I’ve found myself somewhat curious about this throughout my journey of discovering scriptural truth. I know some people say yes and some people say no, but fortunately since we have scripture, it’s my conclusion it can give us all the answers we need to know on major theological concerns without too much speculation. As I say often, it’s important for a Christian to always go by all of the scripture on everything as much as possible, and align themselves in agreement with it, because the scripture should always have the final say on one’s understanding of things (2 Tim 3:16). With that said, let’s start from the beginning of how one first of all gain’s salvation to even potentially lose it in the first place.
As I’ve written previously on how one obtains salvation, it starts with hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17), and once having heard the Word of God a person must choose to believe that Jesus is the son of God (John 8:24), repent of their sins (Luke 13:3), make a confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior (Rom 10:9), and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) in order to have their soul added as a part of the body of Christ (Act 2:41). To my knowledge of the scripture there’s no sinner’s prayer instruction. I’m aware that some may disagree with this, and we can have discussion that furthers understanding, but only if there’s other verses that appear to instruct differently from these apparent instructions of receiving salvation. But otherwise, an opinion-based discussion wouldn’t seem beneficial.
So having established how one receives salvation according to scripture, obviously the next question would be if it’s possible to lose that scripture based salvation? Well it would seem to be an inaccurate way to frame the question. Consider this following scripture. (2 Pet 3:9) “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” So we know that God is waiting for everyone to come to repentence, and doesn’t wish for anyone to perish. With that fact established from scripture, it would seem counter to scripture if God really wanted people not to perish, but at the same time was prepared to push people out to perish. Now does that say a person is “once saved always saved”? Well let’s examine more scripture.
(Heb 10:26) “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,”. Now we have to carefully understand this verse. If one “deliberately” keeps on sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice of sins is left”. So that would seem to suggest an individual would have to make a deliberate choice to turn away from God and live in whatever lifestyle of sin they want to, and if they chose to do that, no sacrifice of sins would be left. So it would appear that the question is not can one lose their salvation, it’s can one give up their salvation, which according to this scripture, the answer would seem to be yes. Though it also has to be remembered in the previous verse we read, God is always waiting for all to come to repentance. So it would suggest if someone turned away from God and chose to live their own sinful lifestyle, as long as that person is still alive, they have a chance to come back.
If I’ve taught anything in these writings, it’s that you can’t just go by one or two verses, you have to go with as much of the scripture on a particular topic as you can, to get a full picture of what God instructs of Christians in his Word. Numerous verses seem to suggest that to be a saved Christian is an active choice of lifestyle. This is not to be confused with what we know a person can’t do, which is justify themselves to God by works of the law (Rom 3:20). Be careful to make sure you understand that that verse is referring to works of the law found in the Old Testament. Not just any perceived righteous act, but things that the Jews formerly had to in order to be found right with God. We are found right with God by the instructions we’re given of salvation that we went over a few paragraphs back. Once an individual has received salvation, scripture appears to show it’s an active lifestyle choice to be a saved Christian.
(Hbr 5:9) “And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” Notice that it says, “He became to all those who OBEY Him the source of eternal salvation”. To obey something is an active choice. This also seems to reaffirm once again the necessity of obeying what Jesus says in (Mark 16:16) regarding salvation. Let’s continue to look over more scripture to get as complete a picture on this topic as possible. (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.” Notice that it says “if” here. If an individual holds fast the word preached, you are saved, or you believed in vain, which means you didn’t really believe, and suggesting one can actively chose not to be a saved Christian, and thus potentially give away their salvation if they don’t repent.
(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.” We see the word “if” again, but now we also see the word “continue”. Scripture appears to suggest that one must continue in the faith and not move away from the hope of the gospel, in order to be holy, blameless, beyond reproach, and essentially good with God in the end. So this again suggests one has to actively choose to be a saved Christian, not just receive salvation and then just turn away from God and actively choose to live a sinful lifestyle.
(Phil 2:12) “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;” Now I point out the word work here, but again, scripture doesn’t appear to be suggesting a work based salvation, but this word demonstrates again an active choice in being a saved Christian. (1 Pet 1:9) “obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” This verse on it’s own seems pretty self-explanatory, but let’s let another verse bring clarity to that phrase “outcome of your faith”, by observing what James 2 describes faith as. (James 2:17-20) “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”
(James 2:17-20) would seem to show that faith is not just a belief, but it requires obedient action in order for it to be faith. So if we use that phrase in (1 Pet 1:9), it would seem to fit by the scripture stating “obtaining as the outcome of your obedient action the salvation of your souls”. The obedience in choosing to get saved, and the obedience in actively choosing to be a saved Christian by doing one’s best to live according to God’s Word. One last verse I’d like to present for us to observe is 1 Tim 4:16 which states “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” It’s interesting here that Timothy is told by Paul to ensure his salvation, and to help those who hear him to do so as well. If you’ve been reading this so far, you already know what conclusion that would seem to suggest.
So according to the scripture to the best of trying to understand all of it together, the answer to whether one is once saved always saved appears to be no. The answer to whether one can lose their salvation according to scripture also appears to be no. However, the answer to whether one can give away their salvation, according to scripture, the answer would appear to be yes. I would suggest considering one last thing in scripture regarding this topic, and that would be the different paths that Judas and Peter ended up taking in their lives, which would arguably illustrate all the verses we’ve been looking at regarding one’s having salvation. As always, any questions, comments, or thoughts that can increase understanding through scripture is welcomed. Peace to those who are in Christ