The teaching of John Calvin, commonly termed “Calvinism,” often is summarized by using the acrostic “T-U-L-I-P.” Those five matters are:

Total depravity

Unconditional election

Limited atonement

Irresistible grace

Perseverance of the saints

The final one of these, “Perseverance of the saints,” also is called “preservation of the saints,” “the impossibility of apostasy,” or “eternal security” of believers. In common circles, people call it “once saved, always saved.”

“Once saved, always saved” is the affirmation that it is impossible for one who has received the forgiveness of sins to do anything that will cause him/her to fall from God’s grace and be lost eternally. One proponent of this doctrine wrote, “Once saved, always saved. It is one of the grandest thoughts in the Bible: once you believe, you can never be lost, you can never go to hell . . . ‘perseverance of the saints’ means eternal security. The person who sincerely puts his trust in Christ as his Savior is safe in the arms of Jesus. He is secure. No one can hurt him. He will go to heaven. And this is for eternity. He is secure for all time, not just for a little while. He is eternally secure” [Edwin Palmer, Five Points of Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), pp. 68,69].

What Bible verses do the advocates of “once saved, always saved” use to support their doctrine? One of them is John 10:28, which records these words of Jesus: “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” Some suggest this means that once a person is in the Lord’s hand, that is, once he is saved, he can never be removed from the Lord’s hand, which would mean he could never be lost.

Jesus had been speaking about those He called “My sheep” (10:27). He said His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (10:27). What if? What if a sheep decides that it no longer wants to hear the Shepherd’s voice? Is it possible for a sheep to walk away on his own? Yes, it is. Thinking about John 10:28, observe these three truths: (1) The devil cannot take us out of the Lord’s hand and (2) no other human can remove us from the Lord’s hand, but (3) a person on his own can decide to quit hearing and following the Good Shepherd, and by doing so he would be separated from Him. What is the spiritual status of a sheep who is separated from the Shepherd? He is lost.

Others suggest that the teaching of Romans 8:38,39 proves that a child of God could never become lost and lose his soul in eternal perdition.

What is the message of those two verses? Basically that nothing can separate us (God’s children) from the love of God. While God will never stop loving anyone, whether he is godly or ungodly, that does not mean that God approves of all that one does. Again, if a child of God chooses to forsake Him and live in sin, that sin will keep him separated from the Lord (Isaiah 59:1,2).

The Bible has a number of warnings about God’s people turning away from Him. God told His people, “The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). The Lord’s message to Christians is, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). If it is not possible to forsake God and be lost as a result of such a choice, then such warnings would be empty and punch-less. We also recall that Jesus warned His churches that He would remove their candlestick or spit them out of His mouth if they did not repent and return to their first love (Revelation 2:4,5; 3:16,17). He forsakes forsakers.

What further evidence do we have in the Bible that it is, indeed, possible for a child of God to turn away from Him and be lost as a result? Consider:

 In His Parable of the Sower, Jesus spoke about some who first “believe” and then “fall away” (Luke 8:13).

 A fruitless branch/disciple of the Christ will be cast out, wither, and be tossed into the fire (John 15:6).

 Paul affirmed that it is possible for a spiritual brother to perish (spiritually) (1 Corinthians 8:11).

 The churches of Galatia (Christians) were told that those who engage in the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). In this case, God’s kingdom refers to heaven. The conclusion? God’s children can miss out on heaven.

 A divine appeal to Christians: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). Yes, it is possible to depart from God . . . and be lost.

 A child of God can wander from the truth. When that happens, he is “a sinner” who is spiritually dead and needs to be turned back to God (James 5:19,20). If he does not, he will remain spiritually dead . . . forever!

“Once saved, always saved” is widely taught and accepted in the modern denominational world. It may sound appealing to some. It does not, however, pass the biblical test, and thus, it is not from heaven. For that reason, we must reject it, oppose it, and expose it.

— Roger D. Campbell