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John 3:16 - does it support 'once saved, always saved' doctrine?

One of the most recognized and memorized Bible verses in the world is John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Many non-Christians will be familiar will this passage – however, its familiarity can lead to us missing things. The whole of John 3 is a fantastic summary of the gospel but there are assumptions in mainstream evangelical Christianity that are very dangerous. One of these is the ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine that is promoted by many churches – this states that if you have made a profession of faith at some point in your life, you are saved no matter what you believe for the rest of your life. We have blogged on this before as there is a multitude of Bible passages that teach the believer needs to endure to the end to be assured of salvation, but there is also a hint of this in the Bible verse above that can be easily missed. Here is the verse above in the Greek:

οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ᾽ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. (Joh 3:16 BGT, emphasis added)

The verb πιστεύων (in bold) means ‘to believe’, or ‘have faith’ or to be ‘convinced of’. In this verse, the verb comes as a participle and is in the present active form. This suggests that belief spoken of here is something that needs to continue to be exercised in order to have everlasting life – in other words, he who ‘continues to believe’ will have everlasting life. It’s not something you do once and then forget about – you have to continue to actively engage in the ‘belief’ to be a partaker in the reward – the obvious implication is that if you stop believing in Jesus, you forfeit the everlasting life that is spoken off. Saying something like this is tantamount to blasphemy in some Christian circles but it appears to be what the text implies.

Having said this, it is essential to point out that the Bible is absolutely crystal clear in reassuring believers that no-one can snatch their salvation away from them – however, this is very different from a person who becomes saved and then at some point in the future consciously makes a decision to walk away from Christ. We have to exercise ‘free will’ to repent of our sins in order to be saved in the first place. God never forces His way into our lives – would God forcibly stay in the life of someone who wanted Him out? Of course not! We do not surrender ‘free-will’ when we are saved – we have to continue to willingly walk with God and exercise our faith in order to produce fruit – there are many parables that explain this.

The big question for each of us is this: Are we continuing to exercise faith in Jesus Christ? If the answer is no, there is a problem and now is the time to re-commit and actively walk with the Lord!

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:23)


2 Responses to John 3:16 – does it support ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine?

  • My name is Alan Finch. I became a Christian 42 years ago.
    A Christian’s Eternal Security and a Christian’s Salvation do not have the same Biblical meaning. This lack of Biblical understanding on such a “VITAL” Biblical issue has been responsible for much confusion among Christians.
    A Christian cannot lose their Eternal Security. However, a Christian can lose their eternal reward of ruling & reigning with Christ.
    The great tragedy of the Church today, is the lack of understanding in the true meaning of to Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. The meaning of those words recorded in the New Testament of the Bible goes much deeper than just acknowledging that we are sinners and asking JESUS to come into our heart.
    The true meaning for us to understand is that a person must commit themselves to the Lord. And it even goes deeper than that. It means to commit one’s self to the Lord continually. In the Bible that is God’s description of a faithful servant.
    There is a lack of understanding in the Church today of what a person is actually being saved from when they accept the gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ
    The traditional teaching of the Church today teaches that when a person accepts the gift of Salvation that they are being saved from the judgment of “eternal torment” in “hellfire.” However, the “Scriptures” teach that when a person accepts the gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ, it is not the judgment of “eternal torment” in “hellfire” that they are being saved from, but it is the future Great White Throne Judgment of having to go through the process of the refining FIRE of God’s Spirit for the purpose of divine purification that they are being saved from.
    I have written an article that over the course of 4 years there always seems to be something more to add to the article. In the article that I have written, which has now grown to 26 pages, I have done a very detailed and in-depth Scriptural study on the contents that are contained in the article.
    If anyone would like a copy of the article in it’s original Word Document Format, feel free to e-mail me and request a copy.
    ………. What is the “GOOD NEWS” of the Gospel of Christ? ……….
    (Re-examining the widely held belief of “eternal torment” in “Hellfire”)

    • I have a pastor friend teaching salvation can be lost due to continued sinning. I mentioned Eph. 2-89 also Heb. 10-16. I was shocked at his stance.

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