Contender or Pretender – Can a Person Lose Salvation?
Have you wondered if a follower of Christ can lose his or her salvation? Can it be lost by evil works or simply walking away from the faith? The Puritans had it right with their analogy that Scripture interprets Scripture. I believe that is the case here. Read on to see what the Word of God has to say!
Hebrews 6:4-8 says,
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.”
Some people believe this passage of Scripture indicates a person can lose salvation. But we need to read on!
Consider Romans 8:30-39, Romans 11:29, and John 10:28.
“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:30-39).
“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
This is what we see from these verses:
- Gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
- We cannot be snatched out of God’s hand.
- Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
I’ve heard pastors preach on the subject far more eloquently than I’m able to express. But I also thank God for my simple mindedness! If someone were able to lose salvation, than we’d also need to believe that someone who is “predestined,” “justified,” and “glorified” can undo all that God has done in his or her life (Romans 8:30). That seems to assert divine power? One Bible teacher said verses 38 & 39 did not exclude one from walking away from the faith. I don’t know. It’s a pretty all-encompassing list. Again, I believe to do so would require the assertion of divine power.
The part in John that says, “[N]o one will snatch them out of my hand” seems to imply that we are unable to wiggle out of his grasp either. If we could, what kind of God would he be? Ephesians 1:13 says at the moment of salvation we are sealed with the Spirit. Does that mean we have the power and ability to break the seal?
I think it is important to look at the salvation process to really analyze whether a person can lose it, or walk away once it has been received.
Jesus taught in parables to make a point, Luke 8:4-15—The Parable of the Sower will provide insight on the topic.
In the parable, seed was scattered
- on the path … and it was trampled underfoot and devoured by the birds.
- on the rock … it grew but eventually withered away because it had no moisture.
- among the thorns … and the thorns grew with the seed and eventually choked it out
- on good soil … it multiplied a hundredfold
In the allegory, Jesus was the sower, and the seed was the Word of God. The Word looked like it flourished on the rock, among the thorns, and from the good soil. But in the long run, the only place it survived was the good soil. So did those from the rock or among the thorns experience salvation and then lose it? Or were they ever saved in the first place?
Returning to Hebrews 6, the author wrote in verse 8, “But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” I do not believe it to be coincidental that Jesus referred to seed falling among the thorns as growing, but eventually choked out (Luke 8:7). This was an unsaved person. Is it the same as the one mentioned in Hebrews 6?
“And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy” (Luke 8:13). Sounds like saving faith, doesn’t it? But there’s no root. Theologians use three Latin words to describe the elements of saving faith.
- Notitia – knowledge. We must know the facts. Rom 10:14, “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” You can’t believe what you don’t know. As Joe Friday of Dragnet fame said, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” Notitia!
- Assensus – assent – accepting the facts as true. Someone might tell me the frozen pond will hold my weight. Now the question is, do I believe? Similarly, many know what the Bible says. But they may or may not fully believe it. Step 2 in saving faith, we must assent to or believe the facts to be true. Assensus! Unfortunately, a lot of people stop right there – at assensus. They never get further. I think these are people that look like they lost, or walked away from, their faith! They want a Savior, but ultimately making him Lord requires too much discomfort. They simply have “buyers remorse” as Satan leads them down the road of deception!
- Fiducia – trust. I must act on what I believe to be true! I move out onto the ice. That’s saving faith. I know, I assent and I move. Hearing and believing are nothing without a commitment. They want him as Savior AND Lord!
Consider the example in Acts 8. An early church deacon, Phillip, was in Samaria preaching Jesus, and the response was great.
“But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed” (Acts 8:9-13).
Warning: Not all supernatural activity is of God. Satan is also a practitioner. Here is a man who came as a sinner, heard the Word (noticia), and believed (assensus). He received the Word, but did He trust Christ for his salvation (fiducia)?
Later events reveal Simon’s heart was on rocky soil – shallow and without root.
“Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:18-22).
Simon’s heart was selfish. His response emotional – out for what he could get. He was not saved. He received the Word, but not Christ. His will had not followed where his emotions led. It was all feeling for him. Peter advised, “Repent.”
The fruit of our works does not save us; but saving faith results in good works. Even the thief on the cross had the fruit of authentic repentance. He went to the cross mocking Jesus. But somehow, God got a hold of his hard heart and changed it so that by the end of the afternoon, he not only rebuked the other thief (Luke 23:40) who continued to mock Jesus; but he also confessed his sin, asked for a place in heaven and bore witness concerning Jesus, “but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). He experienced noticia, assensus, and fiducia, all in a very short period of time. One of the most amazing transformations in history with not enough time to show a lot of fruit, but he had enough.
Saving faith has roots and it has fruit. Saving faith embraces Jesus as Savior AND Lord. What God has planted cannot be uprooted (Romans 8:30-39, Romans 11:20, and John 10:28).
The terms “enlightened” and “tasted” were used in Hebrews 6:4-5. I think you can make a case that such people are produced from seeds dropped on “rocky soil” or “among the thorns.”
The Reformation Study Bible Commentary equates “enlightened” with “knowledge.” Naturally, we know many have possessed knowledge, including Satan, but it’s insufficient for salvation. The same commentary said, “tasted the heavenly gift,” refers to participating in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Again, we know there have been plenty of non-believers participating in rituals, to include the Lord’s Supper, but not experience salvation. We could put Judas in this category.
Based upon the Scripture that I’ve reviewed, I do not believe a person that has faith planted in fertile soil, spiritually voyaged through noticia, assensus, and fiducia—accepting Jesus as Savior AND Lord—and been sealed with the Holy Spirit will lose his or her salvation!