Can a person lose his/her salvation once he/she has become a Christian/believer?
Do we not all know people who at one time expressed a faith in Christ? They went to church, read the Bible, prayed, seemed to be genuine Christians, and then something happened so that they gradually departed from the faith until today they will have nothing to do with church, Christ, or God. Does this prove that a person can lose his/her salvation? Let’s see what God says.
Bible passages that show that true Christians/believers are eternally secure:
Rom. 8:29-30 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
“foreknew” (Gk. “prognosis”) – when used in reference to God, it means “chose and, therefore, knew something ahead of time”. Here, it means the sovereign act of God in choosing before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4) certain people from among mankind to be saved/have eternal life in heaven (2 Tim. 1:8-9).
A rule of Greek grammar, in fact, shows that this is the meaning of the word “foreknew” when used of God’s foreknowing something/someone. This rule of Greek grammar states that where two nouns are in the same case, connected by “and” (Gk. “kai”) and the first noun is preceded by the article “the”, the second noun refers to the same thing to which the first noun does, and is a further description of it. Therefore, in Acts 2:23 the word “foreknowledge” means more than to just simply know something ahead of time. It means to know something ahead of time because it has been “determined” (Gk. “horizo boule”) ahead of time.
“predestined” (Gk. “proorisen”) – means to predetermine; appoint beforehand (Eph. 1:5, 11).
“conformed to the image of His Son” – means to be made like Christ; holy; perfect; ultimate and complete sanctification.
“first born” – means pre-eminent; head; top position (Col. 1:18).
“many brethren” – means Christians or believers.
“called” (Gk. “ekalesen”) – in relation to God’s calling someone to salvation, is that choice on the part of God of an individual in summoning and drawing him to salvation (Jn. 6:44, 65; 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Thes. 2:12; Heb. 9:15; Rom. 1:5-7; 9:23-24) through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:1-2) so that the person actually exercises saving faith for salvation (2 Thes. 2:13; Acts 13:48) – Unger’s Bible Dictionary, pp. 167, 168.
“justified” (Gk. “edikaiosen”) – means declared righteous and uncondemned, by taking away the guilt and penalty of sin of the believing sinner because of Jesus’ substitutionary payment for his sins (Rom. 5:1, 8-9; 3:21-24; Gal. 2:16).
“glorified” (Gk. “edoxasen”) – means transformed the believer’s body at the Rapture (1 Thes. 4:13-17) into a body like the resurrection-body of the Lord Jesus (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Jn. 3:2) to spend eternity with Christ in heaven (Rom. 8:17; Col. 3:4). Though this is yet future in time, it is in the past tense (“aorist”) because in the mind and plan of God, it is already completed/accomplished. It is as good as done!
So, people whom God “foreknew” (chose to be saved, because God wanted it so, based on His own will and purpose and not on mankind’s choices – Eph. 1:5, 11; Jn. 1:13), before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thes. 2:13), have also been “predestined”, “called”, “justified”, and “glorified” with the whole process being encapsuled as a single timeless event. All of these steps are in the aorist tense showing that they are certain, completed, and irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). So, a person whom God calls and who, therefore, believes in Christ for salvation cannot lose his salvation, because the faith that he has is also a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9) and God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). The whole process of salvation is completed from start to finish as far as God is concerned. That’s why Christians can know now that they have, not just will have, eternal life (1 Jn. 5:13). Eternal life is already the present and eternal possession of the Christian (Jn. 3:36; 5:24). And something that is already eternally yours obviously can’t be lost, otherwise it wasn’t eternal to begin with. Likewise, eternal life is a gift from God (Rom. 6:23), which is also irrevocable (Rom. 11:29) once the believer/Christian receives it at conversion/upon believing (Jn. 6:47).
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1, pp. 143-147.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., p. 474.
- Richard’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 502.
Heb. 10:10 “By this will we have been sanctified (made holy – NIV) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
The word “will” refers here to the will of God which Messiah came to do. The will of God which the Old Testament sacrifices could not accomplish was the sanctification (making holy/perfect before God) of men. This was accomplished through the sacrifice of Messiah/Savior. The Greek word “hagiago” (“to sanctify”) means “to set apart for God”. Here, the work of sanctification refers to the placing of the believing sinner into the status of a saved person, with all the accompanying blessings and enablements which that act includes. The words “we have been sanctified” are in the Greek text a perfect participle and a finite verb, showing in the strongest way the permanent and continuous state of salvation into which the believer is brought and in which he lives. The words “once for all” are to be taken with “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ”, and not with the act of sanctifying, although verse 14 speaks of the latter fact.
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 175.
Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30 “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
A seal was used: to guarantee the genuine character of a document (Esther 3:12); to mark ownership (Song of Sol. 8:6); and/or to protect against tampering or harm (Matt. 27:66; Rev. 5:1). The context would seem to indicate all of these are intended in the above verses. The word also occurs in 2 Cor. 1:22 and 2 Cor. 5:5. From these, we learn that when God deposited the Spirit in the hearts of Christians, He obligated Himself to bestow upon them subsequently the full remainder of all the blessings of salvation merited for them by the atoning sacrifice of Christ. The Holy Spirit is our pledge, deposit, or guarantee of glory/inheritance to come – namely, salvation in heaven with our glorified, resurrected bodies (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; 1 Pet. 1:4).
