Is it technically correct to use the phrase, "Once saved, always saved?" The answer would be "YES." Does this mean the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is a correct doctrine? The answer to that question is absolutely "NO." Here you will begin to see the deception employed by some Calvinists when they use these words. If correctly understood, this saying is technically quite true as the words themselves stand. However, these Calvinists accompany this saying by asserting that one cannot "lose" his salvation. The deception here is in the words "always" and "lose."
Calvinists will often argue that a man who has fallen away was "never really saved" because to them a saved man is a man who was already saved and you cannot unsave someone. In other words, one cannot make a past event un-occur and this is of course very true. But then he will conclude that one cannot "lose" his salvation and therefore he will "always" be saved. Thus, he will conclude that a man once he has been saved is saved for all eternity. And here is the trickery - an argument formed under false pretenses. First he implicitly defines salvation as an event to make his argument, then in midstream he changes to implicitly defining salvation as a possession or condition ("lose" "have") and declares once saved, "always" saved - you cannot "lose" your salvation.
There is much we could say about the word trickery employed by the Calvinist here. However, it is far too easy to just go on and disprove the Calvinists claim if we just take a look at the Bible. When the Calvinist is discussing this matter he focuses on the Ephesians 2:8 new birth salvation event in which people are saved from their old way of life being dead in sin. However, the very same word "save(d)" [sozo] and the word "salvation" [soteria] is used in many senses in the Bible. In all cases it means to be delivered from something undesirable. Let us look at the many examples from the Holy Scriptures:
- Men desired to be "saved" from shipwreck on the sea.
"And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, "Save [sozo] us Lord; we are perishing." (Mt 8:24-25).
"When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved [sozo].... "Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved [sozo]" (Ac 27:20-31).
- Peter wanted to be "saved" from drowning.
"Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save [sozo] me!" (Mt 14:30).
- A woman is "saved" from her disease.
"And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment; for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has saved [sozo] you." And instantly the woman was saved [sozo]." (Mt 9:21-22; cf. Mk 5:34; Lk 8:48-50).
- Jairus' daughter is sick and dying and needs to be "saved" from physical death.
"Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, and besought him, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be saved [sozo], and live." (Mk 5:23).
- The sick were "saved."
"And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or country, they laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were saved [sozo]. " (Mk 6:56).
- A man is "saved" from his blindness.
"And Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" And the blind man said to him, "Master, let me receive my sight." And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has saved [sozo] you." And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way: (Mk 10:52; cf. Lk 18:42).
- A man is "saved" from demon possession.
"Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how he who had been possessed with demons was saved [sozo]" (Lk 8:36).
- Two crippled men are "saved" from their condition. One through Peter and one through Paul.
"If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was saved [sozo]" (Ac 4:9).
"In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be saved [sozo] and called out loudly, 'Stand up on your feet" and he sprang up and walked" (Ac 14:10).
- Our prayers "save" the sick.
"And the prayer offered in faith will save [sozo] the sick person; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven" (Jas 5:15).
- The Israelites were "saved" from Egyptian bondage.
"Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord saved [sozo] his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe" (Jude 5).
- Paul believes the Philippian prayers will turn into his salvation from prison.
"For I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my salvation [soteria]" (Php 1:29).
- Jesus was "saved."
"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save [sozo] him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission." (Hebrews 5:7)
The Bible writers use the word "saved" in many different ways. So it behooves us to now ask a very, very important question. When we hear the word "saved" we must ask:"Saved from what?"
We must ask just "what" were we delivered from? What were we saved from? Sickness? Shipwreck? What? At Ephesians 2:8 Paul discusses salvation as a conversion event where one is "saved" from his old humanity, his old way of life. See also 1 Peter 1:18.:"For by grace you have been saved [sozo] through faith"
Now, we must completely understand the verb tense of the word "saved" in Ephesians 2:8. It is the perfect tense which means that the event in question is totally complete and the results of this past event continue to the present time of his writing. Since it is totally complete, there is no more to complete. In Ephesians 2:8 it means "you have been saved." Calvinists will certainly not deny this nor can they since it they often point here to make their claims.
However, there is much more we need to know which the Calvinist does not want to talk about. Paul repeatedly reminds us of a salvation event which he expects to come in the future. Having been saved by grace from his old way of life (Eph 2:8), Paul has the hope of a future salvation event which he has not yet experienced. In fact, when the word "salvation"and its cognates are used in the Bible, these words very commonly refer to a future event for Christians and not to the new birth salvation event. Notice how all the following occurrences of salvation refer to a future event for Christians.
"Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more will we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, will we be saved by his life" (Rom 5:9-10).
"For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11).
"But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not positioned us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess 5:8-9)."He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but for salvation of those who are waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:28).
"But he who stands firm to the end will be saved.... If those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened" (Mt 24:13; cf. 10:22).
Obviously, a salvation event which is neither here is a salvation neither yet obtained by Christians or experienced by Christians. Now here is the critical point and you must think about this very, very carefully. At Ephesians 2:8, Paul says that we "have been saved" using a Greek verb tense which means that the salvation event he is discussing is totally complete. It is an over, complete and finished past event and one cannot more fully complete a salvation that is fully complete. However, he also tells us in many places that a future salvation event is yet to come. Thus, there is no other logical way to understand this than saying that the salvation event at Ephesians 2:8 is one event which is fully completed, but the salvation event which Paul expects to come in the future is an entirely different event because he is still waiting for it to come!.
