Can a Christian Lose His or Her Salvation?
Copyright © July 10, 2014 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
(All Scripture Verses are from the New International Version of the Holy Bible.)
If a person faithfully accepts Jesus Christ as Savior, then is it possible for that person to forfeit their salvation because of something they do or for something they do not do? Let's carefully look at what the Holy Bible says about this issue.
In order to be reasonably confident in our final conclusion, we need to examine all the scripture verses that are directly related to this issue. This will help us to avoid drawing the wrong conclusion based on the limited interpretation of only one, two, or three verses and ignoring other important information in the Bible.
To be objective we need to treat all scripture verses as being equally important. In other words, we should not say that some verses are more important than other verses because all scripture verses are a part of God's Holy Bible. If our final conclusion is consistent with all the scripture verses that pertain to this issue, then we will know that we have done the best we can at correctly interpreting what the Holy Bible actually says about this issue and that we have not simply tried to prove an interpretation that we personally wish to believe.
How Can a Person Be Eternally Saved?
Romans 10:9-11 - That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
The above scriptures tell us that if a person truly believes that Jesus is the Son of God and that God raised Jesus from the dead, and if that person confesses Jesus Christ as Savior, then that person is saved eternally. That person does not have to worry about losing his or her salvation because the God who saves them is also the God who will not allow them to perish for any reason. This promise is not based on the love of the person who is saved. This promise is based on God's perfect eternal love for the saved person.
John 10:27-29 - My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.
Romans 8:38-39 - For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
First Peter 1:3-5 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
First John 4:15-18 - If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
How Can a Person Be Eternally Lost?
Mark 3:28-30 - "I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."
He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit."
First John 5:16-17 - If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
John 3:16-18 - "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
John 3:36 - Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.
Hebrews 6:4-6 - It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
The above scriptures specifically mention three ways that a person can be lost.
- Mark 3:28-30 and 1 John 5:16-17 - Anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will be eternally lost. The Holy Bible does not provide specific details about how a person can commit this sin and I personally believe that only God knows who is guilty of this sin. However, based on some of the scriptures mentioned above, I do not believe that a person who is truly saved can commit this sin because that person is eternally safe in the hands of Jesus. This does not mean that a saved person will not worry about this specific sin, but worrying about it and actually being declared guilty of it by God are two different things.
- John 3:16-18 and John 3:36 - Anyone who hears the gospel message about Jesus and who does not accept Jesus as Savior will be eternally lost.
- Hebrews 6:4-6 - The third way that a person could be lost is if that person only has an outward appearance of being saved and that person is not truly committed to following Jesus Christ. Let's look at this concept in more detail.
Who is Saved and Who is Not Saved?
Matthew 7:21-23 - "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' "
The above scriptures tell us that simply hearing the gospel message is not enough. The truth is that not everyone who hears the gospel will be saved. Jesus separated the people who hear the gospel into four groups. The first group hear the gospel but they do not believe the gospel and therefore they are never saved. The second group hear the gospel and they agree to believe it on a conditional basis but when their belief does not protect them from the normal problems of life then they turn their back on the gospel and they decide to try something else. Therefore the second group of people were never really saved and they were simply going through the motions of testing the gospel to see if it would solve all of their problems. The third group hear the gospel and they believe the gospel but they fail to mature in their faith. In other words, they remain children in the faith and they never mature. The fourth group not only hear and believe the gospel but they also tell many others about Jesus and they remain true to their faith even when they are severely persecuted for their Christian faith.
Luke 8:11-15 - "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Matthew 13:18-23 - "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
Hebrews 10:26-39 - If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him."
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
Matthew 10:32-33 - "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
We can now clarify the meaning of Hebrews 6:4-6 about how a person can be lost after hearing the gospel. That person would be in the second group of people that Jesus identified. Although that person went through all the motions of pretending to be a sincere believer, they were just testing the gospel to see how it might benefit them immediately. When they didn't get the immediate benefits they were hoping for, they turned their back on the gospel. Therefore it would appear that this second group of people were never really saved.
We should also remember that Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times and one of those denials included a curse (Mark 14:66-72). But Peter repented and he was forgiven and he was later sent by Jesus to "feed his sheep" (John 21:15-19). Peter was the primary speaker of the early Christian church and he was the first missionary sent to the gentiles (Cornelius in Acts 10:1-48). And Peter wrote two of the books in the Holy Bible. Therefore the "falling away" mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-6 needs to be a permanent rejection of Jesus and not a temporary rejection from which the offender repents.
Mark 3:28-30 says "all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them" except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. First John 5:16-17 says "There is a sin that leads to death" (one sin and only one sin). John 3:36 says "whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." Hebrews 10:29 says "How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" It is possible for all of these scriptures to be simultaneously true if rejecting Jesus, rejecting the Holy Spirit, and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit are all the same sin from God's point of view. This is one way to interpret all of these scriptures so they all agree with one another and they do not contradict one another. Anyone who tries to add not being water baptized, or not sharing in the Lord's Supper, or committing suicide as being an unforgivable sin, is not being consistent with these scriptures.
In summary, a person who is truly saved will remain faithful to Jesus Christ regardless of what hardships and persecutions they may face during this life. That person will confess Jesus Christ as Savior before others and they will not need to worry about being condemned when they stand before God.
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