Equipping the saints for the work of the ministry - Ephesians 4:12

Can Christians Lose Their Salvation?

Most Christians agree that God has given man the gift of free will. Our salvation is determined by what God wills and what man chooses. It seems contrary to the nature of God to lock the door once we enter. It may be possible for man to retain the ability to leave, but it doesn’t seem probable. Why would anyone choose death rather than life?

Stages of salvation:

  1. Justification is when the soul is set free from the penalty of sin. 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
  2. Sanctification is when the soul is set free from the power of sin. John 17:17 – “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.”
  3. Glorification is when the soul is set free from the possibility of sin. 1 John 1:3 – “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him.”

We enter the door of sanctification the moment we consecrate our lives to Christ and submit ourselves to the process of becoming more like Him. Justification and sanctification are pre-requisites for glorification when salvation is finally complete. Glorification occurs after the death of the body when the soul is transported beyond the reach of temptation and sin.

Salvation is not complete until we have been glorified. Philippians 1:6 says, “He who has started a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” But, God seems to have tempered his own sovereignty by gifting man with free will.

Christians are certainly eternally secure, but this security is conditional. It could be disrupted by the sovereignty of God or the free will God has given man. Can a man lose his salvation? I don’t think so. Romans 8:38 says, “For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.”

Paul goes on to list all of the things that are incapable of separating us from God’s love. But, Paul does not include ourselves in that list. Can a man choose to become an apostate? The Bible seems to indicate that a man can choose to walk away from God.

There are at least 80 passages of in the New Testament that teach that the process of salvation can be interrupted, delayed or stopped altogether. Jude 21 says, “keep yourselves in God’s love” and Jude 24 says, “He is able to keep you.” This seems to indicate a conditional relationship. He will keep us if we will determine to be kept.

Jesus declared himself to be the true vine. Dead branches are cut away and destroyed while fruitful branches are pruned so they will produce even more fruit (John 15:4). Christ warns against the prevalent teaching of cheap grace. Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

1 Peter 2:20 says, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” Peter is saying that people who enter the way and then departed from it are worse off. This is contradictory for those who argue that we might continue to live a sinful lifestyle and still be rewarded with eternal life. If they received eternal life how are they worse off?

I question the idea that we cannot walk away from God because it seems to make God inconsistent. Either he has gifted us with free will or he has not. But I argue that it is very unlikely that a man would choose to walk away from God if he were truly, genuinely saved. Maybe a more accurate statement would be not so much, “once saved always saved” but “if saved always saved.”

Kevin Probst has a B.A. in Religion and Ministry, a B.A. in History, a M.A. in Secondary Education and an Ed. S in Administration and Supervision. He is a licensed minister and teacher at Calvary Christian School in Columbus, Ohio. His interests include religion, apologetics and theology.