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Why you can’t lose your salvation

Courtesy of Robin Schumacher
Courtesy of Robin Schumacher

Once you become a Christian, you cannot ever lose your salvation for one simple reason: God doesn’t just purpose the beginning of your salvation; He also purposes its end.

One of the many attributes of God is that He is personal, which doesn’t mean that He has personality but rather He has intent or purpose behind what He does. Combine that with another aspect of God, His sovereignty, and you extend God’s purpose to everything that happens, including yours and my salvation.  

The golden chain

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The section of Scripture that best summarizes this teaching is what is sometimes called “the golden chain of salvation” or “the order of salvation” (Ordo Salutis), which was written by Paul: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Rom. 8:29-30).

In short, Paul — speaking in the past tense indicating everything being stated has already been decided and accomplished in God’s view — says that the Father knew His chosen ones from all eternity and fore-loved them. All those that He foreknew He also predestined to be a Bride for His Son. He then effectually called them, justified them through the death of Christ, and glorified them to spend eternity with Him.

The golden chain demonstrates how God purposes both the beginning and end of our salvation. Jesus reiterates this when He says: “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 6:39–40).

Summarizing this point, Paul simply says: “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” (Phil. 1:6).

Because God does both the “initiating” and “keeping” where our salvation is concerned, we cannot lose it.

Two common objections

Those who object to the teaching that a Christian can’t lose their salvation typically raise two complaints. First is the idea of “cheap grace,” i.e., that a person who believes they’re eternally secure will sin with abandon.

Second is a reference made to a passage in Hebrews, which appears to indicate that a person can walk away from Christ: “For in the case 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 the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6).

In my opinion, both points are implicitly tied at the hip, so let me tackle them together.

Working from the bottom up, while there has been lots of commentary and debate on these verses from Hebrews, I believe the key to understanding them is the illustration provided by the author that immediately follows: “For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned” (Heb. 6:7-8).

What the author refers to is a concept found constantly in both the Old and New Testaments, which Jesus covers in His parable of the soils (Luke 8:4-15) and sums up elsewhere as, “the tree is known by its fruit (Matt. 12:33). Saving faith produces evidence of God regenerating a person’s heart; they are, “the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15, my emphasis).

So, being truly born again changes not only what you do, but also what you want to do, and this in turn, also refutes the objection of cheap grace.

John Piper tells a poignant story of a woman who heard one of his messages on this very thing. She came to him and stated that she was in an adulterous affair, but because she believed she was saved, she intended to continue in her affair without any worry about losing her salvation.

Piper’s reply was direct and rare in our current sugar-coated, seeker-friendly church environment: “God will damn you to Hell if you continue in your sin.”

In making that statement, Piper was affirming that a Christian will manifest holy affections that prove their salvation. By continuing in her adultery with an unrepentant spirit, she would be providing evidence that she was never saved in the first place.

Like the writer of Hebrews who calls such a fake faith “worthless,” James uses the word “useless” to describe such false assurance: “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works [i.e., holy affections] is useless?” (James 2:20).

So, when it comes to answering those who raise the cheap grace or Hebrews 6 objections to the preservation of the saints, the response is the same: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2).

In the end

If faith is a gift from God…and it is: “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. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:8-10, my emphasis).

And if the gifts of God are permanent … and they are: “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29).

And if God is the one who both starts the process of our salvation and keeps us (Jude 1) through His gift of faith … and He is: “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, my emphasis).

Then, simply put, because God purposes both the beginning and end of your salvation, you cannot lose it. 

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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