2004-06-15 - Can You Lose Your Salvation?
The Summer Question Series, 2004 #3
John 10:27,28, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them. And they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand."
"Once you become a Christian, can you lose your salvation?"
This question came up more than once in the questions I received, but this was the most succinct expression of it. There are various views on this topic, and it largely depends upon what theological tradition you align yourself with, as to how you would answer this question. You might think that you don't have a theological tradition, but if you attend a church, any church, you do. It is often good to know where your denomination and pastor stand, where they were trained and what are the peculiarities that they are likely to emphasize. These things do affect what you hear in the pulpit, and often, how you interpret Scripture. In my response, I am not trying to step on anyone's toes, but I intend to present the Scripture as I understand it.
I will start by being very simple. I do not believe you can lose your salvation. I hope to emphasize Scripture here, but if you do not believe in the doctrine of election in Christ, then I would expect that you would believe that you could lose your salvation and go through the Christian life without the blessedness of assurance of faith. I really think the answer to this question stands or falls on the doctrine of election to salvation in Christ. There certainly are backsliders and those who fall into sin. Who of us cannot name some well-known Christian leader who has fallen into gross sin. The take on backsliders is if they really are believers in the grace of Christ, then they will always return to Christ seeking forgiveness. If they were pretenders or imitators only, and did not rest in Christ alone for forgiveness, then their fall into sin will not be accompanied by repentance. Thus it is with backsliders.
The concept of God choosing some is not simply a New Testament concept. When Saul was chosen by God to be king, the prophet Samuel said, "Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen?" David is also spoken of as being chosen, Psalm 78:70, 71. The Levites are said to be chosen by God to carry the ark, 1 Chronicles 15:2. We see also that Christ chose the 12 disciples in John 6:70, "Did I Myself not chose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?" Deuteronomony 4:37, 7:6, 7 also speak of God choosing the people of Israel to be His people.
1 Timothy 5:21 talks about elect angels, but we also have instances of Scripture talking of believers being elect of God. We can look at Matthew 24:24, Luke 18:7, 1 Peter 1:2-5, and Romans 8:33 as just a couple of examples. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 1:4 that he knows of their election. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14, he goes further and says, "...Because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation...And it was for this that He called you through our gospel..." Ephesians 1:4 says more plainly that God's choice was from the beginning, "Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him."
It seems that God does choose, call, or elect some to salvation. The answer to the question then respects this teaching of Scripture. If God has chosen some, who can thwart the purposes of God? He is the Creator and gives us life. Christ has promised, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out," John 6:37. See also John 6:39, 17:2, 24. So the promise is that whoever comes to Christ will be accepted by Christ. Now consider if this promise proved to fail. Could not then satan say, "Here is one who came to you, and yet here he is with me in hell. He came to you, but you could not keep him. What good are your promises now?" But satan cannot say this, because all that the Father gives to the Son, the Son accepts and will in no way cast off.
Thus my conclusion that if you have come to Christ for forgiveness, you cannot lose that forgiveness once you have it. Christ, when He forgives sins, does it for sins past, present, and future (Ephesians 2:8, 1 Corinthians 1:18, Hebrews 9:28). If you have been chosen by God, then you will come to Him for forgiveness, and Christ in no way will later cast you off.
Soli Deo Gloria,