Yes, you’ve trusted Jesus as your Savior, but sometimes worry creeps in. Maybe you made a big mistake, or you read a “warning passage” in Scripture and suddenly felt anxious… is it possible that somehow I won’t end up in Heaven after all is said and done? What if I didn’t say the right words in my prayers? What if I sinned too much, or turned away from God for a period of time in my past?
If you’ve ever had any doubts along these lines, you’re not alone. We hear it again and again in questions written to our ministry: Can I lose my salvation? How can I be sure I’m saved? Thankfully, the Bible doesn't leave any doubt on this subject. So let’s look at some brief answers, and we'll start by clarifying what we mean by “salvation.”
When Christians say they’re “saved,” what are they saved from? The answer is most often, “we’re saved from an eternity in hell.” After all, that’s what everyone’s worried about, right? But in Matthew 1:20-21, the angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream. “[Mary] will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” [emphasis added]. So first and foremost, Jesus saves us from our sins. And if we believe this, and put our trust in Him, His grace and righteousness then gives us salvation from the punishment of sin (hell).
Scripture also makes it very clear that Christ’s work on the cross saves us from all sin. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time.” And 1 John 2:2 says, “He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”
With that as our foundation, any suspicion that a believer’s salvation can be lost introduces dangerous logical and theological problems. Let’s look at just a few of these issues.
1. Judging sin
If salvation can be lost, it becomes necessary for us to judge or evaluate (on our own terms) which sin(s) we believe Christ did not die for; ones that would potentially cause loss of salvation. For example, are we forgiven for “small sins,” but not the “big sins,” like murder? No, the Bible doesn’t teach that at all! There are no verses in Scripture that say, for example, “Christ died for all sinners… except murderers.” Remember the Apostle Paul was complicit in the persecution and murder of Christians prior to his conversion, but became convinced of the power of God to forgive (Romans 8:1). Your sins, no matter how “big,” cannot separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
2. Christ’s sufficiency
If salvation can be lost, the value of the work of Christ is lowered. It’s like saying that Christ’s death on the cross does not cover all sins of the believer—past, present and future. But that goes against the clear teaching of Hebrews 9:26-28, “If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice… He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.”
3. God’s character
If salvation can be lost, God’s character is maligned by suggesting that He might “kick us out of His Family” whenever we mess up. If that were the case, believers would be losing their salvation all the time! Our heavenly Father certainly disciplines and guides us in paths of righteousness, but He’ll never disown us or consign His own children to hell if we fail to measure up. 1 John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
So the Bible is clear that salvation cannot be lost through sin. But at this point, some people will bring up a few daunting New Testament passages such as Hebrews 10:26 or Galatians 5:19-21. These intimidating verses seem to imply that those who “continue to sin” as Christians can somehow be excluded from God’s salvation plan. Could this mean that believers who struggle with some kind of sinful addiction are in danger of losing their salvation? No -- the fact is, every Christian continues to sin! None of us is perfect, or ever will be on this earth.
Romans 7:22-25 reminds us that, even as believers, we're all slaves to sin -- but through Christ, our sins have been forgiven! "I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord."
So the unnerving verses in Hebrews and Galatians are not meant to make us miserable or cause us to live in a constant state of doubt and fear. Rather they remind us of the seriousness of sin, and they serve as a check-up for our spiritual health. A person who professes to be a Christian, but maintains a consistently unrepentant, sinful lifestyle, without any concern or remorse or any genuine desire to live for God, should doubt the sincerity of his or her conversion experience. That person may never have committed their life to Jesus in the first place.
In contrast, true believers will seek to follow God and live by a new nature, as we read in Galatians 5:22-23: “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
So let our hearts be filled with joy about our salvation! We have assurance from God’s own Word that our salvation is secure, and true believers can be confident that their eternal standing is never in question.
John 10:27-30 – “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
- Ron Reid