This is possibly one of the most often asked questions among newly reborn Christians as well as those who have been in the faith for years. Often I have been asked by students and adults alike as to what my views are on losing salvation. Generally, there are two reactions to the answer I give:
- The person is filled with joy and a beautiful serenity grows within the individual’s heart. Christ’s work on the cross becomes clear, as well as the worth of the man or woman to the Father.
- The person is deeply discouraged. Shortly thereafter a confrontation ensues with screaming, bawling, and howling.
Despite the fact that it may not fit certain theological frameworks that people have built within their own minds, the answer to any theological question can be found in the Scriptures. However, there are two passages used by both sides.
The side that believes that salvation can be lost tends to run to Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV) which 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.”
But those who believe that salvation can not be lost go back to John 10:27-29 (ESV) where Jesus says, “‘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.'”
Which one is it? The Scripture testifies to the fact that it is pure, true, and perfect. It is either the Reformed or the Arminian group that takes the Scriptures out of context to fit their own view. So what would be the true biblical view? Simply put, the Bible provides three clear reasons stating that it is impossible for a Christian to lose salvation:
1) Salvation is in Christ.
Salvation in Ephesians 2:8-10, 1 Corinthians 6:11, and Colossians 1:21-22 is defined as a work of God that boasts in the following characteristics:
It is a gift of God and not of our own doing.
Christ alone has justified us without our involvement.
We have been cleansed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And though we were alienated, we were reconciled through the Son’s death and resurrection.
It is obvious that salvation can not be lost since it is not ours to lose. We are not the caretakers of our salvation. As clearly stated in John 10:29 (ESV), Christ’s sheep are in the Father’s hand. It is not up to our hands, but the hands of the One who is Creator of the universe. If the gift of salvation were to be in the control of mankind, it would be lost faster than Esau could say, “Give me some stew.” (Remember him? He sold his birthright to the throne for stew! We’ll bring him up later.)
2) The Father’s plan never fails.
In Romans 8:30 (ESV), God’s plan of salvation is in full view: “And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” A verse prior to this one says that God foreknew the elect and predestined them to salvation. The thirtieth verse however clearly shows that all whom God has chosen are justified and glorified. This implies that God’s work of election can’t fail, likewise it doesn’t have any room for failure. God’s will always comes to pass and it couldn’t be more emphasized with election. Saying that people can lose salvation implies that God failed to justify the true elect.
3) The elect of God see His grace as irresistible.
The most beautiful reason as to why it is impossible to lose salvation is because God’s children find Him irresistible. Jesus made it clear to all who heard His teaching in John 10 that His sheep know His voice and they follow Him. They can not perish.
One of my favorite moments from the Bible is when Christ made the boldest statement ever spoken by a man: “I am the Bread of Life.” Not knowing that Jesus was only speaking in a symbolic sense, the people deserted Him. When He asked His disciples if they too will desert Him, Peter replies in in John 6:68-69 (ESV), “‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” They had a chance to run, and they couldn’t. No matter how controversial His words were, they could not run from them.
When the disciples deserted Christ during the arrest of the Savior, it was to fulfill Scripture, and at His resurrection they quickly returned. This proves that true followers of Christ, even if they run away for a time, can’t permanently do so.
Now if Christ’s sheep can’t lose salvation, then what do we make of Hebrews 6, Esau, and Judas? If we were to put Hebrews 6:4-6 under the context of the Arminian view, then we must literally believe that it is impossible for someone to come back to the faith. It says very clearly that it is impossible “to restore them to repentance”. If that’s the case, then we shouldn’t just believe people lose salvation, but also that once they lose it…it can never be returned. However, what if this passage is not talking about real believers, but people who have witnessed and tasted what was good.
The Bible makes it known that we shall know the validity of believers by their fruit. In other words, if a person is truly saved then his/her works will prove that repentance has occurred. What does this have to do with Hebrews 6:4-6? The author of Hebrews made it very clear in Hebrews 6:7-8 who he was talking about, “For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” Hebrews 6:4-6 was not talking about people who were saved and fell, but people who played the religion game. They weren’t true believers for there was no fruit and in fact, they bore “thorns and thistles.” The elect follow Christ and are proven true through repentance of sin and righteous living.
This principle can be applied to people like Judas. Judas never truly believed in Jesus Christ as much as he believed in Jesus “Maketh-Me-Rich”. Judas was the only disciple in the gospels to address Jesus as Teacher, rather than Lord or Rabbi like the others. We saw in the gospel of John that his character was unrepentant and filthy to the point where He betrayed the Lord. Another truth about Judas is that he was predestined, but not for salvation. Mark 14:21 makes it clear that Judas was chosen to betray Jesus before his own birth, and this is further displayed when Jesus made it clear that He knew Judas was the traitor in John 13:26.
As for Esau, God chose Jacob to be the true heir to the lineage of Abraham and Issac. Jacob was God’s plan and not Esau. That is why God never punished Jacob for ‘stealing’ (even though Jacob won it fair and square after giving Esau his precious stew) Esau’s birthright. Likewise, Esau never came to acknowledge the One true God over all, further proving that the true elect will never lose salvation.
It is very simple: losing salvation is impossible because it is not ours to lose. Anyone who comes to Christ with an earnest heart and repentance can trust that the Holy Spirit has worked within their heart. That is why it should always be a hope that God would never forsake those He foreknew, chose, and justified for the sake of His glory, so that all the world may see His mercy and that many shall find refuge in Him.
Soli Deo Gloria.