Once saved, always saved?
In the New Testament, from the Gospels to Revelation, there are verses that indicate salvation is an ongoing process. (Note the use of the present continuous tense in many of the following verses.)
Furthermore, some New Testament verses show that we must continue to faithfully and fruitfully follow Jesus, and abide in him to the end of our lives, if we are to be included in the final stage of redemption. (Note the word “if” in some verses, which I’ve highlighted.)
I’ve written more about the ongoing process of salvation here: “Instant Christianity?”
… he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
At that time many will turn away from the faith … but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
They believe for a while but in the time of testing they will fall away.
Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.
By standing firm you will gain life.
If you remain in my word you are truly my disciples.
If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown in the fire and burned.
For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, if you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
… now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
1 Corinthians 1:18
For the word of the cross is … is the power of God to us who are being saved.
1 Corinthians 10:12
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.
1 Corinthians 15:2
By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death, to present you holy in his sight, without blemish, free from accusation if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…
1 Timothy 1:19
… holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these [instructions] and so have shipwrecked their faith.
1 Timothy 4:1
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits.
And we are [God’s] house if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first.
Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
… we want each of you to show that same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure…
For if we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries.
Hebrews 10:35-36, 39
So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. […] But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and are saved.
My brothers if one of you should wander from the truth …
1 Peter 1:3-5
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:8-9
Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 2:2
Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow up into your salvation …
2 Peter 2:20-21
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning …
2 Peter 3:17-18
Therefore dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our lord and Saviour Jesus Christ …
He who overcomes … I will never blot out his name from the book of life …
“Losing” versus “Rejecting” Faith in Jesus
Randy Alcorn cites some of these verses and also others that he believes speak against losing one’s salvation, here. However, I do not believe for one second that Jesus drives people away (John 6:37-40), that anyone can snatch us from the hand of Jesus (John 10:26-30), or that anything can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8), etc. These are some verses that Randy cites.
Nevertheless, some people who once followed Jesus, or claimed to have followed Jesus, do stop abiding in him. It’s up to us, not a third party or an external force, whether we faithfully and fruitfully abide in Christ and persevere to the end to receive the final instalment of the gracious gift of eternal life.