Can A Christian Lose Salvation?

by Pastor J. C. O'Hair

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.

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Quite often a pastor or Bible-teacher is asked the question; “Do you believe in eternal security?”, or “Do you believe, once in grace, always in grace?”, or “Do you believe that the Christian can lose salvation?

Now let us ask the question. Is it possible for a Christian to lose eternal life? In the eighth chapter of Romans we read these words; “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.

So we learn by reading these several verses, that the believer was predestinated, that he has been called, justified and glorified. It is God who foreknew, who predestined, who has called, justified and glorified the believer. Therefore, the three questions that follow: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect.” “Who is he that condemneth.” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? In the first verse of this eighth chapter of Romans, we read, “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus”; and the chapter closes with these words: “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In the sixth chapter of Romans, the twenty-third verse, we read; “The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Now first of all, as Christians, we are all agreed that eternal life is the free gift of God; that we are not saved by works of righteousness which we have done. According to God’s Word, He saves us, not by works, not of works lest any man should boast, it is the gift of God. What is the gift of God? Eternal life. What kind of life is the gift of God?. Eternal life. Christ is our life and Christ is the eternal life. I John 5:20.

This eternal Christ in his wonderful prayer recorded in John 17:3 said; “this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” In John 17:2 Christ said: “And thou hast given Him power over all things that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him.” The believer has been given to Christ by God the Father and the Son gives eternal life. As the Saviour closed his prayer, these words He uttered recorded in John 17:24: “Father, I will that they also whom thou has given me be with me where I am that they may behold by glory.” Now, so far as I am personally concerned, I am positive that the Father will hear this prayer of His beloved Son in behalf of every believer who has been born from above.

This same thought is expressed by Christ in John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Every one included in Romans 8:29 shall come unto Christ, and every one predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, will be called, will be justified, will be glorified; and not one single one of them will be cast out by Jesus Christ.

This wonderful eternal Saviour said to His disciples in John 10:28: “And I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” This to me is conclusive proof that the believer in Christ is eternally secure.

The believer is kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. I Peter 1:5. The believer is confident of this very thing that He that hath begun a good work in him will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6. The believer knows that he is sealed with the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30. The believer knows that he has a strong consolation, because he has fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before him, which hope is an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.” Hebrews 6:18 to 20.

The believer should take God at His Word; for when God says “they shall never perish,” God means exactly what He says. When Christ says, “I give unto them eternal life,” Christ means exactly what He says. Eternal life is age-abiding life, and if the justified sinner, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ should lose his salvation, or his life, after ten or twelve years, certainly that life which he had received was not eternal life. There is no such thing as temporary eternal life. Eternal life is eternal. Eternal life is the free gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now if the believer has to do something to hold on to that eternal life after he receives it, if he must in any way work for God in order to hold that eternal life, then is he not paying for the eternal life after he receives it? What is the difference between paying for something before you receive it and after you receive it? In either event, certainly it is not a gift. God’s gift is a free gift, “not of works lest any man should boast”. It is the free gift of God. In Romans 3:24 we find these words, being declared righteous without a cause by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Here God plainly tells us that the believing sinner is declared righteous without a cause. In the same Epistle to the Romans, we read that he is declared righteous without the deeds of the law and without works; wholly and solely on the principle of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So many people who deny the believer’s eternal security in Christ confuse the believer’s standing with the believer’s state. The very moment a sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, with the heart believes unto righteousness he is completely, wholly and eternally justified from all things and he stands in the sight of God as though he had never committed a sin, accepted in the Beloved, complete in Christ, and God declares: “there is therefore, now no condemnation”.

