Salvation - Can It Be Lost?



In the title of this discussion we could use both an exclamation and question mark. The reason I say this is to point out the sharp division in Christian circles over this matter. Many believe that once one has placed his faith in Christ, he is saved for all eternity and can not loose his salvation. On the other side of the issue are those who believe that though truly saved, a believer can back slide and loose his salvation making it necessary for him to be saved over again. Since this issue impacts our eternal destiny it would be good to know what the Bible has to say on this matter. To do this we must resist the temptation of pulling verses out of context and making evaluations based on our observations rather than God’s Holy Word.

1) First: some Saints have done some pretty sinful things, yet they were still considered Saints just the same

a. Some examples: 

Noah: got drunk after leaving the Ark

Abraham: lied about his wife twice, disbelieved God’s promise and committed polygamy

Lot: a “righteous man” (2 Pet, 2:7) – lived in a wicked city, offered his own daughters to be raped, got drunk, and fathered two children through his own daughters

Jacob: deceived his father and stole his brother’s birthright; married four wives, raised a rowdy bunch of sons

Jacob’s sons: lied, wiped out a whole city through deception, tried to kill their own brother, covered up the sale of their brother with a lie, involved with prostitutes

Aaron: the first High Priest was involved in the making of the gold calf that Israel worshipped and then lied about it.

Gideon: after his great victory created idols that the people worshipped and had an illegitimate son through a prostitute.

Samson: went after Philistine women and broke all his vows to God

David: married many women, had an affair with Bathsheba and murdered her husband, conducted a census against God’s command

Solomon: married over 700 women and 300 concubines; established a permanent army against God’s will, built temples for idol worship

Peter: abandoned Christ when He was arrested, denied Christ and cursed Him three times; had to be rebuked by Paul for returning to legalism

Hymenaeus and Alexander: (1 Tim. 1:19-20) made shipwreck the faith through blasphemy

Diotrephes: (3 Jn. 9-10) – loves high positions and verbally attacks Paul and his representatives

Brother living in the vilest Immorality (1 Cor. 5:1-5) Rich believers causing divisions and ignoring the needs of the poor(1 Cor. 11:17-22)

b. However, the Scriptures also says

i. That those who are really saved become a new creation.

2 Cor 5:17-18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

ii. That those who practice sin will not inherit the Kingdom. 

Gal 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

c. How can we have passages that declare that sin is not consistent with the lives of Saints and yet have Saints living in sinful ways. The answer is actually simple. The difference between one who “professes” to be a Saint and lives in a sinful way and the one who is a “possessor of salvation” and lives in a sinful way can be determined by the presence or absence of two things.

i. #1 - Fruit: In the lives of those just mentioned, though they sinned yet there was evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives as well. 

John 15:2-7, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. . . . "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. “ If some says he is a Christian but shows no fruit than one must conclude that he has never put his faith in Christ. (see also Gal. 5:19-26)

ii. #2 - Chastisement: in the lives of those mentioned, though they sinned, they were chastised for their sin. God did not let them go on indefinitely in their sin. God will allow His child to stray just so far before chastening him that he “not be condemned with the world.” If someone who says he is a Christian is able to live in sin and does not experience the convicting and chastening work of God, he is not a Christian.

1 Corinthians 11:30-32, “For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. NKJV

Hebrews 12:5-9, “"My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. if you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” NKJV

2) Second: the offer of salvation is always unconditional. In all the passages of Scripture that address the gospel, not one includes the Christian’s walk as a condition necessary for the salvation to be realized. The only requirement for salvation is that we put our trust in Christ alone. Once we have done that, it is up to the Lord to deliver on His promise. Consider the following passages as examples.

John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

Eph 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Rom 10:13, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."

3) Third: those who believe that one can loose their salvation by backsliding also believe one can regain it by getting saved again. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that if it is possible for the believer to loose his salvation, it is impossible for him to be saved again. In other words, you only get one chance and if you blow it, you are on your way to hell.

Heb 6:4-6, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”

The reason behind this fact has its basis in the work of Christ on the cross. The Scriptures indicate that it is sin that separates a person from God and condemns him to hell. At salvation a believer’s sin is totally forgiven and thus he is declared justified before God (declared righteous). Therefore, since sin is the means to hell, for a believer to loose his salvation he would have to commit some type of sin that is not covered at Calvary. If he now found himself a sinner his only hope to be saved again would require Christ to be recrucified upon the cross to cover this additional uncovered sin. To require Christ to die a second time on the cross would be to put Christ to an open shame. 

