Can a Christian lose their salvation? - by Keith Petersen


Can a Christian lose their salvation?

In respect to the above question it is vital to recognize that the salvation of men is entirely the work of God.  John 1 states “as many as received him, to them gave he [the] right to be children of God, to those that believe on his name; who have been born, not of blood, nor of flesh's will, nor of man's will, but of God.”  Man naturally does not desire – and, is not capacitated to fit into – a spiritual realm.  1st Corinthian 2 says “But [the] natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him; and he cannot know [them] because they are spiritually discerned”.

It is apparent that God saves men while they are yet sinners – He did not and could not wait for any to prove that they were worthy of salvation.  Romans 5 says “for we being still without strength, in [the] due time Christ has died for [the] ungodly.”

As a result of God’s transaction to save a soul that person is provided both with the necessary faith to receive Christ, new birth which introduces a “new man” which, as “born of spirit” (John 3:5,6), enables the person to enter into a spiritual kingdom and the final step which is the gift of the Holy Spirit as providing the capacitating power for and the “earnest of” our inheritance (Ephesians 1).  All this involves divine movements initiated by and entirely effectuated by God Himself.

Ephesians 1 lays the matter out in order and it does us well to consider what is said:

“Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ; according as he has chosen us in him before [the] world's foundation, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love; having marked us out beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to [the] praise of [the] glory of his grace, wherein he has taken us into favour in the Beloved:   in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of offences, according to the riches of his grace (“For ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God's gift” – Ephesians 2:8); which he has caused to abound towards us in all wisdom and intelligence, having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for [the] administration of the fulness of times; to head up all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth; in him, in whom we have also obtained an inheritance, being marked out beforehand according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his own will, that we should be to [the] praise of his glory who have pre-trusted in the Christ:  in whom ye also [have trusted], having heard the word of the truth, the glad tidings of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, ye have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is [the] earnest of our inheritance to the redemption of the acquired possession to [the] praise of his glory.”

Once the Christian has this salvation it cannot be reversed because it does not rest upon whether they subsequently sin or don’t sin.  If continued salvation actually depends upon the practical righteousness of the Christian rather than the complete and plenary work of God; then, it would be necessary to substantiate that the Christian is sinless and thus worthy of continued salvation.  As a result, their status would revert to what is shown in the law given to Moses – “Every commandment which I command thee this day shall ye take heed to do, that ye may live” (Deuteronomy 8).  But, a moral and righteous standing before a holy God cannot be based on a man's endeavor to show righteousness since Isaiah says "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" and Paul writes to the Galatians “but knowing that a man is not justified on the principle of works of law [nor] but by the faith of Jesus Christ, we also have believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified on the principle of [the] faith of Christ; and not of works of law; because on the principle of works of law no flesh shall be justified."  Conversely, Christian righteousness is shown in Philippians 3 as being "that I may be found in him, not having my righteousness, which [would be] on the principle of law, but that which is by faith of Christ, the righteousness which [is] of God through faith".

It is apparent that, even though Christians are constituted as righteous in Christ every Christian while yet on the earth most certainly, through allowance of the “old man”, continues to sin.  John writes in his 1st epistle “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  The apostle James says "We all often offend."

Thus, if Christians base their continued salvation on refraining from sin, all Christians, of necessity, would lose their salvation.  The entire notion that sinful acts by a Christian (and, note, we are referring to sin irrespective of the scope of - the seriousness of - any particular sin since, according to James 2:10 "For whoever shall keep the whole law and shall offend in one [point], he has come under the guilt of [breaking] all") determine either their continued - or, the loss of - their salvation goes back to keeping the law.  This was the thrust of the apostle Paul's corrective teaching to the Galatians.  In that epistle Paul was forced to confront an erroneous line of teaching that was an attempt to integrate features of the OT law into the liberties of Christianity.  Thus, Paul writes, "Are ye so senseless? having begun in Spirit, are ye going to be made perfect in flesh?"  

The argument is put forth that a covenant with God is broken and salvation is lost. The recourse would then be that, by confession and associated restoration into grace, such erring Christians can then recover and be/remain saved.  But, this continues to ignore that their salvation and sealing has been fully accomplished by God Himself.  As has been well said, a Christian never had any part in their salvation other than their sins.  There is no other possible basis by Scripture for a man to be saved than by the reality that God Himself brings a soul into salvation through the Cross of Christ.  And, while Christians are certainly called upon to maintain righteousness (“What then shall we say? Should we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Far be the thought. We who have died to sin, how shall we still live in it?” – Romans 6) a believing Christian’s subsequent sin does not and cannot cause them to lose their eternal salvation – they did not secure their salvation – God alone did it.

