I have often heard pastors, internet preachers especially, repeat that, "We did nothing to earn our salvation and there is nothing that we can do to lose it" or something to that effect. These are generally pastors who accept the doctrine of eternal security or Once Saved Always Saved.

I believe we can agree that our first parents, who were in a state of original justice, had done nothing to earn that initial state and that it was a gift of God by virtue of his perfect creation. But if they had done nothing to earn their state of justification before the fall, how is it that they could lose it?

I'm scoping this question to those who accept Once Saved Always Saved and believe in the historicity of Adam and Eve as the original parents of the human race.

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    I think this is a good question.
    – user3961
    Sep 16, 2016 at 0:07
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    Just so you know, any decent answer to this question is going to have to challenge your assumptions, because "OSAS" believers do not see Adam as needing justification prior to the fall. He was righteous then; and not having ever sinned, he had no need to be justified, and thus did not "lose justification". Sep 16, 2016 at 1:29
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    I"m pretty sure that their original state was one of fellowship with God. They did the one thing that broke the fellowship: disobedience. This breakage is true of any fellowship where we wrong the other party. It's not that hard to understand.
    – Steve
    Sep 16, 2016 at 4:34
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    Marc, I drew the fellowship idea from God walking in the garden and calling out to them. They hid themselves; sin had broken THAT fellowship. This is what threw me about your post: you are talking about justification when it does not appear that early in the Bible. So I went back to basics. "Don't eat of the tree." They did; so they were expelled. I don't think I'm oversimplifying it. I"m just not aware of them having or losing justification in this account of Genesis. Perhaps they were innocent, not justified?
    – Steve
    Sep 16, 2016 at 13:01
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    I think there's a problem with the premise of this question. Salvation applies to someone who is guilty of sin. Prior to the fall, the need for salvation didn't exist. As such, Adam and Eve weren't saved to begin with, they were righteous initially, then they sinned, then they required salvation. "Once saved, always saved" doesn't apply here. Sep 17, 2016 at 19:09

3 Answers 3


Reformed Protestant theology, which includes the doctrines of justification by faith alone and the perseverance of the saints (the inability to lose said justification) regard salvation to be necessary for mankind as a result of the sin of our "first parents".

That is to say, Adam and Eve did not receive "salvation" nor were they "justified" before the fall, because justification refers to the forgiveness of transgressions and the restoration of right standing with God, and salvation refers to that from the wrath of God that results from sin and is accomplished solely by the atoning work of Messiah. Adam and Eve did not "lose" salvation by their sin- they had not received salvation because before their sin, there was no condemnaiton from which they required salvation and no atoning sacrifice was called for. Likewise, they had not been justified because they, unlike their descendants, were not in a state where they were separated from God because of sin but alternatively already occupied the very state of perfection to which justification restores the sinner.

From Luther's commentary on Genesis 3:

In the preceding chapter [of Genesis], we were taught the manner in which man was created on the sixth day; that he was created in the image and after the likeness of God, that his will was good and perfect, and that his reason or intellect was also perfect, so that whatsoever God willed or said, that man also willed, believed and understood... Universal experience indeed shows us all these calamities [caused by the fall]; but we never feel the real magnitude of them until we look back to that unintelligible but real state of innocency, in which there existed the perfection of will, the perfection of reason and that glorious dignity of the nakedness of the human body. When we truly contemplate our loss of all these gifts and contrast that privation with the original possession of them, then do we, in some measure, estimate the mighty evil of original sin...

Wherefore, as I said, let us never extenuate, but rather magnify that mighty evil, which human nature has derived from the sin of our first parents; then will the effect he that we shall deplore this our fallen state and cry and sigh unto Christ our great Physician, who was sent unto us by the Father for the very end that those evils, which Satan has inflicted on us through sin, might by him be healed, and that we might be restored unto that eternal glory, which by sin we had lost.

