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Once Saved, Never Sin Again

Carter Culbertson


“Once Saved, Never Sin Again”

1 John 3:7-9

When asking the question “can a person fall from grace”, this is better known as a doctrine we refer to as “Once Saved, Always saved”. This is actually a fair question in some degree for a person to ask after one has been saved. Sometimes we as human beings think to ourselves that once we have been saved, if we sin, then God is a good enough judge to overlook those things and we will still go to Heaven. History shows that this doctrine has been around for quite sometime and has not necessarily originated anytime in the recent years. Interestingly enough, this false belief has been around for quite a long time. In fact, early Christians had to deal with it in the 1st and 2nd centuries. During that period of time, there was a false doctrine known as Gnosticism. Of the Gnostics, one sect taught the doctrine of once saved, always saved. A Christian named Irenaeus lived during the 2nd century A.D. (130-202). He wrote a book titled, “Against Heresies” in which he called attention to this particular fact. We can also see what more recent people we have heard of said and compare what was stated regarding Gnosticism with some more recent quotes. Notice the following quotation from Billy Graham in answer to the question, “Will I lose my salvation if I sin?”

When we do sin, God does not reject us or disown us. Our fellowship with Him may be broken, but our relationship is not; we are still members of His family if we have truly committed our lives to Christ”

In response to another question, “How big a sin do you have to commit before you lose your salvation?” Billy Graham said:

I am convinced that once a person sincerely and honestly trusts Christ for his or her salvation, they become a member of God’s family forever — and nothing can change that relationship.

Many of you today have certainly heard of this doctrine and its very familiar to all of us, in fact there are probably people you know right now that believes this doctrine whole heartedly. Romans 8:38-39 says For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

While Gnostics and Calvinists do not agree in every aspect, their teaching is the same in this realm. 

  • If a person is saved, it is not by means of his own conduct, but on account of his nature.
  • One is saved on account of one’s election to be saved.
  • While one may willfully sin in the flesh, that does not affect the relationship that one has to God and salvation.
  • Grace overcomes all sins regardless of the individual’s attitude toward sin.
  • Both agree that there is nothing that can cause the one who is saved to lose their salvation.

This idea of Once Saved, Always saved” is said in many other forms as well. One of the major points of Calvinism is "the eternal security of the believer" or the "preservation of the saints." It is also called "impossibility of apostasy," or simply "once saved, always saved.” This point today that we are discussing is one of the five major points of Calvinism which comes from the acrostic TULIP. The “P” in Tulip stands for Preservation of the Saints. 

A brief History search shows that this doctrine is very old and many men played a part in spreading it. Calvinism originated with the Reformation in Switzerland and over time it took many different shapes all over Europe. John Calvin is the most well-known Reformed theologian of his generation and the reformed movement was complex and had a lot of history and things going on that we simply do not have time to look at today but John Calvin played a huge role in this and his impact was so substantial that we are still feeling and seeing what he left behind. This idea that no matter what a saved or elected person does cannot take them away from the hand of God is a very comforting doctrine and that is why it is so popular. If I knew beyond everything that once I was saved that I could then never fall away from the grace of God I think I would sleep even better than I already do at night. 

Before we take a look at what the Bible has to say about this belief and whether it is true or not, I think it is important that understand what Grace means and how it is defined. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8—“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”—so what does this word grace mean? The Greek word here is define as 

Grace—“that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech, —good will, loving-kindness, favor

Paul tells us that we have been saved by grace through faith. The very basis of our salvation today is the grace of God. Titus 2:11 says "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men”When is comes to our salvation today, Grace is God’s part in that, and faith is our part in it. If we had more time today we could focus on this idea of salvation by grace through faith but that is not the point I am getting at. Grace is something that God extends to us today that we simply do not, can not and will not ever deserve. It would be very comforting if this doctrine were true. However, if it is not true, then it would be a very dangerous doctrine because it would give people a false sense of security. People would not be on their guard against sin, and may not see any need to repent of sins, if they thought they would still be saved eternally despite their sins. If however they will be lost for sins they do not repent of, then such people are in grave danger. Surely it is important for us to know what the Bible teaches.

We can all agree that there is security for those who serve God faithfully. If we study God's word diligently and honestly, if we strive to overcome sin in our lives, and if we diligently repent and ask forgiveness for our sins, then we definitely have assurance and security regarding our eternal destiny. The question, however, is whether it is possible for a child of God to cease being faithful, to become disobedient, fail to repent, and so be lost. 


