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Can we ever lose our salvation?  Some say yes, others say no. What does the Bible say?


A person called in to a local Christian talk radio program in the Milwaukee area and was concerned that he might not be saved. They were trying to assure him that the moment he gave his heart to the Lord, he could never lose his salvation. The caller didn’t sound very convinced.

I often times run into people who believe in the "once saved always saved" concept. They firmly believe that once they have confessed their sins and asked Jesus into their heart they are saved and can never lose their salvation. They can kill, steal, rape and destroy, but ultimately their salvation is guaranteed because they believe they can never lose their salvation.

In fairness to my Evangelical friends it should be pointed out that this is only one point of view among Evangelicals. Some Evangelicals believe “once saved always saved” while others vehemently reject the notion. The concept of "once saved always saved" while never losing your salvation is not in the Bible. It comes from human reasoning. In fact, the Bible speaks against this particular concept. 

Did the Apostle Paul believe that we can never lose our salvation? If Paul had absolute assurance that he can never lose his salvation then why did he work out his salvation with fear and trembling? “So then, my beloved, be obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). 

Did Paul believe "once saved always saved" or was it possible to be cut off? In the book of Romans, there is the possibility that you can lose your salvation; you too can be cut off, if you don’t remain in Gods kindness. "For if God did not spare the natural spare you either. See, then, the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you remain in his kindness; you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:21-22). 

Did Jesus require us to endure to the end to be saved or did He believe in "once saved always saved?" If you can never lose your salvation then why did Jesus require endurance and perseverance to the end to be saved? “You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mk. 13:13). Was Jesus mistaken? Is it truly necessary to persevere to the end to be saved, or should we believe those people who claim, that we can never lose our salvation?

I can believe someone, who says there is no possibility of losing their salvation or I can believe Paul, who speaks about the possibility of being cut off (Rom. 11:21-22). I can believe people, who say, once saved always saved, a concept and wording not in the Bible, or I can believe Jesus, who says, “The one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mk 13:13). 

By claiming the man-made tradition “once saved always saved” they have nullified the word of God "for the sake of your tradition" (Mt. 15:6). They make the claim that we can no longer lose our salvation; therefore, they no longer have to persevere to the end as Jesus commanded. How is that for making "void the word of God" (Mt. 15:6)?

This does beg the question, why do some Evangelicals today believe in the "once saved always saved" concept when in fact this is at odds with the Bible? Where does this concept come from? It actually comes from the Fr. Martin Luther and John Calvin. Both were Catholic; however, this is one of the areas where they departed from the Bible and Church teaching. I personally believe that they were trying to come up with a nicer, kinder easier form of Christianity. They seemed not to be aware of the fact that the "once saved always saved" concept is at odds with both the Apostle Paul and Jesus.

Some non-Catholics are quick to point the finger and make the claim that Catholics don't always know their Bible very well. And in this, they are correct because here we have two Catholics John Calvin and Fr. Martin Luther who were not knowledgeable about their Bible as it relates to salvation. Had they been aware that their Bible requires that you have to persevere to the end in order to be saved, they would not have had to break with the Catholic Church on this point. When they broke with the Catholic Church, they were also breaking with the parts of their Bible, that did not fit with their own understanding. Instead of listening to the Church (Mt 18:17), they were leaning on their own understanding.  

"There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures" (2 Pet. 3:16).

We have already seen that we must persevere to the end and we can be cut off and so what are some of the verses, that some claim, are evidence of the "once saved always saved" concept.

That you may know that you have eternal life. The verse in the Gospels that seems to be quoted most often for proof of "once saved always saved" is in 1 John 5. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life (1 Jn. 5:12-13). This is interpreted by some to mean that you cannot lose your salvation because once you have eternal life in you, you cannot make God die. Eternal life is the very life of God so how can it die. This type of thinking is misleading because no one is claiming that God dies; however, we can separate ourselves from God and lean on our own understanding.   

Their point is that we can have eternal life and know it. The fact that they don't list any contingencies doesn't mean that there isn't any. It just means they haven't listed any.  In fact, we have already quoted some of the contingencies coming from both Paul and Jesus.

They quote 1 John as their proof text for "once saved always saved" and then conveniently forget to mention the contingency given in 1 John 5. In doing so, they have left out part of the context. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments (1 Jn. 5:2&3). 

The contingency here is that we love God and obey his commandments. The reason that these verses are not listed in the "once saved always saved verses" is because if we don't love God and obey his commandments then there is a possibility that we too can lose our salvation.

Never-the-less there are those who absolutely insist that keeping the commandments is not a requirement for salvation. And will even go so far as to say "nobody can keep the commandments!"

Is keeping the commandments truly a requirement for salvation? Some say yes, others say no, but what does the Bible say? Below is a conversation that I had on social media with an individual who insists that we do nothing in order to be saved because for him, Jesus did it all. 

Timothy Barret: "What must *I* do to obtain and maintain my salvation (and please provide me the exhaustive list of everything that I must do, please, if possible)."


