Can the Christian believer lose his salvation?

by Matt Slick

CARM's position is that a Christian cannot lose his/her salvation.  Let's take a look at scripture to see why.

  • Jesus said in John 8:29, "And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him."
  • John 6:39, "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day."

In John 8:29 we can clearly see that Jesus always does the will of the Father.  So if Jesus always does the will of the Father and the will of the Father is that Jesus lose none and also raise all those to glory who had been given to him by the Father (John 6:39), then salvation cannot be lost.  Otherwise, Jesus sinned by failing to do the will of the Father.  Remember, it is the will of the Father that Jesus lose none, not that Christians don't lose their own salvation of their "own free will."  Again, if someone loses his salvation, then Jesus failed to do the will of the Father because it would mean he has lost some and that he will also fail to raise up to glory those who have been given to him by the Father.  This just cannot be.

But some say that the will of the Father is that people not sin but they do, so the will of the Father is not always done. In this respect, that is true. However, the verses deal with the will of the Father for Jesus, not for us.

In addition to the two verses above, which are extremely powerful, consider the following:

  • John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
  • John 10: 7-28, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand."
  • 1 John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us."

Is this a license to sin?

A common accusation made against the position that we are eternally secure in Christ is that it becomes a license to sin.  The problem with this accusation is that it ignores God's active regeneration in us.  In other words, critics of our security in Christ routinely ignore the fact that God changes the sinner.  He makes us born again, and we are made new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17).  As new creatures, we have God living in us (John 14:23); and, therefore, we cannot abide in sin: "No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God," (1 John 3:9).

So, the teaching that we cannot lose our salvation is not a license to sin.

The danger of keeping salvation by doing works

Whether or not you can lose your salvation is important because if someone believes he can lose his salvation, then he might fall into the error of trying to keep his salvation by what he does or does not do.  This is a serious heresy (Gal. 3:1-3).  In other words, if a person can lose his salvation then what list of things must he do and not do in order to keep it?  If there is such a list, then the person is guilty of achieving salvation by keeping the law. But this contradicts Romans 3:28 and Romans 4:1-5.

The proper understanding of salvation is that works play no part in it (Rom. 4:5), that it is a free gift (Rom. 6:23), and that it is received by faith (Eph. 2:8-9).  Once we are saved, we are to live a holy life (1 Thess. 4:7).

Fortunately, believing you can or cannot lose your salvation does not affect your salvation.  That is, your salvation is dependent upon accepting Jesus as Savior, trusting in His sin sacrifice, and looking to no one and nothing else.  Fortunately, your salvation isn't dependent upon whether or not you think it is possible to lose your salvation.


The important point is that you have studied the Word of God and are convinced in your own mind of what you believe (Rom. 14:5).  You are the one who has to answer to God (Rom. 3:19).  You are the one who needs to study to show yourself approved (2 Tim. 2:15).

There are, on the surface, verses used for both sides of the argument.  There are verses that seem to suggest that it is possible to lose your salvation:  2 Pet. 2:1; Gal. 5:4; Heb. 10:26; 6:4-6; Ps. 69:28.  There are also verses that seem to say you cannot lose your salvation:  John 10:27-28; Heb. 13:5; Matt. 7:21-23; 1 John 2:19; Rom. 8:38-39.  But if there are verses used to support both sides, then is there a contradiction in the Word of God?  Of course not.  There can be no contradiction in the inspired Word of God -- only in our uninspired misunderstanding.

It is my firm belief that it is not possible to lose one's salvation.  I base this on Scriptures at the beginning of this article and others that seem to have a more "eternal" perspective on them.  For example, on the day of judgment when some seek salvation based upon their works, Jesus will say to them, "I never knew you," (Matt. 7:21-23).  They were never known; that is, they were never saved although they appeared from the human perspective to be saved.  Jesus says that His sheep will "never perish but have eternal life." (John 10:28).  How can eternal life be eternal if it can be lost, particularly when Jesus said they will never perish?  If they will never perish, then they can't lose their salvation.  Also, Paul says that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39).  I see these "divine perspective" type verses as giving us glimpses into the viewpoint of God.  I see the other verses as being stated from a human perspective - that they appeared to be saved and then appeared to lose it (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 6:4-6).  However, 1 John 2:19 says in dealing with antichrists, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us." This verse is saying two things:  First, it appears false teachers leave because they are not regenerated to begin with.  In other words, if someone had salvation and then lost it, it was because they never were saved in the first place.  Second, it says that if someone is saved, he will remain in the faith.

Nevertheless, there are different positions on this issue.  One position states that it is possible to lose your salvation but only if you want to.  In other words, having been set free from sin, the person is then able, by an act of will, to deny the Lord and desire not to be a part of Him any longer.

Another position states that it is possible to lose your salvation if you sin too much.  Then you need to go and confess your sin and get saved again.  This has obvious problems because it could lead to someone trusting in his works and God's grace to be saved.

Another position states that it is not possible at all to lose your salvation--that because Jesus has redeemed you and you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), you cannot, then, turn your back on God. Since attaining salvation did not depend on anything you did, keeping it does not depend on anything you do; then also, losing it can't occur because of anything you do.

Unfortunately, this topic has caused far too much friction in the church today.  My hope is that people who disagree can learn to live harmoniously with their eyes on Jesus.



About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.