Tricky Questions: Once saved, always saved?

As a church, we do not see justification in scripture that someone can "lose" their salvation. For one reason, it would be terrible for the anxiety constantly wondering if you have lost your salvation.  I had a friend that was constantly in that boat.  He felt that he was saved by grace, but maintained by works. Wrong.  It is a grace that comes through a covenant with God that we are maintained.  I think better worded: When saved, always saved.  
If we specifically look at passages like Ephesians 1:13-14 In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory. The indication is that the person who truly believes is then forever sealed and given an inheritance in the Kingdom of God. An inheritance that can't be defiled or destroyed (see 1 Peter 1:4).
Passages found in Hebrews sometimes cause concern for people when thinking about "losing" their salvation. Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who tasted God's good word and the powers of the coming age, 6 and who have fallen away. This is because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding him up to contempt.  The problem is that “Enlightened” here specifically speaks of instruction that contains saving knowledge which means these people who fell away were instructed with everything they needed to be liberated from sin, they even shared in the ministry of the Spirit (likely in a church gathering where He was active) but it doesn't mean they were regenerated.  Okay, but wait, there's more:
Hebrews 10:26-27  For if we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries.  That seems clear that we can, oh my brain!

Putting all the passages in context with one another, we believe (but don't divide over), one can see that someone doesn't lose their salvation, at best all that can be said is it is something willfully given up through "deliberately... sinning." If that happens to be the case, it doesn't seem like a stretch to say the person who keeps on sinning with no change of heart was likely never saved in the first place. The hang up likely can be resolved in 1 John. A lot of people say they are saved (even confess Christ) but live the opposite life of a Jesus follower. This is not because they lost something, it's because they're simply lying - to themselves, God, and everyone else.
1 John 1:6-10 6 If we say, "We have fellowship with him," and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 7 If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, "We have no sin," we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, "We have not sinned," we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
That being said, the Bible makes room for people who are backslidden (see Proverbs 14:14, or any of the patriarchs in Genesis besides Joseph) so we are patient with people and not quick to dismiss their salvation. God Himself is willing to take a long time before exercising judgment on people (see Exodus 34:6-7). I also think that God takes people home early because of the trajectory of their sin.  It's grace!  However, ultimately if someone proves out a pattern of willful engagement in sin, and a pattern of willful neglect toward God's salvation from that lifestyle it is likely they never were liberated from their sin in the first place. So we continue to share the gospel, and pray they receive it.

1 Comment

Zoe Spicer - February 29th, 2024 at 8:13pm

I agree that you can't lose your salvation. Can you willfully walk away from Jesus? I have a friend who I am sure she was saved she confessed she believed she even went to Bible school. I could go on but I won't well things happened to her in our church we attended she worked at the church and was hurt very badly so she went to a messianic church for quite awhile cause she had a love for Israel had even gone to Israel with our pastor. I don't know what happened at the messianic church she ended up going to synagogue and eventually converted to Judaism. When I ask her she says that's what God was pulling her to. At first she didn't deny Jesus as the Messiah now she does. So either she was never saved or she just walked away no continual sin in her life I know she was hurt spiritually by our non-denominational church. She had cerebral palsy and didn't fit the look of the new building it's a really long story I pray for her to come back to Jesus but I don't know. Her Rabbi and synagogue take good care of her.