Once this future salvation event is realized the Calvinist can also say "Once saved always saved" about this salvation event too as he now does concerning Ephesians 2:8. But no he cannot say that he is yet saved with a salvation which is not here yet. He has not yet arrived at this future salvation event and so he cannot say he has been saved on the last day. What the Calvinist does not realize is that being saved from his old way of life (Eph 2:8) is not the same thing as being saved when Jesus comes in glory(Mt 24:13). The way he will try to avoid the truth here is to scoot out of this problem is by claiming that this future salvation is a "fuller sense" of his salvation, a completion of that salvation. This is quite impossible for two reasons.
First, in Ephesians 2:8, the Calvinist himself makes much noise that the verb "saved" is perfect tense which means it is a fully completed past event. One cannot, by logical definition, more fully complete a completed past event. It is a ridiculous proposal. The Ephesians 2:8 conversion event is referring to a totally complete salvation event. The salvation which is to come at the end of the age has not yet arrived and Christians may fall short of that salvation.
Secondly, Paul refers to Christians as "being saved." This is how he literally says it at 1 Corinthians 1:18 and 15:1. Here he means that Christians are in the process of being saved and this salvation will culminate at the final judgment when they will have obtained this salvation. Obviously, it is absurd to say we are completely saved (Eph 2:8) while in the process of being saved unless we are talking about two different events. The Calvinist would have you confuse the two into one. But at Ephesians 2:8, Paul uses a Greek verb tense which can be taken no other way. There the word "saved" is a perfect tense which means that whatever salvation he is talking about is totally complete and there is nothing more to that salvation. Therefore, when Paul says we are "being saved" he is necessarily referring to another salvation event. And that salvation event is the future event which is yet to come for faithful Christians when Jesus returns in glory. It is for this future event, that we future Christians are "being saved. How then can we say Once saved always saved" about something which is in the process of happening? It would be a ridiculous proposition.
The Ephesians 2:8 salvation event concerns being saved from our sins (see Eph 2:1) and our old way of life in the flesh. But being "saved" from our past sins (2 Peter 1:9) is not being saved from the eternal wrath of God on judgment day and this is what the Bible is talking about when it refers to being saved at the end of the age. These salvation events are two different events. Paul still awaits this future event of salvation and continually reminds everyone to remain steadfast so that they can obtain this end of the age event.
The whole plan of salvation consists of two chief events. For Christians, there is the already completed Ephesians 2:8 conversion event salvation and the Matthew 24:13 salvation event at the end of the age.SALVATION = Ephesians 2:8 salvation event + Matthew 24:13 salvation event
Think about it. Even the Calvinist himself implies this understanding when he uses the term "Perseverance of the Saints." He himself is claiming that he who has been saved in his new birth salvation event, God will cause to persevere so that they will be saved (future tense) on the last day. The Calvinist himself knows that one must persevere to be saved on the last day. In so doing, he betrays himself, fully knowing that there is a salvation which is a future event yet to come. As he says of his Ephesians 2:8 salvation event, will he now say of this Matthew 24:13 future salvation event, "I am always saved"?
If we use our common sense, we can see what the Bible very clearly teaches. When we have achieved either of these salvation events, we can truly say, "Once saved, always saved." Indeed, if we are born again Christians, we have been saved (past tense) from our old way of life, but we have not yet been saved at the end of the age in that salvation event. Born again persons must press on in the faith to be saved at the end. "He who stands firm to the end will be saved." And if we are unfaithful, not standing firm, and in so doing we fall from the grace of God, we will certainly fall short of this end of the age salvation event. But if we remain faithful to our present condition of grace and so be saved at the end of the age, then we can then too say, "Once saved, always saved."
Thus we expose the deception. The Calvinist has you think of salvation as only that salvation which is being discussed at Ephesians 2:8. And then he claims that you cannot "lose" this salvation by an argument formed under false pretenses. But such games will not get him out of the predicament of explaining how he who is "always" saved in the Ephesians 2:8 new birth salvation event, still needs yet to be saved at the end of the age. He cannot point to Matthew 24:13 and see the words "will be saved" and then claim concerning that salvation that he is "always saved" at the present time since this salvation event is yet to come. And only he who stands firm to the end and does not fall away from God's grace will be saved with the salvation which Jesus brings with him on that day. And only then, can he say of THAT salvation event, "Once saved, Always Saved." Until then, he is not saved concerning this future salvation event and cannot sanely argue that he is without also making a mockery of Holy Scripture.
If nothing else, we only need to see that there is a future salvation event yet to come for Christians. Christians are in the process of "being saved" for that salvation event. No one has yet experienced that salvation and it will not be until Jesus returns in glory that this salvation event arrives. We cannot claim to possess something which is not here yet. And so, we who are Christians fight the good fight of the faith, standing firm in God's grace, so that we do not fall short of salvation on that Day. Having been saved by the grace of God in our new birth salvation events, we fully know from the teaching of our Lord and his apostles that we will indeed fall short of salvation on the last day if we do not hold fast the faith.
Thus the deception is clearly exposed for what it is. The words "Once saved always saved" are a truism. However, the Calvinist uses this truism under false pretenses. It is indeed true that once a person has undergone a new birth salvation event, it will always be true that he has been saved from his old way of life. But the Calvinist conveniently overlooks the fact that the person who was saved from his old way of life must now live that new life steadfastly in order to be saved at the end of the age when Jesus returns in glory. Hence, he cannot logically say he is always saved concerning this future event and will not be able to say so until that event occurs and he is indeed saved, if indeed he stands firm to the end.
He who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).