Denominational Beliefs

There are whole denominations that answer yes to the question “Can I lose my salvation?”. The Methodists, the Wesleyans, the Pentecostals, the Church of Christ and in a different sense, the Roman Catholic Church. On the other hand there are the Baptists, the Presbyterians and all of the Reformed churches who insist that a true believer may sin and sin terribly but in the end all truly redeemed will finally enter heaven.

It’s difficult for us who live in an uncertain world to believe that anyone can be that certain of heaven. How can you be sure? And does this teaching not invite pride and even possible spiritual laziness? Isn’t this doctrine damnable because it encourages believers to sin since they have nothing to lose?

These are fair questions so let’s begin by looking at two main reasons why some think you can lose your salvation. First, they point to certain scripture passages containing severe warnings of judgment to Christians. This is not an idle point because the New Testament does contain passages that could be interpreted as losing your salvation. Second, they point to professing Christians who fall away from their faith or turn from holiness to live in continued sin. All of us know cases of apparently born again believers who either drifted away from the church or fell into outright sin. Some repent and return, others do not. What shall we say about them? Have they lost their salvation? Did they ever have it in the first place?

This is a question of importance because it leads directly to the whole question of Christian assurance. Can anyone know with certainty, beyond any shadow of doubt that no matter what happens to you in the future, you are going to heaven when you die?

The answer simply is that it depends on who saved you. If God saved you, you can’t lose it because it depends on God. If you saved yourself, you can lose it because it depends on you. Philippians 6 v.1 says: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform (meaning will finish it) it until the day of Jesus Christ. When Paul says that he is “confident” of these things, he uses a very strong Greek word that means “fully persuaded” or “absolutely certain”. What Paul is saying is that he is convinced that the work of grace that God began in the Philippians at conversion will be divinely continued until the day of Jesus Christ. That is, the Lord will keep working in these believers until Jesus returns to earth, at which point He will finish His work, bringing it to completion. This is speaking of the Christian’s eternal security. God had a purpose in view when He begins His saving work that will neither be abandoned nor unrealized.

This makes sense when you understand that salvation is God’s work from start to finish. He finishes what he starts. Consider the “Golden Chain” of salvation in Romans 8 v.29-30. Paul expresses the five links of the chain this way: Foreknown, predestined, called, justified, glorified. The first two concerns God’s decision to save those who trust in Christ, the second two refer to God’s activity in actually saving those whom he has chosen. The last “glorified” refers to what happens when God’s children finally get to heaven. When we stand before the Lord in resurrection bodies, free from sin forever, we will be in a glorified state. But how is it that Paul can express this truth about our future glorification in the past tense? Simply Paul says it in the past tense because it’s so certain of fulfillment that it is as if it had already happened.

Sometimes we use the term “eternal life” to refer only to that which happens to us after we die. But the biblical concept is quite different. In the Bible “eternal life” is nothing more or less than the life of God himself. Because He is eternal, the life He gives is eternal. And that life begins the moment a person believes. According to Jesus’ own words, a believer “has” as a present possession, eternal life (John 3 v.36).  He has “crossed over” from death to life. (John 5 v.24)  He cannot “perish”. (John 3 v.16)  He will never be “driven away” by Christ. (John 6 v.37) Christ will lose none of those entrusted to his care. (John 6 v.39)  And no one in all creation shall snatch a believer from the hand of Christ. (John 10 v.28)  It is hard to imagine how words could be any plainer to express the security of a true believer.

Read Romans 8 v.38-39 when Paul summons all creation to witness to the security of those whom God has called to salvation. The list would appear to be exhaustive: Neither death nor life; Neither angels nor demons; Neither the present nor the future; Nor any powers; Neither height nor depth; Nor anything else in all creation. None or all of these taken together in small parts can separate the true believer from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Some have asked if it were not possible for a believer to take himself out of God’s grace. You believed, so certainly you could “unbelieve” if you wanted to. And some have apparently done that. They have recanted their Christianity and returned to their former beliefs or gone back into the world and followed the path of sinful excess.

Surely God would not continue to save such as person would he? First in the great majority of cases we may say with assurance that such persons were never true believers to begin with. As with the parable of the “Sower” found in Mark 4 v.5 and the explanation found in v.16 & 17, talks about “impulsive people who immediately receive the gospel. But not counting the cost and having no root or spiritual reality in themselves, believe for a while but soon are offended and defect from the truth because of persecution. Their rejection of the gospel is as speedy as their reception of it. Their faith was the profession of a religious person, not the saving faith the Bible talks about. They professed what they did not possess. Since they were never saved in the first place, they could not lose what they never had.

Second, in the remaining minority of cases we may simply reply that God saves whom He desires to save. There may well be some people in heaven who truly believed but later recanted but were saved as a demonstration of the depth of God’s amazing grace. Because Romans 8 v.39 says that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We can’t even separate ourselves from that saving love! Are you part of God’s creation? If the answer is yes, then even you can’t “unsave” yourself. This is surely the most stupendous truth relating to eternal security. Remember, we are all saved in the end in spite of ourselves and not because of anything we do. That’s why your salvation doesn’t rest on you, if it did you would never go to heaven.

Everything can be summarized in three simple statements:

  1. God has done everything necessary to make you eternally secure.
  2. Eternal security is the reason you can know you are going to heaven when you die.
  3. That is why Romans 8 v.1 says there is “no condemnation” to those who are in Christ Jesus.

A salvation you could lose is not much of a salvation at all. You can’t be sure you have it, and if you have it today, you can’t be sure you’ll have it tomorrow. And if you lose it, you can’t be sure you’ll get it again. And if you get it again, you can’t be sure you’ll keep it the next time. What kind of salvation is that? It’s a man centered salvation that makes heaven dependent on what you do.

Remember it all depends on who saves you. If you save yourself, or if you think salvation is a cooperative venture between you and God, then you can certainly lose it. Anything you do for yourself you can lose for yourself. But if God saves you, you are saved forever because it depends on him and not on you. What God does, he does forever.

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