This question cuts to the core doctrine of Christianity… the blood atonement of Jesus Christ. There is NO greater pillar in the foundation of Christian belief, than the blood of Christ that atones for all sin.
There are groups of people, churches and other organizations that teach that a Christian can lose their salvation through continued sin… it is so prevalent in fact they have a name for it “Conditional Security”. In a nutshell, they teach that you are given eternal salvation when you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior and repent “or turn away” from your sin, but that if you do not live in continued obedience to Christ… you could lose your gift of salvation.
The more I studied scripture, prayed and meditated on this question the more I realized just how utterly powerless this idea renders God. If we have to rely on OURSELVES to get to Heaven, we are DOOMED. Every good deed we do, is like a filthy rag in God’s eyes, so what HOPE do we have?
But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.
Why would God send his ONLY BEGOTTEN SON to DIE on the Cross if the very people he was sent to save, would again condemn themselves to damnation… by doing the inevitable… and sinning again? You see God knows we will continue to sin and this will not stop until we are given our eternal bodies of perfection, free from the sinful nature (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).
If we have the power to “override” our eternal salvation by committing sin, then there is NO power in the Blood of Christ.
28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
Here John clearly proclaims once we are given eternal life, we shall NEVER perish. He doesn’t say “And I give them eternal life, until they sin again” or “… as long as they live a sin-free life”.
You see, we can NEVER live a sin-free life, before or after our salvation, not as long as we inhabit these bodies that are cursed with the sinful nature.
(Psalm 51:5, Ecclesiastes 7:20)
But what about people who turn their back on God? Walk away from their faith and deny Christ? For me, it is hard to imagine anyone receiving the Holy Spirit in their life and then rejecting Jesus Christ… but it is equally hard for me to imagine the God that I worship FORCING someone to spend an eternity with Him in Heaven, when someone has chosen to deny Him.
You might hear many atheists come forward and proclaim they were once Christians, such as prominent author Bart Erhman, and now they reject Jesus Christ and don’t believe in God anymore. So let us take a closer look at what it means to actually BE a Christian so we can discern if these claims are true.
According to Scripture, a Christian is someone who has been born again by God (John 3:3; John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23) and has put faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it is “… by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Read that last line again very closely… “NOT from yourselves, it is the gift of God”. You see, once we have truly given ourselves over to Christ our eternity is sealed. If men like Erhman continually walk through life denying Christ, then it is very unlikely they ever had salvation to begin with. Notice I used the word “continually”, why? Because you shouldn’t be led to believe you will never sin again once you are saved.
“Born Again” does NOT mean you will never sin again, even Paul one of the greatest Christians in the New Testament struggled with ongoing sin (Romans 7:15). What it does mean is you will come to hate sin, and when you do fall to temptation, you will recognize what you have done, confess your sin to God and ask for forgiveness.
This may lead to the question, but what if I continually fall to the same temptation? Will God continue to forgive me? Peter had a similar question for Jesus…
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
In this verse, Jesus is illustrating the immeasurable power of God’s grace to forgive. THIS is the power of Christ’s Blood! He WAS the final sacrifice… his blood cleansed all who believe in Him.
Now, there are some scriptures that people can point to as evidence that you CAN lose your salvation, so let us take a look a couple of those verses now.
Though I say to the righteous that they shall surely live, yet if they trust in their righteousness and commit iniquity, none of their righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that they have committed they shall die.
At first glance, this passage appears to state that the righteous (believers) will lose their salvation if they sin, but that would be reading the passage out of context. God sent Ezekiel out to the exiled Israelites to warn them of the “sword coming upon the land” (Ezekiel 33:3), in other words a WAR is coming. The death this passage is referring to is a physical death during war, not a spiritual death. In other words, he was telling the exiles… repent from your sins now or face the very physical punishment of death.
… Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
In this verse it appears to say that some Christians won’t get into Heaven, but the true meaning behind these words points to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Just because someone says “I am a Christian” with their lips, doesn’t mean they have that relationship. Without that relationship, which is the essence of Christianity, there is no eternal salvation.
So what is the best way to discern when a Bible passage is true? There are a couple of things I want to say about this, first and foremost you MUST pray to God for Discernment and Wisdom EVERY time you read your Bible. Second, if a vast majority of scripture points to one meaning, and you find one or two that seem to contradict that meaning, be sure you are reading the verse in complete context.
It is my hope and prayer that if you take one thing away from this article, it is that once you ask Jesus Christ to come into your life, repent of your sins and ask forgiveness, and truly BELIEVE in His name… you WILL be granted the gift of eternal life in Heaven.
And this gift is one that can never be given back or taken away.