4 Reasons A Christian Can't Lose Their Salvation
Can a Christian lose their salvation? This perennial question plagues Christians in every generation for multiple reasons. Maybe the guilt and shame from the past continues to scream to them that God has forgotten them. Maybe they feel stagnant in their maturity. Maybe backsliding has them questioning their status with God. Or maybe they want the permission to live a sinful life with the assurance of escaping punishment. In my estimation, this last reason is rarely used by those who are seeking for the truth. Because they desire a sinful lifestyle, they will go to the extent of believing lies to assuage their guilt. However, it is assurance that we are seeking for, and for assurance is why we ask.
The Bible presents a clear picture that salvation cannot be lost because salvation is completely of God. This picture does not do away with our maturity, holiness, repentance, or pressing on in faith. It is a whole picture, not a partial one, and within it are four main tenets.
1.) Christ's Atonement
Not all who say, “My only hope of salvation is Christ,” mean that Christ alone saves them. Instead, they mean that their works will only get them so far, and Christ must do the rest. "Our works can’t get us salvation," they reason, "but it sure can get us close." To them, Christ’s work is not a full or total atonement; there must be an effort on our part. However, this is a direct repudiation of Christ’s blood as our perfect atonement.
The blood of bulls and goats is insufficient to take away our sins (Heb. 10:4). Their sacrifice was simply a picture of the perfect sacrifice to come, a sacrifice completely sufficient to take away our sin. Christ’s blood is all we need.
Our good works, on the other hand, are more than insufficient to contribute to our salvation; they only work against our salvation. When Isaiah and Zechariah liken them to filthy rags, you can't help but imagine a person stitching some rags they found in a mechanic shop onto a pure white robe. Our good works do nothing but work against the salvation of God.
How could we ever be unsure of our assurance if God has declared us just on the basis of Christ’s atonement? If Christ’s sacrifice is a better sacrifice than bulls or goats, our salvation is secure. Here we see that it is not our flimsy grasp of God that will keep us, but rather God’s firm grip upon us that saves us to the end. Those who hope in Christ, He will save to the uttermost – the very end (Heb.7:25).
2.) God's Election
"We have a choice." This brief statement sounds good until you think about it. It is commonly used as an argument against a sovereign God choosing whom He will for salvation. Initially, the statement sounds like an argument about responsibility: "If we cannot choose salvation, we are not responsible for failing,” they reason, “Therefore we must have a choice.” This, however, is humanistic reasoning. Although they don’t intend to, they are exalting humanity to an unbiblical level. What I mean by this is that they have forgotten the sinful nature of man to which he is enslaved (Rom. 6:6, 16-19; Gal. 4:8-9). Enslavement means service to the master. If the master is sin, we will do as sin desires. Unless someone binds the master and sets us free, we will remain in sin. Being enslaved to sin makes us both unable to choose salvation and completely responsible for it.
Furthermore, such reasoning about election looks akin to putting our hands over our eyes when we see the plain teaching of it in Scripture. "God chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). "He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will" (Eph. 1:5 emphasis added). "Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls" (Rom. 9:11 emphasis added). "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). "…but I chose you out of the world" (John 15:19).
Can God's purposes fail? If so, He is not almighty. If so, He is not in control. King Nebuchadnezzar (of all people) got the answer exactly right:
At the end of days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?'" (Dan. 4:34).
3.) Our Adoption
God is not the father of creation in the same way He is the father of those who trust in Christ. The adoption of God determines this distinction. If this distinction is not understood, many of the benefits of salvation are disregarded. The adopted children of God are loved, blessed, and cherished by Him in a way that the "creation children" are not. However, it is not the blessings but the status that stand out in this truth. We are made "sons of God," meaning we are highly favored and recipients of the inheritance. We cannot lose our status as children of God. God has set His affections toward us; knowing our faults, but adopting us anyway. There is much to hinder our fellowship with Him, but nothing to remove our status.
4.) The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit not only effectually works in us to regenerate us (John 3:1-15), He is given to us to seal us as children of God. Paul tells us that when we were saved, we "were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it" (Eph. 1:14 emphasis added). The Holy Spirit guarantees our possession of eternal glorification in resurrected bodies. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, cleansing us and removing the dross that still clings to us (2 Thess. 2:13). By Him, we are kept secure to the end.
Is the Holy Spirit only able to work so much as we let Him? No, for "the wind blows where it wishes. . . So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). The Holy Spirit works according to the plan and purpose of God, not of man.
Why This Matters
Because the eternal assurance of salvation is not something commonly associated with the evangelistic call today, we may think there is little need to teach it. However, the assurance of salvation is intimately intertwined in every gospel call.
“Is this salvation you speak of sure and steadfast? Will it fail me sometime down the line?”
If it is up to us to save ourselves, we cannot give an affirmative answer. If we are the deciders of our salvation, our answer cannot be positive. Why? Because if our acceptance depends on us, so does our success. To think we can give a positive answer is to forget the parable of the lost sheep. That sheep had gone astray and would not have found its way back to the flock unless the shepherd rescued it.
When we know that it is the shepherd who will not let us stray for long, we have assurance. When we know that God alone saves us, we have assurance. The world needs hope. We need hope. And we have the answer.