Question: (Submitted to and through Got Questions Ministries) You say it's impossible for a saved person to lose his salvation, but what about the people who lost their salvation in the bible? (See blog link below question.) What if we are wrong about heaven? What if we will go to hell by only relying on Jesus and not taking other steps? The path to heaven just seems too narrow and too easy to be true.
Answer: Greetings friend. It will be a pleasure to address your question today — and it’s a good one. The eternal security of the believer is no small matter. Furthermore, it is often misunderstood. But the webpage you referenced is a dreadful treatment of this issue… and on a number of levels. It’s an amateurish presentation of meaningless data… and it does not rise to being even pseudo-academic. Since it is not even slightly credible, delete the page from your browser history and dismiss the information from your mind, then continue with me for a few minutes while I discuss the issues.
Your profile tells me that you are young and that you are a new Christian. That’s wonderful! By way of contrast, I’m old — and I’ve been a Christian for many decades now. But I also study a lot because I answer questions like yours as a specialized ministry. So, until you study the issue more thoroughly yourself, could you just take an experienced brother’s word for it that there are no people in the Bible who lose their salvation? After all, you’re not sure either way… hence your question. But you fled to the Got Questions Ministries website for help. So I’ll ask you to trust those instincts until you can process the data more thoroughly.
But how will you know which website is right? A brute fact of the internet is that different sites will say different things, and this will place you in a he-said-she-said situation. Now, this will not always result in loggerheads, but when two sources make mutually exclusive assertions, both cannot be true… so which is it? A believer cannot be both eternally secure and not eternally secure at the same time! How do you determine which source to trust? You need to build a cumulative case for (or against) the site’s orthodoxy.
Examining a single issue is too narrow an exercise to judge a website’s orthodoxy — and this implies that there’s work ahead. The best way to begin that work is by doing some recognizance. First, you need to establish the website’s scope. Does it cover enough ground to be a credible entity? Second, you need to assess its tone. Are its articles objective? Or are they primarily contentious or conspiratorial? Tone hints at motivation. As such, it is an important clue to content.
Now, not only is this a lot of work, but you’ll need to keep an open mind while doing it. If you examine the websites with eternal security on your mind, that will affect how you see the data… and that will affect what you absorb and how you process that information… so you’ll need to keep that aside. But once get a feel for the site’s scope and tone, then you should get specific. Do they present Jesus as deity? Do they affirm that salvation found only in Christ… and that God is a Trinity? Do they handle Scripture as if it were authoritative, sufficient, complete, inerrant… things like that. You won’t always find them all, but you can usually find enough to make an objective judgment.
With all that in place, let me invite you to follow the links at the end of this answer to examine the competing websites. My personal website, Mainsail Ministries, has over 300 articles like this one, and it received over a million page-views from around the world in 2016. But the Got Questions Ministries website is huge! It has thousands of pages of Christian content, and it attracts millions of page-views per month. Furthermore, they have responded to over half a million individual questions (like yours!), so their base and experience is very broad.
But just because a website is big, slick or successful does not mean that its content is right. In fact, the old saying “Let the buyer beware” is even truer in the digital age. You must constantly compare products and decide which or whether to “buy.” But something has already told you to leave the Bjorkbloggen site and come to Got Questions Ministries. So for now, let’s stay the course and see where your intuition leads.
I’d like to begin by examining the narrow gate (Mat. 7:13) — because it is not problematic in its narrowness; in fact, this speaks to the eternal security of the believer, not against it. How so? First, the “gate” is all about the “fold” — the sheepfold — and we are the sheep (Jn. 10:9). The gate is both narrow and singular by design; it keeps the sheep from getting out… which is analogous to a believer’s eternal security: the gate keeps you in the fold. But it keeps you in the fold by the energies of the shepherd, not by the cleverness of the sheep… because left to our own devices we sheep wander. But the One who made us knows that! As such, it would have been irresponsible of him not to make salvation eternally secure. So God designed it that way; Jesus died to make it so, and the Holy Spirit guarantees it (Eph. 4:30).
Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11) — the one who keeps us. But he is also the gate itself (10:9) — the doorway that defines us. Only those who go “through” Jesus Christ (as the gate) are in the fold… which is why we are called Christians. But once inside the fold, the gate’s narrowness is a non-issue. If you think about it, once you are in the fold, having no gate at all would be the maximal condition for security… and “narrow” is a step towards that. But it is also a step away from heresies like universal salvation — which has a decidedly wide gate policy.
