Is it technically correct to use the phrase, "Once saved, always saved?" The answer could 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 how deceptive the words of false prophets can be. This ploy is one of the most deceptive phrases in Christendom. This does not mean the Calvinist pastor realizes this. It simply means it is a trick of the devil he may have been deceived by.
If correctly understood, this saying is technically quite true as the words themselves stand. However, Calvinists intend to convey something more than the words say. Calvinists accompany this saying by asserting that one cannot "lose" his salvation. The deception here is in the word "lose." This type of language creates a logical fallacy which is not readily apparent. Calvinists will speak of salvation as a possessed condition one "has" when salvation is actually an event, and the resulting effect of an event, one has already experienced. As such, it is a deception to portray salvation as a condition one possesses or loses as one possesses or loses a dollar bill. Rather, salvation is a deliverance event one experiences. One does not "lose" or "have" Christmas day; one experiences the event of Christmas day. Salvation is an event in time.
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 is saved. He will protest that one cannot "lose" his salvation; he cannot be unsaved. This is absolutely true in its strictest sense because one cannot "lose" a past event. But the Calvinist is implicitly having you think of salvation as a possessed "condition." It is ambiguous language but a language which deceives because the hearer does not stop to think to himself that it is ambiguous to say one can lose his salvation because it is an event and not a possessed condition in the first place. Rather, he is led to think that one cannot lose a condition which one actually possesses. Thus, he is deceived by the words. This Calvinist phrase is a logical fallacy because it is based on a false presumption and such logical fallacies are often contrived to deceive.
Think about it? Can you "lose" the event of your 8th birthday? Of course not. Such a proposition is an absurdity because a past event is not a losable thing. One cannot "lose" his 8th birthday. It is past and finished and one cannot lose a past event. But if you were led to believe that your 8th birthday was a possessed condition which you carry around with you, then you might be tricked into thinking it is something which is losable. When a Calvinist says one cannot "lose" his salvation, the deception of this ploy is in the word "lose." The man who has fallen away was indeed saved from his old way of life as an event which is something he cannot "lose" because this salvation was not something he carried around with him but a past event which he had experienced! However, this man can also fall short of salvation on the last day because he has fallen away from the condition of grace having been saved from his old way of life. Asking someone if they can lose their salvation is like asking someone if a ball can lose its squareness. It is an absurdity. Of course a ball cannot lose its squareness because it has no squareness to lose. See the trick here? I just said a ball cannot lose its squareness. Thus you might conclude that a ball will never ever lose its squareness. It is word trickery. A ball does not have squareness in the first place. The whole deal is based upon a false premise.
Now we come to the second half of the deception. When the Calvinist says "once saved always saved," he is referring to his past new birth conversion event where he perceives he obtained salvation as a condition which he possesses. Now having created this fallacious concept of salvation, he also conveniently forgets there is another salvation event yet to come from which he is not yet saved. "He who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13; future tense). Christians who have been once saved from their old way of life (Eph 2:8) can indeed fall short of the salvation event which comes on the last day (Mt 24:13) if they do not stand firm in their condition of grace. Salvation is an event in time where the condition Christians are in is grace. The Calvinist would have you confuse the condition of grace with the event of salvation. The real phrase he should be employing if he does not believe a born again person can fall short of salvation on the last day is, "Once in grace always in grace." But he doesn't. He confuses the concepts of grace and salvation.
Now it is also quite correct to say "we have obtained salvation." But when the word is used in this sense it means "achieved" as in, "We have obtained job completion" or "we have achieved job completion." Obviously, we can see here that we do not carry our job completion around with us. Rather, it is something we arrived at in life and is an event which can never be lost because you cannot lost past events. However, we can indeed fall short of our next job completion because it is a separate event.
Having been saved from his old way of life, the Calvinist cannot "lose" this salvation event because he does not "possess" it but has experienced a past salavtion event and events are not losable things. But he can fall short of salvation on the last day because that future event is yet to come and no one has yet experienced that salvation event. Let us now decisively prove this from the Scriptures
Calvinists often make the mistake of thinking the word "saved" always refers to the same thing. They read the word "saved" at Ephesians 2:8 and assume the word is referring to precisely the same thing at 2 Thess 2:13. "Saved" just means "saved" in whatever sense they would like it to mean. 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.
- 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? Sickness? Shipwreck? What? At Ephesians 2:8 Paul discusses salvation as a conversion event where one is "saved" from his old humanity, from being "dead in sin.":
"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." Done. Finished.
