The answer to the question is No. No Christian, born again, regenerated by the spirit of God will lose their salvation. The Christian is secured: “… sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance…” (Ephesians 1:14).
Once Saved Always Saved
“Once Saved Always Saved” as it is popularly called; though with misconceptions is a true doctrine. There are many other names by which this doctrine is referred — Eternal Security, Perseverance of The Saints, Preservation of The Saints — and it is a comforting doctrine believers must delight in, but unfortunately this is not the case. There are believers who fiercely contest the eternal security of the Christian and do in fact assert that, a Christian can lose their salvation. These people, pointing us to the Bible, also call us to look at the many warnings that seem to suggest the possibility of losing one’s salvation. These texts, for example 2 Peter 1: 10-11; 2 Timothy 2: 17-18; Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-37, if properly interpreted will point away from a believer losing their salvation and rather affirm the doctrine of eternal security (I will try in another post to treat these texts in their context). Now this doctrine is very crucial because it has great influence on our Christian living. According to John Owen,
Very different views are held of the doctrine…. To some, the strong hope and encouragement which God gives to his people (Hebrews 6:17,18) are based on it. To others, the doctrine forms no part of gospel teaching and is only an invention of men. They see it, even, as a powerful encouragement to sin. A right understanding of this doctrine is, therefore, of great importance. It will influence our walk with God. The glory of God, the honour of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the welfare of the souls of believers are bound up with it.¹
Indeed, what views we hold of our salvation has great impact on our walk. And in this article, I argue from Scripture that a believer cannot lose their salvation.
Eternal Security Hinges On God’s Faithfulness
If salvation can be lost, then God is not faithful to His promises. Truly, there are warnings in the Bible, but these warnings are there to ensure we don’t presume on the grace of God. In instances I have engaged with others on this doctrine, I have made one observation and it is that there is a wrong conclusion that the doctrines proposes one can live their lives anyhow and still be saved. A license to sin so to speak. As if by default, I am always asked, “so I can live my life anyhow and still go to heaven?” “Of course, that’s not what I am saying”, I respond. It is bizarre how when you say “Once Saved Always Saved”, people tend to hear “live in sin, it makes no difference, you are saved.” The doctrine of eternal security however, is not a license for a cavalier attitude towards sin. The dangers of sin are real and no true believer, who has a grasp of grace will live in sin and flaunt grace. (See Rom 6:1).
Salvation is a gift of God and Scripture tells us the calling and gifts of God are irrevocable (Eph. 2:8-9, Rom 11:29). A believer’s eternal security, is founded on the character and faithfulness of God first, not how good we perform or not. God is faithful to His promise because of His character, not our performance. “…when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”(Hebrews 6:17-18).
There are indeed many imperatives in the Bible. Nonetheless, the faithfulness and love of God remains. In Jeremiah 31:3 God gives us an indication of the nature of His love: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” In 1 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul writes, “[God will] sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” In John 6:39 Jesus said, “…this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day”. Paul tells us in Romans 8:39 that nothing shall separate us from the love of God. In Phil. 1:6, we are told “[God] who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Jude in his doxology points us to the faithfulness of God in the believer’s eternal security: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…” These and many other texts point us to the eternal security of the believer.
Salvation Not Based On Our Performance
What “Once Saved Always Saved” simply means is that God is faithful to His promises. If He saves a person, that person is saved with an eternal salvation. Not a salvation that vacillates on our performance. Christians, just like all fallen humans, sin. But our sins do not cut us from the love of God. Our Salvation doesn’t depreciate with our sinful human nature. Christ’s atoning sacrifice atoned for sins of our past, present and all sins we will possibly commit in future. Our sins are paid for and they will not tamper with our eternal security.
So Believers Can Live Anyhow?
Not at all! I stated earlier that one objection to the doctrine of eternal security is that it is a license for believers to live in sin. That objection however is a wrong conclusion from the doctrine. The doctrine is not a justification to indulge in sin. We are told that anyone who has the seed of God in him doesn’t make a practice of sinning (1John 3:6).
There are many imperatives in the Bible warning against ungodliness. However, these do not repudiate the truth of God’s faithfulness towards the eternal security of His elect. Those who call themselves Christians and live in sin without repentance and justify their sins may not truly be saved. But if they are saved, we can count on the faithfulness of God to bring them to repentance. God will not let go of any of His own that go astray. He pursues us to restore us back to fellowship. He pursues us with discipline and correction till we are restored. This is love: “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives…. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:6-11).
We are secured. Nothing can undo our salvation: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, 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. (John 10:27-29).
They, whom God hath 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. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.²
1. John Owen, Christians Are For Ever! (Grosvenor Avenue: London, Grace Publicstions Trust, 1987), 7
2. The Westminster Confession of Faith, 17.1; 2