So, don’t misunderstand me; the narrow gate is indeed a problem… but it’s a problem for spiritual interlopers (Jn. 10:1). These people are — by definition and by choice — outside of the eternal security discussion. After all, the unsaved have nothing to secure. But we do because we are in another group. Our job is to give them the gospel… not borrow their insecurity. You need to “own” the fact that no child of God goes to hell (Rom. 8:1)… but wouldn’t the enemy just love for you to carry the false burden of insecurity rather than grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ? (Jn. 8:44; 2 Pet. 1:8)
Let’s talk about the website now… and I’ll be frank: it is so bad that I do not want to spend any time talking about it! I would rather that we study the eternal security issue in a positive fashion rather than rebut another commentator’s blather point by point. But I do not think that I would be addressing your emotional needs without addressing some of its specific challenges to eternal security… if it actually had any… it’s a bit of a mess. Nevertheless, I’ve selected a few to use as examples of the site’s failings — and to begin, let’s go to the beginning.
The Bjorkbloggen webpage entitled Biblical Examples of Individuals Who Lost Their Salvation begins with — and is tainted by — the following introductory statement:
We don’t get ultimately ”saved” until we have completed all of our days on earth and entered into the kingdom of God, but we can still express ourselves as being ”saved” when we are presently ”spiritually alive”.
That is tacitly untrue — and discarding this idea will go a long way in dissolving that which follows. Believers are fully saved the instant that they are saved — and it is the nature of their relationship with God that they have eternal life from that point onward (Jn. 5:24). This is because salvation is a function of the new birth, not the life lived. We believers have become children of God (Jn. 1:12; 3:3)… and we never become un-children… un-family. The very nature of salvation is that we have an irrevocable position as saved-ones.
We must be aware, however, that this irrevocable benefit coexists with a functional problem: although we are saved and eternally secure, we keep on sinning. How does this translate into the Christian’s life? We are positionally Christians but functionally sinners. That is, our position in Christ remains secure while we function imperfectly as children of the kingdom who are living in the world.
In the following verses, the people in view are already Christians. This directly counters the Bjorkbloggen introductory statement. These people are the objects of God’s salvation, and they are positionally saved and categorically free from any potential condemnation.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV, emphasis mine)
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24, NIV, emphasis mine)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1, NIV)
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11–13, NIV, emphases mine)
Now, the doctrine of eternal security does not hang upon a mere four verses; we have a cumulative case — one which involves many more verses than these. However, these four go a long way in dispelling the Bjorkbloggen prejudice.
For instance, John 3:16 teaches that it is in the nature of a believer not to perish — and this is typical of the elements in our “cumulative case.” Unfortunately, the Bible does not have a verse that says, “Once you are saved you are always saved!” which would be decidedly handy... but what we have is better: eternal security is embedded in the nature of salvation and in the nature of believers. Perhaps this is why so many people miss it; it’s part of salvation’s fabric. Salvation is eternal in its essence. Therefore, salvation is eternal by definition more so than by citation… although it’s amply cited.
Look also at John 5:24. This tells us that believers are those who have left death behind. They have crossed over into a new land called life. So, although they do not step into heaven at the moment of salvation, they do indeed step into eternal life at that moment… that’s part and parcel of this new life. Therefore, eternal life starts right now — in the current life… and here’s the logic: if a believer has already obtained the type of life which, by definition, cannot stop (eternal life), then one cannot say that he who is currently living an eternal life will ever experience a stopping life.
Eternal life is not a coin that can slip out of your pocket; eternal life is the essence of the new creation that you are in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17); it is now part of your personal being — your soul. This is an ontological change and not merely a functional change. You have God’s DNA… and DNA does not go away.
Romans 8:1 states very plainly that once you are “in” Jesus Christ, there is nothing that can kick you “out.” A believer is… and categorically so… a person who can no longer be condemned. Any statement that says that a believer can lose his salvation cannot coexist with this very plain Scripture. As such, this speaks directly against the Bjorkbloggen thesis.
1 John 5:11–13 emphasizes that it is important to know that you have eternal life… and don’t miss this triple threat: know, have, eternal. First of all, the fact that you are eternally secure is something you can know. And why is this? Because this life is also something you can have… and the nature of this life is that it’s eternal. Salvation is readily available, it lasts forever and everyone should know this. So do not allow a blogger to ruin the joy that should flow from this Christian benefit: the believer is secure in Christ.
