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Can we ever lose our salvation? Some say yes; others say no. What does the Bible say?


A person called in to a local Christian talk radio program and was concerned that he might not be saved.  They were trying to assure him that you have to do absolutely nothing to be saved and when he gave his heart to the Lord, he could never lose his salvation.  The caller didn’t sound very convinced.

I often times run into people who believe once saved always saved.  They firmly believe that once they have confessed their sin and asked Jesus into their heart they are saved and can never lose their salvation.   They can kill steal rape destroy, but ultimately their salvation is guaranteed because they believe they can never lose their salvation.  I realize that this is only one point of view among Evangelicals.  Some Evangelicals believe “Once saved always saved” while others vehemently reject this notion.  The concept of once saved always saved while never losing your salvation is not in the Bible.  It comes from human reasoning.  In fact the Bible speaks against this particular concept. 

If Paul had the absolute assurance that he can never lose his salvation then why did he work out his salvation with fear and trembling?  “So then, my beloved, be obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). 

In Romans there is the possibility that you can lose your salvation; you too can be cut off if you don’t remain in Gods kindness.  “For if God did not spare the natural spare you either. See, then, the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you remain in his kindness; you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:21-22). 

If you can never lose your salvation then why did Jesus require endurance and perseverance to the end to be saved?  “You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mk 13:13).  Was Jesus mistaken; is it necessary to perservere to the end to be saved?  Once saved always saved is not found anywhere in the Bible. 

I can believe someone who says there is no possibility of losing their salvation or I can believe Paul who speaks about the possibility of being cut off.   I can believe people who say, once saved always saved, a concept and wording not in the Bible, or I can believe Jesus who says, “The one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mk 13:13).   By claiming the man-made tradition “once saved always saved”  they have nullified the word of God for the sake of their tradition.   They claim that they can no longer lose their salvation; therefore they no longer have to persevere to the end as Jesus commanded. 

Can we have any assurance of Eternal life?  Yes we can, in fact the Apostle John said, “I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn 5:13).  So the question is this, what are some of the things that John is writing about that give help us to know what we have to do to have eternal life? 

John tells us very clearly earlier in the same chapter that we must obey His commandments.  “In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn 5:2-3).  And in chapter 2nd John the Apostle tells us how we are to know Jesus.  “The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn 2:3-4).   

So if we are following the commandments, we have some indication that we have eternal life and if at some point we turn our backs on God and choose not to follow the commandments then we no longer have that assurance of eternal life with God in Heaven.  Those who claim that you cannot lose your salvation are quoting from their tradition, not from the words of the Apostles or Jesus. The apostle John is actually echoing the words of Jesus when He was asked what good must I do to gain everlasting life and Jesus answered, 

“If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:18). 

There are those who will quote 1 John 5:13 and say that all we have to do to have eternal life is to believe in the name of the Son of God because that is what it says in the latter half of the verse. Of course this leaves out the things in the former half of the verse which says “I write these things” and they ignore these things that Paul has written that give us the criteria for knowing “that you have eternal life.”   

One Evangelical told me that all you have to do is believe in the name of Jesus.  I asked her this question, “do you mean that we do not have to keep His commandments; we do not have to obey Him; all we have to do is believe in the fact of Jesus existence?   And she said, “Yes.”  This is called intellectual ascent, just believing in the fact of Jesus, and it is not necessary to actually follow and obey Him.  

Using her criteria Satan would have been saved. My point is always this, Satan personally related to Jesus; he believed in the fact of Jesus and yet He refused to obey Jesus.  He wanted Jesus to obey him.   "You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble" (Jm 2:19).   Satan believed in Jesus enough to even tempt Him.  I have since discovered that although intellectual ascent is an Evangelical teaching; in fairness to many Evangelicals, there are some who do believe that obedience to Jesus is necessary.  

We can have a reasonable assurance that we are in good standing with God.  It is just that it is possible to be self-deceived and that is why we do not claim an absolute assurance. And it is also possible that after believing “in the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn 5:13) to turn away from him.  "Severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you REMAIN in his kindness; you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22).  God’s kindness is not afforded to those who claim “once saved always saved.”  It is given to those who remain in his kindness.  

Good luck to those who when seeing Jesus say "Lord, Lord, I am once saved always saved.”  They didn’t do anything for their salvation because Jesus was supposed to do it all for them. Jesus will say to them, "Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Mt 7:21).  How many people over the years have told me that they do absolutely nothing for their salvation?  They ignore the words of Jesus which require obedience to the will of the Father as a requirement for entrance into Heaven.  They neglect the many verses in the Bible that require effort on their part. 

Our Bible very clearly shows that salvation is a conditional one that requires some effort to, maintain, persevere, believe, endure, obeying the will of the Father, remain, to the end to be saved.  Those who claim we do nothing are at odds with Jesus and their Bible.