In order to talk about this idea of Once saved, always saved I think it is vital that we take a journey through our bibles and look at two different areas of Scripture. The first of these places is..

  1. Galatians 5:1-4—Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Before we analyze what the scriptures actually tell us, let's remind ourselves a little bit of what is taking place here at this time of Pauls letter. Up until this point, Paul has been teaching the Galatians about the bondage of Moses, how they have been delivered from the bondage, and how they have become a part of the true gospel by their reception of his preaching and obedience to it. Just previous, in Galatians 4:30-31 it says Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. In other words, Paul has told them to cast away the old law they were previously under because they are children of the “free-woman” and because of this they are born into a state of freedom from the law of Moses. And then Paul tells them in Verse 1 of Galatians 5 to not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. This is simply a way of saying to not be involved with the law of Moses. In Acts 15:10, Peter uses the same words “yoke of bondage” in reference to the Old Testament. Paul then in verse 2, says that if you be circumcised then Christ will profit you nothing. The church at Galatia is undergoing a huge change in going from the OT to the NT and the Judaizing teachers have come along and are trying to persuade the Galatians that they need to be circumcised. But they don’t need to do that anymore. That was a a sign that proved you were under the old law according to Genesis 17 and Leviticus 12:3. But Paul is saying and writing to them proving that if they are circumcised, they will lose the rights, privileges, and blessings that Christ has given them according to Galatians 2:21. 

So how does this apply to once saved, always saved? Lets keep reading…

Moving on down to verse 4, Paul says “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Now Paul says that you are estranged to Christ, the ones who attempt to be justified by the law. This phrase is key and something we will focus on for just a minute. When is comes to justification, many “faith only” believers will run to Romans 3:28 in order to prove their belief. Romans 3:28 says Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Now from the surface it looks as if this verse would justify faith only because it clearly says that a man is justified by faith apart from deeds of the law but there is more in consideration. First of all, and arguably most important, in the original text of this verse, the definite article “the” is NOT before the word law and the context proves that he could not be talking about THE law because Paul has already mentioned the Jewish law and the moral law or the law written on their hearts. Now, with that established, there are only two ways that man today or then could or can be justified. A man can either be justified, which means being accounted righteous, by 

  1. being perfect
  2. by pardon or forgiveness


There is no other possible way for a man to be justified. So with the establishment of these two ideas, we simply see that Paul was saying a man is justified by the simple pardon or forgiveness of God through the faith of that person and of course we believe that faith is more than a mental ascent if you will, but obedient faith to the gospel. 


Now, what was the point in saying all that? The teaching that these Galatians are falling into is the idea that they can be justified by the works of the old law, which is impossible according to Romans 3:20. The Judaizers are requiring that they be circumcised or submit to the old law but Paul says submitting to the old law and having Christ at the same time is an impossibility. And Paul verifies this by saying that the ones who attempt to be justified by the old law, Christ is become of no effect to you. The ASV says:Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; 


And then Paul goes on saying that the ones who are trying to be justified by the old law, you have fallen from grace. What does this last statement by Paul here mean? In order to find out a description of the grace they are falling from by attempting to be justified by the law, let's turn back in our Bibles to Galatians chapter 1 and read verses 3 and 6. 3Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, 6I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel Now in our introduction we talked about what the word grace means and Paul says that he MARVELS that they are so quickly turned away from him that called you “in the grace of Christ”. This phrase “the grace of Christ” is interpreted to mean the gospel of Christ just like it is used in Titus 2:11-12 by Paul which we have already read. And we also know this is the gospel because it is used in contrast to “a different gospel”. This statement by Paul, shows that the Galatians are really in the Grace of Christ  BUT if they complete the course they were currently on and go back to what the Judaizing teachers were wanting them to do, then THEY HAVE FALLEN FROM GRACE!! Paul says in past tense sentence:You HAVE become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you HAVE fallen from grace. This clearly teaches that a person may enter into the plan of Salvation offered by God , possess that salvation, and then lose or fall away from that salvation by going to a different plan. If one has obtained God’s saving grace through obedient faith and then return to the old way of being saved, can he still be saved through the gospel that Jesus brought? Certainly not. Paul clearly teaches that the Galatians would be severed from Christ when they tried to go back to the old law. Now let’s reasonably think about these words. First of all, in order to be severed, something must first be attached. That proves that they were apart of Christ or a christian through baptism (Galatians 3:27). So for instance, if we rewind to high school, I was 100% dependent upon my parents for money in order to buy gas and food and pay the one or two bills I had. If I disobeyed them to the point of leaving home and my dad sat me down and said “Son, you are cut off. We are severing you from any kind of help. And all the grace and love we have shown you and help we have offered you, you have completely fallen from.” Do you think that I would still receive any kind of help? Money? Contact? Anything???? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! It is as clear and obvious and Paul makes his point so clear that Calvinist will write entire chapters of books trying to disprove what Paul says. 



