Gospel Guidebook: Getting and Keeping It Right  

Proof of "Once Saved Always Saved" and "Free Grace" in Luke 8:12-13

Analysis of Luke 8:12-13

The parable of the sower is mainly concerned with the types of ground (i.e., the heart of man) that can and cannot bear fruit when sown with seed (i.e., the Word). However, while explaining the parable, Jesus gave us some very useful extra information on salvation. In this article, we will examine this information.

Let's take a look at the words of Jesus when he was explaining the parable of the sower in Luke 8:12: Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. In this passage, Jesus is telling us that "those by the way side" would have been saved if they believed. Also, by saying this, He is implying that the rest of the people in the parable (represented by the rocky ground, thorny ground, and good ground) did believe and become saved. For example, in Luke 8:13, He says, "They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away." These people did believe, and thus according to Luke 8:12, they were saved.

In Luke 8:13, we have an example of saved people who actually stopped believing and fell away. Many people will say that these people "lost their salvation" because they did not continue believing and failed to bear fruit. However, people who say this are contradicting Jesus. For starters, Jesus said the only thing required to be saved was "belief" (8:12), not bearing fruit. Second, in the Greek, Jesus uses the anarthrous (i.e., lacking the definite article) form of the aorist participle for the word "believe" and the aorist subjunctive for the word "save." Grammatically speaking, this combination of verb tenses is very informative. The aorist tense views an act or state as punctiliar (i.e., point in time), as opposed to durative (i.e., ongoing). The use of the aorist participle for "believe" in Luke 8:12 means that Jesus is referring to an inceptive act of belief (as opposed to ongoing belief) that appropriates salvation. In other words, a person is saved the moment he or she believes, regardless of how long that belief lasts. Furthermore, the aorist subjunctive for "save" speaks of a resultant punctiliar state that is viewed a single whole without reference to it being complete or incomplete. However, lexically speaking, "salvation" by its very nature refers to a completed state. It is impossible to be "saved" and yet still be in danger of being "unsaved." In other words, a person is either "saved" or "unsaved." There is no middle ground. Therefore, lexically speaking, we know the "save" in Luke 8:12 refers not to a "process of salvation" (which would still be in the realm of an unsaved state) but to a "completed state of salvation" that is appropriated by a single moment of belief. As a result, we know that the people in Luke 8:13 were still saved despite falling away.

The fate of believers who fall away

The unfaithful and unfruitful lives of the people in Luke 8:13 will result in their works being burned up at the judgment of seat of Christ, but they themselves will continue being in a saved state (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). They will enter the kingdom of heaven, but they will not have an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven (Ephesians 5:5). They will live with Christ, but they won't reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:11-12a). Since they denied Christ, Christ will deny them as His co-heirs (2 Timothy 2:12b, Romans 8:17). They stopped believing in Christ, but Christ remains faithful to them (2 Timothy 2:13). They are in God's "great house," but instead of being vessels of gold and silver to honor, they show themselves to be vessels of wood and clay to dishonor (2 Timothy 2:20). They received life, but missed out on the abundant life (John 10:10).

According to the parable of the sower, there are four types of people. Three of them (represented by the rocky ground, thorny ground, and good ground) become saved. However, only people who are represented by the good ground actually bear fruit. According to my current understanding, it is these people who represent those who will reign with Christ in His kingdom. And it should not surprise us that there will be many people in the kingdom who do not get to reign. If everyone in a kingdom reigns, there would be a lack of people to reign over. Not everyone can reign. There needs to be plenty of common citizens. And it is these common citizens that are represented by the rocky ground and thorny ground in the parable. Of course, even common citizens in God's kingdom are like kings and noblemen compared to those who are excluded from the kingdom (i.e., those who are represented by the seed that falls by the way side, as well as other people who don't get saved during this life).

The Armininian perspective

People who talk about "losing one's salvation" really need to think through what they are saying. As I mentioned above, the whole idea that someone can be "saved" while still being in danger of becoming "unsaved" is just not logical. "Being saved" by its very nature refers to being protected from harm or some dire situation. If a person is still in harm's way or still faces the danger of the dire situation, that person cannot be said to be saved. Such a person may be trying to get saved or in the process of being saved, but he does not actually enter a state of "being saved" until the potential for "being unsaved" is eliminated. When a person is saved from the judgment of the lake of fire (John 5:24) it means that he or she is no longer in danger of being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). If a person still faces the potential of being cast into the lake of fire, it is only because he or she hasn't yet been saved from the judgment of the lake of fire. Therefore, when people talk about the possibility of "losing one's salvation," they are basically saying that they themselves are still unsaved because they still face the potential of "losing salvation" if they fail to "endure to the end," "bear fruit," or fulfill some other condition. They may be working to become saved or think they are in the process of being saved, but until they actually become safe and secure with no potential of "losing salvation," they remain within the realm of the unsaved. Now, while I personally believe that many of these people who talk about "losing salvation" are actually saved, I do think they are seriously confused about many aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Reformed perspective

Proponents of Reformed theology will object and say something like: "A person cannot lose his salvation. The fact that the people in Luke 8:13 fell away actually proves that they were 'insincere believers,' and thus they were never truly saved to begin with." However, this line of reasoning also contradicts the words of Jesus. Again, Jesus used the anarthrous form of the aorist participle for the word "believe" to indicate that it is the inceptive act of believing that appropriates salvation for a person. This means that a person is saved the moment he or she believes regardless of whether he or she continues to believe. So, when Jesus says in Luke 8:13 that they "believe for while," He is essentially saying that they had "that belief" (i.e., the "belief" He just mentioned in Luke 8:12). Their belief didn't last long, but they did have it, and all it takes is a moment of belief to appropriate salvation. If they were in fact "insincere believers," then Jesus wouldn't have been able to say that they believed. Rather, he could have easily said they were "false brothers" (Galatians 2:4) or they had "feigned faith" (cf. Luke 20:20). Jesus said plainly they "believe," but many people, not content with the words of Jesus, change this to "believe [insincerely]." By doing this, these people show themselves to be unbelievers of the Word. Again, while I personally believe that many of these people who condemn others and speak of "insincere belief" are actually saved, I do think they are seriously confused about many aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


By writing these types of articles, I always face the risk of being accused of telling people that it is okay to "live like the devil." However, this accusation is not true. As I have tried to show above, there are dire consequences when believers "live like the devil." Those consequences do not impact a believers eternal security, but they could result in severe temporal punishment and chastisement from the Lord, such as sickness or premature death (1 Corinthians 11:30-32), and significant loss of rewards in heaven, such as receiving an inferior social status compared to other believers (2 Timothy 2:11-20). There is no doubt that these types of believers will have deep regrets at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). In Galatians 6:7-8, the Apostle Paul says, "7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for wwhatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." "Reaping everlasting life" refers to the abundant life that Jesus spoke of in John 10:10. It is one thing to receive life, as good as it is, but it is another thing altogether to experience abundant life. The Apostle Paul also makes mention of this in 2 Timothy 2:10: "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." Again, it is one thing to receive salvation, as good as it is, but it is another thing altogether to receive salvation with eternal glory. This is why the Apostle Paul admonishes us again and again to strive for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Philippians 3:13-17). This is exactly what he means when he tells us to work out our salvation with "fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).