“Can I lose my salvation?” This is a question many believers struggle with, and an important one that needs a proper explanation. Thank God, the Bible gives answers to hard questions! The beginning often explains the end, so let’s first look at how we are saved.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:8-10
That is it! Salvation is easy to receive: believe the gospel in your heart, confess that God raised Jesus from the dead, and the moment you did it, you are saved — and a new creation in Christ Jesus. Acknowledge you are a sinner in need of salvation, that Jesus was crucified for your sin, and that He rose to life again after three days in the grave. Paul told the Ephesian church that salvation is a gift of God’s grace that we receive by believing it:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9
We are saved by faith, without us adding anything to it, for it is “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” If any steps from our side are required to make it happen, it is counted as works worthy of compensation, and therefore not a gift.
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Romans 4:4
God owes no man anything! For this reason salvation is by faith alone, by grace alone. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody, be baptized, tithe, give offerings, or speak in tongues to obtain salvation, for any effort on your part would remove God’s grace from it.
Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:21,22
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the ]guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13,14
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” John 10:28-30
From the verses above it is clear that our salvation is secure. There is nothing the devil can do to bring you back under his power. You are sealed by the Holy Spirit “for the day of redemption.” No effort of your own can add to your eternal security, for your salvation is by faith in God’s gift to you, and God gave you that gift because He loved you even as a sinner!
With this in mind, is it at all possible that I can end up in hell after all? Yes, — because you have a free will. While it is highly unlikely that anyone would choose to turn their back on God, the possibility exists. You received salvation by faith, and give it up when you renounce your faith in the resurrected Christ.
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. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. Hebrews 6:4-8
“For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Hebrews 10:37-39
The “falling away” and “drawing back” doesn’t happen because you stumbled in sin, but because you fell away from faith in Christ. You don’t believe the gospel anymore. Please read Hebrews chapters 3 and 4, and see how the author compares the lack of faith to the Israelites’ disobedience:
And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. Hebrews 3:18-4:2
God will always honour your free will because He is a just God; He will never force you to trust Him, or to love Him. Also, He did not make us to be robots or slaves, but to be in His likeness with a free will.
Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. James 1:18
What about sin you committed after you were born again? The Bible is very clear that the work God started in us will only be completed on the last day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6) That means we will sometimes sin while we live in the body:
If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. Romans 7:16-18
Sin strains our relationship with God, but doesn’t cancel it. All we need to do when we sinned, is confess it to Him. You will find Him waiting with open arms, ready to forgive and restore your fellowship with Him:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
There is a warning that should be taken serious though:
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. James 1:14-16
Habitual sin will push you further and further away from God, eventually become “full-grown” resulting in death. (See also 2 Peter 2:20-22) Jesus died for all of our sin, past, present and future (Hebrews 9:11,12) because God understands our weaknesses and is gracious to us, but it would be foolish to abuse that grace by living in sin habitually.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. Galatians 6:7,8
There is no “once saved, always saved,” and “you cannot be un-born again.” It is a dangerous misconception that leaves the door wide open for some believers to live sinful lives that brings the wrath of God upon them. Sanctification is a process that must be active in every Christians’ life — the growing away from the world and its sin, while making progress toward becoming more like Jesus.
There is a sin that leads to eternal death without any room for forgiveness, and that is sin against the Holy Spirit. Once again, it is highly unlikely that any believer would do such a thing, but it is something to bear in mind. Why would anyone blaspheme the Spirit of God who so graciously and lovingly introduced Christ us, ministered salvation to us, and brought about the rebirth of our inner man? What is sin against the Holy Spirit anyway?
Jesus cast out demons by the Holy Spirit who was upon Him, but the scribes accused Him of having a demon. Jesus warned them:
“Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:28-30
It is always wise to keep your opinion to yourself when you don’t understand the work of the Holy Spirit. Too many Christians are quick to label the Holy Spirit or His work with names that should rather not be mentioned. You will never understand Him or His work, and unless it is abundantly clear that you are witnessing something that is obviously evil, it is best to be silent. The work of the Lord always bears wholesome fruit in anyone’s life, and for that reason it is best to judge the fruit of what you have observed instead.
Salvation is lost the same way you received it: by expressing belief that God did not raise Jesus from the dead. Now, some believers, at a low point in their lives, might say something to that effect. However, God’s grace is greater than we can ever understand. He knows what material we were made of, and that we are weak at times. He also looks into our hearts and sees our true faith there.
If you said something foolish while overwhelmed, be sure to confess it to the Father — He will abundantly pardon and cleanse you of all unrighteousness. The fact that you sense conviction about some foolishness that you uttered while frustrated, is a good indication that the Holy Spirit hasn’t left you. Confess that sin and accept His forgiveness — and learn to be careful with your words.
Thank God for His amazing grace! His love toward us never fails, it never diminishes, not even when we are at our worst.