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Can Christians Lose their Salvation?

By Tom Brown

This is the most important question Christians can ask, because their eternal soul may depend on it!

The greatest deception which has been devised by Satan that has been accepted by a large number of Christians is the false doctrine of "once saved, always saved." This doctrinal theory assumes once a person is saved that there is nothing he or she could ever do to lose his or her salvation. Even if he should become fruitless and commit the grosses sins, this creed teaches that he is still saved. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reason so many American Christians believe this lie is because of the undo influence John Calvan had over European Christianity. (And, of course, Europe influenced America.) Calvin was the first to popularize the concept that all Christians will persevere to the end.

Although God definitely promises to do his part to keep us saved to the end, this does not mean that we do not have a part to play. God promises eternal security, but not unconditional eternal security. Nearly all God's promises are conditional; that is, they are dependent in part on us for their fulfillment.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH?

It is important that we go to the Bible—and the Bible alone—to see what God says about this important subject. This article is going to prove that salvation is a free gift of God, and must be maintained by holiness and bearing good fruit.

There are two important aspects of being saved. First, salvation as it relates to the sinner. A sinner experiences the new birth by accepting Christ. There is nothing a sinner could do to earn the new birth. The new birth, which the Bible calls salvation, is a free gift. The second aspect of salvation relates to the born again Christian maintaining his salvation. He maintains it through holiness and bearing good fruit.

Someone might argue and say, "You are teaching that salvation must be earned through good works." No, I'm not. Salvation is free, but keeping it is costly.

Suppose a friend gave me a brand new car which he paid out of his own money, and simply gave me the title and keys and said, "It's yours, Tom. Enjoy it." All I can do is reach for the keys and title and say, "Thank you!"

Let me ask you a question. Is the car a free gift to me or did I have to earn it? It's free, right! But let me ask another question. Is it going to cost me money to keep and maintain the car? Sure it is. I'm going to have to put gas, change the oil, give it tune-ups, wax the car, and so on. The car is costly to keep, but it was free when I received it.

Salvation works the same way. I can't earn it. God freely gave me my salvation since Jesus paid for it through His sacrifice on the cross. But once I receive it, I must take care of it. This is what Paul means when he says, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

He does not say, "Work for your salvation." He says, "Work out your salvation." You can not work out something that you do not have. You have to possess salvation before you can work it out. Salvation comes first, maintaining it comes next. It is maintaining your salvation which we are talking about in this article.

God was the first to ask whether or not people could lose their salvation. We find God asking this question in Ezekiel 18:24: "'But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sins and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live?'" God is asking, "Will he live, if he departs from his righteous ways?" And what was the answer? "'None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will DIE.'"

He will die spiritually, not physically, because we all die physically. Death is in reference to spiritual and eternal death. The Bible calls the lake of fire the second death. Eternal damnation is called death in the Bible.

Many would like to argue with God, but what God says stands. God says that he will die. We have to accept his Word.

WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT TEACH?

Someone might argue, "Yes, but that threat was under the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant, God does not threaten the believer with damnation if he departs from holy living." People who argue this have simply never taken a close look at the New Covenant warnings of the believer losing his salvation. Let us see what the New Testament teaches about believers losing their salvation.

Jesus clearly warns, "Every branch IN ME [this refers to believers] that bears no fruit, the Father cuts off." And what will be the outcome of those fruitless branches? Jesus continues, "The branches will be cast into the fire." (see John chapter 15).

How much clearer do we need Jesus to be!?

Paul echo's Jesus' warnings to fruitless believers in Romans 11:21: "For if God did not spare the natural branches [unbelieving Israel], he will not spare you [gentile Christians] either." Paul continues in the next verse, "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off." If this is not a warning of Christians losing their salvation, then I don't know what is.

Paul gives many warnings in much of his writings. Take 2 Timothy 2:11-12 as an example: "...If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him..." No one has any problems with this so far. It is the next statement that gives Christians problems. "If we disown him, he will also disown us." Notice the pronouns "we" and "us." These pronouns clearly refer to us believers. God promises to disown us if we disown Him. This warning must be taken seriously.

Peter describes Christians who had lost their salvation in 2 Peter 2:20-21: "If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them." Peter is saying that Christians who have lost their salvation are worse off than unbelievers who have never been saved. This should sound the alarm on sleeping Christians.

And we must not forget the most famous passage in the Bible concerning Christians losing their salvation. It's Hebrews chapter six. The writer plainly warns what happens to the born again, Spirit-filled, Bible-toting, anointed Christians who falls away from the Lord. He says, "It is impossible for them to be brought back to repentance." He describes these apostates as thorns and thistles which will be burned in the end. I wish more Christians would take this warning seriously.

THE FINAL WARNING

And lastly, let us not forget the final words Jesus spoke to the churches. These words are found in Revelation chapter two and three.

Listen carefully to some of the warnings He gave to backslidden churches as well as some of the promises He gave to overcoming Christians.

"If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (ch 2, v 5).

"He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death" (ch 2, v 11). The opposite is also true. If you don't overcome, you will be hurt by the second death, which is the lake of fire.

"He who overcomes will be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life" (ch 3, v 5). Notice that God's pencil, which wrote your name in the Lamb's book of life, also has an eraser at the other end. The name can be erased from the book of life if you don't overcome.

"Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown" (ch 3, v 11).

"So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (ch 3 v 16). This warning is rather clear.

HOW CAN YOU STAY SAVED?

This article may seem quite negative so far. However, I want to end it on a very positive note.

You may be thinking, "My God, I might easily lose my salvation if I fall away from the Lord." Well, would you like to know the secret to never falling?

This secret is found in 2 Peter 1:10: "...For if you do these things, you will never fall." There is something that you can do that will prevent you from ever falling. And what are the things you can do that will keep you from falling?

Peter says to add to your faith all the wonderful characteristics of the divine nature such as goodness, self-control, love, etc. He says, "For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v 8). You need to possess these qualities in increasing measure. In other words, you need to keep growing.

No one has ever fallen away from the Lord who was growing. People usually backslide when they stop growing. As long as you are growing, you can never backslide.

And what is God's wonderful promise to the growing Christian? "And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (v 11). I can't speak for you, but I don't want to barely enter heaven by the skin of my teeth. I want to make a grand appearance in heaven.

Wouldn't it be terrible to die and enter heaven, only to have one of the angels say, "Oh, it's just you."? No! I want to receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom. How about you? You can! If you make your life count for eternity.

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