How can a person know for sure that he or she is saved? Are there tests that we can take to determine whether we are saved or not? Can we lose our salvation? There are two answers to this question: yes and no.
Let’s consider the consequences of the two basic answers to the last question. If we could lose our salvation then that would mean that we would have to be saved again (born again, again). What does the Bible (Fundamental Christian teaching) has to say about being born again, again? Nothing. Now, what if we can never lose our salvation if indeed we are really saved? What are the consequences of this? This would mean that the Christian must learn to live and practice the faith that he or she has. What does the Bible have to say about this? It says a great deal about it. Therefore, we can make a first guess that eternal security is a biblical concept. However, we need more evidence in order to discuss this with others, especially with Christians. So let’s begin.
Salvation—A Cursory Look
The Bible teaches us that salvation is the result of the free gift from God. We personally experience this salvation (accept it) by believing in Jesus Christ in our heart (see 1 Cor 15:3-5). Salvation comes as a result of hearing the gospel, the work of the Holy Spirit, accepting the claims of the gospel, and believing in Jesus Christ.
All of the teachings concerning salvation in the Bible put no pre-requisites on us. In other words, there are no steps that we have to accomplish before we can be saved. The only thing required before we can become born again is to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then we believe.
- There is nothing that we can do to earn salvation
- There is nothing we can do to work for it
- It seems reasonable to believe that we, therefore, can do nothing to lose it.
Consider what Jesus Christ said.
John 6:39 through John 6:40 (NKJV) 39This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Are we more powerful than Jesus Christ is? Can we commit a sin or do something that His blood could not wash away? No!
Another thing that we must consider is that salvation (really sanctification) is a process. Salvation does not mean that all of your evil ways are automatically washed away and you then become Mr. or Mrs. Holy. See Romans 8:23.
The Foundation of Our Salvation
Our salvation is not based on works, however, our works are the result of our salvation. Works come after salvation not before. Works after salvation is not a means of staying saved, rather it is a way of life as a result of being saved. This means that the Christian is responsible for living as a Christian.
Salvation is based on the redemptive act of Jesus Christ by the declaration of God the Father. Salvation is provided by the grace of God to us and not by our own merit. Since the requirement of salvation is not works, we can say with confidence that works or a lack of it is not a means for losing salvation.
Are there tests that we can use to determine or give evidence to our salvation? Does the Bible even hint that this is possible? Yes and yes. Consider what Paul the Apostle said.
2 Cor. 13:5 (NKJV) 5Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you are disqualified.
Review the following scriptures regarding tests to determine salvation or not.
- · James 1:2-4
- · 1 Peter 1:6-9
- · Romans 8:16 (The Holy Spirit Gives assurance)
- · Galatians 5:22-25 (we should bear fruit)
- · 1 John 5:13
The following verses seem to imply that salvation can be lost. However, a closer look at these verses in their respective context will reveal the contrary. Let’s look and see.
The trouble passage in this verse is the statement “will not blot out (erase) his name from the Book of Life.” This seems to imply that a name can be erased from the book of life. However, this is not what this verse is implying. As a matter of fact, the context of this verse is to affirm our salvation and not to put doubts on it. The writer uses a common method of writing to emphasize a point by the use of a double negative. He says, “Will not blot out.” He emphasizes that the name will remain and not be blotted out thus affirming the security of our salvation. We use double negatives all of the time to emphasize a point. For example, the statement “You don’t play bad at all.” This statement affirms that the person is a good player and does not imply that the person is a bad player.
The phrase “work out” is used instead of “work for.” Remember that very important point. After being born again, we are now required to live as though we are born again. This does not affirm our salvation with God but it gives evidence of that salvation to others.
The unpardonable sin is simply to deny the work of the Holy Spirit and therefore reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to deny that his work is that of the work of God. In the worse case, the work of the Holy Spirit is attributed to Satan. In a more practical way, the Holy Spirit’s work is attributed to a natural phenomenon, a mental state, or even illness (Acts 2).
We must keep in mind that our salvation is not based on what we do. That is, we don’t earn the salvation provided through Jesus Christ. It is a gift from God. The only thing we have to do is to believe.
