Is ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ Gnostic?

Old books © 2018 Simon Peter SutherlandIn my previous article on the historic anomaly of the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘ I suggested the popular doctrine, as it stands today, might have its origins in Gnosticism and not Scripture or early Christianity.

For many, any such claim is unthinkable and a plain denial of Scripture. But these types of beliefs are problematic, since there are between 60-80 verses in the New Testament which give distinct warnings to believers.

Scripture repeatedly tells believers to “abide” in Christ (John 15: 4, 6, 10, 1 John 2: 28) which makes little sense if it were impossible for believers to do otherwise.

Likewise, a person cannot abide somewhere they never were in the first place.

Can a person abide in Christ if he or she was never in Christ in the first place? Why then should should the believer be told to abide in Christ if they cannot do anything else?

The above verses and between 60-80 others including Romans 11: 22, Hebrews 10: 26, raise serious doubts concerning the authenticity of the doctrine.

Scripture is absolutely important and if a doctrine is not taught in Scripture, it does not belong in Christianity and no believer in any part of the world is obligated to believe it. But for all 5 point Calvinists and Calvinistic revisionists, the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘ is absolutely iron clad and Scripture itself. It is somewhat devilish, ignorant or evidence of a lack of faith for someone to deny or doubt it. Likewise, any attempt to cause people to re-think this, is pointless, because they have already made their minds up.

This is also the case for many evangelical’s who inconsistently embrace the doctrine, while affirming free will at the same time.  See my article on this.

There are some, who upon reading this post would probably have an attitude that says something like this; ‘I was reading this guy the other day who was trying to say that I can lose my salvation and that ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ is a Gnostic teaching…‘. They would utterly reject what I am saying without even reviewing the evidence.

Attitudes like that are extreme and immediately unreasonable and people like that are not worth reasoning with in my opinion, but they are a continuous problem.

But the question I am seeking to answer in this post is this: did the Gnostic’s teach ‘Once Saved Always Saved’? If so, was it the same doctrine as Calvinism or did their doctrines contain similarities with the modern ‘wishy washy’ version of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’?

To answer this, I am going to use six references from early Church father Irenaeus and his book ‘Against heresies‘ as my historic source. I will be reviewing the ancient Gnostic beliefs from his perspective and leaving the reader to compare them to the modern versions of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’.

  1. According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s claimed that Christians who did not follow their doctrines, believed in a salvation of works. Quote: “We of the Church, they say, are these persons. Wherefore also they maintain that good works are necessary to us, for that otherwise it is impossible we should be saved.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
  2. According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s taught that they would be entirely saved, not by works but because they were saved in the spirit. Quote: “But as to themselves, (Gnostic’s) they hold that they shall be entirely and undoubtedly saved, not by means of conduct, (works) but because they are spiritual by nature.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
  3. According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s claimed that they could not be corrupted or fall away from salvation, no matter what sins they did. Quote “so again it is impossible that spiritual substance (by which they mean themselves) should ever come under the power of corruption, whatever the sort of actions in which they indulged.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
  4. According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s addicted themselves to things forbidden in the Scriptures without any fear of judgement. Quote: “that the “most perfect” among them addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that “they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.(Gal 5:21).” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
  5. According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s had no issues eating foods sacrificed to idols. Quote: “For instance, they make no scruple about eating meats offered in sacrifice to idols.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
  6. According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s committed sexual immorality with no fear of judgement or with any remorse. Quote: “Others of them, too, openly and without a blush, having become passionately attached to certain women, seduce them away from their husbands, and contract marriages of their own with them.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)

I think there are some disturbing similarities between those Gnostic teachings and the modern versions of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’. I don’t see any distinct exactness between the Gnostic doctrine to proper Calvinism, but some could go to that extreme.

However, none of these references can be dismissed as Gnostic distortions of what was already taught in Scripture, because the warning passages in the New Testament, make little or no sense if ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ is true. It is an assumption to assume that because someone is saved, that they will always remain that way. A document can be saved, but that does not mean it cannot be deleted? A royal document can be sealed, but it does not mean it cannot be broken off by the King.

