(The following is taken from the e-book, “How To Find Peace With God (Answers From The Book About Salvation).” If you missed the first part of this series, please Click Here. If you would like to receive the entire e-book (in PDF format), please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Can We Lose Our Salvation?
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)
No thorough discussion of Salvation would be complete without looking at one of the most hotly disputed, controversial issues surrounding it: Eternal Security. Is it possible for someone who has been genuinely saved to lose their Salvation? Or as many like to put it, Once saved, always saved?
In the last chapter, we looked at ways that a person may know for certain that their Salvation is real and their faith authentic. We considered how a person can be sure that they are saved. In this final chapter, we will look at whether or not it is possible to ever forfeit that Salvation once it has been secured.
Sheep In The Hands Of The Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
It is no accident that the Lord Jesus Christ often used the analogy of a shepherd caring for his sheep when referring to His own care of those who belong to Him. In the pastoral culture of First Century Israel, those listening to Jesus speak would have been very familiar with the imagery of sheep and shepherds. The characteristics of a flock and their overseer would have been well known and understood by the Lord’s listeners. As the Lord Jesus’ human ancestor King David had conjured up images of a little helpless lamb being completely cared for by a loving and merciful Shepherd in the Twenty-Third Psalm, a similar picture would come to the minds of His own listeners when Jesus spoke the words recorded in the Tenth chapter of John’s Gospel.
Like sheep in a flock who must be guided, the child of God is utterly lost apart from our Shepherd’s leading. Jesus said that we hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27). Imagine a shepherd who left it up to his sheep to find their own way home from the pasture. What kind of a shepherd would that be? Sheep are lost apart from the leading of their shepherd and would never be able to find their own way back. If a human shepherd cares enough for his own flock to lead them every step of the way, how much more does the Great Shepherd guide His flock?
Sadly, a lot of Christians believe that, after they have come to Christ for Salvation, it is up to them to stay on the “path” that leads to Salvation, never wandering off it. They feel that it is the believer’s responsibility to find their own way “home.” But if we are really one of the Lord Jesus’ “sheep”, He will make sure that we make it through to the end.
In the parable of “The Lost Sheep” (Luke 15:4-6), Jesus reminds those listening to Him that any good shepherd having a hundred sheep would leave the ninety-nine in order to find the one lost. He would search far and wide until he found it, rejoicing greatly when he did. We understand this parable to apply to the lost sinner who has never known Christ, but would it not apply all the more to the sheep already belonging to the Lord? Does our Good Shepherd only search for us that first time, leaving it up to us to find our own way back to Him if we wander away again? Would any shepherd do this? If the man with the hundred sheep should lose one a second time, would he not go after it? Or would he sigh in disgust saying, “Well, I went after him once, let him find his own way back to the flock!”
All Sheep Accounted For
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)
There is a lot of mind-boggling truth wrapped up in these two verses, but for our purposes we should notice that it is the Lord Jesus Christ Who is taking care of every single step in the process from the “foreknowing” to the “glorifying.” Those whom He foreknew, He predestinated, those whom He predestinated He called, those whom He called He justified, those whom He justified He glorified. There is only one Subject in all of these sentences, one Person doing all the action: Christ. From start to finish, we have no role in securing our own Salvation. There is not one single “if” or “but” in this entire passage, nothing that suggests the end result of our Salvation (spending eternity in Heaven with the Lord Jesus) is contingent upon anything!
What does all of this mean? This means that if our Shepherd has 100 sheep in His flock, then all 100 are going to be there at the end. Regardless of how many get “lost”, or how many times they get “lost”, if they are one of His sheep, they will make it to the end. Just as the Lord Jesus did not “lose” any of His true disciples (John 17:12), neither will He lose any of those who are trusting in Him now.
God Shut Noah In The Ark
“And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.” Genesis 7:15-16)
Noah accepted God’s invitation to come into the Ark, and God Himself shut the door behind him. I know that Hollywood has depicted the scene of Noah and his family huddling behind a door sealed from within while those on the outside beat their fists against it, pleading to come inside. But that’s not what the Bible is telling us here. God wasn’t sealing the door to keep the lost out, He sealed the door to keep the saved in. As strange as it might seem, I highly doubt that there were any who were wanting to come into the Ark even after the rains began, anyway. Look at the reactions of those mentioned in Revelation when the judgment of God comes upon them: they blaspheme and curse God, they don’t repent and turn to Him (Revelation 16:9-11). No, the sealing of the door of the Ark by God was for the benefit of those inside the Ark. Its main purpose was to keep them in, not to keep others out.
