Can Christians Lose Their Salvation?

       By: Mark Kim


     All Christians at one time or another have wondered (and worried!) whether they have fallen out of God’s grace and forfeited their salvation. Due to sin, spiritual neglect, and backsliding many Christians have cried out to God wondering if they have lost their privileged status as spiritual sons and daughters. Like the Psalmist, they cry out: “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). Christians do sin and struggle against the flesh, and the sense of defeat has driven many to heartfelt despair. Therefore, is there any way Christians can maintain confidence and even certainty of God’s unconditional love towards them even in the midst of their unfaithfulness? The answer is a resounding Yes! Should born-again believers worry about forfeiting the gift of eternal life purchased by Christ’s shed blood? The answer is a resounding No!

The issue of the spiritual security of the believer has been a volatile topic ever since the birth of the Protestant Reformation.[1] With the emphasis on “justification by grace through faith alone” by the Reformers (Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, etc.) against the dominant medieval church view of works-righteousness salvation the doctrine of salvation took a new turn within Christianity. Salvation was now seen more as God’s work than something man cooperates in. Within the Protestant branch of Christianity, Calvin (and his theological descendants) advocated that salvation was solely God’s work—including a Christian’s perseverance.[2] However, Lutherans (not Luther himself) and Arminians[3] objected to the doctrine of the unconditional security of the believer because it took away human freedom. To this day, evangelicals still debate whether Christians can lose their salvation.

This article will demonstrate that Christians cannot lose their salvation. The first section will deal with the scriptural passages that support the doctrine of unconditional security; the second section will examine and refute the passages that are often used by opponents of this doctrine; and the third section will answer common objections to the doctrine.


Passages that Support Unconditional Security

John 5:24: “‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’” The Lord Jesus himself emphatically states that those who believe in his Word and the Person who sent him will not be condemned. In fact, our Lord adds another statement to assure believers of eternal life by stating that they have “crossed over from death to life.” According to Merrill C. Tenney, the statement “‘[h]e has crossed over’ is in the perfect tense, which indicates an accomplished transit and a settled state.”[4]


John 6:39: “‘And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.’” Again, the Lord states that the Father’s will is to “raise up at the last day” those who were “given” to the Son. Only those who are called to salvation can be saved.[5] God’s election must stand or else he is not sovereign and almighty as we profess him to be.


John 10:27-28: “‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.’” Christ’s sheep shall never perish and no one can snatch them out of his hand. Even we cannot pry ourselves out of our Lord’s hand even if we tried. The Lord is far more stronger than us, and once he catches us we cannot leave. In verse 28, he uses the double negative (ou m) to put more force into the promise of protecting his sheep.[6] Also in verse 29, the Father’s hand will also hold us giving us a double security. Remember, eternal life is something given to us now as a gift not a reward at the end for obedience (contra Roman Catholicism).[7] 


Romans 8:29-30: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” There is an unbreakable chain from predestination to glorification. Those that God predestined will certainly be glorified (given new bodies in heaven). In the original Greek, the words predestined, called, justified, and glorified are all “written in the same tense…indicating that the glorification of believers is as certain as their predestination, calling, and justification.”[8]


Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Here is one of the strongest statements for the unconditional security of the believer. Paul states that nothing in all creation (which includes ourselves) can separate us (believers) from the love of God. Everett F. Harrison states it nicely: “For he [Paul] declares that there is nothing in all creation that can drive a wedge between the love of the Savior and his redeemed people. After all, the creation itself is his handiwork and cannot thwart the will of the Creator.”[9] Even we cannot undo what God has already done and will do.


1 Corinthians 1:8-9: “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” Though the Corinthian church was plagued by sinful deeds (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 5:1-5; 6:6-8; 11:27-30) Paul emphatically states that he was confident that God would keep them “strong to the end.”


1 Corinthians 3:11-15: “For no man can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” Paul here states that even relatively unproductive believers (builders of wood, hay, and straw) will be saved on that Day. However, they will be saved “as one escaping through the flames.” The fact that Paul says “any man” in verse 12 demonstrates that all believers will have their earthly deeds judged at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).


