The following article is an excerpt from "A Book of Bible Study"
by Joseph F. Harwood.
The book may be downloaded in PDF format by clicking on the “Download” button below.
The question sometimes arises as to whether someone who has come to faith in Christ can lose their salvation. As with any question we may have regarding our faith and the Christian life, we always go to the word of God to find our answers. There are several passages in the Bible that speak to the degree of certainty we have regarding our salvation, and to what extent our perseverance or continuance in this state of grace depends upon our own actions after we are saved.
We may have some questions for which there are no direct answers in the Scriptures; there are some things that we will not understand until we are finally together with the Lord in Heaven. However, the issue of our eternal security and perseverance in the faith is not one of those things that we will have to wait to understand, because the Bible speaks to this issue extensively in several passages. Let us now look at what God reveals through His word about the eternal certainty of the salvation that He has provided for us as His people through the atoning death of His Son, Jesus Christ.
There can be no better place to begin than to look first at the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Recorded in John 6, Jesus said:
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40, emphasis added).
This passage speaks very clearly to the issue of the eternal security of the believer. Jesus said that all of those who have been given to Him by the Father, or God’s elect, will in fact come to Him. And then in this same verse Jesus said regarding those who do come to Him, that He will certainly not cast them out. And He said this with no mention of any added conditions whatsoever, or any mention of their performance after they are saved.
Jesus emphasized the same point again in the following two verses when He said that He had come down from Heaven not to do His own will, but the will of His Father who had sent Him. Jesus then revealed that it is the will of His Father that He would lose none of those who had been given to Him, but He would raise them up at the last day. So here is the same teaching of the eternal security of the believer given again in this same passage, in clear language, in order to make sure that His message was fully understood.
In the final verse of this passage Jesus reiterates this same message of the eternal security of the believer yet a third time, when He said that everyone who looks to Him and believes in Him will have eternal life together with Him in Heaven. Let us notice in this verse that Jesus did not say that some of those who to look to Him and believe in Him will have eternal life, depending on what they may do after they are saved. However He did say clearly, and with no added conditions or any mention of a believer’s performance after they are saved, that everyone who looks to Him and believes in Him will have eternal life; He will raise them up at the last day. And so we see that three times in this passage of John 6:37-40, Jesus emphasized that our salvation in Him is an eternal certainty.
Going just a few verses further in John 6, we will consider once again a teaching that we studied previously when discussing predestination and the effectual calling of God. Here Jesus said: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44).
In the first part of this verse, Jesus taught that no one is able to come to Him unless the Father draws them, or calls them. And then in the second part of the verse, Jesus taught that those individuals whom God does call will be raised up at the last day. There is no condition at all attached to His statement. Jesus stated clearly that those whom God draws, or calls, will be raised up at the last day, meaning that all who receive God’s calling to faith in His Son will be saved, and none will be lost. Jesus also communicated this same truth in clear, unambiguous language in John 6:39.
In John 10, Jesus again spoke of the eternal certainty and security of our salvation when He said: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30).
Those whom Jesus referred to as His sheep are those whom the Father has given to Him. These are the elect, whom God foreknew from before the creation of the world. God’s elect have already, or will at some point in time, be called by Him to faith in Christ, and they manifest in their lives the calling of God by their belief in Christ and their love for other believers. Speaking of these, Jesus said that they will never perish. Jesus did not say that they will never perish unless they disobey to some degree after they are saved. But He did say succinctly, and without any added conditions at all, that they will never perish.
Jesus then continued in this passage to teach that no one is able to snatch one of His sheep out of His hand, or His Father’s hand. Neither we ourselves, by our own actions or failings, nor any other created being, is able to snatch any believer out of God’s hand.
The Teaching of the Apostles Paul and Peter
In Romans 8:29-30, we see the same teaching of the eternal certainty and security of God’s salvation. In these verses Paul described a definite sequence, or order of salvation, beginning with those whom God foreknew (See also Ephesians 1:4-5). Paul taught that those whom God foreknew have all been predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Then in His time, God calls those whom He foreknew to faith in His Son. Paul then said further that those who are called are also justified. And finally in this sequence or order of salvation, Paul said clearly, succinctly, and with no added conditions whatsoever, that those who are justified are also glorified (verse 30).