Christians are “sealed” (secured or protected) for delivery unto the day of Christ’s return (the day of redemption), when our redeemed bodies and souls reunite to inhabit heaven. No one or no thing can alter this security or ownership for salvation, of which Christians are (since they are God’s possessions – 1 Cor. 6:19-20).
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., p. 619.
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1, pp. 49, 50.
1 Cor. 3:11-15 “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stone, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Even though a Christian’s life may be lived in such a way that it is a waste (wood, hay, and straw), yet “he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire”. The imagery is that of a man who has to dash through the flames of a burning house to escape to safety, and as he flees, his clothes are set on fire, yet he escapes alive but naked. So it is with many Christians, they will appear before God naked – without rewards – because their lives were lived for themselves instead of for God. And yet, they will be saved. The loss suffered is that of reward, not salvation.
- The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1235.
John 6:47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”
When a person believes in Christ as their personal Savior, they receive eternal life at that point; it is already theirs here and now. And if it is here and now that their eternal life begins, then they can’t lose it, otherwise, the life they received could not have been eternal but temporal.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., p. 296.
Rom. 11:28-29 “…for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
Both “grace” and “faith” are gifts from God (Eph. 2:8-9). Since God is the One who gives the people He wants to saving faith, and the result is eternal salvation, then the saved person is eternally secure, because both “faith” and “eternal life” are gifts from God (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 6:23) and, therefore, irrevocable. God cannot take back the faith or eternal life that He gave someone; it’s irrevocable/unalterable.
“Calling” (Gk. “klesis”) – is that choice on the part of God, from eternity past (2 Tim. 1:8-9), of an individual in summoning and drawing him to salvation (Jn. 6:44, 65; 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Thes. 2:12; Heb. 9:15; Rom. 1:5-7; 9:23-24; 2 Thes. 2:13) through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:1-2) so that the person actually exercises saving faith for salvation (2 Thes. 2:13; Acts 13:48; 16:14).
- Unger’s Bible Dictionary, pp. 167, 168.
Even the Christians in Corinth who were living carnal/worldly lives (1 Cor. 3:1-3) had been called (given saving faith) by God (1 Cor. 1:26, 29). God’s calling took place even before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:8-9), and was based according to His purpose and grace and not on man’s good works/deeds or choices (2 Tim. 1:8-9; Titus 3:5). And the Christian’s calling is to only one hope – salvation in heaven (Eph. 4:1, 4; Titus 1:2; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). So, a Christian cannot lose his salvation, since God’s calling is irrevocable/unalterable.
John 6:37-40, 44 “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out … And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. …every one who believes in Him, may (shall – NIV) have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
Those people that God the Father gives to His Son Jesus Christ will not be cast out (never be driven away – NIV) – John 6: 37. On the “last day” (judgment day – Jn. 5:28-29), Christ will raise up all those whom God gave Him (Jn. 6:39), those whom He had chosen and predestined to be saved before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5, 11-14; 2 Thes. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:8-9). Notice that no one whom the Father gives to the Son (Jn. 6:39) will be lost either (Jn. 10:28-29). All of this is based, not on a person’s never-failing faith or obedience, but on God’s giving these chosen people to His Son.
Another important point is that a person has, not just will have, eternal life from the point of believing (see Jn. 3:36; 5:24; 6:47). Once a person initially believes in Christ as Savior from his sins, from that point on, he already has eternal life. Eternal spiritual life doesn’t start after the Christian physically dies. And if eternal life is eternal, then it can’t be stopped or lost just because a Christian has a lapse in faith at a later period in life. That’s why a person can know now that he has eternal life because it begins from the initial point of believing in Christ as Savior (1 Jn. 5:13). If eternal life was based on a continuing obedience to the commands of the Bible, or on doing good works faithfully your whole life or on ceasing to sin, then a person wouldn’t know for sure that he’d get eternal life in heaven until the day he died. But 1 Jn. 5:13 teaches the opposite. A Christian can know for sure that he already has eternal life from the point at which he believed in Jesus Christ (that He died and paid for all his sins – Heb. 10:10; Col. 2:13-14; Eph. 1:7). And since God can’t lie, the Christian’s (elect, chosen one’s) eternal destiny in heaven was secured from before the beginning of time (Titus 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:8-9).
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., p. 296.
- Hendriksen’s New Testament Commentary – Gospel of John, pp. 234, 235.
Phil. 1:6-7 “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.”
The work which God had begun in the lives of these Christians at Philippi was that of “grace” or salvation, whereby they had been transformed or regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Paul is confident (has a settled persuasion) that God will not permit His good work of transforming and qualifying grace (regeneration or justification in salvation) to remain unfinished, but rather will present it completed (Rom. 8:29-30) on the day of Christ (His 2nd Coming). If there was the possibility of losing one’s salvation, then Paul could never have been this confident.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., p. 649.