Ephesians 1:13-14: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Paul tells the Ephesian believers that they are “marked…with a seal” (the Holy Spirit) who is a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…” The word “seal” that is used in this passage is sphragizo in Greek. It is a word use to denote the prevention of the movement of a stone due to the fastening by the seal.[10] Also, in Ephesians 4:30, Paul tells his readers not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” by unwholesome talk and sinful acts because the Spirit was sealed within their hearts until “the day of redemption.” If Paul believed that salvation can be lost, he would be going against his own theological convictions because he asserts that the Holy Spirit must be sealed inside believers until the day of redemption even if they “grieve him.”


Philippians 1:6: “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This passage states that God will complete the work of salvation of the Philippian believers until the day of Jesus Christ.[11]


2 Timothy 1:12: “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” Here Paul is certain that God will guard what he has entrusted to him (Paul’s faith in Christ). Ryrie states: “Paul’s trust is well founded, for God will preserve this deposit of faith in Christ until the Day of Judgment, when all dangers will be past.”[12]


2 Timothy 2:13: “…if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” This last verse of what appears to be an early Christian hymn is one of the greatest verses to support unconditional eternal security. It states that God’s faithfulness cannot be broken down even if we (believers) remain faithless. The word “faithless” is better translated as “being unfaithful.” The issue of final apostasy is not in consideration here.[13] Though a Christian may become “unfaithful” by falling into sin, God will still hold onto the believer because “he cannot disown himself.” God cannot go against his own nature and cancel the salvation of a believer whom he has promised to bring to glory.


Hebrews 7:25: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” In the book of Hebrews—the book most often used by Arminians to disprove eternal security—the author writes that Christ is “able to save completely those who come to God” because he always intercedes (Gk. eis to panteles) on behalf of believers. Christ’s intercession on behalf of believers is also spoken of in Romans 8:34 (so that God withholds his condemnation against believers) and 1 John 2:1 (so that God forgives us every time we sin). The verb “to save” (Gk. sMzM) is used in an absolute sense, meaning that Christ saves sinners in the most comprehensive way.[14]


1 Peter 1:3-5: “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” Peter states that the believer’s inheritance (salvation) can never “perish, spoil or fade.” This inheritance is kept (Gk. tetrmenn, perfect tense) by God for his people in heaven.[15] Also, Peter adds that God’s power shields believers through to the end.


Passages often used to Disprove Eternal Security


Matthew 7:21-23: “‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’’” Many Arminians use this as a proof-text to show that true Christians can lose their salvation by failing to do the Father’s will. However, they should realize that the will of the Father is not some sort of special walk that a Christian must perform throughout his or her life, this will is believing in Jesus Christ as Saviour (cf. John 6:40). In fact, these professing believers actually did perform deeds (verse 22). Also, in verse 23 the Lord states that he “never” knew these “evildoers.” He did not know them sometime in the past and then forget them later, he never knew them at all! These evildoers were never saved in the first place because they failed to believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour; even their works could not save them.


Matthew 13:1-23: In this parable, Jesus describes four types of soil with four different responses. The first soil could not receive the seed (the Gospel) because Satan snatches it away from them. The second soil does not produce lasting fruit because the seed fell on rocky places. The third soil does not produce fruit because the weeds choke the seed. Lastly, the fourth soil produces a harvest “hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (verse 23). Those who oppose eternal security argue that the first three soils represent those who will not enter the kingdom of heaven. However, I would argue that only the first soil represents a lost person. Eternal security is not an issue here, all that the Lord is teaching is that some believers stop producing fruit because of persecution (verses 20-21) and worldliness (verse 22).[16]


Matthew 24:13: “…but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (cf. Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:19). This is a popular verse used by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Arminians to demonstrate that only those who endure in faith and obedience to the end will be saved. However, the context is discussing the Tribulation period before the end of the present age. The “end” could be translated as “end of the Tribulation” or “end of the person’s trail.” The context does not require that the “end” be translated as the end of an individual’s life. Also, the word “saved” (sMzM) does not have to mean “salvation from hell” but could mean “deliverance” or “rescue” from physical or spiritual danger.[17] The context of the verse suggests that the word is more likely used as denoting salvation from physical dangers brought upon by the Tribulation.