In regard to any thought as to a Christian covenant, it is clear from scripture that God’s old and new covenants are made with Israel and, while we come under the principle of the new covenant (sovereign grace) the covenants as set out in scripture clearly apply to Israel alone.  The following scriptures will make this plain:  “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Genesis 17:7).  This covenant was made with Abraham and his seed, and God subsequently referred to His “covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Exodus 2:24).

Subsequent to this Jeremiah records “Behold, days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31) and Hebrews 8 reiterates “For finding fault, he says to them, Behold, days come, saith the Lord, and I will consummate a new covenant as regards the house of Israel, and as regards the house of Juda”.  Thus, when the Lord says in Luke 22 “In like manner also the cup, after having supped, saying, This cup [is] the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” it links back to Jeremiah 31.

To consider that a Christian can lose salvation is also to ignore two other very important realities.  Any question as to the loss of salvation immediately brings to the fore the notion that God cannot properly secure a soul for eternity, and then, reflexively, that Satan can wrest a soul from God - both notions ignoring that what God has accomplished is secure in the completed work of Christ (the Lord on the Cross said "It is finished").  Believing Christians are immediately assured through the scripture that God cannot be defeated; thus, 1st John 4 says “greater is he [i.e., the Holy Spirit Who is God Himself – Edit.] that [is] in you than he that [is] in the world” and the Lord said directly “I give them life eternal; and they shall never perish, and no one shall seize them out of my hand.  My Father who has given [them] to me is greater than all, and no one can seize out of the hand of my Father”  (John 10).

With some that think that a true, believing Christian faces the danger of a lost salvation there is evidently an erroneous line of reasoning that is caused by misapplying God's judgment against practical departures (we certainly have a clear mandate and responsibility from scripture to strive to maintain a righteous Christian path) since there are most evidently associated judgments of God against sin (“whatever a man sows, that also he shall reap”).   So, as in the following example, an erring Christian would reap the fruit of the sin as a practical result (i.e., he becomes a drinker and licentious club goer and perhaps loses his wife and his family, or contracts STD); however, his eternal welfare has been fully secured and sealed by God.

"God is not mocked"; so, in regard to the practical results of sin, God’s righteousness, seen in the following example in Scripture, demanded that King David bear the results of his sin in the death of Urijah the Hittite (“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Urijah the Hittite to be thy wife”); however, David did not – could not – lose his salvation, and thus Nathan the prophet said to him “Jehovah has also put away thy sin” and subequently in 2 Chronicles 8:14 the Holy Spirit calls him "David the man of God."

Similarly the apostle Paul delivered Hymaneus and Alexander to Satan to the result “that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme” – a circumstance of discipline; not, of lost salvation.  Many other scriptures could be adduced as to the reality of practical discipline and judgment; but, the above shows that God certainly, due to His righteousness, implements practical judgments against sin in any - including believers (although it is a matter of worship that God is a God of love Who mitigates judgments - "mercy glories over judgment").  However, these righteous enactments of God against sin in no way impact the eternal inheritance of a true believer.  Even in natural relationships in this world a father might discipline a son for a wrong act; however, that does not remove the son from his relationship as son to his father, and vice-versa.

Of course, it needs to be said at this point that the Bible makes a clear distinction between true believers and professing Christians.  Thus, Judas was a devil (John 6:70) – he never came into salvation – and the apostle writes in Hebrews 6 as to those as to whom “it is impossible to renew again to repentance those once enlightened, and who have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have been made partakers of [the] Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and [the] works of power of [the] age to come, and have fallen away, crucifying for themselves [as they do] the Son of God, and making a show of [him].”  This latter section could cause some confusion; but, it is dispelled if it is understood that such referred to were in the circumstances of Christianity – they were enlightened (the light shone upon them; but, they didn’t receive it), they tasted (they didn’t appropriate) and they were partakers (the Greek word is metecho the meaning of which, in distinction to koinoneo, is “to take a part in something outside of oneself”) but were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

In summation, God alone saves a soul and it is entirely impossible that this work be reversed since “none can take from his hand.”  Another has written:  “A Christian cannot lose salvation.  Most, if not all, of what the Bible says happens to us when we receive Christ would be invalidated if salvation could be lost.  Salvation is the gift of God, and God’s gifts are “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).  A Christian cannot be un-newly created.  The redeemed cannot be unpurchased.  Eternal life cannot be temporary.  God cannot renege on His Word.  Scripture says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).”  (See, for this additional resource: )

It is a profound misapprehension of the entire nature and means of salvation as set out in Scripture to think that any considered merit and/or action of man contributes in any way to either initial or continued salvation.  Only God can save a soul and, once saved, that soul cannot be seized "out of my hand."  If this assurance were not so a Christian would be constantly in consternation as to whether some particular sin had suddenly rendered them unsaved and lost - with salvation to be hopefully re-secured through some subsequent act of purported righteousness.  Thankfully, God redeems us and maintains us as redeemed through His own power and love.