- Hendriksen’s New Testament Commentary – Philippians, pp. 54, 55.
Gal. 3:2-3 “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
A person receives the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation when he believes the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:9; Acts 10:44-45; 11:17). Paul, in the form of a question, tells these Galatian Christians that they had both received the Holy Spirit and had begun the Christian life by putting their faith in the gospel when they heard it. Then Paul goes on to say, again in the form of a question, that “perfection” (growth/maturity) is also by faith and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life. Both salvation/justification and sanctification/spiritual maturity proceed from the work of the Holy Spirit in the individual’s life and not from (on the basis of) what a person does or doesn’t do as far as keeping the Law (obeying the Bible’s commands) – 2 Thes. 2:13; 1 Thes. 5:23-24; Gal. 2:16; 5:16.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., p. 597.
John 1:12; 3:3, 7; Gal. 3:26 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name.”
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
When a person receives/accepts/believes in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior through faith, he is born again spiritually into the family of God and becomes a child of God. By way of analogy, when a person is born humanly and becomes the child of his parents, nothing can change that physical relationship. He will always be the child of his parents, whether he rejects, denies, or forsakes them or not. So, it is in the spiritual family. When one is born again spiritually into God’s family, the sonship relationship cannot be changed. An individual can lose closeness to the parent through sin or rejection, but not the family relationship, so it is with the child of God. So, being born again gains believers entrance into the kingdom of God. And as children/sons of God, we are heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ (Gal. 4:6-7; Rom. 8:16-18). This is already the Christian’s position and is not conditioned on obedience but on the person’s initial faith in Christ.
Some Bible Passages Seem to Teach that a Person Can Lose His Salvation, But Don’t.
First, however, some terms need to be defined.
“Salvation” or being saved, basically means to be delivered from something unto something else, or safety. This is taken from the Hebrew words “yeshuah” or “yesha” or the Greek word “soteria”.
“Salvation” can mean the physical deliverance of a people or person from one place to another (i.e., from Egypt to the Promised land, Canaan – Ex. 14:13).
“Salvation” can mean “justification”. The believer was saved when he believed. He has been delivered from the penalty of sin unto a position of holiness (Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 5:1).
“Salvation” can mean “sanctification”. The believer is being saved. He is being delivered from the power of sin unto a practice of holiness (Phil. 2:12; 1 Thes. 1:3-7).
“Salvation” can mean “glorification”. The believer will be saved. He will be delivered from the presence of sin unto a perfection of holiness (Rom. 13:11; 1 Pet. 1:5; Rom. 8:16-17).
Matt. 10:22; 24:13 “But the one who endures to the end, it is he who shall be saved.”
Both of these verses are merely saying that in spite of all these persecutions, the one who remains loyal to Christ, shall (physically) enter into the kingdom (be saved, delivered, or glorified). The distinguishing mark of the saved Jewish remnant will be their enduring faith to the end (Rev. 7:3-8; 14:1-4; 12:10-11, 17).
- The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 972.
2 Tim. 2:12a also mentions the idea that the result of enduring is reigning/ruling or being glorified. Also, Matt. 10:22 and 24:13 are primarily dealing with the “tribulation period” (the first 3½ of the 7 years before Christ’s Second Coming – Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6; 13:5) at the end of the age (Matt. 24:3, 21) and not the present time we are in today.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., pp. 42, 76.
Also notice that the subject switches from “you” to “the one” in both passages, showing a different audience is involved – a future audience at the end of the age.
Matt. 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
There is no good reason to think that these people in Matt. 7:21-23 are believers/saved. Why? First, because the context of the passage, Matt. 7:15-20 deals with false prophets looking like good guys. Second, because “on that day” (judgment day – Rev. 20:11-15; Matt. 25:31-34, 41, 46) everyone will recognize and confess Jesus Christ as “Lord,” including the unsaved or unbelievers (Phil. 2:9-11). So, just because someone calls Jesus, “Lord” on that day doesn’t mean that they were saved or believers here on earth during their physical life. Third, because prophesying in the Lord’s name by false prophets is not new (see Jer. 14:14; 23:25; 29:8-9). They did it in Old Testament times too. Fourth, because God can use wicked prophets (i.e., Balaam – Rev. 2:14; Jude 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:15; Num. 31:16) to prophesy truth (Num. 22:20, 38; 23:5-10, 17-24; 24:2-9, 17) or demon-possessed fortune-tellers to proclaim truth (Acts 16:16-18). Fifth, because wicked prophets can predict future events truthfully (Deut. 13:1-5, “signs”). Sixth, just because someone performs miracles doesn’t mean that their power to perform them comes from the Lord (see Ex. 7:10-12, 20-22; 8:6-7; Rev. 13:11-15; 19:20; 16:13-14; Matt. 24:24-25; Mk. 13:22; 2 Thes. 2:8-10). It can/does come from Satan or demons as well. Seventh, even Judas Iscariot who wasn’t a true believer/saved (Jn. 6:70-71; 17:12; in Jn. 13:10-11, “clean” means “converted”, as can be seen from Jn. 15:3; Acts 15:9; Eph. 5:26 where “the word” is the “gospel”, as seen in Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5) could cast out demons and heal people because Jesus gave him that authority (Matt. 10:1-4; Mk. 6:7, 13; Lk. 9:1-2, 6). But they were never saved/converted people (Matt. 7:23).
