CAN A CHRISTIAN LOSE HIS SALVATION?
by Wayne S. Walker
I received an e-mail from someone who I assumed had visited Steve Rudd’s www.Bible.ca website and found something that he did not agree with. Here is the objection and my response.
Question: I don’t see in scripture any Christian losing his or her salvation. If just one could possibly lose God’s gift, then our adversary Satan (created being) has victory over our God (creator). I must bring the tempter, Satan, into the equation because he was present and active at man’s downfall. If he is able to to have victory then, then why not today? If he (Satan) can rob you of your salvation then what is preventing him from robbing all those that are "saved"? If your answer is man’s ability to maintain ("hang on to") to this gift then you have an argument with Paul’s rebuking of the Galatians in the third chapter. Paul reminds this audience that receiving the Spirit and beginning with the Spirit are the only means by which we can possibly attain the goal of glorification (salvation and sanctification are both works of the Holy Spirit). Let us not not think that we can rely upon our own works. On the other hand, if salvation is God’s doing, then, correct me if I’m wrong, Satan loses. I see God as the beginner and finisher of my salvation. He gets all the glory that He alone deserves. I get the ultimate blessing that I do not deserve.
Answer: I do see in scripture the possibility of a Christian losing his or her salvation. Is it possible for a child of God to fall from grace and be lost? I affirm that it is. Paul wrote "to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor. 1.2) and said, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10.12). Why would Paul have warned these sanctified people about taking heed lest they fall if it were impossible for them to fall? He also wrote to people whom he asked, "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Gal. 3.2–so they must have received the Spirit) and of whom he affirmed, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3.26), and said, "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (Gal. 5.4). So not only do we have the scriptures warning Christians against falling, but it gives us some examples of those who did fall from grace.
I simply do not accept the assertion that "If just one could possibly lose God’s gift, then our adversary Satan (created being) has victory over our God (creator)." As you note, Satan was present and active at man’s downfall. One could just as easily argue, "If Adam and Eve could possibly lose God’s gift, then our adversary had victory over our God." Since I do not accept the false theory that we inherit Adam’s sin, I believe that we are in the same position as Adam and Eve. We choose to sin, we may choose to accept God’s gift of salvation, and we can choose either to keep it or lose it. If one loses it, that does not reflect on God’s power any more than Adam and Eve’s sin reflects on God’s power.
You ask, "If he (Satan) can rob you of your salvation then what is preventing him from robbing all those that are ‘saved’?" In contrast to the false doctrines of men which say that "Salvation is all of God" (a statement that cannot be found in scripture), the scripture presents salvation as being the result of what God has done (and does) conditioned on our response. Eph. 2.8-9 says that salvation is by grace (God’s part) through faith (our part). What prevents Satan from robbing anyone of salvation is that Christians are "kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed at the last time" (1 Pet. 1.5). Yes, we are kept by the power of God, but it is "through faith" (there’s that phrase again, indicating our part). If we "walk by faith" (2 Cor. 5.7), we are kept by God’s power and Satan cannot harm us.
No, I don’t have argument with Paul in Gal. 3. I believe everything that Paul says in that chapter, but I don’t believe some of the false interpretations that fallible men sometimes give to what Paul said. That passage does NOT say that the receiving the Spirit and beginning with the Spirit are the ONLY means by which we can possibly attain the goal of glorification. Yes, salvation and sanctification are both works of the Holy Spirit, but we receive them "by faith." That means that we have to do something. When Paul says that we’re not justified by the law, in this context he’s talking about the works of the Old Testament law of Moses. I would add that we are also not justified by works of which we can boast or works of righteousness which we have done (Eph. 2.9, Tit. 3.5). However, obedience to God’s terms of pardon in order to be saved and obedience to God’s commands regarding living by faith to keep saved are NOT works of which we can boast or works of righteousness which we have done.
Therefore, I do not think that we can simply rely on our own works. Again, we are kept by the power of God, but it is through faith which means that we must keep doing what God says–THAT IS NOT BEING SAVED BY WORKS ALONE–IT IS TRUSTING GOD. The writer of Hebrews warns, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God" (3.12). Therefore, I believe that one can depart from the living God because the inspired word of God says so. No one has ever scripturally answered the question, if one departs from the living God how can he still be saved? Who will receive eternal salvation? Jesus Christ is the "author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him" (Heb. 5.9). The only conclusion I can reach is that if one who has become a Christian stops obeying Him, he will lose that salvation–and that is just what the whole book of Hebrews warns Christians against doing.
Yes, God is the beginner and the finisher of our salvation, but in between He requires that we accept His terms and follow His will. And for everyone who does that, Satan is the loser. I have the responsibility to keep His commandments (Jn. 14.15, 1 Jn. 5.4). However, doing so does not earn me His favor or merit His grace–even when I have done everything that He has commanded, I am still just an unprofitable servant (Lk. 17.10), because nothing that I do can atone for my sin. Christ did that on the cross. Thus, my position also makes sure that God gets all the glory that He alone deserves, since He did what I could never do in making atonement for my sin, and I get the ultimate blessing that I don’t deserve because I am guilty of sin which deserves death. Yet, I am also told to be faithful until death and then I will receive the crown of life (Rev. 2.10)? If that is the command, can I be unfaithful and still receive the crown of life? Again, it is not simply my works, but God working through me which will keep me saved.
Response: Thank you for your response to my email. In your response, you deny man’s spiritual dilemma of being inherently sinful due to Adam’s (man’s representative) fall. Would you care to explain what you believe man’s standing is before a Holy God.
Reply: Yes, I do deny man’s spiritual dilemma of being INHERENTLY sinful due to Adam’s (man’s representative) fall, because I do not find that doctrine taught in the scripture. From what I have read, it appears that the "early Christian writers" of the second and third centuries did not teach inherited depravity and that historically it can be traced primarily to Augustine who apparently adapted it from neo-platonistic gnosticism. I do NOT deny man’s spiritual dilemma of being sinful due to the fact that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), so that "death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12), because that is what I find in the scripture. That would basically explain my belief as to what man’s standing is before a Holy God. Yes, we are sinners, because "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:10) and "Whosoever committeth son transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4).
(—From Faith and Facts Quarterly; Jan., 2009; Vol. 37, No. 1; pp. 104-108)