It is such an important question. Can we lose our salvation? Or said another way: Can God’s grace be rejected? Can someone actually squander, neglect, or even return, as it were, their free gift from God?

There is a prevailing thought about this question among the Christian community. For example, a popular answer to this question is pictured. They only offer one Bible passage and it sounds pretty good. In Romans 81 it seems like Paul really sums it up. But is he really saying we can lose our salvation?

can we lose our salvation?

Popular teaching regarding salvation from the NewSpring church in South Carolina.

Can we lose our salvation?

How Scripture answers "Can we lose our salvation?"

We can be sure that God will hold up His end and no other force can keep us from our salvation1, but Scripture is abundantly clear that we can fall away and thereby lose our salvation1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13. In fact, Scripture shows that the New Testament writers uniformly warned about this possibility — Jesus, Paul1,2,9,12,13, James4, John5,10, Jude6, Peter7,8, and even ‘anonymous’3,11 all give urgent warnings that we can lose our salvation.

“You didn’t earn your salvation, so you can’t lose your salvation.” This is the popular response when the question of whether we can lose our salvation comes up. But, of course, we can lose things that we didn’t earn! If someone gives you a dollar bill you didn’t earn it but…you can lose it…you can neglect it…you can forget about it…you can misplace it..you can have it stolen…you can even simply discard it. So it is with our salvation, and Scripture even points to many of these same culprits3,4,6,7,8,11,13 of how we can lose our salvation.

Yes
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No

1

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.

[Paul] is convinced that nothing in all creation can separate [Christians] from God’s love that is shared through Jesus Christ.

Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome encouraging  them to continue in their “obedience of faith” (1:5, 16:26), not practicing the things of the unrighteous (1:16-2:11) and not succumbing to those teaching false doctrine (16:17-18).  In the immediate context he is making the point that no outside force (makes a list in vs. 35 “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword”) can defeat “God’s elect”.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (vs 31)

How does it apply here?

There is no external power or being that can separate a Christian from their faith/salvation. God is more powerful and above all other forces and His promise is true.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

2

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

The works of the flesh include things such as sexual immorality, acts of hatred, discord, jealousy, uncontrolled anger, divisions, drunkenness, covetousness, murder, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I [Paul] am warning you again, as I did before, not to practice such things in order to inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul, much like he does in the letter to the Romans, is imploring and encouraging the Christians (this time in the churches of Galatia) to remain obedient in the walk of faith.  He begins the letter with strong language about resisting false teachers and begins this chapter saying, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  He contrasts practicing the works of the flesh and its result (e.g. not inheriting the kingdom of God) with the work of the Spirit and its result (
Galatians 6:7-8
).
How does it apply here?

Those that have been saved to walk by the Spirit can forget or lose their inheritance (e.g. salvation) by not continuing to walk in (e.g. practice) the works of the Spirit.

3

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

If we don’t pay attention to what we heard we will drift away.

The writer of Hebrews is addressing his letter to all the converted Jews and pointing out the superior promises they have through Christ and His covenant, over the Mosaic Law (the “message declared by angels”).  The entire letter and primary theme is to “hold firm” or “hold fast”, an idea repeated several times (2:1, 3:6, 4:1, 4:14, 10:23, 10:35) and elaborated on in chapter 6 (

Hebrews 6:1-12
).

How does it apply here?

If we don’t pay attention, we can drift away (fall away) from our salvation.

4

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

If any brother wanders from obeying the truth he is a “sinner” who’s soul is subject to “death”.  If someone “brings him back”, that person will be covering a multitude of sins.

James’ letter throughout is about encouraging and warning Christians to live out the “word of truth” (1:18) in their lives and gives many practical examples of what that looks like.

How does it apply here?

We can wander from the truth, and in so doing, subject ourselves to eternal death (e.g. lose our salvation).

5

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

Continue in what you heard.  If you do that, you will abide in the Son and in the Father and His promise of eternal life.

John, in his letter to brethren, makes refrain after refrain for them to continue to “walk in the light”.  In the first chapter he states it as, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1:6)

How does it apply here?

