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Growing & Going Q&A: Can You Lose Your Salvation?

Question – Can someone practicing sin lose their salvation? 

There are Godly Christians on both sides of this debate, however, in order to come to a biblical conclusion, we first must start with the understanding that both sides cannot be true. We must also turn our attention away from men and onto to God and His Word. It might also be helpful to examine the differences between “practicing sin” as a nonbeliever and the born-again believer who returns to sinful habits. (Instead of tackling this last area in a separate section, we will attempt to address some of the differences throughout the article.)

If after reading through everything, you decide you would like prayer or have further questions, please, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

So can a born-again believer lose his salvation? We, at Once Lost Ministries, believe the biblical answer is no. The Bible teaches that those who are truly born again have permanently passed from death to life, never to be “unborn” from the kingdom of His dear Son. We are signed, sealed, and delivered by Jesus and Him alone. (John 3:3; Ephesians 1:13-14 and 2:5, Colossians 1:13). “Giving thanks unto the Father, which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sin.” Colossians 1:12-14

God’s Word is clear that Jesus paid for all sin when He died upon that old, rugged cross. “It is finished!” Paid in full! (John 19:30). This is what Jesus declared. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, reminds us that there is neither condemnation nor separation for the born-again believer. (Romans 8).

Scriptures confirming the completeness of Jesus’ sacrifice are plentiful. Here are just a few-

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” John 5:24

“Then Simon Peter answered [Jesus], Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that You are that Christ, the Son of the living God.” John 6:68-69

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:13

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11

 When a person truly comes to that place of understanding that he’s sinned against God and that his sin has eternally separated him from the Creator, then that person can either choose to receive God’s full and free forgiveness found in Jesus Christ alone, or he can choose to reject it. For those who truly believe that Jesus died for their sins and willingly receive His perfect pardon, there is a precious and permanent promise from God that He will remember the entirety of their sins no more. He has removed all of their transgressions, past, present, and future sins, as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:11-12). Remember, Jesus didn’t just die for sins, but the sin debt/penalty which mankind owes his Creator. Paid in full means the entire sin debt has been covered.

 That a born-again believer has all of his sins forgiven seems pretty straightforward from Scripture, so then why is there so much confusion on the matter?  

 Arguably, there are a few Scriptures people have gravitated toward which seem to teach the loss of salvation, however, most of the issue is really found in the stories people share, stories of friends and loved ones who once seemed so alive in Jesus and later appear to have no further interest in Heavenly things. Most often it goes something like this-

 “I have a friend who got saved a while back and he was on fire for Jesus. He served at church all the time, went to Bible study every week, and his life was really changed. But lately he’s been making ungodly choices and isn’t interested in talking about it with anyone. I’m really wondering if he lost his salvation?”

According to God’s Word, those who are born again have been washed thoroughly. They have been cleansed completely. They have been made clean by the blood of Jesus. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness: according unto the multitude of Your tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” Psalm 51:1-2.

So then why the struggle? Although born again believers have been “positionally” sanctified (cleansed), the Lord is still daily perfecting us in Jesus and His Word. God’s Word is clear that those who have been born again have passed from death to life, but we still have the old nature present until we move to Heaven. We will daily contend with the old Adam. Some believers might struggle with sin, even to the point of getting into Heaven without any rewards, but they cannot lose their eternal place in the Jesus’ heavenly kingdom. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

Generally speaking, there are two types of people when dealing with whether someone can lose their eternal forgiveness. One type of professing believer is the one who struggles with certain sinful behavior, however when confronted, he continually refuses to receive any correction from God’s Word. He can even become hostile toward Scripture. The second is someone who struggles, but when confronted, over time, he receives the correction.

Please remember, when someone is steeped in sinful behavior, it may take a lot of prayer, patience, and time before the fruit of repentance is produced. Before going any further, perhaps it’s also a good place to note that we cannot really know a person’s heart. (The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9Examining someone’s actions and words might give us some insight, however, only the Lord knows what kind of work is really going on deep within. Be careful not to grow discouraged and keep walking by faith, not by sight. That doesn’t mean being ignorant so continue praying for heavenly wisdom, discernment, and boldness when sharing with someone caught up in sinful behavior.

If someone professing to be a Christian has gotten involved in a pattern of sinful behavior, here are a couple possible explanations. 

One possibility is that he never was a believer. Like Judas and those “disciples” who departed (John 6:66), some might appear to be disciples/followers of Jesus but are not really followers at all. Keep in mind, there are those who follow the Lord for a variety of earthly reasons. Some might say “that simple prayer” early in life, and then later get involved in a church for their kids’ or family’s sake. There are others who have a messed up life and turn to the church, not Jesus, for help. There are many reasons for people to change their lives. In fact, every religion can produce outward life changes. And for a variety of reasons, there are even those who have deceived themselves into believing they are born again. Jesus reminds us, “Not every one that says unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 7:21. It is essential that we first examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 2 Corinthians 13:5) to see why it is we believe we are going to Heaven. Next, we must be careful to lovingly and biblically challenge others regarding the true Gospel. Never assume someone is a Christian simply because he’s somewhat fluent in the Christian walk and talk.

