Can salvation be lost?



Question: “Is a person once saved always saved or can they lose their salvation?”



Bible Answers

In reviewing the New Testament, there are eight primary scriptures that a person may use to support the idea of Once Saved Always Saved and over 72 scriptures that support the idea that a Person Can Lose Their Salvation. God is not looking for an excuse to send a person to hell. He sent His son to the cross to save, but if a sinner is cleansed by the blood of Christ and then returns to sinning with no desire to seek repentance, we must seek God’s Word to learn if that person’s unconfessed sins separated him from God’s salvation just as much as his original sins separated him from God?


Why is this question important

Most theological differences have minor effect on our Christian live.  However, that is not true with the question, can a person lose their salvation. This is probable one of the most important theological question regarding our Christian life.


Why is this question so important?  If a person believes Once Saved Always Saved, they have little incentive to live a Godly life. Rather they may feel free to live as the world - why not, they cannot lose their salvation. However, God states, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? (James 4:4).  If their belief is correct, Once Saved Always Saved, then there is no harm, they are still saved, but if their belief is wrong and their sins again separate them from God, then they will go to hell because they believed a lie. Let’s see what the Word of God says about always saved or not.


Scripture that may support the idea of Once Saved Always Saved

John 6:39 says,  And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. The word “will” is a translation from the Greek word Thelema, meaning a determination, choice, desire, will.  It would appear that Thelema is more of God’s desire than His commandment. Those who offer John 6:39 as proof, neglect revealing verse 40. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day (John 6:40). Verse 39 only applies to those who continue to look to the Son and believe in Him.


A similar example would be 1 Tim 2:4, “who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” While God may want all men to be saved, scripture makes it clear that all will not be saved.


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 (John 10:28-29).  Those who promote once saved always saved by using this verse ignore the condition of the previous verse. My sheep listen to my voice … and they follow me (John 10:27). No one can be snatched from God’s hand who follow Jesus, but those who turn away, are no longer following Jesus, they have voluntarily left God’s hand.


For those God foreknew he also predestined…and those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:29-30), This verse starts with “those he foreknew.” Foreknew is translated from the Greek Word “Proginosko,” meaning; to know beforehand, i.e. foresee:-foreknow (ordain), know (before). The question is; did God foreknew those who would be faithful till the end, or did God foreknew whom he would select for predestination. The sentence construction and scriptures would indicate that God foreknew who would be faithful till the end.


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 (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing is strong enough to separate us from God’s love. He will continue to love those going to heaven and those going to hell.


And you also were included in Christ when you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:13-14). Note that the guarantee is for those who are God’s possession. If a person intentionally turns from God and lets sin separate them from God, then he is no longer in God’s possession.


And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). Some use this verse, emphasizing the word “sealed” to support always saved but forget the warning at the beginning, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit,” by turning from God.


…therefore he is able to save completely [forever] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Heb. 7:25).  Praise the Lord. Those who come to God may be confident, but this does not preclude those who no longer want to come to God; those who choose to turn away.


To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy (Jude 24). “Keeping from falling” does not mean against their will if they want to fall.  Also, note the person is presented before God “without fault.” Without fault means the person is sinless because they have maintained their repented position with Jesus.


If it is impossible for us to fall away, why are there so many warnings about being led away by false teachers or turning from God?  Notice that Satan and 1/3 of the angels of heaven, which where promised eternity with God, who sinned against God, and never repented, were cast out of heaven and will end in the lake of fire.


Is there another possibility  

Yes, for some, a person can appear to be a Christian who was never a Christian.  There are those who like to be called a Christian and like being a part of a church but who have never sincerely made Christ the Lord and savior of their lives. A person may even consider themselves saved because they go to church, but who never repented of their sins and asked Christ into their heart.  In this situation, a person who turns away is not losing their salvation, as they were never saved.  


Are those who turn only non-Christians

Most of those who believe in once saved always saved brush away the following verses by claiming they only apply to those who where never saved.  But, in the next section, 32 of the 35 verses and surrounding verses clearly indicate that the verse is referring to those who were saved. The following verses absolutely do apply to Christians.


Scripture that may support the idea that a Christian can lose their Salvation

While over 72 scriptures in the New Testament proclaim that a person can lose their salvation, for the sake of space, I have reduced the list to 35 verses.


But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Mt. 6:15). God will not let a person into heaven who has unforgiven sins.


You will be hated by all men for my name’s sake, but he who endures to the end will be saved (Mt 10:22). And those who do not endure are lost.


Anyone who speaks a Word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Mt. 12:31-32).


All men who stand firm to the end will be saved (Mt. 13: 13). Hence, those who do not stand firm, turning away from God, will not be saved.


… 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 (Mt. 13:20-21). When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, some quickly fall away. They clearly had received their salvation but lost it.


At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other (Mt 24:10). Clearly they had first received the faith and then turned way from it.


…and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:12-13).  The one who does not persevere with God, who turns away, will not be saved.


The ones by the road are the ones where the word is sown; and when they have heard, immediately Satan comes, and takes away the word which has been sown in them (Mark 4:15). They had received the Word, then they believe Satan’s lies and turns away.


Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away (Mark 4:16-17).


Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Mark 13:13). Hence, Christians who do not stand will not be saved.


Those along the road are those who hear, then the devil comes, and takes away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved (Luke 8:12).


Those on the rocky ground 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 (Luke 8:13).


If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown … into the fire and burned (John 15:6). This clearly shows that a person does not have to remain in Christ but can turn away.


Therefore, brothers, …if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die (Romans 8:12-14). “Brothers” refer to those who are Christians and the scripture says they will lose their salvation and spiritually die, if they live a sinful nature.


You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either (Romans 11:19-21). The Jews were cut off from God because of unbelief, and Christians grafted into God's kingdom because of their belief. If God did not spare the natural branches, the Jews, he will not spare the grafted branches if they succumb to unbelief and turn away form God.


By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the Word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain (1Co. 15:2). Clearly those Christians who do not hold firmly are lost.


The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:7-9). Those who give up will not be going to heaven.


…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).  There would be no need for this warning if a person’s salvation was assured, guaranteed.


But now he has reconciled you… without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel (Col. 1:22-23). We then have no hope if we do not continue in our faith, established and firm.


The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Tim. 4:1). When a pastor teaches false doctrine, contrary to the scripture, they are serving the devil.

 

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us (2 Timothy 2:11-12).  A Christian can disown God and be lost.


See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God (Heb. 3:12). A Christian can turn away from God.


We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first (Heb. 3:14). Notice the “if”. We have no share in Christ “if” we do not hold firmly till the end.


It is impossible…if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again…(Heb. 6:4-6).  It is impossible for a Christian who has fallen away to be brought back. This is not referring to being upset with God over something, but is referring to a complete and intentional turning away from God.


We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure (Heb. 6:11). Why give this warning if a Christian could not lose their salvation?  Because a Christian can lose their salvation.


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 (Heb. 10:29). Severe punishment awaits the sanctified person that abandon their faith in Christ Jesus.


You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Heb. 10:36). It appears that if a person does not persevere in God’s will, then he will not receive God’s promise.


We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life (Hebrews 10:39). Then a believer can draw back and perish.


My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20). Then a Christian brother can wander from the truth to spiritual death.


Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fall (2 Pe 1:10). Apparently a brother can fall.


If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them (2 Peter 2:20-21). This Scripture is very clear; Peter says that it is better to have never been a Christian than to have been one and then turn away.


Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position (2 Peter 3:17).  A Christian can lose their secure position.


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 (1 John 5:16).  A Christian’s brothers unrepented sins can lead to his spiritual death.


Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully (2 John 1:8). It would appear that one could lose what they worked for - faith and salvation in Christ.


Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son (2 John 1:9).


I am coming soon.  Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown (Rev. 3:11). A Christian can lose their crown of salvation.


Having review these 35 verses, it should have become obvious that a Christian who turns his back on God, at some point, can lose his salvation.  


Our Will

God gave us a “will,” a right to accept Him or to reject Him. God wants us to come to Him because we have chosen, in love, to come to Him. He will not force a person to love Him. That same “will” permits us to later turn from God and return to the world’s ways. God will not force a person to continue in a loving relationship with Him in the same way that He did not force heaven’s fallen angles (now called evil spirits and demons) from turning.


… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing (Matthew 23:37).


Sin is what originally separates us from God and unrepented sin after salvation is also what separate us from God?


Hebrews 13:5 says, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Many confuse the honor of God with the lack of man’s honor. This verse only says God will not leave us. We have the assurance that God is with us, but it does not say anything about us not leaving God. And this is the point; we have been given free will to come to God and free will to leave God.


Jesus said, those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned (John 5:29).  And now we can see that the pivotal point of this question about salvation is sin. The Christian sins and repents and God sees them as good and welcomes them into heaven.  The non-Christian and the Christian who have turned away from God still possesses all of their sins, and God who is sinless, sees their sins as evil and will not let sin into heaven.  Their unrepented sins condemn them to hell.


Teaching

If a person teaches that an individual must walk with the Lord to expect to go to heaven and they are wrong, no harm results from the teaching. But if a person teaches once saved always saved and they are wrong, and the person is not walking with the Lord, they are sending them to hell. And what did Jesus say about a person that misleads one of His children? If anyone causes one of these little ones - those who believe in me - to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matt 18:6).


It is very unconscionable to present the Holy Gospel as representing that one only needs to say a few words of confession, get their golden ticket to heaven, and that they can live whatever life style they want because they cannot lose their salvation. Salvation is not a one-time action but the start of a lifelong walk with God.


Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).  God is looking for those who truly love Him, follow Him, and want to please Him.


Returning to God

In Luke 15, Jesus gives a stirring story of a young man who took all that his father had given him and squandered it, turning his back on his father and family. When he was broke, he repented, and returned to his father’s home. And his father (symbolically representing God) forgave him and welcomes him home. He said, for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to celebrate (Luke 15:24). God welcomes back those who are willing to repent and return to God.


In summary

If we voluntarily 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 opponents of God (Hebrews 10:26-27).



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