Christians typically fall into two categories when it comes to salvation: eternal salvation (once saved always saved) or conditional salvation (salvation based upon sanctification according to His will). I fall firmly in the latter. The Bible is clear in Its teaching that, though He will never walk away from us, we can most certainly walk away from Him. 2 Peter 2 comes to mind. It speaks of being led astray by false prophets who blaspheme Christ. 2 Peter 2:20-21 plainly states, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.”
According to this passage, we most certainly can turn our back on our salvation, and it takes it one step further, stating that it’s even worse to turn our backs than if we were never saved in the first place.
The catalyst for this article came this morning after a particularly weak moment. In the spirit of full transparency, I was weeping in prayer over a personal failure then immediately went to my Bible. I’ve been working my way through the New Testament and, lo and behold, my journey brought me to 1 John this morning. 1 John is all about loving and abiding in Christ, not the world. It speaks of how if we truly love Him, we will keep his commandments. 1 John 2:1-6 says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” This is a clear cry for sanctification. Simply put, we cannot be one with Christ and continue in sin.
As I continued reading through 1 John, I reached the 5th and final chapter. I became emotional once again. 1 John 5:13-15 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
What an unbelievably comforting passage that speaks of the amazing love of Christ. He wants us to know Him and trust Him, and by extension, know that if we live according to His will, we will live with Him forever. It goes on to say in verse 18, “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” The key phrase here is “keep on sinning.” We absolutely will sin because we are human. It is inevitable. However, those who are born again in Christ, will repent and turn away from their sin. They don’t continue to sin while claiming to abide with Him.
As a result of understanding our need for sanctification, we can fall into a trap of guilt and fear that we will lose our salvation each time we mess up. The running joke is that we “get saved” over and over again. We might joke about it, but we do actually entertain the thought that we’ve lost God’s favor. At least, I know I do. But God never meant for us to live in constant fear of Hell. We have an eternal advocate in the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 says, "And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” When we repent of our sins and dedicate ourselves to Christ and His plan for our lives, we will find that we don’t struggle in the same way any longer. When we pray and consistently feed ourselves on the Word, it has a profound effect on the way we live our lives.
Before Jesus was crucified, He told His followers that He’d send them a helper, which was the Holy Spirit. John 16:12 says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” The Holy Spirit helps us to recognize and reject sin, and calls us to repentance when we partake in sin. We still have that bridge to the Father, even in our weakness. He helps us in spite of our weakness; He never leaves us.
Accepting the free gift of salvation was never meant to be a lifetime sentence of fearing failure and overwhelming guilt. Walking in lockstep with God simply means that we lean on Him as the source of our joy and strength. He is faithful to forgive us each time we come to Him in humble repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” When He forgives our sins, they are forgotten. Our sin is not held over our heads as guilt and shame. His salvation frees us from those strongholds. We must trust that and not allow the enemy to hold something over us that Christ has already erased! Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Submit your ways to Him and be confident in His sacrificial love for you.
Erica Caudill is a lifelong Christian who runs a blog. She is a married mother of two children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.