The Holy Spirit beseeches the justified one to present His body a living sacrifice; to walk in the Spirit and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof; to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith he is called; to abstain from the very appearances of evil. But the believer is saved, not by presenting his body a living sacrifice, not by walking; but by believing in what Jesus Christ did once for all when He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. The believer’s standing is just as perfect before God the moment he is really born again as it will be ten billion years after he has reached heaven. The believer’s standing is always perfect. The believer’s state is always imperfect. But it should be his determination, his desire; yea, a longing desire to moment by moment yield his members as instruments of righteousness unto God, that he might grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He should forget the things which are behind and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He should add to his faith, virtue, self control, godliness brotherly love. But he is not justified because of what he adds. Neither does the rapidity with which he grows in grace have anything to do with his standing. That standing is determined once for all when he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us turn to the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. What is the difference there set forth between the sacrifices of the Old Testament and the sacrifice of God’s only begotten and well beloved Son, Who appeared once in the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. In making the comparison, in Hebrews 10:2, the writer says, if the Old Testament sacrifices could have made the comers thereunto perfect then would they not have ceased to be offered because that the worshipper once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. The believer on the Lord Jesus Christ is once purged and therefore in the presence of God, so far as his standing is concerned, he has no more conscience of sin. In Hebrews 10:18 we find another “no more”; “Where remission. of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” No more conscience of sin. No more offering for sin. In Hebrews 10:17 another glorious no more. “There sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” The explanation of this is found in Hebrews 10:10 to 14. Let us read Hebrews 10:10. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once.” Not only was the body of Jesus Christ offered but once; but it is true that the believer is positionally sanctified through this offering once for all. Now in Hebrews 10:14: “For by one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified.” Now will you believe what God says by one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified. Forever. Forever. God’s Word so declares.

But some one asks: “How about Hebrews 10:26?” Well, what about it? Let us read it: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Nine out of ten people read into that verse something that is not there. They read into it; “there remaineth no more forgiveness for sin.” Now that’s altogether different. God is explaining to these Jews who wanted to go back to the ceremony and ritual of Judaism the difference between the sacrifices of the Old Testament and the once-for-all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so far as that one great all-sufficient sacrifice is concerned, unconditionally, it can be said, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin”. God plainly teaches that the believer has only to believe once on the finish work of the Lord Jesus Christ and be born from above. And as no one can be born of an earthly parent more than once, even so it is true that no sinner can be saved, or can be born of God more than once.

Christ entered in once with His blood, having obtain eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 9:12.

Certainly there is forgiveness promised to the saints of God who sin.

According to I John 2:1 and 2, if the believer sins he has an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. Christ on the cross was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. At the right hand of God He is the believer’s Intercessor, High Priest and Advocate. Jesus Christ died on the cross to establish our relationship, as the children of God, once for all. He now ever lives at God’s right hand to make intercession for us, and to maintain our fellowship Therefore we have uttermost salvation. We must not confuse the believer’s relationship, with the believer’s fellowship, any more than we should confuse in the Book of Leviticus and Exodus, Israel’s union and communion with God. Union is one thing, Communion is another thing. Communion is impossible without union. Relationship is one thing. Fellowship is another thing. Many children of God have lost the joy of their salvation. It is one thing to lose the joy of salvation, it is quite a different thing to lose salvation—which is impossible. They shall never perish.

Now regardless of what your idea or opinion may be, does not the Word of God teach plainly that the believer is sanctified once-for-all through faith in the one offering of Jesus Christ who bare our sins in his own body on the tree?

But some one says, “how about the backsliders as set forth in the sixth chapter of Hebrews?” We shall consider the backsliders. But is there anything about the backslider in the sixth chapter of Hebrews? Let us read beginning with Hebrews 6:4: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” If they shall fall away. Who are the “they” here referred to? If the reference is to backsliders, then the statement follows “It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.” Is it true that a backslider cannot come back to God, through Jesus Christ? We’re all willing to admit that for any person who has once been, a Christian, and backslides, there is hope if he will repent and confess his sin. But here is the statement if he falls away, it is impossible to renew him again unto repentance.” God is here teaching the very opposite of the common interpretation given to these verses. He is teaching the all sufficiency of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and is trying to teach the Hebrews—not the Gentiles of that day—that it would be impossible to fall away if they have once been renewed by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words this portion of God’s Word is given to give the believer assurance instead of fear. It is the antidote for those who would add the Mass to the finished work of Christ.

