Can Someone Lose Their Salvation?
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation- 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
There are two main schools of thought concerning salvation:
- Your salvation is secure because you did nothing to earn it, you can do nothing to jeopardize it.
- Your salvation can be shipwrecked through your own actions
Since this is a salvation issue, it is important that we determine in our minds which of these is true. This is one case where they cannot both be true; so one of them must be true and the other is at best a misunderstanding of the word of God, and at the
worse worst, a terrible heresy. Let’s take a look at both of them to see their merits and the reasoning behind them through the lens of the word of God. Any time that we look at something, scripture must be taken as a whole. If we only look at part of scripture, it can lead us to form improper conclusions, and possibly lead us into heresy.
The thought process around this is that since we did nothing to earn our salvation – that it is totally by the divine providence of God – that there is nothing that we can do to lose our salvation. Since God is the author of our faith, we cannot somehow just lose it, because it isn’t from or of us. Let’s look at some of the scriptures that this camp uses to reinforce this opinion:
Jesus Christ Himself has said the following:
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
This would appear to indicate no one who is called of God can be snatched out of the Father’s hand nor Christ’s hand.
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”
It would appear here that God is not willing, in His Sovereign Will, to allow anyone who is saved to perish. Note that they are already sheep in the flock.
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Even here, it would appear that even if we build upon the foundation of Christ with hay and stubble, though it be burned up when tested by fire, we will still escape, although singed and smelling of smoke…
There appears to be very strong evidence that once you give your life to Christ, that you are saved. Nothing that you do, the enemy does, or anything on Earth or in Heaven that happens can remove your salvation from you. Anyone who abandons their faith then, by definition, was never truly saved. Therefore, the hallmark of salvation is that you remain in the palm of Christ and the Father, unable to be torn from them. This is very comforting, and helps us to remember the grace and mercy of God in all of our moral failings as we continually repent and turn back to God. God is always encouraging us to return to Him, and He is faithful to forgive us when we repent, so there is no concern.
So, what do we do about these other scriptures?
The second school of thought is that a person, through their intentional disregard for scripture and actions, can somehow shipwreck their salvation. A person can be saved by God, receive God, but then later reject God, and God will let them go. This seems counter-intuitive to the scripture telling us that no one can snatch us from the hand of Christ or the Father. So how do we process the following scriptures?
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 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 in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
This scripture would imply that there are false disciples – people who think they are disciples, but are not truly disciples. The passage indicates that
this these may be people who believe that the proof of their salvation is in the working of miracles and the driving out of demons – a works-based theology. But here is a question: How did they perform the miracles? Are not all miracles performed by God (Satan can perform signs and wonders)? Was God somehow then performing miracles to allow these fake disciples to believe that they were disciples, only to be turned away from salvation on the day of the Lord? What is going on here?
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
It would appear here that the Apostle Paul is implying that the person who was engaging in sexual immorality might not be saved on the day of the Lord if he keeps up his sin. Paul has pronounced judgment upon him, and ordered him to be handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh to preserve him. If his faith is secure, and he cannot be snatched from the hand of Christ nor the Father, NO MATTER WHAT, why would Paul do this?
18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
Here again, Paul has handed over two people to Satan so that they would not shipwreck their faith. If they build on hay and stubble, and will come through the fire just fine, always saved (but without their reward), how can their faith can be shipwrecked? When a sea vessel is shipwrecked, it is destroyed and remains just where it lies, short of its goal of reaching port. The implication is that they were in the process of abandoning their faith.
5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Here, this is either a threat or a promise. If it is a promise, it would indicate that those who overcome will surely not be blotted out of the book of life. If it is a threat, then it should be a rebuke and reminder that God is holy, and will not tolerate continued, unrepentant sin or even ambivalence towards Him and His word.
22 May the table set before them become a snare; may it become retribution and a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.
24 Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them.
25 May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute those you wound and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
27 Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation.
28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.
So, was David just venting to God, saying things that he really didn’t mean? For instance, many people have said the following things in anger:
- “I hate you”
- “I wish you were dead”
- “I hope terrible things happen to you”
But have you ever heard anyone so angry that they said, “I hope God doesn’t permit you to get into Heaven with the righteous”? Does David really believe that God COULD, let alone WOULD, remove someone’s name from the book of life? When we are saved, our name is written in the book of life. Can or would God remove it for ANY reason, since no one can be snatched out of the hand of Christ and the Father?
These are very difficult things for us to understand. On the one hand, God tells us to don the helmet of salvation to KNOW that we are saved. On the other hand, we see passages in scripture that infer that there may be circumstances that could cause the ruination of our faith, and possibly jeopardize our eternal future (or is it just our reward?).
There are many scriptures that can support both sides. But only one [school of thought] can be correct. Each of us must search deeply into the scripture to be assured of our faith. If we cannot determine which school of thought is correct, then let us consider one more scripture and its implications in our lives:
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 8 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 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. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: Which soil of the heart do I have?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You are perfect in all Your ways. Give us hearts that are tuned to yours, and this day I pray, Father, that you would give me wisdom and understanding to reconcile all of these scriptures so that I would know the truth. Help me to understand Your word more completely. Give me clean hands and a pure heart, that I may approach Your word with humility and learn the truth. Keep me from being deceived, and help me to push on towards running the race well, that I would receive the reward that You have prepared for me. Father, You are holy, and I know that You desire for me to live a life in holiness and righteousness. Help me to focus on the goal, and to keep moving forwards. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?
NOTE: The following article was edited. Brackets [*, *] were used to indicated text added later.