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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 in the Milwaukee area and was concerned that he might not be saved. They were trying to assure him that we 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 in the "once saved always saved" concept. They firmly believe that once they have confessed their sins 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.

In fairness to my Evangelical friends it should be pointed out that this is only one point of view among Evangelicals. Some Evangelicals believe “Once saved always saved” while others vehemently reject the 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 the book of 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 truly necessary to persevere to the end to be saved? Or should we believe those people who claim, that we can never lose our salvation? 

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 your tradition" (Mt. 15:6). They claim that they can no longer lose their salvation; therefore, they no longer have to persevere to the end as Jesus commanded. How is that for making "void the word of God" (Mt. 15:6)?

This does beg the question, why do some Evangelicals today believe in "once saved always saved" when in fact this is at odds with the Bible? Where does this concept come from. It actually comes from the dissident Catholic priest Fr. Martin Luther and John Calvin. Both were in fact Catholic; however, this is one of the areas where they departed from the Bible and Church teaching. I personally believe that they were trying to come up with a nicer kinder form of Christianity. 

We have already seen that we must persevere to the end and we can be cut off and so what are some of the verses that they claim are evidence of the "once saved always saved" concept.

The verse in the Gospels that seems to be quoted most often is in 1 John 5). Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 Jn. 5:12-13).  And what is emphasised primarily here is the knowing that you have eternal life. This is interpreted to mean that you can not lose your salvation because once you have eternal life in you, then you cannot make eternal life die. Eternal life is the very life of God so how can you lose it or leave it?

This sounds reasonable at first because you have eternal life and you KNOW it and they don't list any contingencies where we could lose are salvation. The fact that they don't list any contingencies doesn't mean that there isn't any.  In fact there is, but they have left out the full context.   By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments (1 Jn. 5:2&3). The contingency here is that we love God and obey his commandments. The reason that these verses are not listed in the "once saved always saved verses" is because if we don't love God and obey his commandments then we lose the salvation we once thought we had.

People who say no one can keep the commandments are liars. Once this is pointed out you will often hear another non-Biblical tradition that says "no one can keep the commandments." The problem with this tradition is that it is at odds with 1 John 5.  John says that Jesus commandments "are not burdensome" (1 Jn. 5:3).  

According to the Bible, people who say no one can keep the commandments are liars.

Can we have any assurance of Eternal life with God in Heaven? 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 John chapter 2, 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.

There is the "do nothing" group who claim that we do absolutely nothing for salvation; Jesus did it all and if we do anything it is works based salvation. who claim that The rich young man asked Jesus, what good must I do to gain everlasting life? This was Jesus answer.  

“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. Just believing in the fact of the existence of Jesus is called ascent; however, the Bible asks us to go beyond this and to believe 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. Satan 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.” If they didn’t do anything, because Jesus was supposed to do it all for them. Jesus will say to them, "Not everyone 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.