The word backslider is not used in the New Testament Scriptures. But in writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle refers to three classes in Corinth: “The natural man,” unsaved; “The spiritual man, walking in the will of God;” “The carnal man, who was a saved man, but not walking in the Spirit.” Sad to say, some who live in the Spirit do not walk in the Spirit, but rather in the flesh.

It was to these Corinthians that the Apostle wrote in I Corinthians 11:32, when believers are judged they are chastened of the Lord that they should not be condemned with the world. God chastens carnal Christians, but God can never condemn any kind of a Christian with the world; because there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. In I Corinthians 6:7, you will read of some carnal Christians who were walking and behaving like sinners. “There is utterly a fault among you;” and the word fault should be translated sin. There is utterly a sin among you. I Corinthians 6:7: “ye do wrong and defraud your brethren”. Any Christian who will defraud another Christian is doing wrong and he is sinning.

Nevertheless we see, in I Corinthians 6:19, that these Corinthians defrauders were temples of the Holy Spirit. In I Corinthians 6:11, we read concerning these faulty, defrauding Christians, that they were washed, that they were sanctified and that they were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. To their shame we say that such behaviour was altogether unbecoming a sanctified Christian. Nevertheless, the fact remains that these sanctified, justified saints were defrauding one another. Some of them had to be delivered to the devil for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit might be saved in the day of Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 5:5. For they should not be condemned with the world. John 3:18.

But how about those who are referred to in II Peter 2:20, “If after they have escaped the pollution’s of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” And it goes on to say, the dog is turned again to his own vomit and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. These are solemn words of warning, as are also the words found in I Corinthians 9:27; “I keep under my body and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” In this last verse, the apostle is not talking about salvation, he is talking about rewards, prize for runners in a race. Peter’s Epistle refers is to false teachers who shall bring the damnable heresy denying the Lord. God refers to them, in the Epistle of Jude, as sensual, not having the Spirit as those who reject both the Deity of Christ and salvation through the shed blood. Most assuredly, they were not true believers, not saved ones.”

Then some one asks “how about Revelation 3:5?” “I will not blot out their names from the book of Life.” They infer that this means that God had blotted out the names of some that had already been written in that book. No where in Church truth do we find the reference to any one whose name was once written in the book of life and then blotted out.

A preacher came to me once with an open Bible, opened at the sixth of Hebrews, and said: “Sir, I had an experience just like this. I was a Christian in my early manhood, and I fell away.” He said, “If I had died in my sin, I would have been eternally lost.” “But,” I said, “How about it now?” “Oh,” he said, “I’ve confessed my sin and have come back.” Then I said, “You should point to some other portion of God’s Word; because this says if you fall away it is impossible to renew you and you’ve been renewed. Therefore, this Scripture is either incorrect, or it does not refer to your case.” Then I asked him “Is it not a fact that any back-slidden Christian can come back to God? But how.” “There is but one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” “If the back-slidden Christian comes back to God through Christ does he come through Christ dying on the cross, or through Christ as the believer’s Representative in heaven, appearing in the presence of God for us.” Hebrews 9:24. He said, “he comes back through Christ at the right hand of God.” “Then I said, “Can you show me in the scriptures that Christ is representing unsaved unbelievers in heaven? Christ is the believer’s Advocate. John 17:24.

Fallen from grace; is an expression used in Galatians 5:4. Whosoever, is justified by the law is fallen from grace. The reference here is not to the Christian who goes back to sin and loses his salvation.

The parable of the Vine and Branches, in John 15, should be read in the light of Romans 11 where we learn that Israel the natural branches were cut off that the wild olive tree, the Gentiles might be grafted in, contrary to nature. The Saviour does not say in the John 15 , that one who is a member of the Body of Christ can afterwards be lost. The only sensible way to study the Scriptures is to study Scripture in the light of Scriptures. The Vine and Branches should be read in the light of I Corinthians 3. Notice . I Corinthians 3:15 “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” Why is it that those who use the parable of the Vine and Branches against eternal security do not include John 15:16?