Another possibility is that the person practicing sin is a true believer and sadly gotten himself or herself involved in an ungodly pattern of sin. Although the true, born-again believer is still in God’s family, he must carefully consider his walk both before God and others. His choice of sin, even if he thinks it won’t affect anyone else will inevitably affect others and himself. Remember, sin keeps us away from our Savior, robbing us of the vital spiritual nutrients necessary for Godly growth.

How can a tree bear good fruit if it receives only a tiny bit of sunlight and almost no nutrients?  It will whither, robbing the Gardener of His glory and others of the life-giving fruit it should be producing. And the tree itself will be miserable, living an impotent life with little to no joy. Remember what you have been rescued from. Remember why you have been rescued. Remember Who it is that bought you at a great price! But also remember God’s faithfulness! “A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.” Matthew 12:20-21

The Issue:
For those who hold to someone losing salvation, the concern is often voiced, “If people believe they can’t lose their salvation, they’ll continue to live in sin.”

For those in favor of eternal forgiveness, the issue is much more grave. The conclusion is this- “If people believe they can lose their salvation, they will most likely keep their focus on their performance rather than the Perfecter of their faith.”  And frankly, regardless of both conclusions and where they logically lead, the former is simply not biblical.

One pastor said it like this, “To deny the security of the believer is to reject the sufficiency of Jesus’ work upon the cross.” If people walk away from Jesus, Scripture is clear that they were never His in the first place. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” 1 John 2:19

Although a true believer cannot lose his salvation, there are some serious reminders for God’s children.

Even though a born-again believer cannot lose his salvation, he most certainly can grieve the Lord who bought him. And he can most certainly affect and infect others. And this is no light matter! “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:29-32. 

If you really think you have been born again, carefully examine yourself to see why it is you believe you’ll be going to Heaven. If you died and stood before God and He said, “Why should I let you into Heaven”, what would you say? If you’re not sure or believe your good works will somehow impress God, then you most likely do not understand the true Gospel found in God’s Word. Please prayerfully reread John 3:16, Romans 3:22-23, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 10:8-9, Ephesians 2:8-9, and Titus 3:5-7. Then reread John 14-17 and 1 John.

If you know that you know that your sins have been completely forgiven by Jesus’ full and free forgiveness, then there are some important truths to remember.

First, abide in Jesus by daily reading His Word. Stay in His Word and let His Word remain in you. Consider this- What if a friend of yours has a spouse who takes an extended trip. Your friend goes on and on about how much he loves his wife. He explains that she’s sent him dozens of letters. So you ask your friend what his wife’s been doing, to which your friend replies, “I’m not sure. I haven’t read any of the letters.” This, of course, is a simple analogy. If you really love Jesus, you will read His Word. It really is that simple. Reading God’s Word has many more implications than simply knowing what God’s up to. Reread John 17:3, 17:17-19, 1 John 5:20-21, Psalm 119, John 1, Genesis 1, Ephesians 5:26. Galatians 5 and 6, and John 15.

Next, remember that this world is a battleground, not a playground. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” 1 Peter 5:8-9. Although Satan many not be able to strip away our salvation, he most certainly can ruin our testimony and effectiveness in glorifying our blessed Redeemer. King David’s sin with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah are great examples of both the unintended and extended consequences and reproach brought upon the name of the Lord. (2 Samuel 11 and 12). “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted” Galatians 6:1. One helpful and humbling word study is found in the phrase “take heed”. Another is the word “fall”.

Prayer is another tremendously important and often underutilized component in keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Jesus was clear to His disciple. “Watch and pray”. (Matthew 26:41) In our prayer life, we must also be willing to regularly ask the Lord to examine our own hearts, to shine His light in and reveal those areas we should be turning from. It’s been said often. We must keep short accounts with our Lord. When we trip, slip, or fall, turn back to Him quickly and ask Him to forgive not simply the action, but the heart of rebellion that led to the action in the first place. This is tremendously important to understand. We often focus on the bad fruit but don’t forget that it’s our prideful hearts and minds which ultimately need renewing and replacing. Yes, cut the bad fruit off as soon as possible, but never forget to give the Lord His way into your heart and mind. Only then will we begin to understand true victory in Jesus.

“If we say that we have fellowship with [God], and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:6-9

Also, be sure to stay accountable by attending a local fellowship. This is becoming increasingly more difficult, however, the Bible is clear that we should never neglect the assembling together. It is easy to drift from the Lord if we separate ourselves from His body. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.” Hebrews 11:24-25

 

 

Lastly, remember to fear God, not men. Psalm 118:8 says it perfectly, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” Again, in 2 Corinthians, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, reminds us, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” 2 Corinthians 7:1.  The fear of the Lord is perfected in His love, however, let us never forget Who we are to follow. We will follow who we fear and this fear will lead to deeper love. But if it’s flesh we fear, then it’s flesh we will love. If it’s God we fear, then it’s God we will love and Jesus we will follow. The “fear of God” is another excellent word study.

 

May we remain diligent and obedient in Jesus, holding firmly to God’s faithfulness, not so we can keep our salvation, but so we can grow that much more in love with the only One who fully redeemed us by His blood!

 

 

“He has not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the Heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:10-12

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:7-14

 

An excellent follow-up article on the subject: https://www.thebereancall.org/content/eternal-security

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