Matthew 25:31-46: In this passage, the Lord reveals to us that after the parousia he will come to judge the nations. This judgment is based on how people respond to the bearers of the Gospel message (missionaries). The “sheep” are described as providing food, drink, hospitality, clothing, and company for these missionaries (verse 34). On the other hand, the goats did not provide for them at all. These missionaries are called Jesus’ “brothers” (verse 40).[18] How people treat one of the “least of these brothers” of Christ demonstrates whether they have truly accepted the Gospel sent by these missionaries.


John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Lutherans and Arminians quote this very popular verse to prove that continual belief in Christ is necessary to keep ones salvation. They argue that the word “believes” is in the present tense, meaning, that one must continually believe in order to have salvation. However, throughout the New Testament the exercising of ones faith is described in the aorist, not the present, tense (John 4:39; 41; 10:42; 11:45; Acts 14:1; 16:31; Romans 4:3; 1 Corinthians 15:11; Galatians 3:6). Salvation is given right at the moment a sinner exercises faith in Christ.


John 15:6: “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” In this verse Jesus tells his disciples (minus Judas) that those who fail to remain in him will be “thrown into the fire and burned.” Those who oppose eternal security argue that the words “fire” and “burned” depict eternal damnation. However, the better way to understand the words is to see them as metaphors for being set aside because of fruitlessness. Just as the vine, gardener, and branches are metaphors describing Jesus, the Father, and believers respectively, the words fire and burned must also be interpreted metaphorically. Charles Stanley writes:


It is a common error when interpreting parables and illustrations to confuse the figurative details of the illustrations with elements in the real world. This tendency to bring details from the realm of the imaginary to the real world causes undue confusion. Jesus’ reference to the branch that was thrown into the fire and burned in John 15 is a good example.[19]


Romans 11:22: “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.” Paul warns Gentile Christians not to be arrogant or they too will be cut off like the Israelites as a whole. Paul is not discussing the spiritual status of individuals but groups: Gentiles and Jews. To use this passage to disprove eternal security is fallacious. The context is talking about the salvation of Gentiles through Israel’s rejection of Christ. However, in verses 25-32, Paul hopes and expects the repentance of national Israel sometime in the future.


1 Corinthians 9:27: “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” Some take this passage to mean that salvation must be somehow earned or kept through rigorous discipline. However, Paul is talking about future reward for believers who rigorously fight against sin that dwells within their flesh. This future reward will be realized in the eschatological kingdom. The word “disqualified” (Gk. adokimos) has been badly misinterpreted to mean “loss of salvation.” Also, and more importantly, salvation is never described as a prize or reward but a free gift (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Revelation 21:6).


1 Corinthians 10:12: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Paul is warning the Corinthian believers not to feel so confident about their spiritual position. This is more like an instruction than a warning. This passage has nothing to do with loss or lack of salvation but progressive sanctification.[20]


1 Corinthians 15:2: “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” Paul is warning the Corinthian believers that they do not possess true faith if they refuse to acknowledge his apostolicity. If Paul did not witness Christ’s ascension (verse 8), his apostolicity would be false and what the Corinthians believed would be false too.


2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” Paul is telling his readers to examine themselves to see if they truly have saving faith in Christ. If they fail the test they prove they are reprobate and never regenerate.


Galatians 5:4: “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” In this verse, Paul is addressing true believers (cf. 3:2-3, 5, 11; 6:1) who have departed from the way of grace and began to follow the Law to gain salvation. The apostle addresses them as “foolish” (3:1) for abandoning the truth of salvation by grace alone. It is a serious error for Arminians (or anyone else for that matter) to use this passage to prove that Christians can lose their salvation. In fact, Paul was not worried about some sort of antinomianism[21] creeping into the Galatian church, but the opposite, legalism! To fall away from grace is to fall into the heresy of legalism.