- Hendriksen’s New Testament Commentary – Matthew, pp. 375-378.
- The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 941.
John 15:2, 6 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.”
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”
As there are suckers that grow out from vines but add nothing to its usefulness and must be cut away to make the fruit-bearing branches more productive, so a mere follower/associate of Jesus who merely identifies himself with Christ, like Judas, but is not truly saved/a believer will, therefore, be judged. Like a dead branch, a person without Christ as his Savior is spiritually dead and, therefore, will be punished in eternal fire (Matt. 25:41, 46). Judas was with Jesus; he seemed like a “branch” (Matt. 10:1). But he did not have God’s life in him (Jn. 6:70-71; 13:10-11); therefore, his destiny was like that of a dead branch (Jn. 17:12) – to be burned up.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., p. 325.
Fruit-bearing is the evidence of true conversion or vital relation to Christ. Keep in mind, however, that some, most, or all believers will have periods of time during their Christian lives when they’re not bearing fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) but rather bearing sin (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:2, 11; 3:1-3; 11:20-22, 27-31; Gal. 1:2, 6; 4:6-11; 2 Thes. 1:1-4; 3:6, 11, 14), yet these believers/Christians are saved (1 Cor. 3:12-15); otherwise, a believer would have to be sinless or perfect, and no Christian is sinlessly perfect in experience (1 Jn. 1:8, 10) all the time.
Rom. 11:22 “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell (Israel), severity, but to you (Gentiles – Rom. 11:11-13) God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”
In spite of what had been the privileges of having God’s temple among them, Israel fell into self-righteousness, pride, and rejection of their Messiah. Gentiles too will be “cut off” if they fail to depend upon and comply with the free grace of God by faith (“God’s kindness”); the reason for which the Jews were “cut off”. The visible organized church on earth today is, for the most part, modernistic, and at the Rapture will be set aside in favor of Israel, which will be restored as the final channel through which God will work to bring the good news of salvation to the human race. In this sense, the Gentiles will be “cut off”, as Israel was in A.D. 70. And Israel will be restored to the privileged place, as before, when it will be honored as the center of divine blessing on earth; the Gentiles becoming again subordinate to Israel, as to spiritual things; and having again to “go up to Jerusalem” to worship God.
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1, p. 197.
“Otherwise you (Gentiles) will be cut off” does not mean that a Christian can lose his salvation. Rather, it refers to Gentiles as a whole turning away from the gospel, much as Israel as a nation had done.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., p. 485.
1 Cor. 15:1-2 “Now I make known to you, brethren the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”
“if you hold fast the word” – means “since” they are persevering in believing the true gospel (that Christ died for the believer’s sins, was buried, and rose again for the believer’s justification and glorification, 1 Cor. 15:3-5; Rom. 4:25; 5:10), as some were questioning the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12-14).
- Hodge’s First and Second Corinthians, Ephesians, p. 174.
The word “if” (in Greek is “ei”) means “since” here. First Corinthians 15:2 is a first class conditional sentence, and a first class conditional statement “affirms” the reality of the condition. It is expressed by “ei” (Gk. for “if”) with the indicative mood (the mood in Gk. which confirms the reality of the action from the viewpoint of the speaker) in the “if clause”. “If you hold fast” in Greek is “ei katechete”. The “ete” ending of “katech” indicates that it is the second person plural of the indicative mood. “The construction (in Greek) confirms the condition and is best translated (by the word) ‘since’.”
- Dr. Ray Summers, Essentials of New Testament Greek, pp. 13, 108, 109.
Gal. 5:4 “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by Law; you have fallen from grace.”
“severed/alienated from Christ” – in context here, it refers to these Christian’s experience or fellowship with Christ, not their standing or position in Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). It is not referring to their salvation (justification) but to their previous intimate relation with Christ (Gal. 3:3-5; 4:9, 15) which has now ceased.
“fallen from” – is the Greek word “ekpipto” meaning, lost hold of or left.
“grace” – means favor (with its spiritual benefits and enablements from God for daily living).
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1, p. 140.
A Christian who seeks to be justified by law cuts his fellowship or closeness with Christ because doing so is a sin and sin separates his closeness to God and he, thereby, loses the benefits of God’s favor, but not his salvation (justification – Rom. 8:30; 11:29).
Gal. 5:19-21 “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousings, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The word “practice” means habitual action or indulgence as the rule of life, and not merely an occasional doing. The habit of these sins is evidence that this person is not a Christian and, therefore, will not inherit the kingdom unless he becomes born again spiritually (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9-11). The Bible bases its estimation of a person’s character upon their habitual actions. Salvation or the Christian’s inheritance in the kingdom is not based upon law/commandment keeping (Gal. 3:18; 5:18; Rom. 3:28; 10:4), or what one was like prior to their faith in Christ (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9-11).
