Can Christians Lose Their Salvation?

Posted on July 27, 2017

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By David Ettinger

An Astute Question
In a recent blog, “From Jesus to You: You Are Mine Forever,” I asserted that once believers are saved, they cannot be “snatched away” by Satan. To support this claim, I cited four Bible passages: John 5:24; John 10:28-29; John 14:2-3; and Matthew 28:20.

sadnessMy conclusion was definitively “once saved, always saved.” I believe Scripture clearly teaches that believers cannot lose their salvation.

After reading my blog, an astute reader stated: “Good food for thought. Especially John 10:28-29. I’m not sure how that works with those who have turned away? It’s a hard one to understand for me.” Her sentiments are on target. I have known quite a few people who have tragically repudiated the Lord, some who profoundly influenced my early Christian walk. I struggled to understand their actions, wondering, Is it possible these folks were never saved to begin with?

Salvation Verses
Let’s look at a few “salvation verses” and determine a common denominator:

  • Acts 16:31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved ­– you and your household.”
  • Romans 10:9: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
  • Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

In the first two instances, there is an emphasis on the word “believe.” In the Greek, the word is pistis, and implies a deep conviction. In other words, belief in Christ – that He is hand skyGod; the Messiah; and the Savior of souls – goes well beyond head knowledge or emotion. To pistis in the Lord Jesus Christ is to believe with every fiber of your being – even if you can’t quite grasp it all – that Jesus is precisely all He claims to be.

The third “salvation verse,” Ephesians 2:8, tells us that the saving of souls is the Lord’s work. Yes, the believer must have faith, but even this faith is a work of God (a big topic for another day). Salvation, in other words, is God’s doing from top to bottom. If He has saved you, He will preserve you.

But what about those who have renounced Christ?

The Key Passage
The key to understanding those who to us appeared to be saved but have seemingly “lost” their salvation is Hebrews 4:4-6:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

The Greek word for “taste” is geuo and refers to something which is consciously experienced, whether temporarily or permanently. A good example is Hebrews 2:9 where we are told that Jesus “tasted” death for all people. This “tasting” was obviously consciously experienced, but it was not permanent; Jesus rose from the dead.

The Church has always had in its midst those who both emotionally and intellectually “tasted,” or “experienced,” Christ. They understood the basic tenets of the Gospel. They engaged in sweet fellowship with other church-goers. They read their Bibles and derived much benefit from doing so. They sang the great hymns with gusto and delight. They “shared in the Holy Spirit,” i.e., witnessed great things being done, things which defied human explanation.

RomansHowever, “experiencing” is not the same as “receiving.” As per Romans 10:9, they declared with their mouths that “Jesus is Lord,” but they did not believe in their hearts “God raised him from the dead.” And this was their fatal flaw. This is what the apostle Paul was referring to when he wrote, “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2). These people have “experienced” Jesus, but did not truly believe in Him, hence they never received Him.

Because of this, Hebrews 6:6 tells us it is impossible for them “to be brought back to repentance.” This seems awfully harsh; why? The answer is that those who have “tasted” of Jesus’ goodness ultimately rejected Him with a full understanding of what they rejected and having experienced what a relationship with Christ could be like.

Tragically, knowing and experiencing all this, they came to the opposite conclusion: essentially that Jesus is not God, not the Messiah, not the Savior of souls, and, in fact, deserving of His death on the cross. It is a total repudiation of Christ because they did so while being equipped in every way possible – intellectually, experientially, and emotionally. Once an individual has blackened his heart to all of this, he has surrendered all hopes of being saved.

The Bottom Line
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). I believe Hebrews 6:4-6 explains the kind of people Jesus is referring to. They were never saved to begin with, hence their repudiation of Christ.

For those in Christ, however, salvation is secure; it can never be lost. If you are truly Christ’s, you need never doubt God’s promises regarding your eternal destiny!

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