One of the most hotly debated points of doctrine (apart from the timing of the Rapture) among Christians of different denominations is the question of eternal security. Specifically, can a believer who was saved fall away and lose his salvation? Is there an unforgiveable sin for which a believer can be condemned?
Those who would argue yes are just as sincere in their doctrinal view as those who take the other side, and both sides have Scripture to support their view.
I thought it might be good to take a look at the Scriptures used by those say the Bible teaches that a believer can lose his salvation.
In 2nd Thessalonians 2:3 Paul writes, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” Is this referring to the falling away of part of the True Church?
First, let’s look at what falling away means in the context of the believer. The term ‘fall away’ was used by the Lord Jesus of His 11 disciples at the time of His arrest. The disciples deserted Jesus as was predicted and Peter obviously denied Jesus three times. This was said to be a ‘falling away’. (see Matt 26:31-35) Obviously, this is not a loss of salvation.
For the true believer it may involve a temporary period of ‘backsliding’ (an OT term not found in the New) or time of being out of fellowship with God.
There ARE times when for one reason or another, the believer is having difficulty in his Christian walk.
But true believers would not, however, deny what they believe in their heart, even though their walk at that moment might not reflect what they believe.
But note that even though Jesus said they would ‘fall away’, in the very same context, he also said to Peter that he had prayed that his faith would not fail and when he returned, to strengthen his brethren. (Luke 22:32)
In other words, true believers may fall at times but their faith does not fail because Jesus intercedes for them.
Concerning this intercession we are told, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 11:2)
We need that intercession most when we are struggling, yet some believers will argue that it is when we need the Lord most that He abandons us to our sin.
See also John 17:6-12 concerning this intercession by Jesus for His believers. In this ‘High Priestly’ prayer, Jesus makes it clear that the ones that God has given Him He also keeps safe.
And Romans 8:32-34 cites Jesus’ intercession as proof we cannot be separated from the love of Christ.
The ‘great apostasy’ of the last days is not referring to saved believers, but is instead referencing the kind of doctrinal dumbing-down that would allow an openly homosexual Episcopalian priest to be elevated to the bishopric, or the attack on the Boy Scouts for not admitting homosexuals.
Jesus said this time would be like the days of Noah and Lot – “every imagination of the thoughts of [men’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) with rampant homosexuality (Genesis 19:8).
Hebrews 6:4-6 is often used to ‘prove’ a believer can lose salvation. It says, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
It appears on the surface to say that a believer can lose his salvation, but if you read it closely, it teaches the exact opposite.
It teaches that the believer cannot be renewed to repentance (born again – again!) because it would require crucifying the Lord again, and ‘putting Him to an open shame’.
If this passage teaches that a believer could lose his salvation, then it also teaches that believer is forever damned and beyond repentance. You cannot interpret ‘impossible’ in this passage to mean anything except ‘impossible’.
And the ‘open shame’ Paul says it would expose the Lord to is that He failed to keep all that God had given Him, as He said in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Then there is the passage in Hebrews 10:26-27 which says, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
First, the book of Hebrews was written TO the Hebrews (1st century Jewish believers). That doesn’t mean it is irrelevant to the Church, but there is a context here.
For a Jew to become a Christian in the first century was a death sentence as far as their relationship with their family was concerned. They lost any right to an inheritance and came under extreme pressure (including physical persecution) to leave Christ and go back to Judaism. And that is what many did, even though for a while they looked like true believers.
The ‘wilful sin” mentioned in verse 26 is linked to the verse before it because it starts with ‘for if..’.
The verse before it is speaking of leaving the assembly of believers. The ‘wilful sin’ that this passage talks about is leaving Christ and going back to Judaism.
Under the Judaism they were going back to, there no longer remained a sacrifice for sin (vs 26) (because God didn’t accept animal sacrifices anymore after Jesus had died for all sin, for all time.)
Another commonly misinterpeted Scripture refers to ‘a branch that doesn’t bare fruit will be cast into the fire.’
1 Corinthians 1 Cor 3:15 clearly states that for a true believer, even if their work is burned up (ie no fruit) they are still saved, but as one who escapes ‘as by fire’. They are in Heaven, but they have no rewards.
Scripture never contradicts Scripture.
Another proof text used to prove salvation is dependent on doing good works is James 2:26; “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
This is another verse that is purported to prove one thing, but in fact, proves the opposite.
By definition, one who is saved cannot have ‘dead’ faith, since it is their faith that has saved them in the first place. Someone may have a belief, or head knowledge that certain facts are true without giving themselves over to that belief.
James 2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Believing in God is not the same as having faith in Christ.
Dead faith is simply a head knowledge that cannot save.
Consider this; I know all about George Bush, but he doesn’t know me — that is to say, I have no personal relationship with George Bush, but I believe he is the president.
There are many who know all about Jesus, and might even profess to believe He is God, but have no personal relationship with Him. Works arising from that kind of relationship is by definition, dead, since it bears no eternal fruit.
The Scriptures clearly establish that a genuine conversion will stand no matter how great the adversity. “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down” (Psalms 37:24)
The Apostle Paul told believers to put on the whole armor of God.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17).
On the battlefield, the most effective way to dispatch an opponent is to go for a head shot.
Paul refers to the ‘helmet of salvation’ — if you know you are saved, eternally, the enemy can never take you out of the game.
He can’t use guilt to stop you from witnessing. He can’t convince you that aren’t really saved. He can’t convince you that you are unworthy to carry the Gospel to the lost. In short, he can’t take that ‘head shot’ that would render a believer useless to the cause of Christ.
In these last days, the Scripture says that Satan will pull out all the stops, ‘because he knows he hath but a short time’.
Those of us who are properly equipped with the truth, the knowledge that we are covered by the righteousness of Christ, are prepared with a knowledge of the Gospel, which we are prepared to share in peace, secure in our faith and certain of our standing before Him are formidable opponents in the battle for the souls of men.
“And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)
The battle has been joined. And our victory is assured.
Don’t let anyone rob you of your weapons.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)