Could a Christian lose their salvation? Could a Christian in a time of weakness sin greatly and forsake Christ? Could a Christian in a time of deep depression deny their Lord? Could a Christian in a time of difficulty and hardship backslide spiritually and forsake Christ? Could I somehow or another loose my salvation? The Bible says: no. The thought that you could possibly lose your eternal salvation can be the cause of great anxiety. It is good to remind ourselves that our salvation is secure, not because of us, but because of God.
Relevant to this discussion is the last point of Calvinism which is “the perseverance of the saints”. This doctrine teaches that all true Christian people will persevere to the end. Or perhaps even more correctly, God will preserve all Christians to the end. (“Saints” is the word the New Testament uses for Christians.) The Westminster Confession of Faith has a great definition of this doctrine. It says, “They whom God has accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”
Jesus put it this way: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24) and, “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.” (John 10:27-30)
The Apostle Paul, Jesus’ follower and author of a large chunk of the New Testament said: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) He wrote, “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)
The unbroken chain
In fact the Apostle Paul was so utterly convinced in God’s saving purposes in Christ that he used a past tense in Romans 8:30 when speaking about the future of believers. “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)
In Ephesians 1, Paul again praises the Triune God for the momentous salvation in Christ. Paul praises God the Father for choosing us (Christians) before the foundation of the world (v3); he marvels that God the Son died to actually (not potentially) redeem us (v7); and he acknowledges the work of God the Holy Spirit is sealing us at our conversion guaranteeing our future inheritance (v14). A Christian cannot be un-chosen, un-redeemed or un-sealed. You cannot lose your salvation, fall beyond God’s grace or be un-adopted from God’s family because the Triune God has worked to choose, save and seal you.
The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints has been misunderstood by many. The doctrine does not say that Christians will not face any spiritual dangers or never fall into sin. Indeed Christians will face trials and fall into sin just like all the “great” believers in the Bible. The doctrine simply says that Christians will persevere through all these trials and temptations and never lose their right standing before God.
Of course, this doctrine applies only to Christians. It does not apply to those who simply outwardly profess Christ, think they can live like they want and have a free ticket to heaven. 1 John 1:6 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” As the old, but true, cliché says, “Know Jesus, know change; no Jesus, no change.” What about all those we know who at one time professed faith, but are now far from the Lord? John tells us in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” The evidence that you are a Christian is that you will persevere to the end.
What about Hebrews 6?
Hebrews 6 says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (v4-6)
What are we to make of this passage that seems to be warning Christians not to fall away, implying that one could fall away? My understanding is that this passage is teaching the exact opposite, that it is not possible (“impossible”) to fall away. It would be impossible for a Christian to fall away and then become a Christian again for that would be to hypothetically crucify Christ again. The Bible teaches that Christ died to actually save and redeem God’s people. Christ did not die to potentially or possibly to save God’s people hoping that they would believe one day, but actually and truly saving them through his death for sin on their behalf. The sins of God’s people were counted to Christ and he paid the penalty for those sins. The Holy Spirit then applies that accomplished salvation to God’s people at a time in their lives. If people could be unsaved and saved again Christ would have had to pay for their sins twice! The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews must judge if their actions confirm or deny their salvation (Hebrews 6:7-8).
You cannot lose your salvation if (and it’s a big if) you are a Christian. A Christian is not a moral person, but someone who admits they fall short of God’s perfect standards, believes that Jesus Christ paid the price for their wrongdoing and rebellion, and has come by faith to Jesus as Lord and King.
This is a reworking of the post Perseverance of the Saints.