By Paul Smithson
Many believe and teach that once and individual is saved he cannot be lost. However, the Scriptures clearly teach that a child of God can forfeit his salvation and be eternally lost. Many passages speak of the conditional nature of our future salvation. The apostle Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth of the gospel by which they were saved “if ” they held fast to the word which was preached to them (1Cor. 15:2).
The word “if” places a condition on salvation for the child of God. To the children of God in Galatia Paul wrote, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). The word “if” here implies if we as children of God do lose heart we will not reap the reward. The writer of Hebrews declared we are of Christ’s household “if we hold fast our confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:6). Why do the Scriptures make these conditional statements about salvation if once we are saved we cannot be lost?
The Scriptures point out the conditional nature of our future salvation by giving solemn warnings against apostasy (falling away as to be lost). The apostle Paul in warning the Corinthians against apostasy realized he too could fall away and be lost. He said “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1Cor. 9:27).
Certainly, if there was a possibility for the apostle Paul to be rejected, then we too could be. Right after that statement he used the example of the Israelites who fell from God’s favor by their disobedience and were not permitted to enter the promised land. Paul’s conclusion was, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1Cor. 10:12). The Hebrew writer declared, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of if” (Heb. 4:1). These are solemn warnings against falling away and being lost. Why give the warnings if once one is saved he is always saved?
The Scriptures also speak of examples of those who did fall away. Among some who became Christians at the preaching of Philip was a man by the name of Simon. When he later became covetous of the apostles’ power, Peter told him, “Thy money perish with thee…for thy heart is not right in the sight of God…I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:12-24). Paul wrote to some who had at one time been faithful, but now had turned back to Judaism. He said “You have become estranged from Christ…you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4)
These are but a few of the many passages where the Scriptures plainly teach that salvation is conditional based upon our faithful obedience. Only if we are faithful unto death will we receive a crown of life (Rev. 2:10).
As pointed out in the above article, some falsely teach that the saved cannot be lost— that their salvation is irrevocable. The following passages of Scripture teach that salvation is conditional based upon our continual faithfulness and that the blessing of salvation can be revoked.
- Matt. 25:14-30 Note who is cast away from the presents of the Master. It is the unfaithful “servant” of the Master. In v. 14 it says the Master “called his own servants and entrusted his possessions to them.” Was not the blessings of the unfaithful servant revoked?
- Lk. 8:13 Jesus taught in the parable of the sower that some “hear and receive the word with joy….they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.” Again how can you fall away from something which you have not arrived? Jesus said it is possible to fall away.
- Jn. 15:1-6 Jesus stated that He is the vine and we are the branches. Those who do not “abide,” i.e. continue, remain, in the Vine “he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (v.6) Note the condition, “If” you abide in Me, and My word abide in you…” (v. 7). Does this sound like one could be in Christ and then be rejected?
- Rom. 14:13-15; 1Cor. 8:11 Notice who it is in these passages who can “perish” and be “destroyed,” is it not a brother “for whom Christ died”?
- 1 Cor. 9:27 Surely if it was possible for the apostle Paul to be rejected then we too could be.
- 1 Cor. 10:12 Right after the statement concerning that possibility of himself being rejected, Paul used the example of the Israelites who fell from God’s favor by their disobedience and were not permitted to enter the promised land. Paul’s conclusion was, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall”. Why would Paul tell those who had an irrevocable salvation to take heed lest they fall?
- 1 Cor. 11:29 Who is it who is condemned in this passage if he doesn’t partake of the Lord’s supper in a worthy manner? Is it not Christians?
- 1Cor. 15:1-3 Why did the apostle speak of the gospel which he had preached in which the Corinthians had “received”, in which they also stood, and by which they were also “saved,” and then make it conditional based on “if you hold fast to the word.” Why did he not say, ‘a salvation that will never nor can ever be revoked”?
- Gal. 5:4 Paul said that some of the Jews who had become Christians and then had returned to Judaism, demanding circumcision, had been “severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” How can one be severed from Christ if it is true that once one is in Christ they shall never be severed? How can one fall from grace if grace is an unconditional gift that cannot be revoked?
- Philip. 4:13: Rev. 3:5 These passages teach that our names can be written in the Book of Life and that they can also be erased. Surely one would have to be saved to have his name written in the Book of Life. How could one have his name erased if salvation is irrevocable?
- 1Tim. 1:9 Paul also stated that some had “suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” Does this not mean one can have faith and then lose it?
- 1Tim. 4:1-2 Paul declared that some “will fall away from the faith”. What did he mean? You can ‘t fall away from something at which you have never arrived.
- Heb. 3:12 – 4:1 Who is it that is warned about unbelief, urged to “hold fast,” “lest while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it”? Is it not “holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling”? (3:1).
- Heb. 6:4-6 Notice in this passage that the writer speaks of “those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.” Surely these are those who have received salvation! However, the writer continues, “…and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” Does this not teach the ‘heavenly gift” can be revoked?
- Heb. 10:26-29 Is the Hebrew writer wrong in stating that Christians can sin willfully as to have no hope? Note that this passage states that these were “sanctified” but now “insult the Spirit.”
- Heb. 12:14-15 Why would the Hebrew writer warn Christians that they “see to it that no one come short of the grace of God” if you can’t come short of it?
- 2 Pet. 1:10 Why would Peter tell us to make our calling and election sure, if it is irrevocable?