CAN A CHRISTIAN EVER LOSE HIS SALVATION?
by Thomas A. Thomas
One of the most blessed truths in all of the Word of God is the doctrine of the final perseverance in grace of the believer. That is the teaching that the one who truly knows the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour from sin can never lose that salvation which he has in Christ. Nevertheless, there are many Christians who live in a constant state of fear that they may commit some sin or drift away to the extent that their salvation will be taken from them. They fear that should they fail to do something to maintain their salvation, they will lose it, and they will again be lost souls.
Much of this confusion as to the believer’s perseverance and preservation in Christ is due to a failure to understand or accept what the Bible says God is like, and the nature of that salvation which He has given us. Unless we understand the nature of God and just what the Biblical doctrine of salvation includes, we can never grasp the truth of the believer’s perseverance in Christ. Let us examine some of the reasons why, as set forth in the Word of God, a Christian can never lose his salvation.
A Christian can never lose his salvation because of the nature of the way of salvation.
Salvation, as the Bible describes it, is entirely by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “For by grace are we saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9).
But what is this salvation which we receive only by God’s grace through faith? Right here many Christians have a very limited and distorted notion. “I am saved,” they say. “I have received the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour; I have been born again; my sins are all forgiven.” And this they consider to be the totality of salvation. But as vitally basic and important as these things are, there is much more to salvation than this.
The term “salvation” is a very broad, all-inclusive word as it is used in the Scriptures. It really includes everything that God has done for us, is doing for us, and shall do for us, in relation to His dealing with our sin and taking us ultimately to be with Himself. It extends from its conception in His mind in eternity past until we are finally with Him in glory. All this is part of salvation. Thus our regeneration, the new birth, is part of salvation. So also is our justification, as God declares us righteous in His sight. Likewise is our adoption, as He places us in His family as mature, adult sons. And so is our sanctification, as God gives us the position before Him
of His saints. His holy ones, and then progressively conforms us during this life into the image of His Son, completing the task only when we are ultimately with Him in Glory. And, finally, when we shall be with our Lord and like Him through all the ages of eternity. All this is included, and it is all by God’s grace, even including the faith by which we appropriate it: “the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
To say then that regeneration, the new birth, is by God’s grace through faith, but that we must maintain or hold salvation by our good works, is to reduce it to part grace and part works. It is completely to misunderstand the way of salvation. From beginning to end, salvation is only by God’s grace, never of works. And because it is completely of grace, with no part of it based on our merit, we can never lose it because of sin or unfaithfulness to Him.
A Christian can never lose his salvation because of the sovereign purpose of God.
In Romans 8:29 the Apostle Paul tells us that God has predestinated all those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Saviour to be “conformed to the image of his Son.”
This word “predestinate” is an important one. It means to make the end or destination certain beforehand. God says He has made it certain that every Christian shall some day be like the Lord Jesus Christ. This does not mean that God is simply engaged in wishful thinking or is merely hoping that everything will turn out all right. Rather, it is certain that we shall someday be conformed to the image of Christ because this is what God has determined to do. Nothing or no one can defeat His purpose.
In light of this, suppose a Christian could drift so far away from the Lord as to lose his salvation, and go out into a lost eternity. What conclusion must we come to concerning God? That He is a miserable failure. He had said He was going to do something; He had even said He had made it certain. And now man has foiled God’s plans and defeated His purposes. We would have to conclude that God cannot do what He said He was going to do.
But we have an almighty God. That which He says. He will do. He says He has predestinated every Christian to be conformed to the image of His Son. How, then, could any believer ever lose his salvation?
A Christian can never lose his salvation because of the infinite love of God.
The Bible speaks much of the love of God. “For God so loved the world …” (John 3:16). This no Christian can question. But why does God love us? Because we love Him in return? Because we
respond to His love? Because we have been so faithful to Him? Quite the contrary. God loves us in spite of our sin! He loves us in spite of our unfaithfulness to Him, in spite of the fact that we haven’t lived for Him as we should. He loved us even when we were out in sin apart from Him. “… God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Now if God loved us even while we were lost in sin, the children of the devil, rebels against Him, loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us, is He now going to turn His back upon us when we sin against Him? Can our sin separate us from His love now, when it couldn’t before we were saved? Not so, says the Apostle Paul. “For,” he writes, “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” (Rom. 8:38,39). In the light of God’s infinite, unchangeable love, truly every Christian is eternally secure in Christ.
A Christian can never lose his salvation because of our Lord’s great prayer of intercession.
