Can a true Christian lose their salvation?
This week’s column builds off of last week’s question: “What is a Christian?” If you have not read that column, I would strongly encourage you to go here and do so as these are cumulative topics, building on one another. In light of last week’s article, I have added the word true to the question: “Can a TRUE Christian lose their salvation?”
When people ask me this question they either ask it because they knew someone who was very religious and walked away from the church or because they read a verse in the Bible that seems to imply that a person can, indeed, lose their salvation.
To the first situation, I would simply say that none of us can see a person’s heart, and so it is impossible for me to know if the described person truly ever had faith to begin with or was simply religious. Last week, I tried to explain the difference.
To the second situation, we need to analyze all of those verses through an interpretative rule which teaches that Scripture interprets Scripture. In other words, we cannot simply take a verse out of the Bible and build an entire doctrine around it. Scripture is designed to go together. As such, we must look at these difficult questions with a broader view. What follows are what the scripture clearly teaches about all who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. For loss of salvation to be possible, these things would, in my assessment, need to be false.
A TRUE Christian is spiritually declared to have right standing before God. This idea, justification, simply explained, means that God looks at followers of Christ and sees them just as if they had never sinned, but had instead lived a perfect life. God goes beyond removing our sin, he forgets it and reckons you as perfect as Jesus (mind-blowing, I know). To lose salvation would mean that God would not just have to go back on his declaration, he would have to ‘un-forget’ the sin that has been removed from you. Either of those options is counter to scripture.
A TRUE Christian has been purchased out of slavery and is now owned by God (1 Peter 1:18–19). God bought us for himself, not with silver or gold, but with the blood of his son. To lose salvation would mean that God would have to sell us back into slavery to sin. Us running away from our master doesn’t mean that he is no longer our master. God will never sell someone he has redeemed back into sin because the blood payment has already been made and it was an unfathomable cost.
A TRUE Christian is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). When you follow Jesus, you do not start a journey of self-improvement; you are made into something new entirely (even if you don’t see it or feel it). If a true follower of Jesus could lose his salvation, the new you would need to be destroyed and the old you would need to come back.
More, TRUE Christians are adopted into God’s family and declared to be co-heirs with Jesus as their brother (Ephesians 1:3-10; John 1:9-13; 3:1-21). Followers of Jesus do not join a club or an organization; they are born again, this time into God’s family. God promises eternal life to those who have been reborn. For loss of salvation to be possible, there would need to be a process of being un-reborn and kicked out of God’s family.
God gave all TRUE Christians the Holy Spirit as a promise guaranteeing their future inheritance (Ephesians 1:13–14). The term in the Greek to describe this process is similar to a signet ring pressed into wax to promise that the King’s word is behind whatever is being communicated. The Holy Spirit serves as collateral and a certificate of authenticity to prove that God will follow through on his promises. In other words, true Christians are signed, sealed, and will be delivered to the King of kings.
A TRUE Christian will be resurrected. Although right now we are stuck in this earthly body, Jesus promises to glorify all those whom God has redeemed. Jesus even goes as far to say in John 6:43-45 that everyone who is called by God will be resurrected. In other words, the whole process of salvation is like a freight train that cannot be stopped once it gets started.
These soteriological (theology of Salvation) facts are only a sampling of reasons as to why salvation cannot be lost. Perhaps the simplest explanation is this: If salvation is not earned by works, how can it be lost by works? Salvation is by faith and faith alone. If we are saved by faith, there is no amount of bad works that we can do to lose it.
At the end of the day, it is neither my job nor yours to determine where someone stands with God. We shouldn’t waste our time trying to pick wings off of theological flies, and often these sorts of debates can serve as distractions from our true task - to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love people as we love ourselves.
You’ll never be able to do either of those two things no matter how religious you think that you are, but thankfully salvation is by faith and not by works so that no man can boast about how great he is (Ephesians 2:1-10).