To utilize Luther's analogy, salvation and justification are the forms of healing and results of the treatment of our Divine Physician, Jesus Messiah. Before the fall, Adam and Eve were not saved or justified, but they were perfectly healthful in both the physical and spiritual sense, not yet requiring the work of that Physician until after sin had inflicted upon them its grave injury.

So, to say that Adam and Eve lost salvation or justification in the manner of speaking meant by the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints or to ask how such were lost is to commit a categorical error. It is only after the fall that the human race needed to be saved from the incurred wrath and restored into right standing with God.

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    So, what I am calling a "Just standing", you are calling "Healthful relationship". Now, in order to fall from that relationships, would you agree with Birdie above who suggest that they were in a Covenant of works? I ask, because they had broken a comandment of God, which means that they were under what has also been refered to as a Deal with God. Your answer does not address covenant theology as the other answers and comments do, is it separate from that or is Covenant by Works to be understood in your answers?
    – Marc
    Sep 21, 2016 at 16:53
  • @Marc If you want to know if Protestants that ascribe to the perseverance of the saints teach that Adam was under a covenant of works, that should be a separate question- it's a much better question anyway.
    – Andrew
    Sep 22, 2016 at 2:11

The underpinnings of this answer depend on the theology of two covenants. Adam and Eve were originally under a covenant of works. This is to say, that God made an agreement with them that, as long as they obeyed Him perfectly, they would be saved. When they broke this covenant by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they thus lost the part of the deal promising them life. See Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology, the chapter on the Covenant of Works, for more details.

Adam and Eve, up until the fall, were saved by their works, not by faith in Jesus Christ to be their righteousness. AFTER the fall, they were saved by faith in Jesus Christ when God gave them the second covenant (the covenant of grace). Under this covenant, a coming seed (Jesus Christ) would crush the head of the serpent. See Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology, the section on Man in the Covenant of Grace, for more details.

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    Did they work to receive their initial justification? No they did not, that was a Grace of God. If they initially recieved their Justification by the Grace of God, which they did, how could they have lost it when they did no work to recieve it in the first place. Also, the Adamic Covenant was not a Covenant of works, that comes later, the Adamic Covenant was one of Sonship, where our first Parants shared in the devine life, their nature, after the fall, lossing that devine life. I await some sources taht explain this answer.
    – Marc
    Sep 16, 2016 at 0:38
  • 1. I don't think God made a "Deal" with Adam and Eve. 2. There have been more than two Covenants 3. Adam & Eve were not in a Covenant of Works Righteousness in any way. 4. Crushing the head of the Serpent only became neccessary when they lost the Free Gift of Righteuosness they recieved when God Poured out his creation. 5. They didn't make an agreement with the All Mighty, they already had Paradise, they did not need to be saved. That's why I down voted this.
    – Marc
    Sep 18, 2016 at 13:57
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    Added sources, sorry for the delay. Berkhof has further sources within his text which I didn't bother re-supplying. @Marc this is the standard Reformed position on the subject, with the Reformed "camp" being the main group that supports Once Saved Always Saved (e.g. Five points of Calvinism). You may disagree with the position but if the answer is correct then you shouldn't downvote it. I often disagree with answers I see but they are correct summations of particular schools of thought, so I still upvote them, even if I strongly disagree with the conclusion.
    – Birdie
    Sep 18, 2016 at 22:26
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    I have removed my down vote, sources being provided. You are correct, my disagreement should not effect my vote and it didn't. Your sources are valid for your beliefs. I also had a problem with quotations not being added, but when I read the sources I realized, ther was no way to explain it with a few short quotes. There is a level of complexity needed to understand your sources. The position is that we were not created in a condition of Divine Grace, but one of Works Righteousness. I heartily disagree with this position, I prefer the orthodox understanding of Devine Sonship in Adam.
    – Marc
    Sep 19, 2016 at 13:12

I believe we can agree that our first parents, who were in a state of original justice, had done nothing to earn that initial state and that it was a gift of God by virtue of his perfect creation. But if they had done nothing to earn their state of justification before the fall, how is it that they could lose it?

