The Perseverance of the Saints
Question: Can salvation be lost once it is gained?
Answer: I would lose my salvation within the hour if I were left to my own resources. Thank God, my salvation is in the hands of a mighty Saviour who has promised to remain faithful forever. The Scriptures comfort God’s children - “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Having said that, I must add that although a person may be truly saved, he may be troubled by many uncertainties and doubts about salvation. On the other hand, someone may not be saved at all, and yet have a false assurance. The teaching about "eternal security" and "the perseverance of the saints" is often misunderstood and abused. A fool may reason, “Since ‘once saved, always saved’ - sin doesn’t matter. I can live as I please, and still go to heaven at the end.” The thought is as absurd as it is disgusting. This mentality is proof positive that he is a stranger to God’s grace. “He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).
We can summarize the Bible’s teaching on “eternal security” under three headings:
1. God’s people are kept secure by the power of God
The Word of God clearly teaches that the Lord protects His people and brings them safely to glory. This blessed truth is proved by the following scriptures:
Salvation is secured by:
The believer's security is grounded on:
2. God’s people persevere to the end (they continue to believe)
Just as it teaches God’s protection and preservation of His people, the Bible is equally emphatic that only those who endure to the end, who abide in Christ and His Word and continue in the faith, will be saved (please read Matthew 24:13; John 8:31; John 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:1,2; Colossians 1:22,23).
Ignoring these and similar scriptures, some argue that it doesn’t matter whether you continue to believe or not, for God will keep you saved forever. That is not true. We cannot accept half the Bible and ignore the rest. The total picture is this: God protects his children and therefore they will remain faithful to the end. As Peter says, they are “kept by the power of God (that’s God’s protection) through faith (and not, as some say, with or without faith).” As Christians, we are painfully aware that our faith is often weak and faltering. We can only persevere in faith because of the intercession of Christ. Peter was bitterly beaten by Satan when he denied the Lord three times. Yet even then, Peter’s faith could not fail because His Saviour would never deny one of His own. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Luke 22:32). It’s the same with every other child of God; Jesus “is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
3. Many who profess to believe are not really saved (they have a counterfeit and temporary faith)
What about those who leave the church and deny the faith? They heard the Gospel, believed, were baptised, became active members of the church, began to live a decent moral life, and witnessed to others about Christ. But now they deny Christ and would have nothing to do with Him or the church anymore. What does the Bible say about them?
Well, they are hypocrites unmasked. They had played their part quite impressively - deceiving others and themselves that they were genuine Christians. Their apostasy uncovers their phoney faith. The apostle John writes: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us" (1 John 2:19).
These people were once considered as true believers. But at one point they left the Christian church. The apostle does not conclude that genuine Christians can lose their salvation. On the contrary he judges that they were “not of us.” If they were true believers they would have continued; their departure is proof that in fact they were not true believers to start with.
There are serious warning in the Bible to such people (see Hebrews 6:4-6 and 2 Peter 2:20-22) who have heard the Gospel, and after an initial response, they turn away from Christ. Their defection reveals that their hearts were never changed - Peter compares them to a washed pig returning to the mud, and the author of Hebrews, to a field that produces thorns and thistles after it receives the rain.
Nobody is saved by saying they have faith. Only true faith saves, the kind that continues to the end. God makes certain that the believer will remain safe for time and eternity. “For the LORD loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off” (Psalm 37:28).
© Dr Joseph Mizzi