Can Christians Lose Their Salvation?

Michael A. Rydelnik
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Mark has been my friend for about 35 years. Although he loves and follows Jesus, it seems every year or two, he calls me with a crisis—he fears he has lost his salvation.

I’ve seen this concern expressed by many followers of Jesus. Some people fear they’ve committed “the unpardonable sin” or they want to know the meaning of an admittedly confusing passage like Hebrews 6. The main issue always revolves around the possibility that genuine believers can lose their salvation.

If this is your concern, rest assured. I am convinced that the Bible teaches that we are absolutely secure in our salvation, and we need never be worried or concerned about losing our redeemed relationship with God through Jesus the Messiah. The simple reason you can know that your salvation is secure is that it is based solidly on the unified work of the God-head—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The saving work of each Person of the one true God allows us to be assured of our security in the Lord.

God the Father

God Is Holy

We know that our salvation is protected through God the Father’s work of gracious forgiveness. This is based on three simple truths. First, we need to remember that God is completely holy (see Lev. 11:44 and Isa. 6:3). In 1 John 1:5 it says, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” This means God is completely righteous and there is no evil in Him whatsoever. It shows the high standard we have to meet in order to have a relationship with God. Imagine what it would be like to stand before a judge who never has and never will sin. In fact, our God is One who only does what is good and righteous.

We Are Sinful

This leads to a second biblical truth: Humanity is utterly sinful. For example, Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” The Hebrew prophet Isaiah says “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isa. 64:6). He is saying that even the good that we do is not good enough for God. This is why Paul says that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). As a result, we are spiritually “dead in . . . trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). How could any of us fallen and broken people ever expect to enter into a relationship with a holy God?

Salvation Is by Grace Alone

The good news is that there is a third simple truth: Salvation is entirely by God’s grace. One of the clearest teachings of Scripture is that God’s forgiveness is a gift from Him. Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” God the Father forgives because of His undeserved kindness. His gift of salvation does not come from anything we do, but comes entirely from Him. How can a holy God give such a gift?

The Bible reminds us that God’s forgiveness is based entirely on His work and not ours. An important passage that discusses this is Romans 3:24–28. It teaches that we are declared righteous before God only by God’s grace through the redemption that is available through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. God demonstrated that He is a just judge, a Holy God, who wouldn’t overlook sin but required a satisfying punishment for sin, a punishment paid for by God the Son, the Lord Jesus. By forgiving us in this way, God would both be “righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26 hcsb). Our forgiveness and deliverance from the penalty of sin is entirely God’s gracious gift and God’s gracious work. Again, it is not from our effort or our individual level of goodness.

So how does all of this result in our security in the Lord? It’s simple. We did nothing to achieve our salvation. In ourselves, we have no good works, no righteous deeds, no balancing act of trying to do good more than bad. Our righteousness is all from God. Here is the encouraging part: if we can do nothing good enough to obtain salvation, then we can do nothing bad enough to lose it. Did you get that? It means that if we can’t earn our salvation by doing good, we cannot lose it by sinning. Our salvation is entirely a work of God and therefore no human action can undo it.

God the Son

Besides the work of the Father, we are also spiritually protected because of God the Son’s work in securing our salvation. These biblical passages teach that the Lord Jesus keeps us safe in God’s family in four ways.

The Messiah’s Obedience

First, the obedience of the Messiah Jesus keeps us secure. In John 6:37–40, the Lord Jesus said He will receive us, keep us, and ultimately raise us in the last day. But let’s focus on what He said of doing the Father’s will. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me” (John 6:38–39 hcsb). The Son of God became a man in order to do the will of His Father. If just one time the Lord Jesus failed to do His Father’s will, then He would not be who He claimed to be. The Lord Jesus staked His entire identity on always doing the Father’s will. And what is one specific desire of His Father? Jesus tells us: “that I should lose none of those He has given Me.” Our confidence in the Messiah Jesus’ obedience to the Father should give us absolute certainty that if we have come to Him, He will keep us absolutely safe.

