Can a Christian Lose His Salvation?
Christian, can you be sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you will go to heaven? Is it possible for a genuine believer in Jesus Christ to fall away from the faith?
Some say a Christian can lose his salvation. Occasionally during my childhood our family attended a church where the pastor, at the end of every worship service, invited people to walk down front and pray to receive Christ. Every week many of the same people walked down the aisle and prayed to receive Christ. I wondered why the same people went through this weekly ritual. Now I understand. These folks thought they could lose their salvation, so each week they would re-receive Jesus as their Savior.
Christians who think they can lose their salvation live in fear. They wonder, "What if I commit some grave sin before I die and don't repent, will I go to hell? How can I be sure I've lived a good enough life to go to heaven?"
A true Christian can never lose his salvation. God preserves true believers to the end. Here are three reasons.
First, our salvation lies not in our having chosen God but in God's having chosen us. If the ground for our security were our deciding for Christ, we would be on shaky ground indeed, for we change our minds constantly. Thankfully, our eternal security lies not in a decision we made, but in a decision God made. God "choose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4). And God does not change his mind. Some will object, "I weighed the evidence and made a decision to believe in Jesus." Yes you did, but only because God first made a decision for you. Jesus said, "no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him" (John 6:65). Left to ourselves, none of us would make a "decision" for Christ. Apart from God's Spirit working is us we are spiritually blind and spiritually dead (I Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1). We do not seek God (Romans 3:11). In fact, we're hostile to God (Romans 8:7). It is only "because of his great love for us" that "God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions" (Ephesians 2:4-5).
So, the first reason a Christian be eternally secure is that he did not choose God; God chose him.
The second reason a Christian can be secure is that salvation is a "gift" from God (Romans 6:23; John 10:28). You did not do anything to earn it; you cannot do anything to lose it. Even the ability to believe comes from God: "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Our Lord is no Indian giver. "God's gifts and his call are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29).
The third reason a Christian can be eternally secure is that God promises to preserve true believers to the end. Jesus says, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28-29). Your salvation depends not on your grip on Jesus, but on Jesus' and the Father's grip on you. Jesus, the good Shepherd, promises, "I shall lose none of all that he [the Father] has given me, but raise them up at the last day" (John 6:39). Paul adds, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).
Some say that if you tell Christians they cannot lose the salvation then they will have no motive to pursue holiness. But just as a good earthly father does not threaten to disown his children if they are disobedient, neither does our heavenly Father.
Fear of losing one's salvation is an unnecessary incentive to obedience for a true Christian. He who knows God's unconditional, irrevocable love, out of gratitude, endeavors to live a life pleasing to God. Besides, a true Christian cannot but grow in obedience, for he has been given the Holy Spirit which transforms him.
One who professes faith in Jesus but has no desire to obey God's commands has no grounds for assurance. Jesus said, "By their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:20-21).
The final exam of the genuineness of your faith is obedience. Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice...and they follow me" (John 10:27). James adds, "Faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:26). If you are resting on Christ alone for salvation and desire to grow in him, you can be certain you are going to heaven. "The one who calls you is faithful" (I Thessalonians 5:24).
But those who see no change in their lives ought to heed Paul's admonition, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith" (II Corinthians 13:5).
Peter Kemeny, Pastor
Good News Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 1051, Frederick, MD 21702