But questions remain; why didn’t the early Church fathers teach it? If the original Apostles taught the doctrine then why didn’t the early Church pick up on it since they followed the Apostles teaching very closely?

What is possible is that the early Gnostic’s did distort the New Testament texts used to affirm unconditional eternal security, and introduced the doctrine into Christianity by influence.

Gauffered edged Bible © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

Bible over Anti-Nicene fathers © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

It is fact that the early primitive Church never taught ‘Once Saved Always Saved’. But that does not mean that there is no truth to it. I believe that when a believer is absolutely saved, that he or she can never be lost, but it is an assumption to assume that all believers are fully saved right now. We await the return of Christ in order for salvation to be made complete. Just because a person is saved, it is an assumption to assume that they are fully saved. I say this because there are many things in Scripture that people are saved from. However, I can clearly see why people believe the doctrine as it stands, but it is an assumption to assume that God gives persevering faith to all believers. It is also an assumption to assume that what Paul wrote in Philippians 1: 6, is true for all believers. I say this because he never said the same thing to the Galatians.

It is furthermore an assumption to assume that the word “perish” used by Jesus in John 10: 27-29 is a reference to the eternal and it is also an assumption to assume that the promise refers to all believers of all generations. The context of John 10: 27-29 clearly refers to His people who were present at the time when Jesus said that.

It is my opinion that too many Christians today are guilty of making far too many assumptions. We put ourselves before the Biblical texts and read ourselves into them. It has become a rare thing to enquire into the minds of the original Apostles and seek to discover what the Biblical authors were intending to communicate.

What is clear is that too many people and preachers are busy feeding particular views into the Scriptures, things which preachers have already suggested prior to their guiding the thoughts of their listeners before quoting passages from the Bible. This, I’m afraid could well be the power of suggestion, thought control, and rhetorical persuasion.

Christians, “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1: 21) “Abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed of Him at His coming.” (1 John 2: 28)

  1. #1 by Alex Sanfilippo on May 1, 2018 - 10:37 PM

    Great post!!! Would you be interested in sharing it on DailyPS? We currently have a poll up asking Christian’s if they believe “Once Saved Always Saved” – I’d love to get some of your wisdom in the comments. It just went live today so we’re wanting to get some great content on it! Here’s a link:

    Thanks again for sharing!

  2. #3 by MithrandirOlorin on November 3, 2018 - 6:52 AM

    Actually it’s Eternal Damnation and Predestination that come from Manicheans and Plato via the arch Heretic Augustine.

    The Bible teaches Universal Salvation.

    • #4 by simon peter sutherland on November 4, 2018 - 9:42 PM

      Hello, thank you for your comment.

      In any historic claim or claims I make, I provide a source or sources to substantiate them. Could you please provide a source or sources for your claims.

      Thank you.

      • #5 by MithrandirOlorin on November 4, 2018 - 11:01 PM

        Origen and Methodius both wrote books defending the Doctrine of Free Will against the Manicheans. Augustine was a former Manichean who was the one that truly popularized Eternal Damnation.

      • #6 by simon peter sutherland on November 5, 2018 - 9:15 PM

        But there is a difference between the term “Free Will” and ‘Pelagianism’. Yes, some of the Church fathers believed in choice, but what they meant by those words may not necessarily mean the same thing as the ‘free will’ of Pelagius.

        Concerning “Eternal Damnation”. I deny that Augustine “was the one that truly popularized” it. It was written in Revelation 20: 10 centuries before Augustine of Hippo.

      • #7 by MithrandirOlorin on November 6, 2018 - 4:05 AM

        I don’t agree with Pelagius since he taught works and that some won’t be Saved.

        Revelation 20:10, if that’s the best verse eon the Subject to you, is about Satan not people. But also the Greek says “Age of Ages” no Eternal. Jesus explicitly defined Punishment as being Finite in Luke 12, Matthew 5 and Matthew 18.

      • #8 by simon peter sutherland on November 6, 2018 - 9:40 AM

        Agreeing or disagreeing with ‘Pelagius’ wasn’t really what I asked. Have you ever read Pelagius?