If we do not stay true to the word, that is, practicing it and not continuing in sin, we will not receive the promise of eternal life from the Father.

6

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Brethren, I was anxious to write about the salvation we share, but instead need to appeal to you to fight for the faith that has been fully delivered to all the saints.

Jude, the brother of James, is writing to Christians to warn them about false teachers.  He encourages them to be “building” themselves up (vs 20) and “keep” in the love of God (vs 21).
How does it apply here?

Jude’s emphasis is warning about their salvation being “stolen”, by false teachers that “crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (vs 4)

7

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Please, as strangers in this land, resist the passions of the flesh that will capture your soul. Among the Gentiles, behave honorably, so that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will see your good works and God will be glorifed in the final day.

Peter is writing to the “elect” of the “dispersion” – Christians that have been scattered throughout Galatia and Asia Minor.  He is encouraging them to stand firm in the face of current persecution and reminding them of the promise they have in and through Christ.

In this chapter, Peter calls forward several prophetic statements including Isaiah 28:16 (vs 6), Psalms 118:22 (vs 7), and Isaiah 8:14 (vs 8).  In verse 9, Peter takes all of the characterizations that God made (through Moses) to his people in

Exodus 19:5-6
and applies them to Christians. Finally, in verse 10, he recalls Hosea 1:6, 9, 10, the same verses that Paul applies to the Gentiles being grafted in by God in
Romans 9:25-26
.
How does it apply here?

Giving in to the passions of the flesh can cause us to lose our soul (e.g. salvation).

8

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As a result brethren, be vigilant to realize your calling and election (salvation) by practicing these things.  If you do this, you will be welcomed into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter’s second letter, like his first, still encourages the faithful to remain so while focusing on the peril of false teaching.  In this immediate context, Peter has just listed several qualities (virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love) that they should make “every effort” to add to their faith.  In fact, they must be added and “increasing” (vs 8).  “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (vs 9)
How does it apply here?

Christians must be constantly aware and working to confirm our salvation. Specifically, we should be adding those qualities to our faith.

9

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Paul reminds the Corinthian brethren of the word, the Gospel of Christ, that they believed and is currently saving them. It will continue to save them as long as they remain in it (“hold fast”).

Paul is about to make his great defense of the resurrection of Christ.

How does it apply here?

A Christian is “being saved” by remaining obedient to the word of Christ. If they don’t continue to “stand” in it or “hold fast” to it, their salvation is “vain” (without purpose/cause/success).

10

Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Be aware of yourself so that you don’t lose what we [Paul and fellow-workers] have labored in and you may receive the full prize.

The apostle John is warning brethren (likely a local church – vs 1) about false teachers (as was much of his first epistle referring to “antichrists” having come).  His specific guidance is “abide in the teaching of Christ” (vs 9).

How does it apply here?

A Christian can “lose” what we have worked for, jeopardizing our “reward” (e.g. salvation). In this context, false teachers or “antichrists” can make us stumble (similar to Jude6).

11

For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’

We have come to share in Christ, but only if we hold fast to the end our original confession of faith.  Just as it is written in Scripture, ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’

Letter to Jewish Christians that is calling on them to “hold fast” in spite of persecution.  The main argument is the “better” things that exist for them through Christ Jesus. Chapter three deals specifically with Jesus’ superiority to Moses himself (vss 1-6) and goes on to compare the followers of Moses to those of Jesus.

The writer here repeats a quote made earlier (vs 7) from Psalms 95:7-11. The writer goes on to explain (interpret) those who rebelled (vss 16-19) as those that followed Moses from Egypt but “provoked” God and “sinned”, thereby dying in the wilderness (vss 16-17).  As a result, they did not “enter his rest” since they were “disobedient”(vs 18), which is the same as “unbelief” (vs 19).

How does it apply here?

Just as some (most) Israelites lost their inheritance from being “disobedient” (e.g unbelief), we can lose ours.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

The entire letter of Hebrews is really full of statements3 and an overall message that would not make any sense if it was not possible for a Christian to lose their salvation.

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