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1, p. 158.
This passage isn’t teaching that a Christian can lose his salvation if he lapses into a sin of the flesh (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:2; 3:1-3; Rom. 8:30; 11:29) but that a person who lives continually on such a level of moral corruption gives evidence of not being saved in the first place.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, p. 608.
Eph. 5:5 “For this you know with certainty that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
This is a true statement as it relates to the nonbeliever/unsaved person. But if one becomes a Christian, it no longer remains true (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 1:7; Rom. 8:30; 11:29). Paul writes this (Eph. 5:5) to warn believers of God’s wrath upon those non-believers/unsaved who practice such vices (Eph. 5:6) so that they wouldn’t lapse into these old vices (Eph. 5:7-8; 2:1-10). Therefore, Eph. 5:5 is not dealing with the loss of salvation, but rather with the consequences of unregenerated/non-Christian sinners (Eph. 2:2), and with warning believers of God’s displeasure with such vices.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., p. 638.
Col. 1:21-23 “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach – if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”
“reconciled” – brought into a friendship relation in salvation.
“through death” – Christ’s death is the payment for the believer’s sins and, therefore, removes the barrier between the believer and God.
“to present you … and beyond reproach” – because Christ’s death is the basis for the believer’s judicial perfection, he will be presented holy and blameless (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18; Rom. 5:1; Heb. 10:10) at the Rapture when Christ returns (1 Thes. 4:13-17; Eph. 5:27).
“if indeed you continue” – means “since you are continuing.”
The word “if” (in Gk. is “eige”) means “since” here. Col. 1:23 is a first class conditional sentence, and a first class conditional statement “affirms” the reality of the condition. It is expressed by “ei” / “eige” (Gk. for “if” / “if indeed”) with the indicative mood (the mood in Gk. which confirms the reality of the action from the viewpoint of the speaker) in the “if clause”. “If indeed you continue” in Gk. is “eigo epimenete”. The “ete” ending on “epimen” indicates that it is the second person plural of the indicative mood.” The construction (in Greek) confirms the condition and is best translated (by the word) ‘since’.”
- Dr. Ray Summers, Essentials of New Testament Greek, pp. 13, 108, 109.
2 Tim. 2:11-13 “It is a trustworthy statement, for if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful because He cannot deny Himself.”
The “if” in the Greek text is the particle/conjunction of a fulfilled condition. It isn’t a hypothetical case, here, in view of the fact that “we died with Him” is in the aorist tense, which speaks of a past fact and not a present condition. Romans 6:1-10 also speaks of the Christian’s identification with Christ in His death and resurrection when He died on the cross and was raised from the dead. This identification takes place at the moment of salvation when a person places his faith in Christ’s death for the payment and forgiveness of all of his sins (Eph. 2:4-7; 1:7; Col. 2:13-14; 2 Cor. 5:17, 21; Col. 3:1-3).
If we (Christians) endure/persevere here on earth while under trial or suffering for the cause of Christ, the Christian will reign with Christ in the Messianic kingdom (Rom. 5:17; 8:16-18; Matt. 19:28; Lk. 22:29; Rev. 3:21).
The Christian that denies Christ or loses faith because of being under persecution or being ashamed of Him will forfeit reigning with Christ in the Kingdom, as seen in the immediately preceding context of the same verse. But God remains faithful and will not go back on His promise, such as to give us eternal life if we ever once believed in/died with Christ (Eph. 2:8-9; Jn. 3:36; 5:24; 6:47). Eternal life is already the present possession of the believer/Christian. So, the losing of the denying-believer’s reward of reigning in the Kingdom is what is in view here, and not the losing of salvation.
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 133.
Heb. 3:6 “… but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.”
Because the recipients of this letter were Hebrew Christians, Heb. 3:1 (as everything is explained against the backdrop of Jewish history and religion, and the epistle makes no reference to Gentile society), who were suffering persecution (Heb. 10:32-34; 12:4) and some were thereby tempted to go back into Judaism to avoid persecution, the author writes this warning to encourage his readers to persevere in the Christian faith.
The “if” in the Greek text is the particle/conjunction “ean”, introducing a future, unfulfilled, hypothetical condition. The writer is proposing a condition as yet unfulfilled.
If these Hebrews, to whom he is writing, “hold fast their confidence” firm to the end of their lives, that fact shows that they belong to the house of God, in other words, are saved. If they do not do so, but instead renounce that profession and return to the system of Levitical sacrifices (Judaism), then that shows that they never were saved. It is not the retaining or losing of salvation that is in question here, but the actual possessing of salvation. The text does not say, “whose house we will continue to be”, but “whose house we are.” Frequently the verb of being is left out by the Greek writer, it being understood in the light of the context. But here, it is in the Greek, and in the present tense. Therefore, the subject of the security of the believer is not in view here.