Short answer: they welched on the deal.

As @Nathaniel pointed out in his comment:

... any decent answer to this question is going to have to challenge your assumptions, because "OSAS" believers do not see Adam as needing justification prior to the fall. He was righteous then; and not having ever sinned, he had no need to be justified, and thus did not "lose justification".

It does not follow that Adam and Eve earned the gift of their life as created beings, and the gift of their time in the Garden. As your question suggests, their creation was itself a gift from God. In due course, they came to be in a covenant relationship with God and then lost some of those gifts due to their breaking of that covenant relationship.

Using the source that @Birdie provided, I offer a similar but differently organized answer, and also challenge the frame of Adam and Eve's initial condition being as stated -- a state of justification or a state of grace -- on the basis of a Covenant theological approach. That approach is explained in Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof. Just because Grace is a gift from God does not mean that receiving a gift establishes you in a state of Grace.

Detailed Answer

  1. It started so well. They had life in the Garden and all was good.

    • The original state of Adam and Eve was the state of life, a state of being which preceded any condition of death or sin. Berkhof points out that this is implied in Scripture by the covenant relationship presented in Genesis, wherein if they two were obedient (obedience ~ Covenant of Works) they would continue in the condition of life. Using a simple "If-Not-P-Then-Q" style of reasoning, Scripture shows that if they don't obey, then they die. Since death did not exist for them before their disobedience, life at that point was by default eternal.

    • The condition of life precedes death arriving as a possibility for them

    • Their original condition was life.
    • Their obedience fulfilled the Covenant of Works established between God and them by God. (Key point: God established the covenant.)
    • The condition of obedience goes hand-in-hand with the condition of (eternal) life while they maintained their covenant relationship. Their obedience continued until they ate the fruit of that tree.
  2. To not be obedient is to earn death. That is a promise from God. God keeps his promises.

    Genesis 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

  3. Once disobedience was chosen by tasting of the tree's fruit, God's promise came true. Death entered the human condition, which it had not until disobedience was chosen. I harp on this point because death is the opposite of their original condition -- life -- which was eternal life.

  4. The Covenant of Grace only became necessary as a result of the new state of being where death is now part of the human condition. Berkhof addresses the linkage between the two covenants that cover humans (Works/Grace) in the Covenant of Redemption. Jesus, who is obedient to God (as Adam should have remained), provides the way back to (eternal) Life and in so doing overcomes death (The wages of sin is death, etc). Jesus' own "covenant of works" is characterized by complete obedience to God (the Father).

The covenant of redemption may be defined as the agreement between the Father, giving the Son as Head and Redeemer of the elect, and the Son, voluntarily taking the place of those whom the Father had given Him. It only applies to the believers through Jesus Christ.

Berkhof points out that as theology developed, the theology on the Covenant of Grace preceded the theology on the Covenant of Works. Once all of the figuring out was done by theologians, the Covenant of Works was logically placed as having come first. Jesus ties it all together.

As the last Adam Christ obtains eternal life for sinners in reward for faithful obedience, and not at all as an unmerited gift of grace. And what He has done as the Representative and Surety of all His people, they are no more in duty bound to do. The work has been done, the reward is merited, and believers are made partakers of the fruits of Christ’s accomplished work through grace.

To sum up:

  1. The initial condition of Adam and Eve is one of life.

  2. The Covenant of Works established by God was not adhered to by the other party.

  3. Death entered the human condition.

  4. God established a covenant of redemption with Jesus.

  5. The covenant of grace operates through Jesus to overcome death, and to return to the original condition, eternal life, for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

From all of the above, we can be comfortable concluding that Grace wasn't necessary until the Fall and its consequences. Ample gifts had already been given from the beginning, irrespective of Grace, and a chance to keep the gifts through obedience. (Per Genesis).

Disclaimer: a profound apology to any of our Reformed participants here if I have made errors in this answer.

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