Is It Possible to Lose Your Salvation?

By: Dillon Burroughs; ©2011
Is it possible to lose your salvation? This age-old question causes more controversy among Christians than perhaps any other. Why? Because we are not discussing a secondary issue of theology, but rather whether we can know for certain whether we will spend eternity with God.

This age-old question causes more controversy among Christians than perhaps any other. Why? Because we are not discussing a secondary issue of theology, but rather whether we can know for certain whether we will spend eternity with God.

There are key Bible verses used for both responses to this question. Those who argue you can lose your salvation cite verses such as 2 Peter 2:1, Galatians 5:4, and Hebrews 10:26. Those who support the belief in the eternal security of believers usually cite Matthew 7:21-3, Hebrews 13:5 and Romans 8:1, 37-39.

To be clear, the Bible is not contradicting itself; it is our interpretations that differ. Which one is correct, or at least the most likely, of these two positions?

Based on a correlation of the key verses that address this issue, the weight of the evidence heavily falls on the side of eternal security. Romans 8 argues this most strongly. It begins in verse 1 with, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” After 35 more verses of explanation regarding what this means, Paul concludes with:

Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Look again at this list Paul gives: “death…life…angels…demons…nor anything else in all creation.” The apostle could not have used stronger words. Clearly, when God gives salvation, he does not take it back.

Some, however, argue that even though God may not take salvation from when we sin, that we can voluntarily leave our salvation. The main biblical reasons for this are given in Hebrews 6:4-6 and 1 John 2:19. The Hebrews passage states:

Hebrews 6:4-6 “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”

Some interpret this as believers who later turned away; others interpret this as unbelievers who have seen the work of God’s Spirit and have yet rejected it. If this was the only passage on this issue, there would certainly be much more confusion. However, even in this passage a strong case can be made that these individuals were never saved, just that they had been aware of the work of God and had rejected it. Still others see this passage describing true believers who have turned away from God and are said to be unrepentant, yet this does not mean they have lost their salvation.[1]

In 1 John 2:19, we also read, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” I like apologist Matt Slick’s understanding of this passage when he writes,

“I see this verse saying two things: First, that if it appears that false teachers leave because they are not regenerated to begin with. In other words, if someone had salvation and then lost it, it was because they never were saved in the first place. Second, it says that if someone is saved, they will remain in the faith.”[2]

To summarize, it should be clear that this is a controversial issue because it is in many ways a difficult topic to understand. Why would God continue to keep us saved despite our sins? Shouldn’t he reject us at some point? Yet the same grace that saves us is the same grace that sustains us.

My nine-year old son Benjamin recently read 2 Timothy for the first time. When I asked what he liked about it, he showed me these verses:

“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

Benjamin was overwhelmed that even when we mess up, Jesus still remains faithful. Why? Because “he cannot disown himself.” If we are “in Christ,” our eternity is settled for eternity.

Surely there are many who have claimed the name of Jesus yet do not live like it. To those, our goal is not simply to convince them that they are saved, but rather to encourage them to examine themselves to see whether they are really in the faith. The same Paul who wrote Romans 8 also wrote these words: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5).

Likewise, those who disagree with us on this issue are not our enemies. Our goal must be to understand what God’s Word says, to live it, and to help others do the same (Ez. 7:10). In the end, may we all stand amazed that the One who created the universe loves us enough to save us, sustain us, and walk with us through the struggles of this and every other issue of life.

“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5, NKJV).

Notes

  1. Thomas Constable, “Constables Notes on the Bible” on these verses. Accessed at https://netbible.org/bible/Hebrews+6.
  2. Matt Slick, “Can the Believer Lose His Salvation?” Accessed at https://carm.org/can-believer-lose-his-salvation.

6 Comments

  1. Victor Totu on November 1, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Luke 10 says…”.but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” I understand from this verse that a person “born again” is written in the Book of Life.
    Revelation 21 says..”And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
    My question to you is; a born again person can be whipped out from the Book of Life if this person sins like in the verse 27 of Revelation 21?

  2. J.D. on October 20, 2017 at 10:46 am

    I am a Baptist, but have questions. I believe in the Trinity, and that Jesus was God personified , and He gave His life willingly as a living sacrifice to save humanity from their sin. I do, still, wonder if I can loose my salvation through unwillfull sin (knowingly or unknowingly).

    • Ernest Mwelwa on May 10, 2018 at 9:15 am

      Its not desirable thing for every human being to lose. be it in a competition of game or in life. if a question is asked, Did you rejoice or are you happy that you lost your salvation ? I am sure the answer will be NO.
      In spiritual life Jesus did it for us. He won the battle for the world. only believe. He has promised to be with you to the end. From the Garden of Eden we see t.he LOVE of God. Adam and Eve wanted to do it by themselves. They used tree leaves to cover their sin.which cannot last long. The LOVE of God appeared, he covered their nakedness with the goat skin which is Jesus. IT IS NOT THE DESIRE OF GOD FOR MAN TO LOOSE HIS SALVATION.

  3. Richard on May 7, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks for the article. Please note that you misquoted “Here is a trustworthy saying: …”. It is not Hebrew 2:11-13 but another passage. Do you know which one it is?

    • John Ankerberg Show Staff on May 8, 2018 at 9:15 am

      Richard, thank you for pointing this out! While we do proofread our content, we are still human and make errors. I have changed the reference to 2 Timothy. I hope you have a great day!

  4. Jeremias on May 31, 2018 at 5:16 am

    If all the scriptures are studied properly, the doctrine of eternal salvation is eternal salvation is very clear. You can not lose what is never yours, He did it on the cross. It is finish.

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