Colossians 1:22-23: “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” This passage only states that true believers are those who continue to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If one stops “believing” then the profession of faith was a sham. The passage should not be understood as “if you keep believing you will be saved”, but “you keep believing because you are saved.” The salvation or reconciliation mentioned in verse 22 is an accomplished fact, and verse 23 as the proof of that accomplishment.[22]


2 Timothy 2:12: “If we disown him, he will also disown us…” This passage is often used to show that one can lose salvation by disowning Christ. However, if interpreted correctly the verse only speaks about those who deny Christ because they were never truly born-again. Judas is an example of this (Matthew 10:33).[23]


Hebrews 3:14: “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” The author is addressing Jewish Christians who were tempted to revert back to Jewish practices to avoid persecution from Rome. During the time of the writing of the book these Jewish Christians from Italy (13:24) were already under heavy persecution for their profession of faith in Christ. The author urges them to continue following Christ so that they can become partakers (or co-rulers) with him in the eschatological kingdom. The phrase “to share” (NIV) is better translated as “partakers” (KJV, NASB, NKJV).


Hebrews 6:4-6: “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” This is indeed one of the most difficult passages in the Bible. Countless theological battles have been fought over this one passage throughout history. It is important to note, however, that the addressees are Jewish Christians.[24] Who the addressees are is vital in understanding the purpose of the whole book. As noted in discussion of Hebrews 3:14, these Jewish Christians were tempted to revert back to Judaism and escape religious oppression from Rome. It is more appropriate and exegetically sound to view these people as true believers. The description given of them in verses 4-5 go beyond a doubt that they are regenerate (contra Morris). Once the readers fall back into Judaism (or animal sacrifices) there is no way of repenting again because they already experienced the initial repentance that leads to eternal life.[25] In Hebrews 10:4, the author writes that it is “impossible for blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Therefore, if the readers should fall back on animal sacrifices they would abandon the only sacrifice for sin: Jesus Christ.[26] This phenomenon would be similar to the way the Galatians abandoned the grace principle for the Law. Remember, the author is not discussing falling away[27] into immorality, sin, or paganism. The author is mainly concerned about the consequences of abandoning Jesus Christ as the only sin-bearer. If the readers rely back on animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins they would be “crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” They would be essentially agreeing with those Jews who had Christ arrested and crucified. If the readers continued in their doctrinal immaturity (verses 1-3) they would lose blessings and rewards at the inauguration of the eschatological kingdom (verse 8).


Hebrews 10:26-29: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” If these Jewish Christians abandoned Christ and fell back on Jewish practices to wash away their sins, there would be “no sacrifice for sins left.” Many think that the “raging fire” and “consume” picture eternal damnation,[28] but the better way to understand these words is to see them as God’s general judgment on mankind (believers and unbelievers) for treating the “blood of the covenant” as an “unholy thing.”[29] A believer who drifts away from Christ will expect loss at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:10); an unbeliever who rejects Christ’s sacrifice on the cross will be condemned to hell for eternity (John 3:18).


2 Peter 2:20-22: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.’” Throughout 2 Peter 2, Peter discusses the corruptive practices and beliefs of the false teachers who have infiltrated the church. These false teachers are described as introducing “destructive heresies” (v. 1); greedy (v. 3, 14); following their corrupt desires and despising authority (v. 10); bold and arrogant (v. 11); blasphemers and brute beasts (v. 12); revellers (v. 13); having “eyes full of adultery” (v. 14); followers of Balaam (v. 15); “springs without water” and “mists driven by a storm” (v. 17); and “slaves of depravity” (v. 19). Obviously, these false teachers are reprobates who lack the Spirit and are doomed to everlasting punishment (v. 3, 9).[30] But who are those mentioned in verses 20-22? Some say they are true believers who have fallen out of God’s grace for not continuing in the Christian faith.[31] Others take them to be the false teachers who were never saved.[32] On the other hand, some take them to mean new believers who have been duped by the false teachers but nevertheless maintain their salvation.[33] I prefer the third option. There is a transition from the discussion of the false teachers (1-19) to the new converts duped by these teachers (20-22).[34] These people are described as those who have “escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”[35] and have “known the way of righteousness…” These experiences hardly fit the experiences of unbelievers. These new believers are said to have “turn their backs on the sacred command passed on to them.” Some commentators take the “sacred command” to mean the apostolic message.[36] However, the better understanding of this “command” would be to see it as the Christian lifestyle in general.[37] The passage does not deal with final apostasy of these new converts, but the regression in their Christian walk because of the influence of the false teachers. If Christians start following their old habits again it is like a dog returning to its vomit and a pig going back to its mud after being washed. These new converts are worse off in the latter state than the former because they “would have been better off as far as their experience in this life was concerned if they had never known Christ at all.”[38] The Bible does speak about divine discipline against believers who become wayward (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 11:30; Hebrews 12:5-11).