For the remainder of our time, in analyzing the doctrine of Once saved, Always saved, we will turn our Bibles over to Acts 8. Verses 9-13-9—— But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

This is a sermon that’s very familiar to all of us today and one that I think we should analyze in detail because in my personal opinion, this is one of the most convincing cases for an argument against preservation of the saints or eternal security. This man “Simon the sorcerer” or “Simon Magus” has a lot of people fooled in Samaria. Simon is what we would call nowadays a magician and the word “astonished” or “bewitched” carries with it the idea that Simon has simply amazed the people with his magic abilities. In fact, Simon is so good with his abilities that he become very egotistical and cocky and he honestly thinks he is someone that is great because the Bible says the people all gave heed to him. But this doesn’t last forever. Along comes Phillip into the town of Samaria and he is doing exactly what the Great Commission commanded. V. 12— 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.  J.W. McGarvey points out this: “the fact that the people without hesitation gave up their faith in Simon as the great power of God, and implicitly believed in what Phillip did and taught, can be accounted for only on the ground that there was such  difference between the tricks of sorcery and the miracles, that the people, even though completely deleted by the former, could plainly see, when once the two were placed side by side, that the latter were divine, and the former human.” And these miracles and teachings of Jesus were so powerful, that Simon himself, Gave up the sorcery and he also believed and was baptized according to Acts 8:13 which is direct parallel with what Mark 16:16 says.The bible then says in Acts 8:18-19—18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Keep in mind here that as a former magician, Simon was always looking to upgrade his arsenal. He saw the apostles perform these miraculous works and maybe had some deep thoughts to himself about was this would do for him in the long run and so with this, it prompted Simon to make an offer. He offered Peter and the apostles money so that he could have and use this power. What a terrible mistake. 

Acts 8:20-23–20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” 


Like All men, Simon tragically sins. He thinks that the power that the apostles have can be given to him and bought with money. But we see Peter’ response. “Your money perishes with you.” Perhaps today you have put aside some things in your life that you knew were and are wrong in order to be a christian. There are so many tempting things in this world. We live in an evil world full of pornography, filthy language, gambling, deceit, jealousy, fornication, laziness… but in order to become a christian, we set those things in our past. We raise of a new man out of baptism and walk a new path that has turned from wide to narrow. But. But often times we allow things to creep back into our lives. We do it once to fill that “void” in our life. And then again and again. Before long its a regenerated habit. How sad. 


For a time being, Simon put his old ways behind him and sorcery and self ambition and followed in the new ways he heard, believed, and was baptized into. Simon waded into the water and put to death his old man of sin and was raised up and new man. But like we so often do. Simon watched and waited and conspired in himself that if only he could have these miraculous powers then he could have attention, fame and great crowds following him too. But Simon misses the point. He lets his old, vile passions come back and he offers money for these powers if you will. Its truly a sad story if you think about it. So with this story outlined, Lets talk quickly about two different objections you might be presented with. 


Objection #1: Simon was never saved to begin with.


Response: First of all, there a huge difference in saying that a mans heart is not right with God and making the statement that it had NEVER been right with God. If Simon had not been sinner, but rather had merely faked his belief and been wrongly baptized, then the Apostle Peter would have never told Simon to “repent and pray so that thine heart may be forgiven you”. And Luke, who is an inspired writer, would have never told us that Simon believed and baptized if that was not true because these are the words of God, not Luke. (2 Timothy 3:16-17). These very commandments by Peter to repent and ray prove to us that Simon is indeed a Christian and that the way back to Christ is by what we would call the second law of pardon or forgiveness. I told you earlier that there are only two ways a man can be justified. Perfection or forgiveness. And since no man is perfect, here we find that by forgiveness is the way Simon must come back. And that is because he is already a christian. 