For those who are “in Christ”, it is God Who has “shut us in to Him”, as well. God invited us to come into Christ, and then He shut the Door behind us, sealing us in by His Holy Spirit. That Door which is sealed for us is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (John 10:7-9). Like the Ark, God has sealed the Door for us, not to prevent others from coming in (though the time will come when the Door will be forever closed to them), but to keep us shut in to Him.
Since the earliest days of the Church, there have always been those who want to argue and dispute over just how secure that Door is by which God has shut us into Himself. I wonder how Noah would have responded to some of the debates that have arisen concerning this. Someone might ask Noah:
“Noah, do you believe that once in the Ark, always in the Ark?”
“Well, I hadn’t really thought about it. God invited me in here and I suppose He will keep me in so long as He wants me in here.”
“What about losing your salvation in the Ark. Is that possible?”
“Well, I don’t really see how that could happen. God shut the door behind me.”
“Yes, but isn’t it possible that you might fall out of the Ark? What happens if you decide to jump out of the Ark, isn’t that possible?”
(By now I think Noah might really have a puzzled look on his face), “Well, like I said, God shut the door behind me, I don’t see how I could fall out and I’m certainly not going to jump out of here!”
“OK, but what if you mess up, what if you disobey God? What happens if you really commit a lot of sin, how about then? Won’t God kick you out of the Ark?”
“No, God told me to come into the Ark. I did what He told me to do, I plan to keep doing what He told me to do because I am grateful for what He has done for me. I guess if I ‘mess up’ then I will confess it to Him and repent and ask for forgiveness.”
“Yeah, OK, but what about the door? Is it really locked tightly behind you? What if someone comes up and breaks it down or picks the lock, huh? What will happen then? Isn’t it possible that you yourself might backslide and decide to kick it down and jump out yourself?”
“Look, I don’t know about all of these questions you are asking me. All I know is that God Himself told me to build this Ark, He told me that He was going to save me from judgment, He invited me to come inside, and then He sealed the door behind me. It has been His actions that have brought me to the place of security where I am now and I am trusting Him to keep me there!”
Who Shall Separate Us?
If God sealed the door of Noah’s “salvation” so securely, how much more does He do so for those in Christ? It is not our own deeds and actions that save us in the first place, nor is it our own deeds and actions that keep us saved. It is the work of God from first to last. Our Salvation is as secure as the One Who is securing it: the Spirit of God. If it were up to us to “maintain” our saved status, then we would certainly have something to worry about. Yet we rest upon the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ, knowing that He will keep us in His safety until that day when we live forever with Him.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words of assurance to the believers in Rome:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
If none of these things can separate us from the Lord Jesus Christ, what can? I absolutely love those words, “Nor any other creature”, because that would include me. All of the powers of darkness, all of the forces of the enemy are completely incapable of separating me from my Lord and Savior; am I able to separate myself? Is it possible for me to “sin” my way out of being saved?
Since faith in Jesus Christ is all that is required to obtain Salvation, it follows that faith in Jesus Christ is all that is required to maintain it. We will all sin after we come to Christ, no doubt about it, but there is no suggestion in the Word of God that a believer can ever forfeit Salvation through sin. There are always consequences to sin, but losing our Salvation is not among them.
Is it possible to lose our faith to the point where we no longer are trusting in Christ? Not for those who are truly in Christ. If we have met the criteria of being genuinely saved, then it will never get to that point; the Shepherd will lead us back to the fold. We can all think of examples of seemingly devout Christians who eventually turned their back on God and walked away from the Faith, but it is suggested in the Bible that those who do so never really belonged to the Lord in the first place (1 John 2:19). Those who are genuine will always find their way back to the Lord while those who are not will eventually turn away.
The child of God never needs to fear that they will fall out of relationship with the Lord. Our Salvation is secure in Him.