Can or Can't Lose Salvation?
I was recently challenged by a Christian brother regarding the doctrine of Eternal Security for believers. His main scriptural reference to support the view that your salvation can be lost was John 15:1-6 which we'll look at later. This issue seems to come up fairly frequently in Christian discussions, and I think it is really a theological issue rather than a practical question. Meaning, if you're asking that question and concerned about your salvation then you are most likely saved.
Take the scenario of a Christian that "falls away", rejects Jesus Christ, and turns from the truth. There are plenty of examples. Someone that believes in Eternal Security would say that person was never saved to begin with, and on the other side (my friend's position) they would say that the person lost their salvation.
But theoretically could a saved person lose their salvation?
As always, if there's disagreement between the followers of Christ, we should always go to the source and see what God's Word has to say on the subject and let Scripture be our final authority.
"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 10:27-29)
This is a rock-solid passage to show that once saved we will be kept in the strong hand of Almighty God. The objection is, "Yeah God won't let us go, but we can jump out of His hand if we want." Really? The "hand of God" is so weak that you can leap out at will? Seems like a frail objection, but let's look at some other verses anyway.
"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." (Jude 24)
It sounds like God is able to keep us!
"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." (Ephesians 1:13)
"And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30)
We have been SEALED by the Holy Spirit! There is no way to "unseal" ourselves as if the power of God the Spirit was too weak to contain us and preserve us. Friends, your salvation is secure. You cannot "lose" it.
"For 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." (Romans 8:38-39)
Could it be more clear?
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:37-40)
We HAVE eternal life right now if we are in Jesus Christ (also see 1 John 5:13), and in the passage above we see that Jesus will lose nothing that has been given to Him. He will not allow your soul to be lost.
We cannot have eternal life right now, and then lose it a moment later, or that it must be "maintained" by what we do. This is a teaching that is actually very strongly rebuked in the book of Galatians. Those (like my friend) who believe you can lose your salvation think that your salvation can be lost by committing certain sins. The problem with this is that it teaches a works-based salvation. "Jesus started it, but I have to do things to keep it!" This is folly, since our salvation is a free gift from God. We did not do anything to earn it, therefore we don't have to do certain things to keep it. Remember that the only unforgiveable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Ghost (rejection of the Holy Spirit, see Mark 3).
Paul addresses this very issue in Galatians 3:3 writing, "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" We are saved by faith, and works of the law can do nothing to alter that because "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Galatians 2:16).
Do we then, on the basis of "once saved, always saved," encourage Christians to "sin that grace may abound"? With Paul we say, "God forbid!" We offer no comfort or assurance to those living in sin. We don't say, you're okay because you once made a "decision for Christ." Instead, we warn: "If you are not willing right now to live fully for Christ as Lord of your life, how can you say that you were really sincere when you supposedly committed yourself to Him at some time in the past?" And to all, we declare with Paul, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves" (2 Corinthians 13:5). - Dave Hunt
Now let's look at John 15 as mentioned in the opening paragraph. Because Scripture interprets Scripture, we have to view this in light of the overwhelming Biblical evidence (such as the sample of verses quoted above) teaching that you cannot lose your salvation. If one is truly saved, they will abide in Jesus Christ. The opening verses of John 15, specifically verse 6, refer to those who are Christians in name only, or those who have claimed to have faith but never had a relationship with Jesus Christ. Albert Barnes (1798 – 1870) says, "This doubtless refers to those who are professors of religion, but who have never known anything of true and real connection with him."
Matthew 7:21-23 talks about people who "are relying on their works to prove they are saved, instead of upon God's grace. Nor does Jesus say, 'You were once saved but lost your salvation.' He says, 'I never knew you'" (Dave Hunt). There are numerous people who claim to know God, that even call themselves Christians, but clearly follow worldly things. These are the dead branches that Jesus is talking about in John 15 that do not bear fruit (see Galatians 5:22-23). Judas is a clear Biblical example of a branch to be burned in the fire. He spent time with Jesus Christ, knew His teaching, but never acknowledged Him as Lord of his life.
Finally, 1 John 2:19 says, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." This verse describes fake Christians, and essentially says that if their salvation was genuine they would abide in the teachings of Jesus Christ. It does NOT say that they were sincere but "lost" eternal life.
We do not have to ever worry if we are "doing enough" to maintain our salvation. Our salvation is secured in Jesus Christ according to His love and mercy.
I strongly encourage you to read these two articles as well that further discuss this topic: