Can a Christian lose salvation? Once we are born again, justified by faith in Jesus Christ, can we then lose salvation? Does God give us the free gift of salvation and then if we’re not good enough or don’t obey enough, remove it?
The position that I believe in is called “perseverance of the saints”. That once a Christian is justified by faith, the faith alone is that which makes him right with God. It is not works at all. Works has nothing to do with how an individual is justified, saved, brought into salvation. But I don’t believe it ends there. I believe that true saving faith leads to a transformation. The Bible says we are born again. It is a very real supernatural rebirth that occurs in a person’s life where the Holy Spirit is now inside and the person inherits everlasting life. They’re given a new heart with new desires and this is evident by the fact that they begin to do good works and begin to obey God, not to be saved or keep their salvation, but rather because they are saved now.
Before we go over the Bible verses that justify this position, let’s discuss the other two positions. There’s one on this side and there’s one all the way on the other side and both of them are false. We’ll start here. This one is oftentimes called “hyper grace, once saved always saved”. And this position states (rightly) that a person is justified by faith, it’s the faith alone, in the grace alone of God that saved them. Where they falter and they fall into error is immediately after they say “That doesn’t mean that a person is going to live a transformed life. That person can continue into sin and still be saved.” That is where the error is.
Then on this side, we have a whole other camp who believe (rightly) “I got saved by faith. I got justified by faith.” Then they fall into error because they go “The person is transformed and lives a new life but if they don’t do it good enough, if they don’t work hard enough for maintaining and keeping their salvation, God will remove it.” That’s the error. Both of these positions are on extremes of each other and they fall into error. That’s not what the Bible teaches. So what I’m going to share with you today is the “perseverance of the saints”. That’s the name of this doctrine that is biblical, that deals with answering this question: Can a true saint lose salvation? No, because true saints are overcomers who stand until the end, having overcome the world and persevere in their faith till the end.
1 John 2:19 is talking about a group of Christians who have come into the church. They call themselves Christians but “they went out from us”. They began in the church and then they went out. So they began a life of obedience and submission to God and then they left and no longer are they following God. They went out from us but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us, but they went out that they’re going out (that expression of them coming in and then leaving the church) is evidence that they are not of us to begin with. What we see here is that those who come into the church and they end up falling away, they were not of us to begin with. The Bible says that on that day, many shall say to me “Lord, Lord” and you’ll say to them “I knew you for a little bit”? No, “I never knew you. I’ve never brought you into my family by the adoption. I’ve never given you the Holy Spirit. I’ve never given you the new birth. I don’t know you.” (Matt 7:21-23)
There is another verse that shows that God doesn’t cast away his children. He doesn’t take someone and adopt him as a child and then “I don’t like you anymore. Go out. You’re no longer my child. I never had a relationship with you.” A true Christian is one that perseveres and that is so clearly evident with 1 John 2:19?
John 10:28 I give them eternal life and they will never perish. And no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ.
You are a masterpiece once you are accepted by God and brought into God’s family. He is the Potter and you are the clay and he begins to shape your life. And it is his work to shape and mold you into the likeness of his Son. Philippians 1:6 says that that good work that God has started through Jesus Christ will be completed, he’s not gonna leave you hanging, he’s not going to just abandon you.
Ephesians 4:30 says: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
We are sealed by God, protected. He’s not going to let us go. We are in his hand once we are truly saved. Let’s emphasize what true and saving faith looks like because we run into verses in the book of James that say stuff like this.
James 2:14 What good is it my brothers if someone says he has faith but does not have works. Can that faith save him?
And he goes on to talk about “faith without works is dead.” Is James’ teaching here a contradiction to what the Apostle Paul was saying about how we are saved by grace? No, not at all. What he’s talking about here is the difference between the once-saved- always-saved head knowledge of God and saving faith. James 2:19 says “You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe and shudder.” So the demons have faith and know God and his son and all these things but are they saved? No, that faith is dead and how do we know that an individual has true saving faith? It is by the works. Is it the works that save them? No, it’s the faith. But the true and saving faith that led to the new birth also led to a changed heart. That changed heart then in turn leads to good works that we’re called to do. But it is not those good works that save us. Faith is the root and obedience is the fruit. But we’re saved by the root faith and faith alone. But how you know that is saving faith is you begin to see a transformed life, a person wanting to surrender their life to Jesus and God, because they are saved, not to keep their salvation, not to merit it in the first place either. These are very important biblical concepts to understand.
Now let’s talk about these once-saved-always-saved heretics who are teaching this hyper-grace nonsense that’s nowhere found in the Bible, that a true born-again Christian can potentially continue to sin their whole life and still end up saved. Let’s look at what the Bible has to say about that. 1 John 3:4-9 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning (no one who abides in him continues in a pattern of willful sin in their life). No one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or knows him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of willful continual sin in their life is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning since the beginning. And the reason the Son of God has appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning for God’s Spirit, his seed abides in him and he cannot keep sinning. It’s impossible for a Christian because God’s Spirit abides in us. Because of the new birth, we are given the Holy Spirit. It abides in us, it has the power to overcome sin. We’re free from sin so we will not continue in sin. By this, it is evident who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil. We can know that you are a true born-again Christian if you are having a new life, you have new desires. It doesn’t mean you’re gonna be perfect but it means that you are going to tackle sin in your life. And it’s a continuous battle but you are going to grow in righteousness and obedience, not to keep your salvation, not to get saved in the first place, but because you are saved and God’s seed, his Spirit, abides in you. And because of that abiding, you can’t continue in sin. A child of God cannot continue in sin because the Spirit will convict, God will discipline and you will experience godly sorrow like you’ve never experienced in your life, which leads to repentance, a change of mind, which works its way out from the mind into action. If we have a changed mind, we will also have changed actions because our actions come from our mind. So if I change my mind about something, if I truly repent, then also you’ll see that worked out in my actions. If my actions begin to show you that I continue to sin, it’s because I don’t have a real change of mind. My mind hasn’t repented of these things, hasn’t been turned around.