"For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?"
Can a Christian Lose Salvation?
Is losing salvation
possible? Well, there is a common doctrine called "eternal security"
(also called once saved, always saved
) which states that once a person is truly saved through repentance and faith in Jesus (Romans 10:9), his or her salvation can never be lost no matter how badly or how often that person sins after salvation. But is this doctrine true?
It is definitely worth our time to diligently and prayerfully search the Scriptures to see if this popular teaching is biblically sound. Salvation is at stake, so our desire should be to seek the truth
of God's Word even if it means throwing out preconceived views and denominational bias.
Proponents of the doctrine of "eternal security" often refer to verses such as the following to prove their view:
In these verses we have a clear Gospel message: Jesus Christ (Messiah Yeshua) is the Savior, and faith in Him is salvation
- "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).
- "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).
- "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).
- "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).
- "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9-10).
. If we believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior, at that moment, we have eternal life!
But now we ask the question, can a believer ever become an unbeliever?
If so, the verses above do not give any "eternal security" for a Christian who chooses to turn away from faith and reject Jesus; for then, he or she would no longer be a "believer."
Furthermore, if a believer can fall away and become an unbeliever, we would expect to find numerous verses throughout Scripture warning Christians not to turn away from the faith. Well, as a matter of fact, the Bible is full
of such warnings from every
New Testament author! Such an amazing "coincidence" would make sense if the doctrine of eternal security
is not entirely accurate.
Stern Biblical Warnings
Consider these warnings, all of which were written to believers in Jesus:
- "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they [the Israelites] also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them ... Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer ...
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:6-12). Christians (those who think they stand) are to take heed lest they fall into what? Lest they fall into lust, fornication, idolatry, etc., which result in condemnation and perdition,
which is the opposite of salvation (see I Timothy 3:6-7, 6:9; Hebrews 4:11). Those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (see Galatians 5:21).
- "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain" (I Corinthians 15:1-2). Paul said here that if we don't hold firmly to the Gospel then we have believed in vain. He also said elsewhere that it was possible for believers to receive God's grace in vain: "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain" (II Corinthians 6:1).
- "In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard ..." (Colossians 1:22-23). We will be presented holy before the Lord only if we continue in the faith grounded and settled.
- "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on 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" (I Timothy 1:18-19). Note that a person cannot shipwreck faith unless he first has faith! Paul just said plainly that a believer can reject faith and a good conscience (which only truly saved ones have) and become an unbeliever. Unbelievers will face God's wrath (Luke 12:46), for without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
- "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip"
(Hebrews 2:1). What might happen if we let those things slip? The writer of Hebrews continues: "For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect [are careless or make light of] so great salvation" (Hebrews 2:2-3).
- "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called to day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end"
(Hebrews 3:12-14). Notice that this was written to "brethren," those who are part of the Body of Christ. If one of the brethren departs from the living God through a hard heart of unbelief, he will not be a partaker of Christ. Our confidence (faith) in Christ must be held fast to the end! "But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Hebrews 3:6). "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Hebrews 4:11).
- "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame"
(Hebrews 6:4-6). These three verses are not hypothetical. Instead, they provide a sobering warning to all believers. It is important to note that this passage specifically applies to those who have backslid away from the faith and are no longer able to repent. If you are living in disobedience but hate your sin and desire to repent, then these verses do not yet apply to you.
- "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:26-29). These verses say that those who deliberately keep on sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth and after being sanctified by the blood of Jesus (namely, forgiven believers) will have fearful expectation of fiery judgment because they have made themselves enemies of God.
- "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul"
(Hebrews 10:35-38). Once again, here is the definite possibility that a believer can draw back and become an unbeliever to face perdition (the opposite of salvation).
- "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven"
(Hebrews 12:25). This verse warns believers not to turn away from God, for those who do so will not escape punishment.
- "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20). James said that if one of the brethren strays from the truth and another causes him to return to the faith, a soul has been saved from death.
- "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Peter 1:8-11). What if we do not do "these things"
(mentioned in II Peter 1:3-7)? Well, we might fall into unbelief and miss the entrance into Christ's Kingdom.
- "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness" (II Peter 3:17). What might happen if one of the beloved believers falls from steadfastness and is led away with the error of the wicked? Might he be judged along with the wicked?
- "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father" (I John 2:24). John said if Jesus' words abide (stay, remain) in us, only then do we continue in the Son and in the Father.
Remember that all
of these verses were written to Christians
(Acts 11:26 clarifies that a Christian is a disciple of Jesus
). Notice the conditions for salvation
: "if ye keep in memory," "if ye continue in the faith," and "if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end." These and many other similar warnings should cause Christians to reconsider the shaky doctrine called "eternal security."
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