        Concerning Revelation 20: 10, and “Eternal Damnation” and your claim that ‘Pelagius’ “taught” “that some won’t be Saved.” Does that imply that you ‘believe’ in ‘Universal Salvation’?

      • #9 by MithrandirOlorin on November 6, 2018 - 4:00 PM

        We don’t actually have any full books of his.

        Yes, I believe what Paul taught in ROmans 5 and 11.

      • #10 by simon peter sutherland on November 6, 2018 - 10:09 PM

        I would recommend that you read the writings of a historic person before commenting on them.

        Paul taught many things in those passages, but to be more specific, could you confirm what you mean by your answer of “Yes” concerning my question “Does that imply that you ‘believe’ in ‘Universal Salvation’?”

        Let us be specific: By “Universal Salvation” would that mean you believe that the whole of humanity from the time of Adam to the end of the world will be saved? Or do you mean that ‘Christ died for all in a universal sense, that is every soul that has ever lived? Or are you saying that you believe no one will go to hell and that everyone who has ever lived will be in heaven?

        If you would clarify, we could begin.

      • #11 by MithrandirOlorin on November 7, 2018 - 12:00 AM

        I made a BLog post on Pleagius, I have looked into what little we have.

        Everyone Will be Saved, some will experience a “hell” to purify them.

      • #12 by simon peter sutherland on November 7, 2018 - 9:50 AM

        So you have made a blog post on “Pleagius” yet you have not read Pelagius?

        You say: “Everyone Will be Saved, some will experience a “hell” to purify them.” I deny ‘Universalism’ and state that that is false teaching. However, there are a few forms of that error, so the burden of proof is on you. Prove your theory from the Scriptures and I will respond!

      • #13 by MithrandirOlorin on November 8, 2018 - 5:31 AM

        Pelegius’ writing haven’t survived in full, I have read what there is to read.

        Ezekiel 16 says Sodom will be Restored. Jesus says in John 12 that He will Draw all men onto him. Paul says in ROmans 5 that everyone made Sinners by Adam will be Made Righteous in Christ, in ROmans 11 he says the Fullness of the Gentiles ill be brought into Israel then All Israel shall be Saved. And he says in 1 Timothy 2 that Will is the Save all and Jesus Died for All. 1 Timothy 4 says Jesus is the Savior of All “Especially” those that Believe. Revelation 21-22 has Sinner still existing outside New Jerusalem, but the Gates are never Closed.

      • #14 by simon peter sutherland on November 8, 2018 - 10:33 AM

        The Letters of Pelagius are still extant.

        Firstly you are not distinctly referring to any specific verse from which to understand the text in context. You are making reference to chapters, which you are thinking support your theories. Can you please be more specific with which actual texts you are referring to,

        1) Are you referring to Ezekiel 16: 53? If so, this either speaks about “fortunes” and restoration from captivity in their ancient lifetimes or it was fulfilled in Jerusalem, I say this because in Revelation 11: 8 Sodom is used to describe Jerusalem. Where is the reference to eternal salvation?

        2) In John 12: 32, the text does not imply that people cannot or will not resist grace or the offer of salvation and be damned.

        3) Romans 5: 18 does not speak about ‘universalism’, but the Saviour who died for all mankind. That does not even remotely imply that all mankind will be saved by determinism, with or without a person receiving the free gift.

        In verse 15 he says that “Jesus Christ abounded to many” he does not say all, as in 19, he says ‘many will be made righteous’. Neither of these verses imply or accurately support universalism.

        3) In Romans 11: 26 Paul wrote ‘all Israel will be saved’ he did not imply all of humanity but all Israel.

        4) In 1 Timothy 2: 3-4, the desire does not imply determism. This is speaking about a passive inclination, not an active determist will.

        5) 1 Timothy 4: 10 is speaking about Jesus being the Saviour of all mankind, in the sense that He died for them, it does not imply universalism in any sense. Just because He died for them does not mean that they will be saved.