In this passage Paul taught that all of those who are called by God to faith in His Son Jesus Christ are justified, and all of those who are justified are ultimately glorified. The certainty of the sequence of events is clear in Paul’s language. None fall away, and again, Paul makes no mention of man’s performance or actions as having any effect in this process whatsoever.
The entirety of the actions in effecting the salvation of God’s elect described in this passage are God’s actions, and only His actions. Nowhere is any condition regarding man’s performance made mention of at all, either before or after he has been saved.
A believer’s performance or obedience to God’s word definitely has an effect on his eternal reward, as Paul taught in his letter to the Corinthians: “Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
The “foundation” that Paul mentioned in this passage is Jesus Christ Himself, and the salvation that God has provided for His people through the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary’s cross. Paul then taught that the quality of each believer’s work will be tested by fire. If his work withstands this test, he will receive a reward from God.
Now let us notice what Paul taught in verse 15. He said that if the believer’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but “he himself will be saved”, only as one escaping through the fire. Here Paul again emphasized that disobedience and failure to obey God will not affect the salvation of the believer, that salvation being eternally secure. However, disobedience will result in a loss of rewards that one may have received if he had been obedient, and his work had withstood the test of fire. Regardless of a believer’s failings in life, even after he is saved, his salvation itself is eternally secure.
Paul also taught in Romans: “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29). God does not change His mind concerning those whom He calls to faith in His Son.
Though a believer’s salvation itself is eternally secure, there is yet another very sobering teaching in the Bible that we must consider. There is reference made in John’s first letter to sin that results in the physical death of a believer. John wrote: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.” (1 John 5:16).
Hebrews 12:1-13 also speaks of God’s discipline of His sons, saying that God disciplines every son whom He receives. We as believers must all take this matter of obedience very seriously. God will separate us from our sins. Even though our salvation itself is eternally secure, our future reward in Heaven, and according to 1 John 5:16, maybe even our physical lives here on earth, are at stake.
Paul taught again in his letter to the Romans of the eternal certainty and security of our salvation when he said there is no power in all of creation that is able to separate us as believers from the love of God:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
No power in all of creation, including demonic power, is able to separate us from the love of God that has been given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. And this includes our own minuscule power to disobey, or to rail angrily against God for the troubles that come upon us during the course of our lives. Though we may fail miserably, God’s word does not fail.
Once again, we consider the words of Jesus Himself when He said: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (John 6:37). No one who has come to Christ will ever be driven away from Him. None of God’s elect will ever be cast out from His presence; our salvation is eternally secure. The One whose name is “Faithful and True” (Revelation 19:11) has Himself said it.
We are not saved by grace, and then kept in this state of grace by our own good works; rather we are kept by the power God. Peter wrote in his first letter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
In this passage, Peter taught us that we as believers have “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away”, and he taught that we are protected or kept safe by the power of God until the time when we are finally together with the Lord in Heaven. Though our future reward in Heaven depends upon our obedience to God’s word, our salvation itself is eternally secure, and entirely God’s own doing from beginning to end.
If our salvation in any way depended on our own works, then we would be able to boast that our works were good enough to keep us saved. If our salvation depended upon us making the “right decision” to accept Christ, then we would be able to boast that we made that “right decision” when others did not. However, the Scriptures teach that no man can boast that he had anything to do with his salvation. Paul wrote: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis added).
Our faith in Christ is a gift that was given to us by God; it did not come about through any work of our own whatsoever. And through this gift of faith, we are protected not by our own power, but we are “protected by the power of God” until our salvation is revealed (1 Peter 1:5).
Paul also emphasized that we are kept by God’s power and not our own, when he wrote to the Corinthians teaching that it is God Himself who “will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians with this same message regarding the eternal certainty and security of our salvation when he said: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, emphasis added). So Paul emphasized yet again that God has called us into fellowship with His Son, and God is faithful; He will preserve us and keep us blameless all the way through to the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul also wrote to the Philippians with the same message when he said: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6). The Scriptures teach us that God Himself began the work of salvation in us, and He is the One who will carry our salvation through to completion.