Deceptive doctrines are part of the reason the foolish virgins were excluded when the Bridegroom arrived, so this post will examine three deceptive doctrines that are prominent in foolish virgin thinking: Once saved, always saved (OSAS), pre and mid tribulation rapture, and the doctrine that the gifts of the Spirit were only intended for the days of the Apostles and are not active today. This post will examine the doctrine of one saved always saved.
Like all deceptions, this doctrine does contain an element of truth. Unfortunately, it is not true to the entire counsel of Scripture. OSAS tells its devotees that once they have made their initial commitment to Christ, they are sealed forever and will never be lost again. They may anchor their belief in Scriptures such as:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39 (ESV)
To be sure, we can never be separated from the Rock of our Salvation, and this truth has brought comfort to Christians throughout the ages. But does this mean that once I am saved, I am always saved? It’s time to be Berean (Acts 17: 10-11).
Scripture gives us many assurances about our salvation, but does it verify that once I am saved, I am always saved? There are at least two major problems with this doctrine: It ignores clear warnings of Scripture about sinning after salvation, and it creates a false sense of security.
It denies clear warnings about sinning after salvation
Scripture tells us that sin is very serious. It is the wall that separates us from God and keeps Him from hearing our prayers. Jesus’ work on the cross broke down that dividing wall and gave us access to God’s throne of grace. Once a person receives God’s gift of salvation, he is whiter that snow. OSAS says that he will always be whiter than snow, but that’s not what Scripture tells us.
Paul uses the history of Israel to illustrate an inconvenient truth, not everyone who starts out finishes:
For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
1 Cor 10:1-12 (ESV)
Paul wasn’t just giving a history lesson about Israel’s past; he was also illustrating a spiritual truth about what can happen if we don’t deal decisively with sin and rebellion. This is similar to Paul’s use of Sarah and Hagar’s story to illustrate two covenants (Gal 4: 21-31). All Israel had the same starting point: “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink” just as we have been baptized and all of us have drunk from the Rock of Christ. Even though they started well, the people of Israel rebelled and were overthrown. Just as rebellion disqualified Israel from entering the Promised Land, it can also disqualify us from His eternal rest. This example was given to us as a warning so that we would not follow the same course of destruction. Even though they were God’s chosen people, God was not pleased with many of them. If OSAS is true, then Paul doesn’t know what he is talking about. Why warn people about a consequence that has no possibility of happening?
If there is no possibility of ever losing salvation, this complicates reading the Scriptures because they clearly tell us something else. Here are some problem points:
Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matt 24:45-51 (ESV)
Jesus uses this parable to teach us two different outcomes for the people of faith. There are two servants of the same master. On the one hand, there is the wise and faithful servant who receives the master’s reward when he returns. On the other hand, there is the servant who acts faithlessly and lives like the world. He was totally unprepared for the master’s return and he was cast out. If OSAS is true, then this cannot happen. Both are servants of the same master, so in a sense, if both are saved, then both should receive the same reward. Jesus does not teach this here.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus shows another way servants can be disqualified:
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matt 25:24-30 (ESV)
Once again, all of the servants served the same master. They all received resources from the master to do business with until his return, which indicated they were in the master’s favor and had an equal standing. The problem is that one of them did not do the will of the master; he squandered the resources and time he had to accomplish his master’s will just like the foolish virgins. When the master found out about this, he ordered this unprofitable servant thrown into a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. This can only be a place of eternal separation and destruction. The question remains: If OSAS is true, why does Jesus tell us a scenario in which a believer loses salvation?
The writer of Hebrews weighs in on the possibility of being disqualified as well:
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Heb 6:4-6 (ESV)
The writer is clearly portraying a believer in this passage, and it reads very similar to Paul’s passage in 1 Cor 10: 1-12. If OSAS is valid, why does the writer of Hebrews give such a dire warning about falling away? How can you ever fall away if OSAS is true?
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Heb 10:26-31 (ESV)
The writer of Hebrews is clearly speaking about the possibility of losing salvation when a believer engages in a course of deliberate sinning (as in Mt 24: 48-51): “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” You cannot say that the writer of Hebrews is true and OSAS are true at the same time.
My last Scripture come from Peter:
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
2 Peter 2:20-22 (ESV)
Peter is clearly addressing the fact that there will be some believers who fall away from the holy commandment that was given to them. If OSAS is true, then this cannot happen to a believer. Peter warns us that this can happen, and if we are not careful, we will be overcome again by the sin which so easily entangles us. “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it” Heb 4:1 (ESV).
OSAS creates a false sense of security.
People put their confidence in many things that give them a false sense of security. A rich many puts his trust in his wealth, a king puts his trust in his chariots and army, an idolater puts his confidence in his idols, a leader puts his confidence in the high and strong walls of his citadel. We already know from Scripture that these things may give the appearance of safety and security, but the truth of God’s word shows them for the vain hope they give. A rich man’s wealth will not deliver in the day of judgment, an army cannot prevail unless the Lord gives the victory, an idol cannot help because there is only one God, and no citadel can stand if the Lord does not watch over the city to defend it.
In the same manner, if a person thinks that he is always saved no matter what he does after salvation, it follows that a careless and carefree attitude must eventually take hold in his mind. He slowly begins to drift from holiness to friendship with the world. It escapes his notice that weeds (the cares of this life) have already taken root in his heart and are already choking the word. Sin and disobedience are also at work hardening his heart against the word of God. OSAS deceives him into thinking that the law has no hold on him and that he has a kind of immunity from ever losing the crown of life. He can eventually get to the point where he beats his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, and as such he is entangled and overcome again by the very things he was delivered from. When his master returns, he will find out too late that OSAS was a false security in the same way wealth was to the rich man.
My beloved, we are under grace, but that does not mean that our actions cease to have consequences; sin and rebellion can still disqualify a believer from eternal life. Sin can still easily entangle a foolish virgin. Do not let the world, the flesh or the devil persuade you to give up your birthright for a bowl of soup. The Lord did not endure the suffering of the cross just so we could live like the world. Get your house in order. Abide in Him, and He will keep you safe.