Revelation 3:5: “He who overcomes will, like them [people in Sardis who have not defiled their garments], be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.” Many take this verse to mean that a person must overcome tribulation to receive eschatological salvation in the end. However, the verse is better understood as a promise than a threat. Christ promises to never remove a believer’s name from the book of life. The statement, “I will never blot out his name from the book of life” should be understood as a litotes. A litotes is a “figure of speech in which a positive idea is stated by negating its opposite.”[39]  An example of a litotes is “repairing the car was easy” (the car was not difficult to repair) or “the test was simple” (the test was not hard). Thus, Christ was trying to reassure the believers at Sardis that their names would never be erased from the book of life by stressing the positive (not erasing a believer’s name from the book of life) through the negation of the negative (erasing the believer’s name). Therefore, it is wrong for opponents of eternal security to use this verse to support their argument since it is a promise given to believers that Christ will protect them from condemnation.


Common Objections to the Doctrine of Eternal Security

  Objection #1: “The doctrine of eternal security leads people to abuse God’s grace.”


Response: One of the most common objections to this doctrine is that Christians may “change the grace of…God into a license for immorality” (Jude 14) and start living like the world if their salvation is forever secured. However, one must understand that the normal response to God’s unconditional love is not to turn it into a “license for immorality” but to respond back in love and obedience (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Ephesians 2:10). It is true that if a person starts to abuse God’s grace he or she may not be saved (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; 2 Peter 2:1-19; 1 John 3:6, 8). However, one must understand that there are other unpleasant consequences (except hell) that are put on believers who stray from God’s commands: 1) loss of fellowship with God (1 John 1:6); loss of assurance of salvation (Psalm 51:11; 2 Peter 1:9); loss of heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 3:15; 9:27; 2 John 8); and divine discipline in this life, including physical death (Acts 5:5, 10; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 11:30; Hebrews 12:5-11; James 5:20; 2 Peter 2:20; 1 John 5:16). As Dillow states: “The most miserable people are sometimes Christians under severe divine discipline.”[40]


Objection #2: “What about Judas? Judas was a true believer who lost his salvation.”


Response: Many opponents of eternal security use Judas as an example of a true believer turning from Christ and losing salvation. What one must understand, however, is that Judas was never saved in the first place. Jesus already knew that Judas did not truly believe and would betray him (John 6:64). He called him a “devil” (John 6:70) and “the son of perdition” (John 17:12, KJV). Thus, one cannot use Judas as an example of what can happen to a true believer who becomes backslidden.


Objection #3: “Eternal security cheapens God’s grace.”


Response: This is one of the most commonly used arguments to “stack the decks” against eternal security. If salvation costs us nothing, it is often seen as a “cheap” gift. However, just because salvation is free to us does not mean that God’s grace is cheap. Ryrie states it well:


[G]race is not cheap. Grace is expensive. It is free to the recipient but costly to the donor. The only way one may say that grace is not very costly is if the particular benefit costs the donor very little….But to use the word cheap in the same breath with the grace of God in salvation seems almost blasphemous. It cost our Lord Jesus His life. Some may insult grace, reject it, trample on it, or disgrace it, but that does not lower its infinite value.[41]


Our salvation is free, but it was expensive to our Lord because he paid the ultimate price so that we may receive it.


Conclusion and Summary


The purpose of this article is to demonstrate, through the examination of certain key Biblical passages, that salvation cannot be lost. As we ponder this wonderful doctrine called eternal security we should give praise and glory to God for saving us to the uttermost. Christians, regardless of their denominational and theological labels, must understand that salvation is completely God’s work alone. If we depart from this great truth we have departed from historic and biblical Christianity altogether. The contributions of the Reformers helped the body of Christ understand again that salvation is by God’s grace alone without the aid of man. Salvation has always been—and always will be—by grace through faith alone.

