CAN A CHRISTIAN LOSE SALVATION?
A Christian’s mind is to serve God. This is the beginning of salvation. Yet, can this salvation be lost?
First, the word Christian has to be defined. A “Christian” is not a person who prays or walks down the aisle or is born in a Christian family. While each of these things may be part of Christian experience, they are not what makes a Christian. A Christian is a person who completely believes in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and receives the Holy Spirit (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9).
So, with that definition in mind, can a Christian lose salvation? It’s a very important question. Perhaps the best approach to address this question is to investigate what the Bible says happens at salvation and research what loss of salvation means.
The question of whether a person can lose his salvation is not abstract. It concerns us at the heart of our Christian life, not about our concern for our perseverance, our family and friends, particularly those who, in all appearances, seemed to have made a genuine faith. We thought their profession was trustworthy; we welcomed them as brothers or sisters to find out that they repudiated the faith.
WHAT IS SALVATION?
When a person has been converted to decide to turn away from sin and darkness, from the influence of the devil to the living God, we repent of our former sins, cast off our old existence. A life that liked living in the pleasures of sin and becomes a Christian, they get a new mind. The old mind was to serve themselves and their lusts. The new mind is to serve Him and do as He pleases. It is where their redemption starts.
Similarly, in Romans 6:6, Paul writes, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” It is very important to know this. Salvation means that not only did we receive salvation for our sins by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for us, but our old man was also crucified with Him. That’s what makes it possible for us to live a new life.
That is what Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24, “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The old man is the one who serves self, passions, and desires in the flea.
We can live in a society that claims that all will be saved, that we are “justified by death,” and that all you need to do to go to Heaven is to die, but God’s Word definitely does not give us the privilege of believing that. Every fast and truthful reading of the New Testament reveals that the Apostles were persuaded that no one could go to Heaven unless they believe in Christ alone for their redemption.
Evangelical Christians have generally agreed on this point, where they disagreed on the issue of the protection of salvation. People who would otherwise accept that only those who trust in Jesus would be saved do not accept that someone who genuinely trusts in Christ will lose his salvation.
Theologically speaking, what we’re talking about here is the idea of apostasy. The term comes from the Greek word that means “to stand away.” When we speak of those who have been apostate or committed apostasy, we talk of those that have fallen from the faith or, at least, from the declaration of faith in Christ that they once made.
Many Christians have concluded that indeed, true Christians will lose their salvation because there are a variety of New Testament texts that seem to suggest that this can happen. For example, the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 1:18–20,
“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare. Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
Here, amidst instructions and warnings concerning Timothy’s life and ministry, Paul advises Timothy to keep the faith, maintain a good conscience, and consider those who did not. The Apostle refers to those who have “made a shipwreck of their faith,” people whom he has “given to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” This second point refers to the ex-communication of these people by Paul, and the whole passage blends a stern warning with clear examples of those who have fallen grievously away from their Christian profession.
There is no doubt that professing believers can fall and fall radically. For example, we think of men like Peter, who denied Christ. But the fact that he has been resurrected demonstrates that not every professed believer who fell has sunk beyond the point of no return. At this juncture, we should distinguish a serious and radical fall from a complete and final fall. Reformed theologians noted that the Bible is full of stories of true believers who fell into severe sin and even extended periods of impenitence. Therefore, Christians fall, and they fall radically. What could be more serious than the public rejection of Jesus Christ by Peter?
Yet, are these people who are guilty of a true fall irretrievably sunk and have lost eternally, or is this fall a temporary condition that will eventually be remedied by their restoration? In the case of a person like Peter, we can see that his repentance remedied his fall. Yet, what about those who have finally fallen away? Have they ever been true believers in the first place?
The Christian is a new creature. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”(2 Corinthians 5:17). A Christian is not simply a person’s “improved” version; a Christian is a completely new creature. He is “in Christ.” For the Christian to lose salvation, the new creation would have to be destroyed.
A Christian is redeemed. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and spot.” The redeemed word refers to the purchase being made, the price being paid. We were bought at the cost of the death of Christ. When a Christian loses his/her salvation, God Himself would have to revoke His purchase of the person he had paid with the precious blood of Christ.
A Christian is justified. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”(Romans 5:1). To explain this is to declare it to be so. Those who receive Jesus as their Savior are “declared righteous” by Heaven. For the Christian to lose salvation, God would have to go back to His Word and “un-declare” what He had said before. Those who have been absolved of guilt would have to be tried again and found guilty.
A Christian is promised everlasting life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Eternal life is a promise to spend with God forever in Heaven. God promises, “Believe, and you will have eternal life.” For the Christian to lose salvation, eternal life would have to be redefined. The Christian has been promised to live forever.
Christians are marked by God and sealed by the Holy Spirit. “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, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”(Ephesians 1:13-14). At the moment of faith, a new Christian is marked and sealed by the
Spirit, who has been promised to act as a deposit to guarantee the heavenly inheritance.
The result is that the glory of God is praised. For the Christian to lose salvation, God will have to remove the mark, withhold by the Spirit, cancel the deposit, break His vow, rescind the pledge, keep the blessing, forsake the praise, and diminish His glory.
Glorification is guaranteed to a Christian. “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.” (Romans 8:30). According to Romans 5:1, at the moment of faith, justification is ours.
According to Romans 8:30, glorification is justified. Those who are justified by God are expected to be glorified. That vow will be fulfilled as Christians obtain their full bodies of salvation in Heaven. If a Christian should lose salvation, Romans 8:30 is in error, for God cannot guarantee the glory of all those that He predestines, calls, and justifies.
A Christian cannot lose his salvation. Most of what the Bible says happens to us when we accept Christ, if salvation could be denied, it would be invalidated. Salvation is the gift of God, and the gifts of God are “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). A Christian cannot be un-newly created.
The redeemed may not be un-purchased. The eternal life can’t be temporary. God cannot renounce His Word. The Scriptures say that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
Two common objections to the assumption that a Christian cannot lose salvation relate to these experiential issues:
1) What about Christians living in a sinful, unrepentant lifestyle?
2) What of the Christians who reject the religion and deny Christ?
The issue with these objections is that everyone who calls himself a “Christian” is born again. The Bible teaches us that a true Christian will not live in a state of continuous, unrepentant sin.
The Bible also tells us that anyone who departs from the faith demonstrates that he was never really a Christian. He may have been a mystic, and he may have had a good show, but was never born again by God’s power. “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16). The redeemed of God belongs “to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.”
There is nothing that can separate the children of God from the love of the Father. Nothing will drive the Christian out of the hand of God. God promises eternal life and protects the grace He has granted us. The Good Shepherd looks for the lost sheep, and when he finds it, he joyfully places it on his back and heads home. The lamb is found, and the Shepherd happily bears the burden; our Lord takes full responsibility for bringing the lost one home safely.
Jude 24–25 further emphasizes the goodness and faithfulness of our Savior: “Now unto him, that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
If someone believes that salvation can be lost, several questions need to be asked. What kind of sin or error will make me lose it? How am I supposed to know when I’ve lost it? When I lose it, can I get it back to me? What does the Bible indicate when it promises eternal life to those who believe? How long is eternal life going on? Finally, if a person can lose his salvation, how can they explain what John wrote in 1 john 5:13?
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
If someone could lose their salvation, no one could know, from time to time, whether or not they are saved. Yet the Bible says that we can learn that. This is because once a person truly believes that Christ is the Savior, they cannot lose.