Tackling an entrenched doctrine for “serious Bible students” and others

Once Saved, Always Saved? (David Pawson)

BOOK REVIEW. 168 pages, Published 1996, Publisher Hodder and Stoughton.

This 1996 book explores the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. The general belief of once saved always saved is that when someone believes in Jesus, they can be assured of going to heaven and not hell. They cannot lose their salvation even if they lose their faith. Author of the book David Pawson says many evangelicals accept this view, but within that there is a spectrum of belief.

Pawson explains in the book that once saved always saved has its roots in the patriarchal period but is not what the early church taught. The focus there was more on salvation from sin.

From the early church to the church fathers, through the Middle Ages, and into the church reformation, to the revivals of the 18th century, Pawson has obviously plied careful research skills to provide an historical overview of the topic. As well, there are philosophical points of interest and practical concerns related to the topic, and two appendices. The last appendix is about the disciple Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Pawson makes comments and critique and through it all Pawson builds a clear and convincing case against once saved always saved.

It is as if an objective and clear mind considered the biblical evidence, as it is, to come to this conclusion. He does provide a most logical, sound thesis and makes weak the arguments for once saved always saved. He writes thoughtfully and readably, dispels myths and pet sayings, and relates the topic back to himself.

Teaching about hell in modern times has often been directed at non-Christians, but the original, apostolic outreach message was “Repent, believe and be baptized” and not hell, fire, and brimstone nor “once saved, always saved”, explains Pawson.

It is explained in the book well why putting one’s faith in Jesus is a continuing, ongoing thing which means not giving up and being holy because “without holiness no one will see Lord”. This is rather than assuming I’ll be all right and flag the faith.

David Pawson was a prominent Bible teacher and author of numerous books unpacking themes in the Bible and the contemporary evangelical church. He taught many church leaders in his itinerant ministry. The author of the book suspects that only serous Bible students will see the book through to the end, but this in no way diminishes his case, a case which is rock solid. Once Saved, Always Saved? A Study in Perseverance and Inheritance comes highly recommended.

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers.

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