However, there is much more we need to know. Paul repeatedly reminds us of a salvation event which he expects to come inthe future. Having been saved from his old way of life, 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, they very commonly refer to a future event for Christians and not to the new birth conversion 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).
"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 not yet obtained is a salvation event which is not yet realized. 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 conceive this other than saying that the salvation event at Ephesians 2:8 is one event but the salvation event which Paul expects to come in the future is an entirely different event.
Once this future salvation event is realized one can also say "Once saved always saved" about this salvation event too. But no one, absolutely no one, has yet arrived at this future salvation event and so no one can say they have 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 from the wrath of God on judgment day (Mt 24:13). The way he will try 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. 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. Therefore, when Paul says we are "being saved" he is necessarily referring to another salvation event. And that salvation event is the event which is yet to come for faithful Christians when Jesus returns in glory.
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. And this future salvation event is one which must be worked out in this life (Php 2:12) between our salvation event from our old humanity of sin to the end of our life or the end of the age (whichever comes first).
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
If we use our common sense, we can see that this is clearly what the Bible 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 from eternal condemnation. You can only be born again once and one 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 first would have you believe that salvation is something you "have" so he can talk about it in a "have" or "lose" way. Then he will shift and trick you by talking about it defined as an event. He will first say, "You cannot "lose" your salvation." Then he will do the shift and say, "If you were saved then you were already saved and you cannot be unsaved from the past event of being saved. Therefore, you cannot "lose" your salvation." See the clever trickery here? First, he gets you thinking salvation is not defined as an event but a possession. But then when he comes to his argument he implicitly shifts to defining salvation as an event rather than a possession to prove his argument. He will say something like, "If you were saved, then how can you be unsaved from the thing you were saved from?" Then once he has proved his point, that one cannot be unsaved from a past salvation event, he shifts back again to defining salvation as a possession and then concludes you cannot "lose" your salvation.
The Shell Game How it is done Definition The Power of Suggestion "Once Saved Always Saved" Implicitly Define Salvation You can't "lose" your salvation Possession Implicitly Shift the Definition to an Event You can't be "unsaved" Event Implicitly Shift back to the first Definition See, you can't "lose" your salvation Possession Result Illusion achieved
It's a pretty clever trick isn't it? Now, he has tricked you into this for a very obvious reason. There is another part to this shell game. The Bible tells us that there is another future salvation event when Jesus returns in glory. But the Calvinist does not want you to think of this as an event. Rather, he wants you to think of salvation defined as a possession. And if you fell for the first part of his first shell game you are already thinking this. Now, he goes on to talk of salvation as one thing you carry, instead of two events, and then has you believing you have this salvation in your back pocket so that when the end of the age comes you just happen to have it. And voila! There you have it. He has created an illusion to get you thinking:Once Saved Always Saved = You always hold unloseable salvation
But as we have shown, it is a game of smoke and mirrors devised to deceive. The words "Once saved always saved" really can only mean:O.S.A.S.= Once you experience an event you always have had experienced that event.
Now we could get into this even further. Notice carefully the word "always." Notice what it suggests to you. It is suggestive of "always possessing" something, especially when the Calvinist plants that definition of salvation in your mind. But if we comprehend the word correctly here we know it means "what happened in the past is always true." These is the trickery of the word games used by false prophets which the Bible warns us about and this is why Jesus and his apostles were so concerned about false teachers. Now I am not saying that your own Calvinist pastor even realizes the trickery exists here, nor does he lay awake at night devising such schemes. If he teaches this he is probably doing it inadvertently. The Father of lies, the devil, is the one who schemed it up, and it is doubtful that any Calvinist teachers even realize they are employing his deception. People just fall for his trickery. Nevertheless, it is not usually a trait among false teachers to perceive themelves as teaching falsehoods. They think they are teaching the truth. The devil is a master of words and we must be careful we do not fall prey to his devices.
Your Ephesians 2:8 salvation event is not a possession you carry around. It is a completed past event. What we carry around is the grace of God in the Holy Spirit having been saved from our old life of sin. But now there is another salvation event yet to come. And only he who stands firm to the end and does not fall away from God's grace will be saved. And only then, can you say of THAT salvation event, "Once saved, Always Saved." Until then, you are not saved concerning this future salvation event.
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 so that we do not fall short of salvation on that Day.
Think about it. Even the Calvinist himself implies this understanding when he uses the term "Perseverance of the Saints." He is implying that God will cause "the elect" 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. The question then becomes, "Does God ensure that born again Christians will certainly be saved on the last day?" And that question, we will leave for the other articles on this site.
He who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).