Lenny Alt: "Timothy, thank you for your very excellent question. I will answer your question if you will answer my question first. What must you or I do to inherit everlasting life with God in Heaven? I will make it easy for you. I won’t ask you for an exhaustive list. Personally, I don’t think you can answer this question correctly. On the other hand, if you can then you will have answered your own question."

Timothy Barret: "The answer to your question is nothing, for Jesus did it all. We are saved by grace, not works (Eph. 2:8-9).  And please do not assume I will get an answer to a question incorrect. It is arrogant and condescending." 

Lenny Alt: "Timothy, to your credit, you did give a verse of the Bible that has to do with salvation; faith versus works of the law, circumcision (Eph. 2:8-11). Notice that the Apostle Paul speaks for good works in verse 10 and against works of the law (circumcision) in verse 11. This is much clearer in Romans 3:28-29. 

Yes, you are correct, Jesus did it all and He also answered my question, something you did not do. Here again is the question that you did not answer. What must you or I do to inherit everlasting life with God in Heaven? How did Jesus answer this question? He said,

"If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

The rich young man asked Jesus, “Teacher what good must I do to gain eternal life?" He answered him, ‘Why do you ask me about the good?  There is only one who is good.’ If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt. 19:18). And then Jesus went on to list several of the commandments.

Jesus said to enter into life, keep the commandments, and then spoke against man-made traditions that usurp the commandments. He rebuked the usurping and undermining of scriptures through man-made tradition when He said, "The worship they offer me is worthless; the doctrines they teach are only human regulations. You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions . . . In this way you make God's word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down" (MK. 7:7, 8, 13, J.B.V.).

No one can keep the commandments. Are they liars? There are still others who make the statement, “no one can keep the Commandments!” However, Jesus doesn’t say that; the Apostles do not say that; the Bible does not say that anywhere.  They are coming from a man-made tradition that is in violation of the Bible and the commandments. 

I can listen to Jesus who says to keep the commandments or I can listen to man-made tradition which says "nobody can keep the commandments." 

Who will you listen too? The Apostle John says that people who claim to follow Jesus and don't keep the commandments are liars. "The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:3). You can't know Jesus without following the commandments! Will you keep the commandments or will you be a liar, devoid of truth? Why would Jesus and the Bible ask us to keep the commandments if we couldn’t do it?  The fact is this, we can keep the commandments and when and if we fail, He is faithful and just to forgive us.

Will we follow the liars who say that "nobody can keep the commandments?" Or will we follow Jesus who says that the one who "does not keep the commandments is a liar?"

For the full story on this please go to: http://catholicmilwaukee.com/salvation-do-i-simply-do-nothing-.html

So, if we are following the commandments, we have some indication that we have eternal life and if at some point, we turn our backs on God and choose not to follow the commandments then we no longer have the assurance of eternal life with God in Heaven. Those, who claim that you cannot lose your salvation, are quoting from their tradition, not from the words of the Apostles or Jesus.

One Evangelical friend told me that all you have to do for salvation is believe in the name of Jesus.  I asked her this question, “do you mean that we do not have to actually believe what Jesus says; all we have to do is believe in the fact of Jesus existence? And she said, "Yes." However, what she didn't seem to realize is that Bible asks us to go beyond this and to not only believe, but to obey Him as well. "Whoever does not obey the son shall not see life" (Jn. 3:36).

If I were to use her criteria Satan, would have been saved because he believed in the fact of Jesus existence and yet He did not obey Jesus. Satan wanted Jesus to obey him instead. "You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble" (Jm. 2:19). Satan believed in Jesus enough to even tempt Him. I have since discovered that although intellectual ascent is an Evangelical tradition; in fairness to many Evangelicals, there are those who do believe that obedience to Jesus is necessary for salvation.  

There are those who contrast an absolute assurance of salvation with no assurance of salvation. This is a false contrast because the Church does not teach no assurance of salvation. It teaches that we can have a reasonable assurance of salvation. It is just that it is possible to be self-deceived and that is why we do not claim an absolute assurance. And it is also possible that after believing “in the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn. 5:13) to turn away from him. "Severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you REMAIN in his kindness; you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22). 

God’s kindness is not afforded to those who claim “once saved always saved.” It is given to those who remain in His kindness.  

Good luck to those who when seeing Jesus say "Lord, Lord, I am once saved always saved.” If they didn’t do anything, because Jesus was supposed to do it all for them, He will say to them, "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Mt. 7:21). How many people over the years have told me that they do absolutely nothing for their salvation? They ignore the words of Jesus which require obedience to the will of the Father as a requirement for entrance into Heaven. They neglect the many verses in the Bible that require effort on our part. 

Those who preach the "once saved always saved" concept are people of good intention who were taught this in their tradition not knowing that this concept is at odds with their Bible. Our Bible very clearly shows that salvation is a conditional one that requires effort on our part to persevere to the end (Mk. 13:13) otherwise we will be cut off (Rm. 11:22). Those, who claim that we cannot ever lose our salvation, are at odds with the Apostle Paul, Jesus and their Bible.