There are many ways in which the devil seeks to deceive men. He tries to get those who are forgiven of their sins to forsake the Lord by promising them freedom. This is very often pushed on us in the area of morality (2 Pet. 2:18-22). Instead of freedom, we get slavery.
Another way Satan subtly sneaks up on us is through false doctrine. He is especially successful at getting men to think they are saved, when in fact they are not. Among the denominations it is popular to believe in faith-only salvation. This is contrary to God’s word (Jas. 2:24; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 10:9-13). Frequently there is a “twin” doctrine of demons accompanying this, perseverance of the saints; more commonly known as once saved always saved.
This destructive doctrine is like others, built on half-truths and outright lies. Its popularity stems from its delusional comfort.
There are several passages used to prop up once saved always saved. Ephesians 1:13 is used to show that a Christian is “sealed” by the Holy Spirit. The interpretation is that “sealed” is the same idea of having a sealed vault or sealed jar. However, “sealed” can carry other meanings. For instance, Jesus had the seal of God the Father (Jn. 6:27). Jesus was approved by God. He did what God willed and therefore had His seal. When a Christian does what the Holy Spirit directs, the Christian has the seal of the Holy Spirit; spiritually stamped, if you will.
The same truth is conveyed in Romans 8:16, 17 where Paul said, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with your spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” How does the Spirit bear witness? Simply look at the work of the Holy Spirit; revelation and confirmation of the truth (Jn. 16:13; Mk. 16:20). The miracles of the Holy Spirit were secondary to the revelation of the gospel. His work, in this context, is chiefly the New Testament. In it He bears witness of what it takes and who it is to be a Christian. When we do what He says, our spirit is giving testimony that we believe and accept the way to be God’s child. Hence, His Spirit bears testimony with our spirit.
Another passage often cited to support the deceit of once saved always saved is John 10:27-29. The argument goes that a Christian will never lose salvation because the Father prevents it. That is not what the passage says. Rather, Jesus said His followers are those who “hear” His voice and “follow” Him. One can quit hearing the truth (2 Tim. 4:2-5). One can also quit following the Lord (Jn. 6:66). If those who “hear” and “follow” Jesus are His sheep, then those who do not hear or follow Him are not His sheep. Besides, John 10:27-29, says that “no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” This is a far cry from that person voluntarily leaving the Father. As long as a Christian is faithful, walking in truth, it is true that no one, even Satan, can take him away from the Father. However, if a Christian buys into the deceit of the devil he has left the safety of the Father’s hand. One cannot walk in darkness and be in fellowship with God (1 Jn. 1:5-10).
Further, there are many passages that explicitly teach saints can fall from grace. Those who seek to be justified by a means other than the gospel will fall and be severed from Christ (Gal. 5:1-4). Paul warns Christians to beware lest they fall (1 Cor. 10:12). How can he warn against what is not possible? The warning is because it is possible. In 2 Peter 2:18-22, the whole point is that some who were saved are no longer saved; they returned to sin and Satan.
Finally, consider these two scriptures. “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble” (2 Pet. 1:10). “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). What on earth do these passages mean if not that a Christian’s salvation is not irrevocably given? We are plainly told to keep working, stay at it, don’t give up or walk away. If we do, we will go to hell.
The destructive, damnable deceit of the devil is powerful. He allures people away from the Lord by making them feel secure in Him. This is some of the most difficult error to overcome because people think they are saved and do not want to consider they are lost. We need to do what we can to counteract this lie with the truth of God.
— Steven F. Deaton