Can I Lose My Salvation?

This is a very important question to answer as there is clearly a lot of confusion on this topic. Thankfully the Bible is very clear on this and most Biblical scholars and teachers agree that a genuine Christian will never lose their salvation. This is called the doctrine of "eternal security." This doctrine is sometimes attributed to those that follow "reformed" or "Calvinist" theology but it is clearly a Biblical doctrine.

There are entire books written on this topic but let me summarize the key Scriptures and theological understanding on this issue. It is essential that we properly interpret the Bible rather than quote verses and parts of verses that seem to align with our doctrine. However, I also believe that if we look at the big picture, the Bible as a whole and God's character, that we can't come to another conclusion.

Let me start with the doctrine that we can lose our salvation. Two important passages often used to speak against eternal security include 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 and Hebrews 6:4-6.

First Corinthians 3, however, refers to the potential loss of rewards for believers in the afterlife. Verse 13 teaches, "he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:14). Every believer will enter heaven; the difference in this context is regarding which rewards each believer will receive.

Hebrews 6:4-6 says, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame."

There are two interpretations of "those" in this passage. Either they are Christians or they are not. Either way, this passage is not saying a Christian can lose their salvation. If "those" are Christians, the passage presents an argument based on a false premise (that a true Christian can fall away) and follows it to its senseless conclusion (that Jesus would have to be sacrificed again and again). The absurdity of the conclusion points up the impossibility of the original assumption. This reasoning is called reductio ad absurdum, in which a premise is disproved by showing that it logically leads to an absurdity. It is important to know that this section of Hebrews is about apostates/heretics-- those who may have, to some degree, embraced the truth, but have now abandoned it.

If "those" are not Christians, they are intellectually persuaded but spiritually uncommitted. The phrase "once enlightened" (verse 4) refers to some level of instruction in biblical truth. The Greek word for "enlightenment," photizo, refers to doctrinal knowledge. However, understanding the words of scripture and doctrinal knowledge is not the same as being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. For example, John 1:9 describes Jesus, the "true Light," giving light "to every man"; but this cannot mean the light of salvation, because not every man is saved. Through God's sovereign power, every man has enough light to be held responsible. This light either leads to the complete acceptance of Jesus Christ or produces condemnation in those who reject such light. The people described in Hebrews 6:4-6 are of the latter group—unbelievers who have been exposed to God's redemptive truth and perhaps have made a profession of faith, but have not exercised genuine saving faith. They were involved, perhaps heavily involved, in a church. It is likely they would have joined a congregation, heard the Gospel, and saw the Spirit working in the life of Believers. They may have received some of the blessings of being part of a covenant community, and they may have even publicly confessed Christ and have been baptized (in early Christian writings, conversion and baptism were sometimes termed "enlightenment"). But they never had a saving knowledge of Christ.

As far as "partakers of the Holy Spirit," Hebrews 3:14 sheds further light on the matter: "For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end." It's not by a believer's holding fast that they make themselves a partaker, but if they have truly partaken of Christ they will indeed hold fast. One has to be a believer in order to hold fast, to not fall away.

This interpretation also sees the phrase "tasted the heavenly gift" (Hebrews 6:9) as referring to a momentary experience, akin to Jesus' "tasting" death (Hebrews 2:9). This brief experience with the heavenly gift is not seen as equivalent to salvation; rather, it is likened to the second and third soils in Jesus' parable (Matthew 13:3-23), which describes people who receive the truth of the gospel but are not truly saved. They only "tasted" or "sampled" Christ. They were never truly converted to faith in Him.

Finally, this interpretation sees the "falling away" (Hebrews 6:6) as a reference to those who have tasted the truth but, not having come all the way to faith, fall away from even the revelation they have been given. The tasting of truth is not enough to keep them from falling away from it. They must come all the way to Christ in complete repentance and faith; otherwise, they in effect re-crucify Christ and treat Him contemptuously. Those who sin against Christ in such a way have no hope of restoration or forgiveness because they reject Him with full knowledge and conscious experience. It is impossible to renew such to repentance. Also of importance is the biblical interpretative principle of understanding the unclear passages of Scripture in view of those that are clear. Those biblical passages that do speak clearly regarding this issue greatly favor eternal security or "once saved always saved."

Many scriptures make it abundantly clear that salvation is eternal (John 6:37-40 ; John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:4-5), and Hebrews 6:4-6 confirms that doctrine). God does not take back the gift of faith He gives believers (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 11:29). in fact, I have yet to hear of a gift that God took back from a believer. The saved cannot be 'unsaved.' The new creation cannot be un-created (2 Corinthians 5:17). The redeemed cannot be unredeemed. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word which Scripture tells us God never does. The Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit seals us (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30) and that seal cannot be broken.

© Todd Tyszka
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