Can True Christians Lose Their Salvation?
Updated: Nov 27, 2021
If you are a professing Christian, chances are you have been told at least once that you can lose your salvation. This can be very disheartening, especially if you are new to the faith or just not sure what the Bible teaches about eternal security.
What Does The Bible Say A Christian Is?
A Christian is a sinner who is saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are all sinners (Romans 3:23). If not for the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from the dead on the third day, we would all be condemned sinners (Romans 5:16-18) who will spend eternity in a literal lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15). Thus a Christian is a sinner who believes the gospel of Christ - "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according the the Scriptures" (1st Corinthians 15:3-4).
Ephesians 1:13 states "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation - having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise."
A seal is a mark made with the impress of a signet ring. It indicates guardianship or protection. If you are "sealed in Him" then you are under the guardianship of Christ Jesus. Since He is eternal, then you are under His guardianship and belong to Him for all eternity.
Romans 8:9 tells us "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him."
If you are a true Christian then the Spirit of Christ dwells (or abides) in you. You belong to God.
Eternal Life Is Not Temporary
When confronted with the question "When does eternal life begin and how long does it last?", those who teach that you can lose your salvation cannot give a clear answer. They will point to Hebrews 6:4-6 (will get to this shortly) as their proof text. Several passages in the New Testament assure believers that they have eternal life and that God will keep them eternally secure.
1st John 5:10-13 makes it clear that eternal life begins the moment you come to faith in Christ. "The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."
This passage does not say "that you could have eternal life" or "that you will have eternal life" in the future if you don't lose your salvation. It clearly teaches that, if you believe in the name of the Son of God, then you have eternal life NOW!
John 10:27-29 states “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will 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 the Father’s hand."
I heard at least two professing Christians tell me that they are able to snatch themselves out of the hands of the Father and the Son. They must think they are stronger than God!
Other passages to consider are John 3:16, John 6:39-40, Romans 6:23, Romans 8:38-39, Philippians 1:6, 2nd Timothy 1:9, 2nd Timothy 2:10, Hebrews 5:9, and 1st Peter 1:3-5.
"For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame."
At first glance this passage appears to be teaching that those who "have fallen away" are believers who lost their salvation. This is the classic Arminian view of this passage. The classic Calvinist view teaches that those who "have fallen away" seem like Christians but are really unbelievers.
The context of Hebrews 5:12-14 and Hebrews 6:1-3 clearly indicates that the author is addressing spiritually immature believers who are not able to move beyond the "elementary teaching about Christ." They are encouraged to "press on to maturity." Therefore those who "have fallen away" are Christians who will lose rewards when standing before the judgement seat (bema) of Christ (1st Corinthians 3:12-15, 2nd Corinthians 5:10). If these were unbelievers, then what have they fallen away from? It's definitely not the faith or Christ because they are not saved.
"have fallen away" - what does this mean?
Some theologians have equated ‘fallen away’ (parapito) with ‘apostacy’ (apostasia). These are different words. Apostacy refers to rebelling or abandoning a former authority. We see apostacy twice in the New Testament. Acts 21:21 reports a rumor that Paul is teaching Jews to abandon (apostasia) the teachings of Moses. 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-4 speaks of a great “apostacy”, “falling away”, “rebellion” from the Christian faith before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The term ‘fallen away’ only occurs in Hebrews 6:6. The term 'fallen away' literally means "I fall back into the unbelieving and godless ways of the old time." It is a conscious choice to fall back into a persistent life of sin.
It is possible that the author was addressing believing Jews who abandoned the faith and reverted back to the Law. The apostle Paul addressed the Galatian churches of the consequences of reverting back to the Law.
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:1-4).
"it is impossible to renew them again to repentance"
One commentator writes the following:
"God will pardon all who truly repent. It is possible for human beings so to resist the grace of God that they arrive at a state of heart in which repentance is an impossibility. It is not impossible because God would not be willing to bring them to repentance, but it is impossible because the person is so hardened, he will not repent. This condition is described in Romans 1:28. People become so completely sinful that God gives them up to a reprobate heart" (Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 111–112). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers).
Jesus provides instructions in Matthew 18:15-17 about dealing with the sin of a brother in the church. If this brother refuses to listen to the church then "let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
God may suddenly take home a believer who is in perpetual sin. "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this" (1st John 5:16).
"to renew them again to repentance"
Are repentance and salvation synonymous?
'Salvation' in the Greek is sōtēri. It refers to salvation from sin and death through Christ. 'Repentance' in the Greek is metanoia. It refers to a comprehensive change of one’s orientation toward following God. It indicates a change in direction – to turn, return to.
"since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame"
"to themselves" points to an internal contradiction between the confession and commitment they made to Christ and the choice they made to dishonor this profession by intentionally falling into sin and refusing to repent of that sin and turn back to Christ. All sin dishonors Christ. Persistent sin that Christ died for carries the stigma of a Christian acting like an unbeliever, which is crucifying Jesus again to themselves. Thus the name of Christ Jesus is put to "open shame" and public contempt.
Others may disagree that it is impossible for true, genuine Christians to lose their salvation. I just ask that they study the scriptures for themselves to examine what they believe and why.
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth"
2nd Timothy 2:15
All scripture cited in this post is taken from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.