To summarize:


1. Some passages that seem to support “loss of salvation” are in fact saying that some people only profess to know Christ when they truly do not (Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:22-23; 2 Timothy 2:12).


2. Some passages that are commonly used to deny eternal security are in fact talking about the dangers of falling back into Judaism (Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-29).


3. Some passages only have heavenly rewards under discussion, not salvation (1 Corinthians 9:27; Hebrews 3:14; 2 John 8).


4. Other passages are warnings to true believers that if they regress in their Christian walk they will experience temporal discipline from God (Acts 5:5, 10; 1 Corinthians 5:5; James 5:20; 2 Peter 2:20; 1 John 5:16).








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Fanning, Buist M. “A Theology of Hebrews.” A Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Ed. Roy B. Zuck and Darrell L. Bock. Chicago: Moody, 1994. 369-415.


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Grider, J. Kenneth. “Arminianism.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Ed. Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984. 79-81.


Hodges, Zane. The Gospel Under Siege. 2nd Edition. Dallas: Redención Viva.


Hoekema, Anthony. Saved By Grace. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.


Lewis, Gordon R., and Bruce A. Demarest. Integrative Theology. Vol 3. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.


Linder, Robert D. “Antinomianism.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Ed. Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984. 57-9.


Ryrie, Charles C. So Great Salvation. Wheaton: Victor, 1989.


Stanley, Charles. Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.


White, R. E. O. “Perseverance.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Ed. Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984. 844-5.


Wilkin, Robert N. Confident In Christ. Irving: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999.




Blum, Edwin A. “1 Peter.” Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981. 12:207-54.


_____________. “2 Peter.” Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981. 12:255-89.


Carson, D. A. “Matthew.” Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984. 8:1-599.


Glasscock, Ed. Matthew. Moody Gospel Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1997.


Harrison, Everett F. “Romans.” Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976. 10:1-171.


Laney, J. Carl. John. Moody Gospel Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1992.


Morris, Leon. “Hebrews.” Expositor’s Bible Commentary.  Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981. 12:1-158.



Tenney, Merrill C. “John.” Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995. (Single Volume).


Vaughan, Curtis. “Colossians.” Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979. 11:161-226.


Journal Articles


Hart, John F. “Does Philippians 1:6 Guarantee Progressive Sanctification? Part 1.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 9, 16 (Spring 1996): 37-58.


McCoy, Brad. “Secure Yet Scrutinized.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 1,1 (Autumn 1988): 21-33.











[1]However, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints in a systematic form can be traced back to Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.). See R. E. O. White, “Perseverance,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), pp. 844-5. This doctrine is the last point of the “five-points of Calvinism”(or TULIP) formulated at Dort in response to the Remonstrants (T = Total Depravity; U = Unconditional Election; L = Limited Atonement; I = Irresistible Grace; P = Perseverance of the Saints). 

[2]The Reformed doctrine of the perseverance of the saints should be distinguished from the doctrine of eternal security even though many scholars use the two terms interchangeably.  The former advocate the necessity of perseverance in faith and holiness to the end of life (which is hardly distinguishable from the “falling from grace” view); the latter does not necessarily require that the believer persevere to the end. I prefer the latter view due to exegetical reasons. 

[3]Arminians are those who follow the teachings of Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius. They tend to emphasize human free-will over God’s sovereignty. See J. Kenneth Grider, “Arminianism,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), pp. 79-81.

[4]Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), p. 65.

[5]This does not preclude human responsibility and action when the person is presented with the Gospel message. God cannot force an unbeliever to believe even though faith is a gift given by God.

[6]J. Carl Laney, John, Moody Gospel Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1992), p. 195.

[7]Those who deny eternal security will use this passage to argue that Christ’s sheep follow him then receive eternal life. However, the wording is important here, the word “follow” can simply mean “believe.” This interpretation is more likely since in verse 26 the Lord denounces the Jews because of their unbelief not their disobedience. See Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings (Hayesville: Schoettle, 1992), p. 496.   

