I want to say from the start, I am not making the case here for the doctrine of the perseverance of the believer, even though I firmly believe it to be taught throughout Scripture. In fact, I could take up all the space on your screen with both a firm biblical argument for this doctrine, and a corresponding polemic against the opposite view if I needed to. At the present time, however, I am just looking for solid answers to some genuine questions I have for the individuals who do not believe in the doctrine of the believer’s perseverance. This doctrine is sometimes referred to as eternal security or the perseverance of the saints. I will not post any Bible verses or any of “my interpretations” whatsoever in this post – I simply want answers to a few questions.
It’s pretty crucial because if any doctrine is to be proven biblical, and therefore true, then it should be fully developed in Scripture. In other words, it shouldn’t just be one thing and nothing else. It should be the game of basketball and not just the ball or the goal. If you hold the view that a believer can lose his or her salvation, you should be able to explain the whole doctrine with all of its facets and implications. It’s not enough to just say, “You know the Bible teaches you can lose your salvation, right?” You should be able to explain how this teaching, if true, relates to every other teaching in Scripture – and that’s where my questions come in. I want to know what the implications are for some other areas in Scripture if this teaching is biblical. I also want to know how it relates to other areas of the believer’s life. These questions have to be answered clearly, with examples, and with plenty of Scripture, otherwise there can be no real case for this view. It has to be more than just the ball – it must be the whole game.
With that said, all of my questions are listed below with brief commentary. Feel free to answer these questions in the comment section, or however you wish.
- What must a believer do in order to lose his salvation?
In other words, what must take place for the believer to lose his salvation? If this teaching is true, then believers should definitely guard themselves against doing the very thing which causes him to lose his salvation. So what must the believer do to lose his salvation, what line must he cross, or what requirement must he fulfill to no longer be a believer?
- Can salvation be regained? If so, how?
If there are passages which mean that salvation can be lost, then equally there must be passages which speak to it being regained. I may be wrong, but if God clearly prescribes what one should do in order to be saved, and if Scripture teaches salvation can be lost, then surely it states in some way that it can be regained. If it cannot be regained, then just say so. But if it can be lost, then surely it can just as easily be regained.
- Can a believer lose their salvation multiple times, and can they regain it multiple times?
This is banking off the previous question, but if there is a way for the apostate to gain his salvation back, then can he lose it again? And if he can lose it again, then can he regain it again? Is there an endless cycle here, a certain number of times, or no such thing at all?
- How does a believer remain saved, so that he doesn’t lose his salvation?
This is probably the most pressing question – if salvation can be lost then what must a believer do to ensure that he doesn’t? In other words, what must a believer do to maintain his salvation so that it cannot be lost? Or is it an absolute mystery, where you cannot know whether or not you have lost your salvation?
- Who or what decides when a believer loses his salvation?
As an extension of the previous question, is there an action or person which decides that the believer becomes an apostate? Said another way, does the believer do something which causes him to lose his salvation or does God decide that unbeknownst to him?
- What are the mechanics of how a believer loses his salvation?
This is something I would really like to know. What actually happens when a believer loses his salvation? I have a lot of questions following this one because of how extensive the effects of the gospel are for the believer. Is the Holy Spirit withdrawn from him and is he now dead in sins again? What happens to the progress he made during his sanctification? Does God remove the righteousness of Christ from his account, and credit his sin back to him? Does he have any recollection of what his life was like when he was saved? What spiritual state is the once-a-believer in, now that he is once again unsaved? Is everything about his salvation now reversed, or is he better or worse off than he was before?
- What did Jesus actually accomplish through the atonement at Calvary if salvation can be lost?
Did Jesus die for all sins except for the one sin which causes the believer to lose his salvation (whatever it may be)? Is the atonement temporary, or eternal? What exactly is salvation for the believer who loses it? In my view, it is by all accounts a significant wreckage if salvation can be lost if it was purchased by Christ for the believer. Wouldn’t it be a waste of Christ’s crucifixion if the believer can lose what Christ bought for him?
