It is a sad thing to observe someone working for salvation that God promises only comes through faith. But I think it is equally sad to see someone working to keep his salvation that God promises is already kept. This won’t affect their eternity, because they have accepted Christ’s gift already. But it pains me to see Christians struggle with wondering if they are still saved or if they have fallen far enough at one point to lose their salvation, when the Bible makes it clear that we don’t have to worry about this.
There are several portions of scripture I will look at, but let me first start with this. Any true believer has trusted in Christ alone for their salvation, knowing that there is absolutely nothing we can do other than accept Christ’s gift. Then why do we think that after salvation it is any different? As a friend put it, “If you don’t think there was anything you could do to get your salvation, why do you think there is anything you can do to keep it?” We could never be good enough to save ourselves, and there is nothing we can do to keep ourselves saved. It is Jesus Christ who both saves us and keeps us.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one." –John 10:27-30
We as Jesus’ sheep have been given eternal life by Him. “Yeah, I know no man can pluck us out of His hand. But we ourselves…” Are we not men as well? “Well God…” Is it God’s nature to do this? Jesus, who is one with His Father, is the Good Shepherd. Does a shepherd toss its sheep out of the flock? What’s more, Jesus clearly says “they shall never perish.” The definition of never:
"At no time in the past or future; on no occasion; not ever"
Never is not a word we can get around or compromise on. Jesus plainly tells us those He gives eternal life will NEVER perish.
In Romans 7, Paul writes about the struggle of two natures: “what I would not, that I do. That which I would I do not.” That seems like rebellion towards God, and Paul was a very good Christian if you ask most people. But after that he starts chapter 8 this way:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
No is synonymous to never; we can’t get around it. No condemnation means those in Christ Jesus will never be condemned. “But it says those who walk after the Spirit.” If we lost our salvation every time we walked after the flesh, we’d be destined to die lost. Those who walk after the Spirit are those who have the Spirit, or those who are in Christ Jesus–Christians. This has further clarity later in the chapter:
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” –Romans 8:14-16
Is there anything you can do to unbecome your parents’ child?
Before we get any further, I feel it necessary to answer common arguments from those who believe this way. We must remember that scripture must be interpreted with scripture. A passage that appears one way must be seen in light of what God says elsewhere in His Word. James tells us “faith without works is dead.” Many interpret this to mean that salvation comes through works; however, seeing the paramount evidence in the contrary, along with the fact that James was writing to professing Christians, tells us that he spoke of faith manifesting itself through our works. One who does not show that they have faith, though no one but they and God can judge their hearts, must be questioned on whether they have faith at all.
James’ words ring true in two arguments from Matthew 6:15 and 18:35, in which Jesus tells the Jews he is speaking to that God will not forgive their trespasses if they are not forgiving. Who is forgiving? The Christian. If we do not show ourselves forgiving, do we have true faith? Matthew 10:33 speaks of Christ reciprocating denial before God. This is not a moment of denial; Peter denied Christ, and the Bible never speaks of him being re-born again (I’m sorry, “feed my sheep” cannot rightly be considered salvation). Rather this is a lifetime of denial–something a Christian does not do by our very definition and what is needed for salvation (acceptance). I Corinthians 15:1-2 mentions at the end “unless ye have believed in vain.” This again speaks to a profession without faith.
Colossians 1:22-23 is sometimes presented as evidence as well. It fails to mention verse 21 about reconciliation. Paul did this in other parts of his writings, where we would start a thought, interrupt it with a related one, and then continue on. So he did in these three verses. Hebrews 3:6 and 14 shows us that persistence in our faith is a test of its legitimacy. The end of II Peter 2 has not changed subjects; it is speaking of false teachers, who Peter and Jude outline to be people posing as believers. The letters to the churches in Revelation are also cited at times. Those that “overcome” are those that are believers (Paul said "we are more than conquerors").
A final argument against the security of the believer will help me transition back to those for it. Some Armenians actually use Hebrews 10:26-27:
“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
But this discounts the next two verses:
“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”
This describes us as justly worthy of a greater punishment, but “suppose ye” and “shall he be thought worthy” tells us that this is speaking hypothetically. Under the assumption that one can lose their salvation, however, this passage would tell us that once it is lost, it cannot be regained. “There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” This argument proves too much.
But we cannot ignore this portion of scripture, nor other parts. You tell me we lose our salvation for certain sins. You tell me we lose it for “falling away.” But I see no evidence in this passage. If Christ’s blood covered all of your sin, past and future, then they are covered. There is no more sacrifice needed, nor are there any sins, regardless of severity, that remain unforgiven by Him at the moment of salvation.
Look what else Hebrews 10 says in verses 10-18:
“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”
It was one sacrifice, and no more offering is needed. The Holy Ghost is a witness of our salvation, as is mentioned many times in the Bible. And God clearly tells us that He will no longer remember our sins (a quote from Isaiah). If He takes away our salvation due to our sin, is that not remembering our sin?
Lot, by any definition, fell away. He moved to Sodom and got involved with its affairs. When he escaped, his daughters got him drunk and were impregnated by him. This was a very backslidden man. Yet mark what II Peter 2:6-8 mentions:
“And delivered just Lot…For that righteous man…vexed his righteous soul.”
Lot was not a just man in his actions, but he was already justified by God. Not in the least does the Bible encourage this behavior, but we have to remember that it is God that declares us righteous and just, all the way to the end:
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” –John 5:11-13
Those that have the Son HAVE life. It is continual. Losing one’s salvation brings a certain uncertainty, but we are told that we can know that we are saved:
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” –I Peter 4:17-19
The righteous are scarcely saved because we don’t deserve it. But Peter here speaks to those suffering for Christ (v. 16), telling them to commit the keeping of their souls to God. If we kept our souls ourselves, we would most likely fail, as we do with so much else. But we can rest knowing God keeps our souls:
"For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." –II Timothy 1:12
Paul, inspired to write by the Holy Ghost (I Peter 1:21), said that he knew who he’d believed in (God). Furthermore, he was persuaded that God would keep what he had committed against that day. One of the meanings of “against” in the time of translation was “until.” What had Paul committed to God? His salvation. Paul suffered, but he knew that God was keeping his salvation until the day God calls us home:
“(B)eing confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” –Philippians 1:6
The work begun will be performed until Christ comes. That is a promise; that is our confidence.
“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:” –Jude 1
We are preserved in Christ.
Even a very common reference tells us we are secure.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. –John 3:14-18
Two verses in a row tell us that whoever would believe SHOULD NOT perish, but will have everlasting life. The only “buts” in these verses involve stating that we cannot perish, not that we are saved UNLESS we do this or that or fall away. Everlasting life, by definition, means that we cannot die after belief. (Of course speaking in spiritual terms, looking at the context.) Then Jesus tells Nicodemus that whoever believes is not condemned. That’s pretty plain to me.
One more piece of evidence comes from Jesus:
Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. –John 13:10
Peter had asked Jesus to wash all of him, but Jesus says “He that is washed” does not need to wash all of himself, but only his feet. “Washed” is past tense. Looking at several verses that speak of being washed in the blood of Christ (Rev. 1:6), the meaning is apparent. Those who are saved already will get dirty; it is human nature. When they do, they only need to wash what has made them dirty. They don’t need to rewash entirely. The only person that Jesus indirectly mentions being unclean is Judas, who is called “the son of perdition.” This was never a saved man, hence he could not “fall away.”
It is against God’s nature to pull us from condemnation, then put us back there. It is God’s nature to keep His promises. And over and over again He promises to preserve us. Why worry or try to keep a salvation that is kept already? Take God at His promises.
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:33-39