2:18) and for our faith to become shipwrecked (1 Tim. 1:19,20).
Also, angels and Adam are called "son(s) of God" (Job 1:6; Lk. 3:38, KJV), yet some angels and Adam lost their eternal life, and we can too as sons of God.
We can't become unborn, as you put it, but we can die spiritually (Lk. 15:24,32; Rom. 8:13; Jam. 1:14,15; etc.)! We must endure to the end to be saved (Mt. 10:22).
Finally, Lindsey wrote you won't be disowned, but Jesus said if we disown him, he will in turn disown us (Mt. 10:33, NIV). Whom should we believe?
Objection #9. When one gets saved, he receives eternal life. If that life could be lost, it wouldn't be eternal! Therefore, once a person is saved, he is always saved.
As Hank Hanegraaff wrote:
And remember, eternal life comes to the believer through faith in Christ is not life for two weeks, two months, or even two years; eternal life is everlasting life. It begins at the moment of conversion and stretches on through the eons of time.(10)
Answer. This type of argument has both truth and error mixed into it. Certainly, at the point of salvation, one receives eternal life because of faith in Christ, but that does not necessitate or guarantee the possession of that life eternally!
The crux of this argument really centers around the possession of eternal life, and not if eternal life is anything other than eternal. While eternal life will always be eternal, the possession of such is something altogether different.
This is easily proven by noting that eternal life was eternal even before a saved person ever possessed it. Does it not follow, then, that eternal life will still remain eternal, even if one doesn't continue to possess it?
Moreover, as long as a Christian has spiritual life, it is everlasting, but according to Scripture he can still die spiritually (Rom. 8:13) and miss the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21)!
Objection #10. David lost only the joy of his salvation by his adultery and murder. We know this because of his prayer in Psalm 51.
David committed sins of murder and adultery. We must condemn his sins. They were bad. But David's sins were under the blood of Christ, and in the fifty-first Psalm, the prayer of David shows that he had not lost his salvation, but the joy of salvation.(11) Also, David was a man after God's own heart and wrote part of the Bible. This proves OSAS.
Answer. To say David's sins of adultery and murder did not cause him to lose his salvation, based on Psa. 51:12, is to contradict Scripture (1 Cor. 6:9,10; Rev. 21:8; etc.)!
Just because David prayed to have the joy of his salvation restored doesn't mean he didn't previously lose his salvation also, which clearly occurred, according to the aforementioned verses.
Since the Prodigal lost his salvation through sexual immorality (Lk. 15:24,32), why would you think David didn't through his sexual immorality and murder?
Also note that David received immediate forgiveness in Nathan's presence after he was confronted with his sins (2 Sam. 12:13b). Psalm 51 apparently was written after David was already forgiven, yet at that point he still did not have the joy of his salvation restored:
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psa. 51:12, NKJV). On the theoretical side, even if David did not lose his salvation from these sins, there might be a more grievous sin which could be committed or some other way that could negate one's salvation. Therefore, it is impossible to prove OSAS from David's example and prayer.
We must also consider if David was or was not a Bible-defined adulterer or murderer when in unrepentant sin, because if he was then he was clearly unsaved at that time, according to 1 Cor. 6:9,10 and Rev. 21:8.
To answer this, we must consider how many times does one have to murder or commit adultery to be considered a murderer or adulterer, according to the Scriptures? Again, according to the Bible, what is the answer?
Lev. 20:10 states:
If a man commits adultery with another man's wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death (NIV). From this verse we learn that a one-time act of adultery makes a person an adulterer or an adulteress.
Similarly, in Numbers a murderer's identity is revealed:
If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or if anyone has a stone in his hand that could kill, and he strikes someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or if anyone has a wooden object in his hand that could kill, and he hits someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death (Num. 35:16-18, NIV). Again, a one-time act of murder makes the man a murderer, according to Scripture.
There is no Scripture that states it would take two or five or twenty acts of adultery or murder before one is an adulterer or murderer!
Furthermore, regarding murder, 1 Jn. 3:15 states:
Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (NKJV). According to Scripture, David was a premeditated murderer. Therefore, at that time he did not have eternal life abiding (remaining) in him, even though he did prior to this. You don't have to go any further than that. (So, David lost much more than the joy of his salvation by his adultery and murder!)
But there is more. The Sovereign God, who knows all there is to know about salvation, grace, his own keeping power, love and faithfulness, spoke from his throne after the infinite and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ:
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death (Rev. 21:8, NIV). David was clearly unsaved when in unrepentant sin (as was Bathsheba), according to Rev. 21:8! If David didn't repent, he would have missed the kingdom, according to Scripture. Moreover, according to 1 Ki. 15:5, David never strayed again, so he did enter the kingdom of God.
On the other hand, when such a one does repent and finds forgiveness, he is no longer sexually immoral, a murderer, etc. This is especially clear with the dying thief who, just before his physical death, found instant forgiveness and went to Paradise (Lk. 23:42,43). From the list in 1 Cor. 6:9,10, his exclusion from the kingdom was apparently reversed at the point of his forgiveness. The same could be said of David.
Finally, how was David a man after God's own heart? In Jer. 3:15, we read:
Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding (NIV). This same phrase used for David is also used here and indicates spiritual leaders guiding people with godly knowledge and understanding. But please note: there is no fine print in Scripture that states protection for anyone who is a man after God's own heart, any writer of the Bible,(12) king of Israel or any other kind of person who would become sexually immoral and a murderer. Scripture just plainly states they will end up in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). The only hope they have is to repent, as David and the Prodigal did.
Those who purport to reject OSAS but maintain that David never lost his salvation are saying, in effect, one can be adulterous and murderous and still remain saved! This is also a license for immorality. ....