In the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John is recorded our Lord’s great intercessory prayer for believers. There He is praying for everyone who shall trust in Him. Among those things for which He prays is that some day we may be with Him and behold that glory which is His. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
We have a Lawyer who has never lost a case. If He ever did, it would mean that the Father was not satisfied with the death of His Son on the cross of Calvary as the penalty for our sins. Or else it would mean that Christ really didn’t die for all of our sins after all. How could any Christian, accepting the truth of the Word of God, ever believe such a thing! Certainly the Father is satisfied with the finished work of His Son on the cross, and because this is the basis on which our Advocate, our Lawyer, pleads our case before the Father when we sin, surely no Christian could ever lose his salvation.
A Christian can never lose his salvation because of the present work of Christ as our Intercessor.
In Hebrews 7:25 the Apostle writes concerning Christ:
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” This is a verse that is often misapplied. Sometimes we hear evangelists use it in reference to the unsaved. But the Apostle is
speaking to the Christian. The Word of God is addressed to the believer. He says He is able to save us to the uttermost, to give us a complete, uttermost kind of salvation, one that deals not only with the penalty of sin, but which takes us through this life and all the way to Glory. This is no part or half-way salvation. It is complete, “to the uttermost.” And how is He able to give us this kind of a salvation? The Apostle says, “Seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us.”
An intercessor is one who offers petitions or requests on behalf of someone else and his need. Now we are told in this verse that Christ is able to give us a complete salvation, one that deals with every aspect of the question of sin, past, present, and future, because He ever lives at the Father’s right hand to make intercession for us. He ever lives to pray for us that we may obtain this full and complete salvation. Christ is interceding (praying) for every Christian now.
But what if some Christian should drift away to the point that he loses his salvation and goes out into a lost eternity? The problem immediately arises again: Christ’s prayer has not been answered. He has interceded for someone and God the Father has not been willing to hear His prayer. Again the only conclusion must be that Christ is a sinner, and further, God has refused to accept the death of His Son on the cross of Calvary on that sinner’s behalf. How could this ever be! Surely, because our Saviour ever lives to make intercession for us, that full, complete, uttermost salvation shall be ours.
A Christian can never lose his salvation because of the sealing work of the Holy Spirit.
In Ephesians 1:12,13 we read, “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” A seal, in the Scriptural usage of the term, is a stamp or mark of possession or ownership. It is that which identifies an object as the genuine article. For example, large manufacturers frequently have a seal, a trademark, by which their products can be identified as genuinely theirs. If that seal is not on an article, although it may look very similar, it is not the genuine article manufactured by that company.
God says He has put His mark, His seal, upon believers, which will identify us as truly belonging to Him. That seal is the Holy Spirit Himself. We are told in verse 13 that we are “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.”
When we first knew the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour, God the Holy Spirit came to dwell within us. And the indwelling Holy Spirit
is God’s mark or stamp upon us that we belong to Him, that we are the genuine article. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9).
But how long will the Holy Spirit indwell us? How long will God’s nark or seal be upon us? Until we sin the next time or until our sin reaches a certain degree or level? Then is He taken away? No! We read that we are “sealed unto the day of redemption ” (Eph. 4:30). The Holy Spirit, God’s seal, is ours until that day when the Lord Jesus Christ comes. That seal is indelible. How, then, could any Christian ever lose his salvation?
A Christian can never lose his salvation because of the keeping power of God.
Can it be, at least in the case of some Christians, our Lord’s prayer will not be answered? In the Scriptures God sets forth certain conditions for answered prayer. We are to ask in Jesus’ name (John 14:13,14), according to God’s will (1 John 5:14), believing that we shall receive what we ask (Matt. 21:22) and abiding in Christ (John 15:7). When we meet these conditions, God’s promises are certain and sure: “It shall be done unto you,” “He heareth us,” “We know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
Failure to meet God’s conditions for answered prayer may be summarized in one little word – sin. If we fail to believe, if we fail to ask according to His will, if we fail to abide in Christ, if we fail to ask in Jesus’ name, we are sinning against our Lord. These are the causes of unanswered prayers.
Jesus, in praying for every believer, asked that we might be with Him and behold His glory. If even one Christian ever falls by the wayside and fails to spend eternity with his Lord, then Christ’s prayer in the case of that individual has not been answered. And since sin is the only reason for unanswered prayer, then Christ must be a sinner. And if He is a sinner, then we have no Saviour and no salvation.
