Updated: Aug 17, 2022
I am often asked questions about what the Bible teaches on certain topics. From time to time I'll post them as a blog because I'm sure others have the same questions. I change the facts and names to protect the privacy of the individuals that email me.
I would love to know your thoughts... Do you believe once saved always saved or can we lose our salvation?
For example, if someone gets saved and truly accepted the Lord but has sinned and lets say they pass away before having the chance to repent. Do you think they'll go to heaven or will they're salvation be lost? I was having this discussion with someone and they feel like everyone who accepts the Lord goes to heaven no matter what. Even if they're living an active homosexual lifestyle, or are actively committing adultery, etc... We believe that true conversion to the Lord means the Holy Spirit convicts you and will warn you before falling into sin. Even though we all fall short that doesn't mean we continue to live in that sin thinking we can still go to haven with no consequences.
Answer: Thank you for your email. This question has had Christians debating one another for centuries. When I am asked this question my response is: you are asking the wrong question. The question shouldn't be can I lose my salvation, it should be how should I be living my life as a Christian? The reason I make that change in direction is because I believe it's the wrong focus. There are usually different reasons someone may ask this question, either they are in doubt of their personal salvation or they are worried for a loved one's salvation. In the parable of the seed and the sower, Jesus points out that of the 4 types of seed only one is viable and that's the seed that produces fruit (Luke 8:4-15). In James we are told that "faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) This has caused many to argue over works based salvation, which is not the point. The point is made in the parable of the seed and sower: the truly saved have fruit in their lives. The fruit is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives, Galatians 5. I think the real issue is believing that a one-time profession of faith, or a faith that gets choked out without any real transformation or sustained transformation, is sufficient. The Bible teaches those types of 'conversions' are one of the first three types of seed: snatched away, shallow roots or choked out.
I would agree, those that are truly saved are "new creations" (2 Corinthians 5:17) and therefore when they sin, they are sinning against their new nature, rather than in accordance with the fallen nature. This is the conviction the Holy Spirit. Until we are free from flesh we will fall, but it will bring about a godly sorrow and true repentance. Therefore, no the Bible does not support the idea that we can live in willful and habitual sin while simultaneously claim to be new creations. “26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." Hebrews 10:26-27
Will God accept us back if we fall away? The story of the Prodigal Son settles that. Yes He will and He runs to greet us. However, that story isn't about a Prodigal Son that runs away and then goes back to the life he had when he ran away. It's about a son that ran away and came back permanently as a son. (Luke 15:11-32) I've heard all kinds of answers to this question and the responses are usually a regurgitation of man made rules, not biblical principles. For example a common response is: "no we can't lose our salvation because to say that would mean we could earn our salvation." The problem with that way of thinking is that it is a logical fallacy. Accepting salvation is not earning it, any more than the prodigal son "earned" his sonship. But he did get to choose if he wanted to be a son or a rogue.
The same is true for salvation, we can't earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9), but if we want it then we must truly die to ourselves and surrender ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus. We don't get to keep one foot in the world and the other in church- Revelation 3:14-22 the letter to the church in Laodicea. Here is what the Bible says about our decision to follow Christ:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." Matthew 7:13
"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling..." Philippians 2:12
"Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24
"Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:38
So can we lose our salvation? I don't think that matters because if we truly belong to the Lord then it's not something we have to worry about. If we don't see the evidence of the Holy Spirit in a loved one's life, then we aren't done praying for them.