Salvation. Can we lose it? Do we have eternal assurance? I have a wise friend whose Facebook posts on this very subject have really gotten me thinking lately. I thought I would share my own personal convictions about it.
Being raised as a Southern Baptist, I was taught from childhood the concept of “once a Christian, always a Christian.” You say the sinner’s prayer and you’re saved. Bam, you’re in. That’s it.
But… is that really it? Are there things you and I can do that can cause us to lose our salvation? Can we turn our backs on God, and yet still be granted eternal life because we once said the sinner’s prayer back in junior high? My flesh has some pretty strong feelings about this, especially because my emotions have been influenced by teachings from the pulpit that have… well… missed the mark. To find the answers to these questions, we must look to the Bible, and only the Bible. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” So, let’s set our emotions aside, pray for wisdom, and delve into God’s word.
The first thing I want to establish right off the bat is that we do not yet have our salvation. Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Emphasis mine.) This was written after the Messiah died on the cross. Why would Paul tell us that the Jesus is bringing salvation upon his return if we already have it? Take a look at what Paul tells us in Philippians:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
What exactly is this goal Paul is “pressing on” toward? There are more verses that state variations of this same concept. (All emphases added are mine.)
You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13 )
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:6)
We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. (Hebrews 3:14)
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36)
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (Romans 2:7)
Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. (1 John 1:8)
To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations. (Revelation 2:26)
Notice that all the verbs are all in the future tense, and that’s an important distinction. These verses, and countless more, all point to the fact that salvation is not granted to us until the end. When Christ returns and we are resurrected, those who persevered the end will then be given the gift of salvation – that is, eternal life with Him.
So, we have established that salvation is not yet granted. This may seem like splitting hairs to some, but truly, it’s not, and here’s why. It’s important because it answers the question of whether or not we can “lose” our salvation. Here’s the million dollar question:
How can we lose what we do not yet have?
The answer is obvious. No, we cannot lose our salvation. Can we choose not to continue toward the goal of salvation? You bet. Can it simply be snatched away? No. Go back and reread the verses I quoted. The common theme in all of them, aside from salvation being granted in the end, is that by faith and holding steadfast, we can rest assured in the knowledge that when the appointed time comes, we will be given the ultimate reward.