The life of Simon teaches us this:

  1. The difference between miracles of God and sorcery
  2. The kingdom of God is established
  3. A person needs to believe and be baptized in order to be saved
  4. Miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit are given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands
  5. A child of God can fall from Grace
  6. An erring Christian must repent and pray for the forgiveness of sins


 Objection #2: Once a Christian is saved, he is always saved, no matter what that person does. 


Response: According to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Simon the Sorcerer and countless other places we could go to in the Bible, this doctrine is simply not true. The Preservation of saints ideology is an easy, comfortable, effortless belief so therefore is has millions of followers. The Bible requires a man to not take an easy and comfortable path, but instead a narrow road. A road that difficult and uncomfortable and never self-satisfactory. Matthew 7:13-14—“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. What part of that verse says we can sin but it still be okay with God? Sin is Gods enemy and it is an abomination to him. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10—Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. The Bible teaches that in order for a person to receive this justification that we have talked about or this forgiveness, then there are conditions one must meet. Once a person has become a child of God, we are warned that we must be a faithful servant until the end. 


  • John 15:1-6—We must bear fruit or be cast off
  • Romans 8:12-17—We must live according to the spirit, not the flesh
  • Galatians 6:7-9—We must sow to the spirit, not the flesh
  • 1 Corinthians 9:27 & 10:12—We must control our bodies and avoid sinning like Israel sinned.
  • 2 Peter 2:18-22—It would have been better to have known the way of righteousness, than to having known it, and then to turn away from from the holy commandments


And I could name off many other places in which the bible teaches we are to live a faithful life full of service, mercy, care and benevolence toward people or else the Bible says we will be cast into outer darkness. When we look at scriptures today, we must look at them as a whole. The funny thing about arguments over different doctrines in that when we are talking to someone, they use this verse to prove their point and we use this verse to prove our point and that whole idea is wrong because the Bible is one harmonized book. It has zero contradictions. And this doctrine of Once saved, Always saved, does not look at the bible as a whole and if they do claim to do that, they say someone who sins was never saved in the first place. Do you honestly think Jesus chose 11 righteous disciples and 1 bad one in Judas? That is a wild idea to prove a wild point. It is impossible to to point to one verse and say that proves your point.


We need all of the Scriptures: for example, there was a man who Was going through a tough time in life and was on his knees begging God to show him what to do. And his friend told him man if you just open up your Bible and whatever scripture you point to that will be the answer to your problems in life and saw the man was so relieved that he could do this. And so he rushed home and he grabbed his Bible and he opened it up and he pointed to a scripture and it said “Judas went out and hung himself”. And so you see that we cannot just point to one scripture and have the answer but we have to look at all the scriptures for Answers.


In conclusion today, there is one other verse I want to take a look at. This is the same verse we read in our text, 

1 John 3:8-9—NKJV—So a lot of people will use what this verse says and say that a child of God cannot sin. Even someone who has been in the church for a pretty long time, I had to do a little bit of studying on this verse because on the surface, it seems as if this verse contradicts the other verses and stories we have talked about. The phrase “he cannot sit”.. Does this mean it is impossible for a child of God to sin? Certainly deserves an answer I’d say. I don’t want to bore you today with all the Greek that is involved in this phrase but the definition in the Greek does not mean impossibility but rather it denotes a mental inability. In Matthew 5:14, Mark 2:19, and Luke 11:7 show that the phrase cannot does not mean impossible. For instance if I asked someone here to come with me after this to rob a bank, you would say “No! I can’t do that!!” It doesn’t mean its impossible, but it just simply means you’re going to do everything you can to not do it. The phrase, “cannot sin” means that a person who is a child of God will not continue in or practice sinning. The NASB translates it like this: No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. Or the ESV: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.


The Bible is so clear in its principle. The old time belief of Eternal Security has so many flaws. We’ve seen the faults in it with the Galatians, Simon the Sorcerer, and with 1 John 3. But if you get nothing else out of today, I hope you get this: The truth of the matter is that there actually is eternal security. There is a preservation of the saints. And that the ones who are willing to live faithful until the end. The ones who set aside their jobs, their addictions, their desires and temptations and they serve the Lord day and night. The Lord is coming soon. We are living in the last little bit of light. Its so close and maybe you haven’t taken up the time to consider what its worth to you. But I can assure you, its worth your entire life!

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