Don’t we all want to have a spirit filled life? Then we must be able to resist attacks of the enemy. Satan uses lies and deception to keep us wandering in the wilderness, unfocused and powerless to engage the enemy; the idea a Christian can lose their salvation causes much anxiety.
First, we’ll examine two passages commonly taught as “proving” a Christian can lose their salvation, and second, discover some absurd ideas losing your salvation would imply (if it were possible).
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4–6 NKJV)
Yikes! Does this mean a Christian can lose their salvation? But what can they not be renewed to, salvation? NO! The word used here is repentance. We equate repentance with salvation, but that’s not necessarily so. To fully understand this, we look to another passage in Hebrews and a few other of Paul’s writings.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1 NKJV)
Paul was always concerned with his running a race. Paul did not fear losing his salvation, but being unfruitful. He exhorts us to lay aside any weight hindering us, and run with endurance the race before us, as Paul brings out similar ideas in his other writings.
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11–15 NKJV)
It’s clear Paul talks of rewards, not salvation. Even if a person loses all their rewards by living a carnal and unfruitful life, they are still saved. Paul echoes this race theme in his writings.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24 NKJV)
Paul’s first focus was always heavenly, not earthly. The issue is the jeopardy of heavenly rewards, not salvation. Paul makes the distinction between the two clear, and the conclusion about the passage in Hebrews is the following:
The primary reference of this passage is to Jewish believers in the sense of them being called out of Judaism. Thus, this is NOT a Salvation passage. It is talking of the fruits, the making of our lives into useful ministries. … Those who have lost their first love (Revelation 2). As we emphasize the idea that Jesus did the whole deal, we run the risk of sitting back on our security and not recognizing that we are in a race. Paul was preoccupied with this idea of being in a race. Only Christians are in this race, Paul was not running a race with sinners. Paul’s fear was not that he would lose his salvation, but that he would have an unproductive life and have his witness curtailed.(Chuck Missler “Hebrews” page 73)
2 Peter 2:20–21
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:20–21 NKJV)
Taking only these verses is a critical mistake. Chapter two starts out with a warning about false teachers, with the thought continuing throughout the chapter. They are “wells without water” (17) “for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (17). And when we arrive at verse 20, the subject remains false prophets. It is not about Christians, it is a warning for Christians.
Notice the wording of Peter, he uses the phrase “knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. Does this imply they were saved? Hardly. James provides a commentary on what knowledge is good for in terms of salvation.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! (James 2:19 NKJV)
Are demons saved by their knowledge? I don’t think so, as knowledge does not imply salvation. The passage in Peter talks about false prophets who were never saved in the first place; it does not, can not, apply to Christians.
Now that we have dealt with two troublesome passages, finding out what they don’t mean, you may ask is there any evidence we can’t lose our salvation? Certainly.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29 NKJV)
Notice the explicit phrase here, “they shall never perish”. If you could lose your salvation, you would perish, and Jesus would be a liar, thus it must not be possible. But also notice two hands here, the Father and the Son. The picture of one hand over the other — a complete enclosure — so that “no one is able to snatch them out”. That’s comforting, because I’m a man, and if no one can snatch them out, I can’t snatch myself out.
Later Jesus, just before his betrayal, had this to say in his prayer to the Father.
“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:12 NKJV)
It’s not up to us to maintain our salvation. Jesus does all the work. Whose job is it to keep the sheep? Certainly not the sheep, they are too stupid. It’s the shepherd’s job to keep the sheep. And one of Jesus’ seven “I AM” statements in John is “I AM the good shepherd” (John 10:11). If Jesus is the shepherd, he isn’t going to lose any sheep.
You Did Nothing to Earn Salvation, Right?
Ephesians 2:8–9 says we are saved by faith, not by works. In fact, even the faith to believe is a gift from God! Logically, if I didn’t do anything to obtain salvation, can I do anything to lose it? I don’t think so. If God chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), will he unchoose us later? That would imply he can change, and God does not change.
Paul has another issue in Ephesians. In chapter 1 verses 13–14, he speaks of being “sealed” with the Holy Spirit of promise. If God seals something, I don’t see how it could be unsealed. Paul continues to speak of the Holy Spirit as “the guarantee of our inheritance”. A guarantee of being sealed isn’t worth much if it’s possible to lose your salvation and become unsealed.
The real problem is not can you lose your salvation (you can’t), the real problem is, were you ever saved in the first place? This is perhaps a more disturbing question than losing your salvation. We are not speaking of sincere doubts, we all at some point have those (remember Satan and his deception campaign). Have you made a sincere prayer of commitment to Christ? If so, you don’t have a problem. If not, do it now.
Unfortunately, we frequently rely on feelings and experiences, which not only are unreliable, but can easily be used by the enemy to deceive us. Satan himself can transform into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13–14). We must anchor ourselves firmly to the rock of the Word of God.
Remember this simple truth — if you did nothing to earn your salvation, you can do nothing to lose it. If someone claims you can lose your salvation it logically means they also believe the following:
- Salvation comes by works.
- Jesus’ death on the cross was insufficient for salvation.
Those aren’t good ideas, thus the idea you can lose your salvation must be false.