Somebody then asks the question, “How about the case of Judas?” Well what about it? There is not the slightest suggestion that Judas was ever a saved man. The Lord said when He chose His twelve apostles, He chose one who was a devil. He was a devil when he was chosen, and he was a devil when he betrayed Christ, and he was a devil when he committed suicide and went to his own place.

The Bible teaches that both Jews and Gentiles who believe, are baptized by one Spirit into one Body, I Corinthians 12:13. There is one Body, one Spirit and one baptism. Ephesians 4:1 to 5. There is no salvation in this dispensation outside of the Body of Christ. If a believer could lose his place in the Body of Christ by losing his salvation, he could not get back into that Body again. There is one baptism.

There’s a blessed doctrine taught in the Word of God, which is quite offensive to many Christians; the doctrine of election, or foreordination. For instance, we read in Acts 13:48, “as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” God very clearly teaches then, that every believer is ordained to eternal life and every one who is ordained to eternal life will believe. Now, for my own part, I am quite sure that when we reach heaven we shall find that not one who was foreordained to eternal life will be missing; and there will not be one there in the Body of Christ who was not foreordained.

We must remember that this is based upon foreknowledge and God’s foreknowledge of an event does not relieve the individual of his or her responsibility. God’s message is still, “whosoever will may come.” But because we cannot reconcile the whosoever message with the doctrine of foreordination, we should not be hostile toward God’s truth. We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:1 to 3. Whom God foreknew, He predestinated, He called, He justified, He glorified. Therefore, no one can condemn the believer. No one can separate us from the love of Christ, which is in Christ Jesus.

Then you ask the question, will not believers take advantage of such a doctrine? I challenge you to search the records, and see if the Christians who teach the eternal security of the believer have not been just as consecrated as those who teach “the falling from grace doctrine.”

Those who oppose the believer’s eternal security in Christ sometimes tell of some individual who has made the statement, “I can commit any sin I choose, because I am eternally saved and cannot lose my salvation.” Personally, I never heard any individual make any such statement. “If any man be in Christ, there is a new creation, old things are passed away and all things are become new.” The fruit of that new creation is the desire on the part of the individual to love righteousness and hate iniquity. If that is not the individuals desire and testimony, it may be seriously doubted whether or not he has ever been saved.

All Christians have the same relationship and the same standing before God. But no two Christians have just the same experience in their walk, in their state. Some are more yielded more consecrated than others. Some have refused to make the full surrender to Christ as Lord, diligently seeking every day to walk in the center of His will. Sad to say, some who are in the Spirit walk in the flesh; some have their affections set up on the things of this world. Some compromise with sin. Others might be graded somewhere between the compromisers and the fully surrendered ones. But we have this assurance, the Lord knoweth them that are His.

The question was once asked, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer was not do; but believe. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Suppose we should ask the question, “What must I do to keep my salvation or eternal life?” Again the answer is not do; for God has only one standard of doing in the Bible, and that is a perfect standard. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” Galatians 3:10. If any Christian could lose his salvation, because of failure to meet the perfect demands of this perfect law, all Christians would be lost.

Good works can never be the root of the believer’s salvation either at the time he is saved, or thereafter. Good works are always the fruit. The believer is God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus—“unto good works that God hath before ordained that he should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:9 and 10.

Every Christian should seek to please the risen Lord by a consecrated separated life, walking in the Spirit, fulfilling the righteousness of the law and day by day manifesting the fruit of the Spirit. The believer is ever and always kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, and not through good works. Faith is the victory that overcometh the world. Faith is the gift of God and cometh through hearing the Word of God. The secret of true victory, happiness and joy, is a moment by moment yielding, submitting presenting to God and obedience to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, continually recognizing the Lordship of the Saviour

God which cannot lie promised us eternal life before the world began. Eternal-life is received by the believer once for all and not on the installment plan. So we shall rest in his gracious promise and be confident of this very thing that he that begun. a good work in us will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ.

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.