Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 8, 1955
NUMBER 18, PAGE 5,11c

Can A Saved Man Be Lost?

Thomas Allen Robertson, San Bernardino, California

A very popular idea in the religious world today is that once a man is saved, it is impossible for him to so sin as to be finally lost in hell. This teaching is often expressed as, "Once saved, always saved." It is clearly set forth in the creeds of most churches, from two of which we will give quotations:

"We believe the Scriptures teach that such men as are truly regenerate, being born of the Spirit, will not utterly fall away and perish, but will endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." (Hiscox's Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, p. 67.)

"They whom God hath accepted in His beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of Grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved." (Presbyterian Confession of Faith, Chapter XVII, See. I.)

In discussing this question we must constantly keep in mind that we are not discussing God's ability to save. The Bible has numerous statements concerning God's power and ability to deliver the faithful out of temptation. Our question is: Is there anything man can do to cause him to be lost? Is man a free moral agent after his conversion? Or, once saved, is his volition removed from him so that he must be saved regardless of his desire or condition?

No Condemnation

One of the standard "proof-texts" of those who teach the impossibility of apostasy is Romans 8:1, wherein Paul declares, "There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." To many people that short statement seems to be all they can see in the passage. But a reading of the entire section will reveal clearly the ones to whom Paul said there is "no condemnation." He writes, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8:1-4.)

The passage teaches that there is "no condemnation" to a certain class of people, who are (1) in Christ Jesus, and who (2) walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Unto such a person there is no condemnation at all. It is impossible for a child of God, who walks not after the flesh but after the Spirit, to be lost in hell.

Concerning Faith

This whole question can be reduced to one simple study: Can one who believes in God, believes the truth, lose that faith, and therefore subject himself to damnation? Those who follow the teachings of the two creeds we have quoted contend that it is impossible for a man who has once believed to lose his faith. But consider the following from the word of God:

II Timothy 2:17-18: "And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some." Can a man be saved with an "overthrown" faith?

I Timothy 1:19: "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck." Can a man be saved with a "shipwrecked" faith?

I Timothy 4:1: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." Notice that Paul did not say depart from "their faith" but from "the faith." One can not depart from "the faith" if he has never been in the faith. Those who teach the impossibility of apostasy would force eternal salvation upon that man who was once in the faith, but who departed from it and gave heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.


The evidence that a man can fall away and be finally lost is very plainly set forth in the Bible. Paul said, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." (I Cor. 10:12.) To the Galatians who were trying to go back under the law of Moses he wrote, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." (Gal. 5:4.) In the same book Paul declares, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." (Gal. 6:1.) If a child of God cannot fall away, to what was the man of this passage to be "restored"? The same truth is taught by James: "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." (James 5:19, 20.) In these passages, and many of like teaching, we see that it is indeed possible for one to err from the truth, and come to the point that he needs to be "restored" or "converted" from his error.

Those who teach the impossibility of apostasy often quote Psalm 37:23, 24, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand." This is certainly a clear statement of truth, and must be understood in harmony with another statement, equally clear, which Paul made in II Thessalonians 2:3, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed." Men need to learn the difference between "falling" and "falling away." A man might be climbing a mountainside and fall many times as he proceeds up its slopes. As long as he does not "fall away" from the mountain he can continue to climb and finally reach the summit. If, however, he completely loses contact with the mountain, and "falls away" over a cliff into the depths of a great canyon, he will not reach the summit. Now it is possible for a man to go along in his service of God, stumble, fall, and rise again to continue his journey. But if that man "falls away" from God, renounces the faith he has once cherished, God has nothing else to bring him to repentance. He has seen the goodness of God, the gift of His Son, and has totally rejected God's love. That man shall certainly be lost. This is Paul's teaching in Hebrews 6:4-6. If a man will repent, God can save him; if he will not repent, he is eternally doomed. And notice that the man is one who has fully partaken of the blessings and benefits of the gospel of Christ. He was a saved man — and was lost. Yes, a "saved" man can be lost. The Bible is clear on this point.