The Messiah’s Grip

Second, the strong grip of the Messiah Jesus keeps us secure. The Good Shepherd made this promise to those who truly trust in Him: “No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28–29). The image the Lord uses is clear: He is holding us in His hand, and we are safe in that. In fact, we are even more secure because the Father guarantees His protection as well.

“We don’t become God’s children by being good.”

When my son was a toddler, we lived in New York City near Queens Boulevard, a massive eight-lane street. When we crossed that street with our little boy, my wife Eva and I would grasp each of his little hands in ours so there was no way he could get away from us. Some have objected that while no one can snatch us from our Savior’s hand, maybe we can escape ourselves. Well, we can’t snatch ourselves out of the Messiah’s hand any more than my toddler could have gotten away from his parents. If we have come to know Jesus, we are held tightly in His grip.

The Messiah’s Love

A third way we’re safe with the Lord is the love of Messiah Jesus. Paul makes this abundantly clear in Romans 8:38–39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate us from the Lord Jesus! Some may object saying, “Although nothing outside can separate me from the Lord, I can separate myself from Him!” Just remember, we too are created beings, and even we don’t have the power to separate ourselves from the love of God found in the Messiah Jesus.

The Messiah’s Intercession

Fourth, we are secure in the intercession of our Messiah Jesus. If you’re like me, you might think, I’m so sinful and mess up so frequently, I certainly should be able to lose my salvation. But no, Hebrews 7:25 says Jesus “always lives to make intercession for” us to the Father. And in 1 John 2:1–2, we are told that even when we sin, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation [or satisfaction] for our sins.” Yes, we fail, but we have a living Messiah Jesus, who is our intercessor and advocate with the Father, who assures us we are forgiven. God the Son secures our salvation through His obedience, grip, love, and intercession.

God the Holy Spirit

Yet a third reason for our security is found in God the Holy Spirit’s supernatural protection. The Holy Spirit’s work begins at the moment of salvation when the Holy Spirit baptizes every individual believer into the body of Christ. Paul writes, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . .” (1 Cor. 12:13). The word “baptize” here means to “immerse” and this is saying that all believers are immersed or placed into the universal body of all believers. Since this refers to all believers, we know it must happen at the moment someone receives the Lord Jesus.

The Holy Spirit also indwells every believer at the moment of salvation. In Romans 8:9, Paul says “the Spirit of God dwells in you” and that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Additionally, Paul reminds believers that each believer is “a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (1 Cor. 6:19).

In addition, the Holy Spirit seals every believer. Paul writes, “Having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). Furthermore, this sealing is “for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). The idea of a seal is two-fold: identification and security. First, a seal was used as an identifying mark on a letter or a package. Second, a seal was put in place to provide security until the letter or package arrived, only to be opened by the recipient. These verses in Ephesians say that the Holy Spirit seals all believers to identify them as belonging to the Messiah Jesus and to keep them safe and secure until their day of redemption, when they stand in the presence of their Lord. For anyone to lose his or her salvation, it would be necessary to remove them from the universal body of believers, to expel the Holy Spirit from His indwelling presence, and to break the unbreakable seal of God on the believer.

Final Thoughts

The work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the triune God, assures us that we are secure in our salvation. How should that affect our lives? First, we can relax! That’s the great news for anyone who feels like a spiritual failure or unworthy of salvation. We are right in our assessment of ourselves but mistaken in our view of God. We don’t become God’s children by being good; we become His children by entering into a forgiven relationship with God because of what the Lord has done for us. He’s redeemed us by grace that is greater than all our sin.

Second, we can draw great comfort from knowing we are safe in the hands of the Lord Jesus. As a dad, I always assured my boys that I would always love them, always care for them, and they would always be mine. Even if they abandoned everything I ever taught them and did something terrible, I would still love them. Now as adults, they tell me what a tremendous encouragement it was to know they were unconditionally loved. How much more reassuring is it to know that the Lord Jesus will always keep us secure in His love?

Third, we need to respond to God’s gift of gracious security by living holy lives, reflecting that we are sons and daughters of the King. We won’t choose to sin more and more to get more and more of His grace (Rom. 6:1–4). Rather, we recognize what He has done for us in redeeming us and so we’ll live for the Lord Jesus, to bring honor to His name.

For Further Reading:

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