by Shawn Brasseaux
Can Christians lose their salvation? Must we do good works to maintain (keep) our salvation? Is salvation instantaneous (once for all) or progressive (throughout your lifetime)? In this Bible study, we will look at the Bible verses people often use to refute and reject the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” (the eternal security of the believer). The confusion would disappear if people would “study… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Let us look first at Galatians 5:4 KJV: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Does the expression “fallen from grace” mean that some of the Galatians lost their salvation? Of course not, because Paul calls them “brethren” nine times (Galatians 1:11, 3:15, 4:12, 4:28, 4:30, 5:11, 5:13, 6:1, 6:18)!
Recall that Galatia was being pummeled with false teaching and works-religion (Judaism). Some of these poor believers had been deceived to the point where they were now laboring under the Mosaic Law to receive salvation… salvation they had already received by grace through faith without works (Galatians 3:2,3). “Fallen from grace” simply means that some of the Galatians gave up on the grace system—being rewarded on the basis of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork on Calvary—because they preferred legalism—being rewarded on the basis of their works/performance (cf. Romans 4:1-8; Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8,9; Galatians 2:16-21; Titus 3:5).
For those who are unfamiliar with dispensational Bible study (mid-Acts dispensationalism / Pauline dispensationalism), Hebrews 6:4-6 KJV can be quite confusing. Let us look at that passage:
“4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
The goal of dispensational Bible study and right division is to determine the audience of the particular Bible passage. In this case, obviously, the writer is addressing Jews—after all, it is the epistle to the Hebrews. The people being addressed in the above passage are the nation Israel.
All of Israel saw Jesus Christ’s miracles. They saw the supernatural events on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. If the miracles, signs, and wonders of Christ’s earthly ministry and Acts chapter 2 were not enough proof to win the Jews to salvation, there was nothing else to convince them. Jesus told Israel, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (John 4:48). These Jews saw the power of the Holy Spirit, but they rejected God in unbelief. Consider Hebrews 2:3,4 KJV:
“3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?”
Again, the “we” is the nation Israel—it was the Jews, not us. We see the reference to Christ’s miracles and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom during His earthly ministry (“the great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord;” Matthew 4:17). Obviously, the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” is a reference to Pentecost and Acts chapter 2, the power of the Holy Spirit being manifested (see Luke 24:49). Recall that we examined Hebrews 6:4-6, which mentioned “the powers of the world to come.” When Jesus Christ and His apostles performed miracles, they were demonstrating the power that was coming in the kingdom: when Christ will establish His kingdom on the earth, the curse would be lifted from creation and there would be no more sickness or unclean spirits (devils (Isaiah 35:1-10; Zechariah 13:1,2; et al.).
Acts chapter 2, Hebrews chapter 2, and Hebrews chapter 6 have nothing to do with anyone reading this. These passages describe Israel’s program, which is not the program that God is operating today. Period. At this point, we will look a related matter that many people have confused. Do you ever wonder if you are guilty of committing the “unpardonable sin” of Matthew 12:31,32, Mark 3:28-30, and Luke 12:10, the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? Let me assure you that this has nothing do with us today; this special sin of blaspheming against the Holy Ghost relates to the nation Israel (for more information on this topic, email me to obtain a copy of our article dealing with the “unpardonable sin”).
Can we be “more saved” one day, and “less saved” another day? Do good works somehow “enhance” our salvation? Philippians 3:12-15 KJV has been wrested and twisted to promote this absurd teaching. First, here is the passage:
“12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.”
This has absolutely nothing to do with us working for our salvation. The Apostle Paul is talking about spiritual maturity/spiritual growth (notice “perfect;” verses 12 & 15). Once we gain a better understanding of God’s Word, we should put forth an effort to seek more sound doctrine, and desire to allow that sound doctrine to mature us in the inner man. Paul admits in verse 13 that he has not yet reached the level of spiritual maturity that he needs to, but that he is putting forth the effort in allowing God’s Word to work effectually in him, as he believes it.
Philippians 2:12 is another one false teachers like to twist, but notice what the verse actually says in the King James Bible: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Again, there is no working for salvation here: the verse does not say “work for your own salvation,” the verse says “work out your own salvation.” This is talking about your lifestyle and testimony—if you claim to be saved, then act like it (do not fall prey to pride, which is the context)! (Another verse often misunderstood in this regard is 1 Corinthians 9:27.)
The next verse (Philippians 2:13) says, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” This means that you, as a Christian, should be yielding yourself to the Lord’s will so that He can do His work in you, so that your life will reflect God’s working in you (cf. Galatians 5:1-26). Recall that Paul forbade the Galatians from working for salvation (cf. Romans 4:1-5; Ephesians 2:8,9).
You will often hear of “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” That phrase appears in the Bible three times: Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13, and Mark 13:13. Do not let someone (mis)quoting these verses make you doubt your salvation. The context of each of these verses is the seven-year Tribulation, Daniel’s 70th week. See for yourself; do not take my word for it. These verses are Israel’s program, and they have no relation to us today in this the Dispensation of Grace. (The Church the Body of Christ will be absent from earth during the Tribulation anyway!) This salvation is actually a physical salvation; “and except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).
In Old Testament Israel, it can be quite difficult to establish how salvation worked. We do know that it was always by faith in what God said. Still, there was no permanent indwelling Holy Spirit, and He sometimes came to and went from people. In fact, King David writes in Psalm 51:11: “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” (Another verse people twist today to promote loss of salvation.) In light of 2 Samuel 7:15, we do not know if King Saul was saved or if he went to hellfire. Or, we know all of Israel was delivered out of Egypt, yet some Jews died in unbelief in the wilderness before they reached the Promised Land (Jude 5). But, remember, there was no permanent indwelling Holy Spirit back then. What we do know is that those Old Testament saints in Hebrews chapter 11 were saved.
None of those verses I just mentioned have anything to do with us—this is Israel’s program. We are under a new dispensation (grace) under a new apostleship (Paul), in a new program (mystery), and in a new agency (the Church the Body of Christ). We will discuss this more fully in a moment.
Okay, let us look at one final passage. Read 2 Peter 2:20,21 KJV:
“20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.”
The context is false teachers. It relates to what discussed earlier in Hebrews chapters 2 and 6. Peter is referring to those who saw all the miracles of Acts chapters 2, but opposed God’s working and used false teaching to encourage other Jews to rebel against God’s purpose and program for Israel. Let me also say that anyone who fully understands the Gospel of Grace and how to be saved, and they reject it in unbelief, then yes, they are not saved. But they never had salvation to lose, so this is not loss of salvation!
Today, in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God, the Bible says that God accepts those who are “in the beloved,” in His Son Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:6). How do we get “in Christ?” Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for your sins: see Paul’s Gospel of Grace in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised again the third day for our justification.” Salvation from sins and hell and salvation unto justification (right standing before God) is instantaneous, not a lifelong process. If a true believer in Christ ever lost his/her salvation, that would mean God rejected His Son! You would have to throw away all the verses that Paul says confirms the believer’s salvation forever (Romans 5:1,2; Romans 8:29-39; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Ephesians 1:13,14; Ephesians 4:30; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 1:12).
The Corinthians were the least spiritual and the most immature believers in Scripture. Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote that God would confirm (preserve) them unto the end so that they would be blameless at the rapture (1 Corinthians 1:7-8). Verse 9 tells us why—“God is faithful.” Believers in Christ make mistakes, but “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Colossians 1:14 says that “we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
We have been forgiven of all trespasses and sins for Christ’s sake (Ephesians 4:32). Our salvation is not gained by our efforts, so our salvation cannot be maintained by our efforts (see Romans 11:6; Galatians 3:3; Colossians 2:6,7). How can sinful people go to heaven? When a person believes the Gospel of Grace, the blood of Jesus Christ and His righteousness are imputed (applied) to them (Romans 4:1-5). When a believer in Christ sins today, God does not see the sin, He only sees the blood of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Once we have salvation, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit until the rapture (Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30). God does not want you as a believer in Christ doubt your salvation. Our salvation does not depend on our performance or our faithfulness; the salvation we enjoy today as believers is solely dependent upon what Christ did for us already at Calvary!
By the way, you should be aware of the heresy in modern English Bibles—NIV, NASB, NKJV, et al. promote progressive salvation!! In 1 Corinthians 1:18 and 2 Corinthians 2:15, does your Bible say “are being saved” rather than the KJV’s “are saved?” In 1 Peter 2:2, does your Bible say you can you “grow into salvation” rather than the KJV’s “grow [in maturity]?” Indeed, if you do not have God’s Word, you can promote false teaching. The Bible versions debate is a serious matter, so I suggest you get a King James Bible… it is the only solid ground in regards to God’s Word in English!