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Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. 1 Timothy 4:16

Can a Christian Lose Their Salvation?

by Jay S. McMullan
© 2003

The Internet has given us a great tool to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the Internet also allows unfounded and false doctrine to be easily spread. Now, more than ever we must rightly divide the word of truth. We must also stand for the truth in doctrine no matter what the cost.

On the Internet, I have "chatted" with many other Christians and non-Christians about many different topics. There are a few topics however, that seem to come up over and over. These include the doctrine of baptisms, speaking in tongues, the ministry gifts and the eternal security of the believer. I would like to share with you my beliefs and the scriptures on which I base those beliefs.

Often times, I am asked if I think a person can lose their salvation. My answer is normally, "It is not very likely." This disturbs my Baptist friends since one of the main Baptist doctrines is that of "Eternal Security". It also causes concern among my Pentecostal friends who believe that unless one lives a sinless life they will not inherit eternal life.

The proponents of the eternal security doctrine base their teaching on scriptures such as:

Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life ... hath everlasting life ... shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life (John 3:15-16,36; John 5:24)

I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand (or My Father's hand, John 10:27-29)

I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels ... nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39)

We shall be saved from wrath through Him (Romans 5:8-9)

Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that you may be blameless ... God is faithful, by whom you are called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8-9)

You are sealed unto the day of redemption (Ephes. 4:30)

He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6)

I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (2 Tim. 1:12)

Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory (Jude 1:24)

Those that believe the doctrine of eternal security believe that once a person becomes a Christian there is no way they can lose their salvation. And they usually teach that if a person claims to be born again and goes back into sin that it is very likely they were never saved to begin with. On the other hand, those that oppose eternal security seem to lean toward the feeling that if a born again Christian falls into sin they are doomed to hell unless they repent and live a holy life, which I believe causes Christians to live a roller coaster spiritual life. I must say that my beliefs fall somewhere in the middle here and lean toward the eternal security side. But there is one passage of scripture that, to me, plainly shows that a person can lose their salvation.

As a minister, I've had people come to me and share that, because of sin in their life, they are terribly afraid they have lost their salvation. I assure them their fear shows they have not done so. It is just proof that the goodness of God is leading them back to Him.

What is the passage of scripture that leads me to not completely believe in the doctrine of Eternal Security?

Hebrews 6:4-6
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, [5] And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, [6] 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.

Here, the writer of Hebrews gives five conditions of a person that is able to "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame". They are:

1. They were once enlightened
Thayer's Greek Lexicon says this refers to "those who have been made Christians."

2. They have tasted of the heavenly gift
"Taste" is from the Greek work geumai, which means to taste or to eat of. If a person has tasted the heavenly gift or eaten of the gift they had to have been saved.

3. They were made partakers with the Holy Ghost
The Greek word metochos is used here which means to be made a partner and a fellow with. How could anyone be a partner and fellow with the Holy Ghost without being a Christian? We know that we are made partakers with the Holy Ghost when we are born again and are baptized by Him into the body of Christ. (See The Three Baptisms of the Believer)
It is my belief that these people would have also been baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

4. They once tasted the good word of God
A person is saved when they receive the word of God.
John 15:3
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Acts 2:41
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Dake says, "No man receives the word of God and remains unsaved".
These are people who knew the Word intimately, understanding the mysteries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

5. They once tasted the powers of the world to come
This means they have experienced eternal life and the power of being a Spirit filled Christian. Most Christians don't realize that eternal life begins when they are born again, not when they die. When we are born again we enter into the Kingdom of God. There is a difference between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of Heaven is a place where God dwells but the Kingdom of God is something that is here now and we as believers should live and operate within it.
Mark 1:15
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
As children of God we inherit certain rights on this earth, including health and prosperity. The main things we inherit are the fruits of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

When I tell people that it is not very likely for someone to be able to lose their salvation, it is because I don't think that many Christians who ever reach this level of spiritual maturity would ever desire to turn away from Christ. I hear of people sometimes who fall away after becoming a Christian but most of the time they never attained to this level of maturity and don't fall under this category.