This is not to say that Christians never go on to mess up their lives… they certainly do. But a child of God never becomes an un-child… and anyone who “has” eternal life cannot also “have” death. So, the Christian is positionally secure on multiple fronts. As such, you should rest, not worry… because your salvation is secure.
Please note, however, that you should rest from worry, not from work. God has plenty of work for us to do… I mean… that’s why we’re here! But we must never confound the order of salvation and good works.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8–10, NIV, emphasis mine)
Note that the saving work of God comes first… but that we should not neglect the purpose of the exercise. We journey through grace and faith for a purpose — to do God’s work. Now, if we happen to fail at the work, this shows an incongruity in the Christian life, not a loss of salvation. Our sin (which is the worst stuff available) cannot kill God’s grace (which is the best stuff available).
Let’s move on to our blogger’s first example, King Solomon. According to the blogger’s account, what was lost here? Salvation? Or a life lived for God? Let’s look and see.
There are many verses which tell us about all the wicked acts [Solomon] did as an old man, but there are no verses that suggest that he ever repented. One would think that such an important piece of information as his repentance would be recorded somewhere if that is what he did. Even if he did repent, it still wouldn’t change the fact that he went from being righteous to being unrighteous. Had he died during his time in wickedness, he would have been spiritually lost for ever.
Our blogger has no view of salvation; he only has a view of a holiness gradient. So, picture a scale where a real godly fellow would be on the top while a real ungodly fellow would be on the bottom (and Solomon certainly occupied the bottom at the end of his life). But the blogger proposes that if you’re near the top, you’re God’s, and if you slide down, you’re not… but you can’t get back up unless you repent. For a guy who relies so much on repentance, he sure doesn’t know how it works.
The role of repentance changes after a person is saved, so you must always understand the passage’s frame of reference. Repentance is a stepping stone to salvation for the unsaved… and once saved, you never have to do that for that again. But repentance still plays a role in the Christian’s life: it restores fellowship with the Father, not salvation of the soul… which would be illogical since salvation is always in place.
The blogger carries this problem throughout all his examples. So it is no surprise that he does not subscribe to eternal security. Since he doesn’t know what salvation really is… I mean… it is eternal and non-losable by definition… of course he misrepresents how it works! And since the same false picture of salvation drives each of his mini-theses, it would be redundant to address each one. But let’s look at another — his account of the apostle Peter (losing his salvation?).
Peter assured Jesus that he (Peter) would never fall away but Jesus responded that he would deny him three times. If we deny Jesus, he will deny us. Unless we repent of course.
The blogger explains no more about this. He posted all the Scripture of Peter doing the denying… yet with no more commentary. Considering his main thesis, is he telling us that Peter did not repent? This isn’t clear. But he is highlighting a related error: there is a difference between denying Jesus in the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Mat. 12:31) kind of way, and denying Jesus as in a saved-person-who-is-having-a-moment-of-weakness kind of way. The first is an ongoing denying of the Christ until eternal death. The latter is a sin like any other sin — a bump in the Christian’s life.
I think that those two examples are enough to kill that site’s credibility. So I advise you to continue in prayer, study, fellowship and in serving others, because discernment will naturally grow in the balanced Christian life. Now, you will still run into the occasional data that seems to contradict sound doctrine. Don’t panic — just hold that aside… but while giving it no weight. These issues often resolve themselves as you grow in the knowledge of God. But if you get stuck, ask for help… like you did today!
My job today was to “put out the fire” concerning that website — and I pray that I have done that for you. But there’s more work to do; you see, that was such a lightweight site… yet it gave you some heavyweight stress! So I recommend that you visit a few webpages to help prevent a reoccurrence.
The first link takes you to a five minute video from Got Questions Ministries about eternal security. Not only does it do a great job explaining eternal security doctrinally (and on the quick), it also explains the problems you incur by dismissing it… like insulting God… like dismissing the manifold ancillary works needed save a person and perfect a person.
The next link takes you to the Mainsail Ministries website which has a complete yet approachable compendium on the eternal security of the believer.
And finally, since you spoke some tentative words about your confidence in the saving prowess of Jesus Christ, please visit this webpage; it gives a more comprehensive view of salvation than the one that you have evidenced today. I would like you to build your mental, emotional and spiritual muscles so that you may lead a full and joyous life while you serve God… and may God bless you in that journey.