This verse (along with all the following passages in Hebrews to be discussed) must be understood in light of its historical background and context. The purpose in writing the Epistle to the Hebrews was to meet a certain condition in the first century. It was to reach Hebrews who had outwardly left the temple sacrifices, had identified themselves with the visible Christian Church, had made a profession of Messiah and who were at the time suffering persecution (Heb. 10:32-34; 12:4) from Judaism in an effort to force them to renounce their professed faith in Messiah and return to the Old Testament sacrifices.
Now, if under the pressure of this persecution they should hold fast their confidence to the end, then that would show that they were saved, and if not, then that would indicate that they had never been saved. This confidence or boldness would characterize the speech and behavior of the Hebrew who was actually a possessor of salvation and not merely a professor of it. Continuance in the Christian life is the test of reality.
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, pp. 72, 73.
- Homer Kent’s The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary, p. 67.
Heb. 3:14 “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.”
In verse six, we saw that true believers are Christ’s possessions, but here in verse 14 we find that Christ is the believer’s possession. If these Hebrews would maintain their faith in Messiah to the end of their lives, that would show that they had become in the past partakers of Christ, and that as a present result they were partakers of Him. Again, as in verse six, the question is not one of the retention or losing of salvation based on one’s persistence in the faith, but rather whether a person even has salvation to begin with (evidenced by a continuance in the faith to the end). It is not the future of these Hebrews that the writer is concerned about here, but rather if they had in times past ever become a partaker of salvation in Christ. If the faith of these Hebrews is a genuine faith, they will persist in the faith to the end of their lives, despite the persecution which they were enduring. If that faith was a mere intellectual assent to the historic facts of the gospel, it will not be able to stand up under this persecution, but will be repudiated by the person. The first person is/was saved, while the second never was.
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 80.
“partakers of Christ” – believers are participants in a vital union with Christ.
“the beginning of our assurance” – is the original faith which these believers had placed in Christ for salvation.
“if we hold fast” – this is not a warning that a true partaker of Christ (Christian) would lose his salvation, but that a true believer/Christian will continue in the faith and not apostatize to Judaism.
- Kent’s The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary, p. 75.
Heb. 6:4-8 “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.”
The author is writing to believers as is evident from studying Hebrews 5:12 – 6:1, 9-10, and from the fact that the same Greek words used here for “enlightened” (Eph. 1:18; Heb. 10:32), “tasted” (Heb. 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:3), and “partakers” (Heb. 3:1, 14; 12:8, 10; 1 Cor. 9:10), are used with reference to believers in the verses contained in the parentheses, and not just of mere professors of Christianity. These believers should have been mature, but instead they had lapsed into spiritual infancy (Heb. 5:12). So the author of Hebrews constructs a case to teach his readers the seriousness of one’s relationship to God through Christ. Note that… these Hebrew Christians had been persecuted by their fellow Jewish countrymen (Heb. 10:32-33) and were under pressure to return to Judaism. That’s why the writer wrote this epistle – to show the superiority of Christ and Christianity to Judaism. See the following outline: Christ is superior to the Old Testament prophets (Heb. 1:1-3); to the angels (Heb. 1:4 – 2:18); to Moses (Heb. 3:1 – 4:13); to Aaron (Heb. 4:14 – 6:20); Christ’s priesthood is of a superior order (Heb. 7:1-28); is in a superior realm (Heb. 8:1-5); mediates a superior covenant (Heb. 8:6-13); is in a superior sanctuary (Heb. 9:1-10); and is through a superior sacrifice (Heb. 9:11 – 10:18).
The readers (Hebrew Christians) were apparently confused and wavering (Heb. 10:23) and probably tempted to go back into Judaism to eliminate the persecution and to assure their acceptance by God through Jewish rituals/sacrifices. But the writer discourages that temptation with the following warning (Heb. 6:6).
“… have fallen away …” – apostatized; repudiated Christ/Christianity.
“… it is impossible to renew them again to repentance…” – because to repent (have a change of mind) would require that they accept the complete sufficiency of Christ’s death as the total payment for the forgiveness of all the believer’s sins, as well as the basis for present fellowship with God, and would require seeing Judaism as inferior/not needed. For as long as these Hebrew Christians would view the Old Testament system of sacrifices and other Jewish rituals as necessary for a right relationship to God, they would remain in their sin, and it would be impossible to renew them to repentance. They can’t renew themselves again to repentance (acceptance of Christ as Messiah/Savior) since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God (reject Christ as the Savior and His death as the means of complete acceptance with God through the forgiveness of their sins).
This case that the writer presents in Heb. 6:4-6 is hypothetical. There is nothing to show that the conditions of final apostasy had been fulfilled by his readers (Heb. 6:9) or anyone else for that matter. Note that the writer shifts from “you” (Heb. 5:11-12), “us” (Heb. 6:1), and “we” (Heb. 6:3) to “those” (Heb. 6:4), showing the hypotheticalness of this situation. This supposed case was written to correct the wrong ideas of the Hebrew Christian readers regarding Christ and Judaism. It is not teaching that a believer can lose his salvation, but rather is a warning to pursue Christ and Christianity for reward and assurance (Heb. 6:7-11).