Hebrews 10:26
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

God gives us free will in our lives. We can continue our walk with Him or we can end our walk with Him if and only if, we fit the criteria listed in Hebrews 6. What a sad state that person would be in to walk away from Christ and the sacrifice He made for him. I personally believe that such a person would not live long because they would have walked out from under the protection of the Holy Spirit and the angels of God. And I know of some situations, in which it is my personal opinion, that God, because of His incredible mercy, actually took certain individuals home because they were coming dangerously close to losing their salvation.

This truth is easier to perceive when you understand that there is only one sin that leads a person to hell. That sin is rejecting Christ and the sacrifice He made for us. This sin can be committed by a non-Christian and can also be committed by the Christian mentioned in Hebrews 6. This is the only sin that cannot be forgiven and is also the sin that is unto death.

Matthew 12:31-32
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. [32] And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

1 John 5:16
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

Jesus said that there is an unpardonable sin. John said that there is a sin unto death and if we see someone commit that sin we are not to even pray about it. What greater blasphemy would there be to the Holy Spirit than to turn from the miraculous work that he performed in our lives at the time of salvation? Other sins will obviously lead us in paths of destruction and eventually can lead some to an early grave. The sins which are not unto death destroy our confidence, or faith in God, much like a child who breaks his parent's rules and will keep us from living the life that God has for us.

We can use the Apostle Paul as an example of a person who fits the criteria of Hebrews 6. Saul of Tarsus, as Paul was formerly known, was a "Jew of the Jews." He was very zealous in his religious walk. After being born again Paul was given many revelations and was actually taken to heaven.

2 Cor. 12:2-4
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Most fundamental Christian groups base their doctrine on the Pauline revelation revealed to us in the New Testament. Paul reveals some startling information while relating the abundance of his revelations.

2 Cor. 12:7
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

The Greek word for messenger used in this passage of scripture is angelos meaning angel or messenger. Some people have tried to explain this away saying Paul had some kind of disease or sickness. This theory is absolutely not in line with scriptural evidence. The fact is that Paul was buffeted, or kept down by an angel that fell with Satan. Paul even gives some insight into the horrible things that this fallen angel caused him to go through.

2 Cor. 11:23-27
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

Paul called upon the Lord to deliver him from this awful torment. But God did not deliver him.

2 Cor. 12:8-10
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. [9] And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

The Lord revealed to Paul, that because of His mercy, He would not deliver him. Paul, being a born again Christian, baptized in the Holy Spirit and fulfilling all of the criteria listed in Hebrews 6, without the messenger of Satan, would have surely been lifted up in pride and could have lost his salvation. If there was no danger of this why would God have cared if Paul was lifted up in pride? God would allow Paul to go through these sufferings to remind him just how weak he really was without Jesus Christ and His atoning work.

Let's examine Hebrews 6:6 a little futher.

Hebrews 6:6
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.

"Fall away" means to apostatize or to fall away from the gospel. When one apostatizes it means that they willingly throw away their faith. If the person referred to in Hebrews 6:4,5 had not experienced the things listed, how could he throw them away? If it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, they must have been in repentance at one time. The final act of apostasy is to deny Christ openly and the apostate publicly denies Christ and His atonement. Dake says, "Since such faith(the faith they now openly deny and reject) is the only thing that could renew them again to repentance, it then becomes impossible".

Hebrews 10:26-31
For if we sin willfully 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. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The writer of Hebrews continues to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is speaking of a born again Christian losing his salvation in this particular passage of scripture. He tells what the apostate, that is guilty of the sin unto death, has done. The Apostate has:

1. Trodden under foot the Son of God (treated the Son of God publicly with utmost contempt and blasphemy)

2. Counted the blood of the covenant that he was sanctified with (again proving that this person was a Christian) an unholy thing

3. He has done despite(contemptuous defiance or disregard) unto the Spirit of grace

It is absolutely clear from the scriptures, as we rightly divide the word of Truth, that it is possible for a born again believer who is spiritually mature and has partaken of the powers of the kingdom of God to knowingly walk away from eternal life and never have a chance to be redeemed again.

All articles, graphics, images, photographs and other material are © copyright 2000 to present by Jay S. McMullan and/or his assignees. Do not copy without written, expressed permission.