- Where, specifically in Scripture does it state that a true believer can lose his or her salvation?
While all of these questions are pressing, this is probably the most significant. If salvation can be lost, there should be clear exegetical proof from Scripture as a whole. It shouldn’t be a few verses here, and a few verses there. This should be a clear message throughout all of Scripture. Additionally, there should be plenty of examples of this in the Bible – nothing occurs in Scripture without an existing personal account.
So if you hold this view that a believer can lose his salvation, then feel free to answer below or e-mail me.
5 thoughts on “Compelling Questions for Those Who Believe Salvation Can Be Lost”
It seems you want a book written… I will just take a quick stab.
Adam walked with God, and presumably was destined for Heaven. Didn’t he lose his salvation? Of course.
So many figures fall in and out of favor with God throughout the OT. David especially comes to mind – had he not repented after the Bathsheba incident, and after the census, certainly he would have been in trouble. Any other reading beggars belief.
In the New Covenant, it is clear that, like the former covenants, one can break it by “deadly sin” (1 Jn. 5:16)… Christ says that certain acts (or omissions), even those committed by believers, can destroy their end (see Mt. 5… “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’,” etc.). He even says there is a sin (which is always an ACT) which is unforgivable, namely, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (traditionally interpreted as final impenitence). Presumably we can also see a fitting metaphor for the loss of salvation in the disciples’ abandonment of the Lord before His Passion. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” Surely, Peter was in a state where he would be saved prior to his threefold denial. Then they return, except for Judas… We might even say that Judas fell somewhere along the way, when he decided it was more important to collect money for himself than to serve Jesus and the rest of the apostolic college. He could have came back by repentance, but instead he just shamed himself for being foolish.
The deeper issue is what “salvation” actually is, while one has not actually reached Heaven. Would we not say that it is simply the reciprocation of the love of God, which is necessarily aided by grace? If this grace is rejected, which would be by choosing something directly against the love of God or neighbor for His sake (viz., breaking a Commandment), then we would lose that state of friendship with God which would have effected our salvation upon our death. Just as with human friendships, we can lose a friend and gain him back – and God is always ready to forgive (hopefully, no references are necessary). Christ’s death and resurrection effect the general possibility of gaining this special friendship in this life – which was impossible before. Thus the “limbo of the Fathers,” where righteous souls waited for the Christ to come and open Heaven by paying the debt of Adam’s sin which had ruined humanity’s (his descendants’) relationship with God through the passing on of his wounded and corrupt nature. So Christ’s death is sufficient for forgiveness of any sin (except for final impenitence, which is really just the refusal of forgiveness itself), but it is only effective in one’s life if one actually seeks forgiveness through repenting – again and again for every time one does something that completely contradicts the love of Him.
What do you think? Sorry it’s not super Scriptural… I think you can read the Pauline corpus and easily see this pattern of people falling in and out of God’s grace.
I greatly appreciate your response. Your reply helps me to understand the thought process behind this belief, so thank you for your input. Just two points of clarification for me though – First, is it friendship/fellowship with God that one loses, or is it the regenerated state that one loses? By regenerated state I mean new spiritual life, a changed mind, changed heart, the Holy Spirit indwelling a believer, etc.
Second, is the efficiency of Christ’s work dependent on our repentance for every time we sin? In other words, is justification only activated when we repent for every sin? Additionally, what causes a man to repent if he loses his salvation every time he sins?
Thanks in advance.
There is a sin which will not be forgiven, namely blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which, at least in my understanding is complete and final rejection of the Holy Spirit’s work in us. I think of it this way: If I must have faith to be saved, the only way to lose my salvation is to cease having faith and the only way to cease having faith is to deliberately “Curse God and die.” In other words to reject God by basically telling Him to “Leave and never come back.” I don’t see in scripture where God forces us to come to him, therefore, I don’t believe he forces us to stay with him. So, in short, I don’t believe I can lose my salvation by sinning, I believe I can’t lose it but I can throw it away by basically spitting in God’s faith.
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I base my questions off the Arminian theological assumptions.