If you can lose your salvation, then what must you do to keep it?

If it is possible to lose your salvation, then what must you do in order to keep it?  I've asked this question many times of those who deny eternal security and have received different responses.  But they all, essentially, can be categorized into two areas:  "Remain faithful," and "Be obedient."  Whichever position is taken, both are dependent upon man's faithfulness and ability.

Now, I am trying to be careful here in drawing conclusions because I do not want to be mistaken in how I represent the "other" side.  But I cannot help but wonder that if our salvation depends upon us remaining faithful and or being obedient, then are we not keeping our salvation by being good?  That's right, by being good and risking works righteousness?

Please understand that I am not saying this as an accusation.  I am only asking the questions and expressing my concern.  Again, if a person says he stays saved by remaining faithful and or being obedient to God, then isn't he saying that he is maintaining his salvation by being good?  It is a good thing to be faithful to God.  It is a good thing to obey God.  But is this how we are saved or stay saved?  Does our salvation rest in any way on how good we are?

For me, this is dangerously close to works righteousness. Also, this "maintaining salvation" teaching is the same as that held by the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon church, and the Jehovah's Witnesses churches (among others).  Of course, I realize that just because false groups teach the same thing doesn't mean the teaching is wrong.  Still, I can't help but wonder if something is amiss.  And, there is another problem.

James 2:10 and Gal. 3:10

  • James 2:10, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."
  • Gal. 3:10, "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.'”

A further concern I have is that if anyone were to try and maintain his salvation by being faithful/good, is he then required to keep the whole law?

I believe that those who seek to remain faithful and obedient to God in order to stay saved would say that they are not trying to maintain their salvation by their works, their faithfulness, their obedience, etc.  At least I hope not.  But, isn't a law an instruction given by God that has a punishment for disobeying it?  God commands everyone everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30.  In Exodus 20, God commands that we believe in him.  Can it be said that the command to believe and repent are laws since disobeying them has penalties?  Do you see the problem?

A confession

I'm not a very good Christian.  I know my treacherous and sinful heart.  If my salvation were dependent in any way upon my faithfulness or obedience, then I'm in trouble.  I would never claim that I was able to remain faithful enough or do enough good to maintain my position with God.  I just can't go there.  Instead, I rely totally on him to keep me, not me to keep myself.

All that I am and all I need is found in the work of Christ.  Even my ability to believe is God's work (John 6:28-29).  My believing has been granted to me by God (Phil. 1:29).  And, I believe because I was appointed to eternal life (Acts 13:48).  Should I then stand before God and man and say that I am keeping my position with God by my own faithfulness?  This is something I can never claim.

That is why I ask people who believe they can lose their salvation and are seeking to maintain it by being faithful, "Are you taking credit for your believing?"  If they say yes, they are boasting.  If they say no, then I ask them what makes them think that if God who granted that they believe (Phil. 1:29), appointed them to eternal life (Acts 13:48), chose them before the foundation of the world for salvation (Eph. 1:4-5; 2 Thess. 2:13), predestined them (Rom. 8:29-30), and said he will lose none (John 6:39), we'll let them slip through his fingers when he said it was his will that those who believe would not be lost and would be raised on the last day (John 6:37-40)?

So, how would you answer the question if you believed that you could lose your salvation?  What must you do to maintain it?  Are you being good enough?


About The Author

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