We must take a peek at the concept of unbelieving. I said that salvation is not based on works and therefore works cannot be a way of losing it. Salvation is based on belief so it would seem reasonable to believe that if someone no longer believes in Christ (un-believes) then that person could effectively lose his or her salvation. There are a couple of problems with this argument.
Again the Bible does not address this situation at all, which seems to imply that it is not a possibility
If the above is true then what makes un-believing impossible?
It is true that the Bible does not discuss the situation where someone can un-believe. Even here there is a problem. Historically, some Christians seemed to un-believe by denying the faith when faced with the possibility of dying for their confession of faith. This brings up a very serious question, which I will not get into too deeply at this point because I don’t think I have it completely resolved in my mind. The question is that if someone denies their faith in order to save their life or to avoid serious trouble, does that mean that he or she no longer a Christian? Again we have to look at the conditions of salvation to even begin to tackle this question.
Salvation is received by believing in Jesus Christ. The confession is meaningless without the belief in the heart.
It seems reasonable to conjecture that a confession alone is not reason enough to suppose that we can lose our salvation. What would have to take place is that we would have to give up the Spirit of God and become born again again again (Born from death to life, life to death, and then death to life again).
Another question that is very crucial to this topic is that of the sustainer of our salvation. What sustains our regenerated state? Do works sustain our salvation? No. Again, works are a result of whatever state that we are in. There are components that may arise that may cause us to respond in any number of ways. Fear can cause us to do things that we perhaps shouldn’t do. Anxiety can also cause us to respond in certain undesirable ways.
Another thing that is necessary is to see how Jesus Christ handled similar situations. Sometimes he was asked if he was the Son of God or not. What did he say and do? Jesus rarely clearly stated to the masses that he was the Son of God. They probably would have killed him on the spot. He was silent when he was before Pontius Pilate and the religious leaders (see Matthew 27:11-14).
At the same time, we have to consider the concept or act of denying Christ.
(Mat 10:33 NCV) But all who stand before others and say they do not believe in me, I will say before my Father in heaven that they do not belong to me.
This verse seems to apply to a pre-regenerate state. Those who deny Christ are those who never believed in the first place. Why would a person deny their faith in the first place? If you really believe then most likely you are going to share your faith—and most diligently in most cases. However, if someone puts a gun to your head and asks if you are a Christian or not, then you may be tempted to say no in order to save your life. What are the consequences of this? I’m not sure at this point but these are questions that are unresolved at this point.
I have to ask this question. Why say anything at all? Why do you have to answer such a question? Consider the examples that Jesus gives us. Sometimes he would answer a question with a question without answering the original question at all (for example see Matthew 21:23-27).
I believe that the Holy Spirit sustains our salvation and our confessions will typically agree with the heart in belief. Perhaps there are situations where we would not readily volunteer that we are Christians. There may be situations where we may feel insecure about people knowing that we are saved. However, these are emotional effects that show forth our imperfection and are not an indication of our true faith in God. I believe that our salvation is secure in the hands of Jesus Christ. I believe that he will not lose any of those who were saved and that Christ will keep the regenerated people for eternity. I believe that our salvation is eternally and forever secure in Jesus Christ.
In an overall sense, no one really knows what will happen when we die. We have a hope of salvation that rests in Christ Jesus. We are certainly based on this hope and faith. However, we really won’t know until we really die and see where we end up. What does this mean? This means that the only valid data that we can use to address the issue of eternal security (or any other religious topic) is the Bible. What does the Bible tell us about eternal security? I conclude from my studies that the Bible teaches that we are eternally secure if indeed we truly believe in Jesus Christ and are truly saved.
It may appear at first glance that eternal security seems to give a person the license to sin. After all, your salvation is secure so you can’t loose it whatever you do. That thinking begs the question of the salvation of an individual. There are some important aspects that need to be addressed regarding sin in a Christian’s life and sin in a non-Christian’s life.
We cannot make light of sin even though our salvation is sure. This is the sticking point of in the process of understanding eternal security. We must keep in mind that the heart is the crucial element when speaking of salvation. I have realized a major problem with the presentation of the gospel in some church gatherings. For example, you may hear a statement such as “If you are not certain that you would go to heaven if you died right now then come to the altar and accept Jesus Christ as your savior.” Now that sounds good and it is even logical, however it is biblically inaccurate and it opens the door for people to be deceived into thinking that they are saved when in actuality they are not. How so?