- Kent’s The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary, pp. 108, 113, 114.
Heb. 10:26-29, 39 “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
This passage is referring to believers (Hebrew Christians), as can be seen from Heb. 10:19-20 (brethren, who have access into the holiest by the new and living way – Christ); Heb. 10:21-22 (only believers have a High Priest and are invited to draw near in full assurance); Heb. 10:23-25 (they are told to hold fast their profession, and to attend the assembly of the saints, and to exhort one another in view of the coming Christ); and Heb. 10:30-33 (He will judge His people; and the persecution they suffered for their testimony).
There is no break at this point (Heb. 10:26-29) in the line of reasoning. The writer is still talking to believers. As in the explanation for the Heb. 6:4-6 passage, Judaism continued to exert a pull upon many Hebrew Christians and caused them to consider abandoning Christianity in order to return to Judaism and its Old Testament sacrifices.
If these Hebrew believers failed to heed the knowledge which they had concerning their position in Christ and the accompanying exhortations to go on to maturity, and instead apostatized, then they would be sinning willfully. It could not be called a sin of ignorance, but a willful sin. However, the Old Testament system (Judaism) to which they were tempted to return had no sacrifice for willful sin, only judgment. The writer is not here teaching that there would be no forgiveness in Christ, but that these Hebrew believers were talking about going back to a religious system (Judaism) that had no provision for the forgiveness of presumptuous (defiant) sin, committed willfully and deliberately with full knowledge (Ex. 21:14; Num. 15:30; Deut. 17:12-13; 18:20, 22).
There are three kinds of sins mentioned in Leviticus 4 and 5; sins of ignorance, omission, and defilement. For any of these sins a complete provision was made through the offerings of the Old Testament.
But for the person who knew and experienced grace and forgiveness in Christ and then rejected it for life under Judaism, all they could expect is severer punishment (worse than mere physical death as given under the Law of Moses; probably a greater degree of punishment in the lake of fire – Lk. 12:47-48; Matt. 11:20-22 – because their willful sin of apostasy was a flagrant contempt of what Christ had accomplished for the believer on the cross and an arrogance against the Spirit and His work of grace, Heb. 10:29), because under Judaism there was no provision for sins committed willfully.
The writer does not say that apostasy had occurred, but uses this hypothetical argument as a warning to these Hebrew Christians to remain true to Christ and Christianity.
“sinning willfully” – is a permanent continuous apostasy (a permanent rejection of Christ’s death payment for all of the believer’s sins in order to return to being a Jew). The verb is in the present tense that emphasizes durative action, not isolated acts of sin.
“trample under foot the Son of God” – means rejected and have contempt of Christ as Messiah/Savior.
“regard as unclean the blood of the covenant” – means, consider Christ’s blood/death as no more effective in paying for the believer’s sins and gaining his forgiveness than that of any other man’s blood/death.
Loss of salvation is not being discussed, but rather the foolishness of going into a religious system (Judaism) that had no provision for willful sins committed, whereas Christianity does have a provision for any and all sins, namely Christ’s death (Acts 13:38-39). A true believer could never really lose his salvation (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30).
- Kent’s The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary, pp. 204-207.
In Heb. 10:39, the writer states that he is confident that neither he nor his readers are such as will turn back to “destruction” (eternal loss). These readers spiritual condition was characterized by faith.
“to the preserving of the soul” – means salvation in heaven (1 Pet. 1:3-4, 9).
Again, it is not a matter of losing salvation being discussed, but of losing confidence, or assurance (Heb. 10:35) and reward, “what was promised” (Heb. 10:36).
- Kent’s The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary, pp. 214, 215.
Heb. 12:14-15 “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled…”
“Pursue peace with all men…” – the weak believers among them (Heb. 12:12) that were tempted to return to Judaism and even their persecutors.
“sanctification” (Gk. “hagiasmos”) – means separation to God as holy; holiness (acquired from the Holy Spirit’s work in those who have faith in the truth of the gospel – that Christ’s shed blood cleanses believers of all their sins and makes them holy – 2 Thes. 2:13; 1 Cor. 1:30; Heb. 10:10, 29; 2:11; 13:12; Acts 26:18; 1 Pet. 1:2).
If these Hebrew Christians try to gain holiness through law keeping (in Judaism), then they have rejected God’s plan of salvation through faith in the sufficiency of Christ’s death as the complete payment for the forgiveness of all their sins. Only those who have been sanctified (in Christ) will see the Lord. So it would have been foolish for them to be sanctified by any other way (i.e., Judaism).
“comes short of the grace of God” – means failing to see and believe in the completeness and sufficiency of Christ’s death payment for sins as being unearned or unmerited, but simply accepted by faith. For them to put their trust in anything else besides Christ or plus Christ (like the Jewish laws and rituals) is to come short of God’s grace/favor.
“root of bitterness” – could very well be those who were propagating Judaism and trying to get these Hebrew Christians to compromise their faith in Christianity and return to Judaism.
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 223.