Why would this be a shame for Christ? The answer is quite simple. When Christ suffered on the cross, He made a declaration, “It is finished” before He gave up His Spirit. By this statement He announced to all that He had completed the atonement for all of man’s sin from Adam to the last person born. There is no sin left in the history of mankind that Christ did not cover. This is the reason the writers of the NT declare more than once that Christ died once for all sin (Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27, 9:12; 10:10). To say that any believer can commit a sin not covered by Christ resulting in him being once again condemned to hell is to openly declare that Christ failed in atoning for all of man’s sin. To do so is to in essence say, “Shame on you Lord for telling us you covered all sin when in reality you left some sin uncovered!” 

By giving this hypothetical statement, the writer of Hebrews is indicating that the possibility of a believer loosing His salvation is totally out of the range of possibility. If the idea that Christ missed some sin on the cross is totally impossible, than the idea of a believer loosing his salvation is equally impossible. 

This is one very important point missed by the Roman Catholic Church. At every Mass and at the Last Rites they “recrucify Christ” on the cross to atone for sin not covered since the last Mass. That is why they believe that at the Mass, the bread becomes the actual body of Christ and the Cup the actual blood of Christ. This explains why their crosses always have Christ hanging on them for they believe the work of Christ is not complete and must be continuously offered over and over. I have often wondered if those who believe they can loose their salvation would still cling to this view if they accepted the fact that if salvation can be lost, it can not be renewed again.

4) Fourth: Some will appeal to Phil 2:12 as proof of the need of obeying the law of God in order to hold on to one’s salvation.

Phil 2:12-13, “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; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

A couple of things need to be taken into consideration here. First of all, “salvation” as it is used here is not a momentary event. “Salvation” is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit through which He continually transforms our lives to conform to the righteousness of Christ. This is commonly known as sanctification. Therefore to “work out” our salvation involves our ever increasing surrender of our lives to the control and work of the Holy Spirit. This verse is not about us holding on to our salvation through godly living and human effort but rather involves our yielding to God’s progressive work of sanctification. Secondly, Paul makes it clear that this is really not the work of the believer but the work of God. Please note that it is God who works in us both to will (desire to yield) and to do (power or ability) His good pleasure. As in many other references, salvation is always the work of God not the work of men (Eph. 2:8-10). One other thought, keep in mind that no where in this verse does it say that our salvation is dependent upon how successful we are in “working it out“.

5) Fifth, salvation is a possession and a promise. It is a Possession. When the believer receives salvation he at that point receives “eternal or everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). 

1 John 3:14-15, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

1 John 5:11-13, “ And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know”

1 John 1:2, “The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

How do we know that we have everlasting life presently? Let us note that the full realization of that everlasting life will be at the resurrection, however there is clear evidence of its present existence in our lives. Let me give a few examples of the presence of eternal life in the believer.

a. When Adam and Eve sinned, man died spiritually and with death came separation from God. However at salvation, we are once again made alive spiritually and therefore have God’s Spirit dwelling in us and we have complete access to God through prayer and fellowship. (1 John 1:3)

b. Prior to salvation we were blind to the revelation of God in nature, conscience, and in the written Word of God. However, with salvation, we have been made alive to receive, grasp, and apply the revelation of God. (1 Cor. 1:23-25)

c. The Scriptures declare that when we are saved we are born again and the everlasting life of God changes us into new creatures. (2 Cor. 5:17)

d. The Scriptures declare that before we were saved we were dead in trespasses and sins and thus bound to follow the course of the world, the dictates of Satan, and the lusts of the flesh. However at salvation, we have been made alive and are no longer slaves to these old slave masters (Eph. 2:1-10)

If one has “everlasting life” he has life that will never end. If he can loose this eternal life either it was never everlasting to begin with or he will only attain it once he has entered into heaven. However, as we have shown if we have trusted in Christ for salvation we already possess it and if it is everlasting, it can not end. 

It is a Promise. A second point should be gleaned from John 3:16. God makes a promise here to everyone. If they will trust in Christ they “will have eternal life and they will not perish.” Please note that all that God requires for salvation is to repent of one’s sins and put one’s eternal salvation totally in the hands of the Savior. Jesus Christ. If we do so, God promises we will have life everlasting and will never perish. God never breaks His Word.

Let us not miss an important point. We must do more than believe in our minds that Jesus is the Savior, we must trust our eternal destiny into His loving hands. Too many people today have a mental assent to the truth of the gospel, but have never taken the important step of entrusting their future destiny to Christ. They are still trying to get to heaven in their own efforts. The Bible declares there will be many at the judgment seat that have done many mighty things in the name of God and yet they will land in the everlasting lake of fire.

Matt 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

The reason they are rejected? They never repented of their sins and trusted in Christ alone to get them into heaven. Have you put your faith in Christ alone for your salvation? If not, why not do so today.