        6) Where in Revelation 21-22 does it state a “Sinner still existing outside the New Jerusalem”? You are not providing any distinct reference? Are you referring to chapters 21 and 22? Or chapter 21: verse 22?

        In 2 Peter 3: 16, Peter warns against people twisting Paul’s letters to their own destruction. It seems to me that is what you are doing or that you are listening to false teachers.

        The Scriptures are clear on eternal damnation, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” Revelation 20: 15

      • #15 by MithrandirOlorin on November 8, 2018 - 1:47 PM

        1) is an utterly insane excuse, Jerusalem and Samaria are both explicitly Separate in Ezekiel 16. And Sodom had no “Captivity” it’s population was completely wiped out.

        2) A Free Gift isn’t Free if you need to do something else to receive it. I’m not a Determinist, I’m a true supporter of Free Will, God will not Kill people for Rejecting him.

        3) He said All Israel will be saved after saying all Non Israelites will become Israel.

        4) I believe an Omnipotent God will Get what He Wants.

        5) If someone Jesus Died for isn’t Saved then Jesus in vain.

        1 Peter 3 and 4 tells us that Jesus Preached The Gospel to those who rejected Noah in Sheol.

        The Lake of Fire is the Baptism of The Holy Spirit.

      • #16 by simon peter sutherland on November 8, 2018 - 5:05 PM

        1) Wrong. It is actually Sodom and Samaria as the verses 46, 53, 55 describe. I see no insanity or excuses in what I have written. So I repeat: “Where is the reference to eternal salvation?”

        2) A free gift is always a free gift, even if it is resisted. A free gift means the person did not have to pay for it or earn it. But to receive it, is essential if the person is to attain or have it. If I sent you a free gift of a Bible and you didn’t accept it, would my gift be any less free?

        2) You are indeed a determist and your theories claim that God will eternally save all, regardless even of belief or cooperation. That’s absolute none sense.

        2) How can you support ‘free will’ and claim that all mankind will be eternally saved? If man has ‘free will’ then he has the ‘free will’ to “Abide” in Christ or apostatize’.

        2) You claim that “God will not Kill people for Rejecting him.”. Who is talking about killing people? Are we not writing concerning the theme of the eternal punishment you do not believe in?

        Has God not killed people? Did He no kill those who did not obey His call to repent during the days of Noah?
        Did He not kill Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5: 1-11)

        Which God are you talking about?

        3) Explain further, with detail. Clarify your position. Do you believe in ‘replacement theology’?

        4) So you believe in a God who “will Get what He Wants”. So what? Your beliefs are not final or authoritative. Neither you nor anyone else is an apostle or an authority. The Bible is the only authority. But you do not believe that Bible.

        5) Not at all. Why would His death be in vain just because some foolish sinners reject Him?

        6) You wrote: “The Lake of Fire is the Baptism of The Holy Spirit.”. That is absolute none sense. The “Lake of Fire” is mentioned only in Revelation 19: 20, 20: 10, 20: 14, 20: 15 and none of those references say “ The Lake of Fire is the Baptism of The Holy Spirit”

        Where on earth are you getting your false teaching from? Your beliefs are very unorthodox and not accurate to the Bible. Your claims are false and certainly not Christian. They are heavily revisionist and apostate.

  3. #17 by Jeff on January 26, 2021 - 7:54 PM

    You just ruined my chances at salvation. Im utterly numb and dead in the heart. I cannot feel sorrow or even feel bad at all for sin. I an literally incapable of repentance. OSAS was litteraly my last and final hope. And here you go smashing it into dust. Knowing there’s so many blatant and obvious strings attached to the so-called “free gift” of salvation, I cannot trust God anymore. I hope you fall away and burn in Hell.

    • #18 by simon peter sutherland on January 27, 2021 - 4:09 PM

      On the contrary: There is only one sin that leads to death (1 John 5: 16-17)

      “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4: 16)

  4. #19 by Jessa Salaum on January 28, 2021 - 2:35 PM

    Thanks for this, this can help me in my school requirement.

  1. Why I once believed in ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ | Simon Peter Sutherland
  2. Why I once believed in ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ | Enjoying Theology

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