2 John 1:9 “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.”
“goes too far” – means “goes off course by not acknowledging the man Jesus Christ as being God’s Son and Savior” (2 Jn. 1:7).
“abide in the teaching of Christ” – means “dwell, live, or continue in the teaching which recognizes Jesus Christ as the Savior and Son of God come to earth in human flesh.”
“does not have God” – means “doesn’t have fellowship with God.” Not having (fellowship with) God is not loss of salvation, but loss of fellowship/closeness with God and loss of reward (2 Jn. 1:8). Rewards are given to believers, not the unsaved.
“has both the Father and the Son” – fellowship with both the Father and the Son is brought about by abiding/continuing in true faith in Christ as Savior and Son of God.
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 4, p. 206.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., p. 908.
Rejection of the truth is a sin and sin breaks the believer’s fellowship with God (1 Jn. 1:6) and the potential for full reward (2 Jn. 1:8).
2 Pet. 2:20 “For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”
“they have escaped … by the knowledge of … Jesus Christ” – these people described here are not believers/Christians, but only those who are in the early stages of their escape from error, living overtly sinful (2 Pet. 2:18), and are not safe from it and confirmed in the truth yet; these are people who have been impressed with Christian truth and have had strength to separate themselves from their old surroundings and customs, but are led to return through the compromises suggested by the false teachers (2 Pet. 2:1, 18). It is one thing to know Christ personally/experientially, as a believer does, and another to know of Him, namely facts about Him, and to give a mental assent to these facts, as an unbeliever does. Christian influence upon an unbeliever can act as a temporary moral deterrent from worldly vices.
“the last state has become worse for them than the first” – to know the truth and have greater revelation presented, and then turn from it brings greater condemnation/judgment (Lk. 10:12-15; 12:47-48) from God.
So loss of salvation is not the issue here, but greater misery and judgment for the unbeliever who was exposed to the truth of Christ as Savior yet chose rather to go back into his/her old sinful ways of living after a temporary, moral reform.
- Walvoord’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, N.T., pp. 873, 874.
- Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 4, pp. 60-62.
1 Tim. 1:19-20 “… keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.”
“Faith” in verse 19 is the Christian body of truth as it relates to both theology (i.e., 2 Tim. 2:15-19) and moral living (i.e., 1 Tim. 1:9-11).
Hymenaeus and Alexander had rejected “the faith”, the sound teachings of Christianity (i.e., 2 Tim. 2:17-18) and blasphemed/dishonored God through both theological error (2 Tim. 2:17-18) and, apparently, moral conduct (i.e., 1 Tim. 1:9-11; Rom. 2:23-24).
In relationship to “their faith”, both theological truth and moral living, they suffer shipwreck (being messed up; ruined).
Loss of salvation is not in view, but rather a messed up Christian life that necessitated discipline from the Apostle Paul (1 Tim. 1:20).
- Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 1356.
Rev. 3:5 “He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life…”
While this passage may seem to imply that a name could be erased from the book of life, it actually only gives a positive affirmation that their names will not be erased. Names were written in the book of life from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8) because God chose some people for salvation in His predestining plan (2 Thes. 2:13; Eph. 1:4-14). Since the basis of eternal salvation is on God’s predestining plan (which includes His giving certain people the gift of faith – Eph. 2:8-9 – to believe in Jesus as Savior) and not on man’s actions; therefore, God wouldn’t and couldn’t (based on Rom. 8:29-30) erase any names from the book. Also see Rev. 22:19.
Also, the phrase “not erase/blot out from the book of life” is a litotes (a figure of speech), which is an understatement expressing a positive affirmation by the negative opposite. So, here, “not erase/blot out” actually means “keep eternally secure his name in the book of life.” The corollary is neither the issue here nor is it true, any more than the corollary of the statement, “all husbands are men”, therefore, “all men are husbands”, is true. Or, just as the statement “if Joe scores a touchdown, his team won’t lose the game” is true, but the corollary “if Joe doesn’t score a touchdown, his team will lose the game” is not necessarily true because if Fred scores it, the team will win anyway. Corollaries of statements aren’t always necessarily true.
Rev. 22:19 “and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”
Since God can’t contradict Himself, and since there are many clear passages of Scripture which teach that salvation or eternal life once received is permanent (e.g., Rom. 8:29-30; 11:28-29; Jn. 6:47; Heb. 10:10), then verses such as Rev. 22:19 can’t teach loss of salvation. Though not stated in detail, the point of Rev. 22:19 is that a child of God who reveres God will recognize at once that the book of Revelation is the Word of God and, therefore, will not tamper with these scriptures.
- Walvoord’s The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 338.
Hypothetical and even impossible cases to teach a certain truth or warning are not unknown in Scripture. For example, James 2:10 states, “For whoever keeps the whole law (a hypothetical condition) and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” Then in Gal. 3:12 it says, “However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, ‘He who practices them shall live by them’” (but no one ever did, or could). And in John 9:39 Jesus says, “I came … that those who see may become blind” (there were none who could see, but Jesus took His hearers at their estimate of themselves, Jn. 9:41).