[8]Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation (Wheaton: Victor, 1989), p. 138. Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest state that the final verb “glorified” is a “proleptic aorist, indicating that the action is so certain of occurrence that it is viewed as past.” Integrative Theology, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), p. 199.

[9]Everett F. Harrison, “Romans,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), p. 10:100.

[10]Dillow, p. 511.

[11]Some commentators argue that Philippians 1:6 does not teach the final perseverance or security of the believer but the promise of fruition of the financial contributions of the Philippian church. See John F. Hart, “Does Philippians 1:6 Guarantee Progressive Sanctification? Part 1,” in Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 9, 16 (Spring 1996), pp. 37-58. Either way, Paul is asserting that what God has already started he will certainly complete.

[12]The Ryrie Study Bible, New American Standard Bible, Expanded Edition (Chicago: Moody, 1995), p. 1928. 

[13]Brad McCoy, “Secure Yet Scrutinized,” in Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 1, 1 (Autumn 1988), p. 30.

[14]Leon Morris, “Hebrews,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), p. 12:71.

[15]Edwin A. Blum, “1 Peter,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), p. 12:220.

[16]The Lukan version of the Parable of the Sower contains more details.

[17]Ed Glasscock, Matthew, The Moody Gospel Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1997), pp. 466-7.

[18]Ryrie takes the term “brothers” to mean the Jews living during the Tribulation. See The Ryrie Study Bible, p. 1563. However, the better way to understand who Jesus’ “brothers” are is to see them as believers (both Gentiles and Jews) who spread the Gospel during the Tribulation. See D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), p. 8:520.

[19]Charles Stanley, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990), pp. 129-30n.

[20]Sanctification means “to make (or be) holy.” For a good definition of sanctification see Anthony Hoekema’s excellent work Saved By Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), pp. 192-3.

[21]Antinomianism means “against the law.” The word comes from the Greek anti (against) and nomos (law). See Robert D. Linder, “Antinomianism,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), pp. 57-9.

[22]Curtis Vaughan, “Colossians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), p. 11:187.

[23]Discussion of Judas’ true spiritual condition before his apostasy will be discussed below.

[24]Morris, p. 12:5.

[25]Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1999), p. 126.

[26]Lewis and Demarest, vol. 3, p. 205.

[27]The phrase “fall away” in verse 6 does not mean complete or sudden apostasy, but rather “drift.” The Greek word used to describe the falling away (parapesontas) does not indicate a one-way action as true of apostasy (Gk. apostasia). See Geisler, p. 126.

[28]Buist M. Fanning, “A Theology of Hebrews,” in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, ed. Roy B. Zuck and Darrell L. Bock (Chicago: Moody, 1994), p. 409.

[29]The reason why I do not believe that the author of Hebrews is discussing eternal punishment in this passage is because he uses the example of those who (saved or unsaved) were executed during the Old Testament dispensation for breaking the Law of Moses. The punishment for breaking the Mosaic Law was physical death (cf. Ezekiel 33:12), and the blessings and punishments for following or disobeying the law respectively were temporal in nature (cf. Deuteronomy 28).

[30]Those who practice the vices (or similar practices) mentioned above are false Christians who will not gain entrance into the kingdom of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5).

[31]Donald G. Bloesch, Essentials of Evangelical Theology, vol. 1 (Peabody: Prince, 1978), p. 208.

[32]Blum, “2 Peter,” p. 12:282.

[33]Dillow, pp. 467-9.

[34]Robert N. Wilkin, Confident In Christ (Irving: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), p. 160.

[35]The verb “by knowing” in verse 20 is translated epiginosko in Greek. Another Greek word epignosis (“knowledge”) is used in 1 Peter 1:2 to refer to full knowledge.

[36]Blum, “2 Peter,” p. 12:282-3.

[37]Lewis and Demarest, vol. 3, p. 147.

[38]Dillow, p. 468.

[39]Zane Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, 2nd Edition (Dallas: Redención Viva, 1992), p. 138.

[40]Dillow, p. 468.

[41]Ryrie, So Great Salvation, p. 17.


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