Is “Once saved, always saved” correct?

The first part of that phrase, “Once saved,” is correct for all of us. We’ve all been saved “once for all,” Hebrews 10:10, “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ.” When Jesus died his sacrifice saved all, Hebrews 7:27, and in Ephesians 2:5, God “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” All of us, therefore – including everyone who’s ever lived, who’s alive right now, or is yet to be born – have been saved already, before any of us even heard about salvation or cared about it.

“Ah, but,” some ask, “does that mean we’re always saved, and there’s never any danger of losing out on salvation? And isn’t it unwise too, telling people ‘once saved, always saved,’ because what incentive would people have to obey God and stop sinning if they think their salvation is fixed forever? Won’t they just carry on their lives as usual, and not change at all?”

It’s a good point, because scripture certainly warns about “changing grace into license,” Jude 1:4, and exploiting God’s gift of salvation to continue doing whatever one wants.

But when it sunk into Paul’s head what Jesus had done for him, it didn’t create that reaction at all, 2 Corinthians 5:14. Instead of thinking, “Oh well, I can do what I like,” Paul found himself “compelled” instead by Christ’s love (same verse). He found that love, Christ’s love, was now the motivating power in his life, and that’s what took over from everything else. Paul’s reaction to “Christ died for all” in verse 15, therefore, was to no longer live for himself, or worry about losing his salvation, but to live instead for Christ “who died for him and was raised again.”

Paul’s entire motivation in life changed. He was propelled into a completely new life of love for the one who loved him. That’s how “once saved” hit him. He never even hints at “once saved, always saved,” because eternal security was never an issue for Paul in the first place. He was even willing to GIVE UP his eternal security in exchange for his fellow Jews understanding what Christ had done for them (Romans 9:3), because it would change their lives too.

Christ’s love would now be their motivation in life, and with the love of Christ compelling them, they wouldn’t even bother about whether their salvation meant forever, or not – or whether salvation could be lost, or not. All those selfish worries were totally neutered by Christ’s death, and replaced by the resurrected Christ living his love in them. That’s what they’d been “once saved” for, and would always be saved for, to live a life of love.

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