Is Once Saved Always Saved Biblical?

21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

Colossians 1:23-25 (NASB95)

This passage raises one of the most controversial questions in all of Christian theology, and I am referring to verse 23 and the question of whether a Christian can lose his/her salvation. 

Verse 23 states that Christians have been reconciled so Jesus may present us to God “holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” Then, as if to make sure we don’t miss what is about to come next, there is a hyphen, followed by an “if”: “—if indeed you continue in the faith.”

To Protestants who have been raised on sermons filled with declarations of God’s grace and great love for us, that hyphen and “if” can seem like a turd in the theological punchbowl. It has caused TULIPS to become TULIS and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to write about “cheap grace.” Debate over the “if” has caused Presbyterians to become Baptists, and Baptists to become backslidden. It inevitably leads to a question: “If one must continue in the faith to be saved, does that mean one can lose one’s salvation?”

The answer to that question is, “Why are you asking?” 

If you are asking because you are afraid of sins you committed in the past after having been born again, the Bible is clear: He who has bathed need only to wash his feet, and his whole body is clean. John 13:10. If we are faithful to confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive. I John 1:9. 

If you are asking because you are planning on sinning and want to ensure you can do so without losing your salvation, it’s a good indication you have never been born again because Christians do not do such things, nor ask such questions. Romans 6:1-2.

Theologians consider the past, present, and future states of salvation. It’s their job. As a practical matter, though,  salvation is always a present experience. We live and breathe in the present, and we can only exercise faith in the present. Neither our faith in the past nor the future saves us in the present. Questions then about the past or future sufficiency of our faith are irrelevant.

The question is always a present one: Are you believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? GS

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