By: Steve Shirley
Can a person who is saved lose their salvation? I do not have statistics on what percentage of people believe we can lose salvation verses those who don't believe we can, but it appears to me Christians are about equally divided on this issue. I see people debating this issue continually and voraciously defending their side, and in the end no one ever changes their mind. I suspect what I write here will not change minds either, but I do wish to show why I believe the way I do and also to give other Christians who may be struggling with whether they have lost their salvation some peace of mind.
SO... to the question, "Can a person who is saved lose their salvation?" my answer is, NO. To be totally honest, I believe you can make a pretty solid case Biblically for losing salvation as well as not losing salvation. I have studied the verses each side uses, and have also listened to respected Bible teachers giving their points of view on this issue, and have come to this conclusion. Following, I will show both Biblically and using examples why I hold this position.
To begin, let's look at 2 verses:
(Eph 1:13-14) in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (14) which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
(Eph 4:30) And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
I believe these are two of the most important verses in the Bible for eternal security. When a person is born again, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of that person. These verses tell us that the Holy Spirit SEALS us until our day of redemption and is the GUARANTEE of our inheritance. (Also see: 2 Cor 1:22, 2 Cor 5:5) In other words, God has guaranteed our salvation through the Holy Spirit in us. Can anyone say that we have the power to unseal what God has sealed? Making that statement gives us more power than God! I like to use a parallel in the book of Revelation. In (Rev 7:3-8) it tells us that God seals 144,000 Jewish men during the Tribulation to show that they belong to Him. I have asked a number of people if anyone can unseal these 144,000 (including the 144,000 themselves). The answer is a resounding "no". Why would someone believe that no one can unseal these 144,000 that God Himself has sealed during the Tribulation, but yet when He seals us with the Holy Spirit at salvation, that seal can somehow be broken?
It is also very important to understand that once we are saved, we are children of God (Gal 3:26). What an awesome thing it is to be called a CHILD OF GOD! What does this mean? (1 Jn 5:1)(Jn 1:12-13) tell us it means we are born of God. (Rom 8:14-17) tells us that we are adopted by God and therefore "heirs and joint-heirs with Christ." (Also see: Gal 4:7, Gal 3:29) We are members of God's family! He is our Father, we are His child. Jesus said in (Mt 12:50) "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Heb 2:11-12) says, "For both he that sancitfieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (12) saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." In other words, as a child of God, Jesus is our brother. In (Jn 3:3) Jesus tells us we must be born again. This literally means when we are saved, we are born to a whole NEW life. On that day, we have a Father in Heaven and a brother in Christ, and the Holy Spirit comes to live in us as a guarantee that we are a member of God's family.
Upon becoming a member of God's family, we have many PROMISES from God.
(Phil 1:6) Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
(Heb 13:5) .... for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
(Ps 94:14) For the Lord will not cast of his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance.
(Ps 37:28) For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved forever...
(Rom 11:29)(NASB) for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
(1 Pet 1:23) says we are born of seed which cannot be corrupted.
(1 Pet 1:4-5) To an inheritance INCORRUPTIBLE, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. (5) who are KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (caps emphasis mine)
We need to realize a very crucial thing that many people fail to understand, we aren't holding on to God, HE IS HOLDING ON TO US! Jesus tells us this in (Jn 10:27-29) My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. (28) And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall not perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (29) My Father, which gave them to me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. If we say that we can lose our salvation, we are saying WE have the power to escape from God's grasp. We are stronger than God.... It also means that we are saying God cannot keep His promises to preserve us and help us through.
We also have another problem if we say we can lose salvation. It means we have to DO something to keep it. Doing anything to keep our salvation means we are adding works. Working to keep salvation means, in essence, that we are making ourselves equal with Jesus. It is saying to Jesus, "what you did is not enough unless I add something to it to play a part in my salvation." Works makes a person proud and God hates pride (Prov 6:16-19)(Prov 21:4). It is also saying you did something to earn salvation in the first place.
To those who would believe we must DO something to keep our salvation, i.e. not sin too much, not backslide, not rebel against God, etc... I ask these questions.
What do you have to do to keep your salvation?
How much do you have to do to lose it?
Have you lost your salvation today? How do you know?
Do we lose our salvation every time we do something wrong?
If you lose your salvation, what do you have to do to get it back? Do you re-believe? Can you nail Jesus to the cross again (see: Heb 6:4-6)?
Do you repent to get salvation back? What if you die before you repent? What if you forget to repent about something? What if you are in a car accident, and right before you crash you blurt out some swear word then die before you repent, what happens?
I could probably come up with even more questions , but I would like to make a point here. Those who believe we have to work to keep salvation are always going to have a HUGE problem. They will always lack total peace in their life. I know many who believe one can lose their salvation will disagree with this, but logic dictates they are wrong. A simple question can show this to be true. Let me ask you, if I never have to worry about doing something wrong to lose my salvation and deep inside you can never quite know if you have done something wrong and lost it OR you are worried that in the future you may do something to lose it, who is going to have more peace? The answer is obvious... The Bible also shows us that we can know we have eternal life and be assured of it (1 Jn 5:11-13)(Jn 3:15-18)(2 Tim 1:12).
Other things to consider:
We cannot fully enter God's rest if one could lose salvation.
We can never obey the Bible's command to be anxious for nothing (Phil 4:6).
If we can lose salvation, it means we don't have ETERNAL life, but only the possibility of eternal life.
If we can lose salvation, we are born of perishable seed and not imperishable seed.