But He is the perfect, spotless, sinless Son of God and His prayer that we may be with Him must be answered.
A Christian can never lose his salvation because of the present work of Christ as our Advocate.
In 1 John 2:1 the Apostle writes, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The question that immediately arises is, What is an advocate?
The word “advocate” comes from a Greek word which means one who is called alongside to help, to plead another’s case. Let us suppose, by way of illustration, that a man commits a crime, and in
the process of time he is caught. Certainly one of the first things he does is to get a lawyer. And what is the purpose of the lawyer? He is to help his client, to plead his client’s case. The lawyer is his advocate.
Now we read in 1 John 2:1 that if any man (that is, any Christian) sins he has an advocate, a lawyer, someone to plead his case before the Father. That One is the Lord Jesus Christ. And on what basis does He plead that the wrath of a holy, righteous, just God against in should not be exacted upon us? Is it that we have been such good Christians and really don’t deserve God’s judgment? Is it our past record of faithfulness to Him? Never! Rather, the basis of our advocate’s plea for us is that on the cross of Calvary He has paid the
penalty for our sins. The judgment which our sins rightly deserve was poured out upon Him. He has paid the price in full. And now
His perfect righteousness has been imputed to us, and a holy God accepts us as He accepts His Son. With the penalty for our sins already exacted upon His Son, His wrath cannot and should not be upon us. And so the Apostle goes on, “And he is the propitiation for our sins (that is, the one who has satisfied the requirements of God’s righteousness and thus removed His wrath): and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
The attitude of many who think they may lose their salvation is that they must in some way hold on to God in order to remain saved. But the Scriptures know nothing of such a doctrine. It is not that we in our weakness and impotence must hold on to God, but that He in His almighty power, in His omnipotence, holds on to us. We “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Pet. 1:5). Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-30). “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
If the Almighty God is keeping us, if He holds us in His hand, how dare anyone say that anything can ever take us away from Him!
Consider some objections to this doctrine frequently made.
When the doctrine of final perseverance is mentioned, some Christians who just don’t understand this wonderful truth present their objections. Perhaps two of the most frequently used are these:
It gives the Christian licence to sin. If a Christian cannot lose his salvation when he sins, it is said, then he is free to live as he wants and to do as he pleases. He is given licence to sin, for no matter how much he sins he remains eternally secure.
But one who would object in such a way as that certainly shows that he has little understanding of the nature of salvation. We are saved from sin. The Apostle Paul asks the question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1,2). When we truly trust Jesus Christ as Saviour from sin, we become new creatures in Christ. Old things pass away and all things become new (2 Cor. 5:17). We are born again, we become the children of God, we are brought out of spiritual darkness into spiritual light. Yes, we can do as we want and live as we please, but that which we want and that which pleases us is now different since we have trusted Christ. And if this is not so, then certainly there is reason for very serious question as to whether we ever received the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour in the first place. The one who truly knows Christ as his Saviour, unless his conscience is thoroughly seared and calloused, will not want to sin. He will not want to do anything which would displease his Lord Who has loved him and died for him.
A second frequently used objecnon which people raise against the doctrine of final perseverance is what they have observed in some individual who has professed to be a Christian. Their argument usually runs something like this: “I know a man who was once very active in the church. He taught a Sunday School class, he served as a deacon, he never missed a service in the churchÂ—morning worship, the evening service, prayer meetingÂ—he was always there. But then, for one reason or another, he began to drift away. He dropped prayer meeting, then the evening service, then his Sunday School class. Eventually he stopped coming altogether and now he is out in the world and in sin and never darkens the door of the church.”
In answering such a commonly offered objection as this, let us first ask a question. What is our final, ultimate point of authority for truth, as Christians? Is it our experience? Is it what we have seen, observed or heard? Or is it the inspired, infallible, authoritative Word of God? Certainly every Christian must answer unanimously that it is God, and never man, who determines what is truth. And God in His Word tells us that we are eternally secure in Christ. We can never lose that salvation which we have in Him. We may not be able to explain the circumstances of such a one as in the above illustration. It may very well be that he was never truly saved in the first place, but if he was, then in spite of his sin and the way he is grieving his Lord, in the light of the Word of God, he is still saved now. He is out of fellowship with the Lord, but he is eternally secure in Christ, and must be brought to repentance before he dies.
How wonderful is this great truth of the Christian’s final perseverance and preservation in grace! His people are His, and His for all eternity. Let us rejoice in it, and worship and serve ever more fervently our Lord who has done so very much for us.