First of all, the Bible declares that salvation comes by believing in Jesus Christ. The Gospel that is preached is that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, was raised from the dead by God, and ascended to heaven to be with the Father. This belief or faith that leads to salvation is a direct result of the Holy Spirit on the individual that hears the Gospel. That person can either deny or accept the Gospel (yield to the workings of the Holy Spirit) and believe in Christ. If this process does not take place, then more than likely the person is not saved according to the biblical method given.
Fear of hell and an escape to eternal bliss is not a method for salvation. A person that is convinced that there is a hell and desires to escape its fury is not a person that responds to the Gospel and receives salvation. Unfortunately, the person that responds to fear tactics may believe that they are saved (though they don’t necessarily believe in Christ). They are professed Christians but not genuine Christians (they have not been born again).
This brings us to the heart. If the heart has not received the Holy Spirit, then the person is not saved. The heart is the real determining factor of someone’s salvation. Of course, a person knows the condition or state of their own heart and so does God. That means that we do not have the absolute ability to judge someone’s salvation or not. The best we can do is evaluate the person’s fruit, observer their lifestyle, and come to a reasonable conclusion.
The Sinful Way
The Bible declares,
Romans 3:23 (KJV) 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Romans 5:12 (KJV) 12Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Everyone has sinned. We all come into the world as sinners else we wouldn’t need Jesus Christ. So what happens after one is saved. Do they stop sinning? Consider the following verse of scripture, which will even bring more confusion on this topic if we are not careful.
1 John 3:9 through 1 John 3:10 (KJV) 9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
What does this really tell us? You must consider the heart of a person that is born again. Consider a tatement made by Paul the Apostle.
Romans 7:15 through Romans 7:25 (NIV) 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.£ For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
This is a profound statement. However, one thing is very clear in what he says. HE WANTS TO DO GOOD! This indicates the state of his heart. If he didn’t want to do good then the heart his heart wouldn’t have truly been renewed in the salvation process. Since we have a new heart, being Christians, we desire those things that are consistent with that new heart. This opposes the sin that we would so casually and thoughtlessly commit. Sin committed after true salvation brings on feelings of guilt, shame, failure, or sorry. That is, we are genuinely grieved that we sinned against the new nature that we have.
The Righteous Way
The new standard of living that the Christian has is contrary to the old sinful way. However, there is still a war within every Christian. The flesh wants to satisfy itself and we desire to live according to God’s way. Sometimes we give in to the ways of the flesh. We can’t keep on sinning because it is contrary to our new nature or WAY of life. This doesn’t mean that we won’t sin. For example, a smoker will say, after discovering that cigarettes cause cancer, that he or she can’t smoke anymore. Does this mean that the person will not smoke even though he or she has a new attitude about smoking? No! Their desire is not to smoke and that is their new mode of operation. However, they may give in to the flesh and smoke one now and then, though it won’t be as before. The point is that he or she doesn’t want to smoke anymore but they still may do so but with a different attitude. Of course, smoking will begin to decrease because of the new attitude. The same applies to Christians and sin. We have a whole new attitude about sinful acts, which are unrighteous acts. We don’t want to commit them but at times we will. The important thing to note is that a new attitude is evident because of the new heart.
We cannot forget God’s love in the life of a Christian. Doing so can have significant destructive consequences. Without realizing God’s love we can take our shortcomings and magnify them into salvation determinants. God loved us so much that he gave his only begotten son to die for us (John 3:16). While we were still wallowing in our sins, God sent Christ to die for us.
Romans 5:6 (KJV) 6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:8 (KJV) 8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
God loves us especially now that we are saved. He is not going to abandon us though he will correct us. It is not healthy to think that God will punish us or leave us because we have committed a sin. Jesus’ blood covers our sins so that we remain righteous in the site of God. This righteousness is based on our heart and not our shortcomings. This doesn’t mean that we should go out and do evil because the true born again Christian does not desire evil but good. Realizing the love of God means that we shouldn’t crucify ourselves when we sin because Jesus did that for us already.
Think of God’s love and think of his goodness. Know that he loves you and wants to take care of you. He is not the great tyrant in the sky that puts an “X” next to your name every time you do something unrighteous. Always remember that he loves you and he is working in you to bring you to the perfect image of Christ.