It is also interesting to look at what the Bible says about backsliding. Backsliding can mean either to fall back into a sin or to fall away from God. Our lives and not being lived in a way that is not consistent with God's standards. God tells us to repent of this condition in the Bible (Jer 3:22)(Jer 3:12)(Hos 14:4). But, the question is, if we are in this condition, have we lost our salvation? The answer seems clear in (Jer 3:14) Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; FOR I AM MARRIED UNTO YOU. (caps emphasis mine) Does God saying He is married to the backslider sound like we are no longer His while in that condition? Sin in our lives most certainly breaks our fellowship and communion with God (Isa 59:2)(Ps 66:18)(Jn 9:31)(Jer 5:25) but it does not break our union with God, or cause us to lose our position as a member of God's family.
I like to use this example of a "real life family" to drive home what being a member of God's family is like. How many of you have children? Let's say that your child at some point in their life suddenly turns to a horrible life of sin or even totally turns their back on you. Would you disown your child for good because they did this? Would they no longer be a part of your family? I suspect the vast majority of you would say "NO, I would never disown my child!" If we, in our imperfect love could never disown our child, how could God in His perfect and unconditional love ever let us go? I would also point out that the Bible never says our loving God back is a condition for our salvation. For those of you who would say to the above question, "Yes, I would disown my child" I simply ask this question. Even if you disown your child, does that no longer make them your child? No... because once a child is born to you, it will ALWAYS be your child no matter what happens. As stated earlier, we are BORN to God. Thank the Lord we don't have to earn His love and acceptance.
We also need to look at verses in the Bible dealing with predestination. In another study, I discussed this issue at length and the two viewpoints on predestination, and I don't want to get into that here. However, while each side may differ on how God chooses (based on His foreknowledge of the choice we would make or whether He chose some and not others based on nothing but His desire) there is no denying that the Bible says God HAS chosen us.
(Rom 8:29-30) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren. (30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
(Eph 1:4-5) according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
(2 Th 2:13) But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
Also see: (1 Pet 1:2)(Acts 13:48)(Eph 1:11)(Jer 1:5)
Can we really believe that if God has indeed CHOSEN us that we can become un-chosen based on what we do? Does it even make sense to say an all-knowing God is in Heaven changing His mind over and over about whether or not someone is a member of His family based on how we perform or how often we repent? Doesn't logic dictate that an all-knowing God would already know what sins we would commit, if we would backslide, if we would turn against Him, etc...? I believe it is clear God knew exactly what we would be like from the beginning of time, yet chose us even though we ALL fail miserably.... In addition, I know of no place in the Bible that shows people becoming saved over and over again.
I would like to conclude with a few examples from the Old Testament that I see as pictures of eternal security.
The first is found in (Ex 12:1-32).
This is when God ordered the Israelites to place the blood of an unblemished lamb on the top and sides of the door frame of their houses. He ordered this so that when He came to take the lives of the firstborn of all of Egypt, He would pass over each house that had blood over the door frame, and no one in the house would be lost. I see this as a picture of eternal security because God did not look at who was in the house or what the people in the house were like, but rather, He simply looked at the blood. This pictures Jesus today.
The second is found in (Hos ch.1-3).
This is the story of Hosea and the prostitute. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute, and told Hosea she would be unfaithful. She was indeed unfaithful, committing adultery. God told Hosea to take her back even though she had broken her vow to him and was unfaithful. Why did God do this? He did this to give us a picture of how He would be faithful to us, and show His steadfast love for us, and stay married to us, even when we "prostitute" ourselves with sin, or unfaithfulness, or we break our vows to Him.
The third is found in (Gen 6:14-9:18).
This is the story of Noah and the ark. The ark is a picture of Jesus, and Noah and his family are a picture of us. We can see in (Gen 7:16) when Noah and his family entered the ark, God shut the door to ensure their safety. I see great significance in God shutting the door. It is telling us that when we are in Jesus (inside the ark), God has sealed us in and will keep us safe. He will not forsake us no matter how bad the storm is raging.
Christian friend, it is my prayer that if you are in a backslidden condition these words have given you some comfort that God has not left you. When you have turned against the will of God, it is a miserable place to be in. There is no peace, no joy, and no fellowship. Repentance means to feel great remorse and sorrow for your sins. You are heartbroken that you have sinned against a God who loves you so much. It is a Godly sorrow that truly WANTS to turn from sin and forsake it. It means confessing your sin, changing your behavior, and going in a new direction, which will result in a change in the way you live. I ask you today to repent and restore your relationship.
If you have never made a life changing decision to give your life to Christ, I ask you to see our Plan of Salvation link to see how you may do so today. God has given awesome promises for His children who have come through the blood of Jesus. May you share in these promises and become a member of God's family forever!
(Jn 6:37,39) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (39) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
Update!: I just learned this yesterday, and it is "awesome!" (Mt 7:23) says, "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." In context, this verse is part of several verses where Jesus is talking about those who will not enter the "kingdom of heaven" one day. When a person is saved, it is a guarantee that they will enter "the kingdom of Heaven." When a person is saved, Jesus "knows" that person, and has a personal relationship with them.
However, if one believes you can be saved, and then become unsaved, this makes Jesus a liar in this verse. Jesus says, "I NEVER knew you." If the person was once saved, Jesus DID know them at one time. Clearly, Jesus is not a liar, and therefore, it is impossible for Jesus to be speaking to anyone who has been previously saved in this verse.