Christians agree that the world is in trouble. Serious trouble. Although some have tried to play it down, there are pretty strong indications in the Bible that God is VERY ANGRY with sin – angry enough to cast sinners into an eternal burning hell forever. So then, there is a need for salvation.
We believe that Jesus came to rescue us, and He did this by paying the price of our sins on the cross. We also believe He rose again, proving Himself to be much more than another astute religious philosopher like, say, Buddha. We believe He is the Savior of the world. We can go even further and say "He is LORD, and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess this to be so." So far so good.
What Response Does the Gospel Require?
Going on from this point to the question of what must be done: some say, "Only believe". If you believe that Jesus has died for you, and "accept Him" (whatever that means), you are saved. Others say, "No. Its more than that. God requires that to be truly born again, you must REPENT – that is change your mind and change your direction." Indeed, Jesus preached repentance, Paul preached repentance, Peter preached repentance. Others say, "And you must be baptized in water according to our correct understanding", or "you need to speak in tongues", or maybe "You must tithe" or "you must keep the Sabbath". This can create confusion for people. But we should all agree that you need to "believe" – the question is – what does that mean, and for how long is this believing necessary?
See, the word "believe" means different things to different people. Lots of people say that they believe in Jesus. Demons believe too, and tremble (James 2:10).
Believing that Jesus really existed, even believing that He died for your sins is NOT the same thing as trusting Him on everything He says, relying on Him, clinging to Him and living your life as if He is the authority you will answer to. Truly the word "Jesus" is not a magic password into heaven. So we need to know what GOD considers believing to be – or we might just "believe in vain". And according to the Bible, it is possible to "believe in vain".
"Moreover, brethren I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand by which also you are saved if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:2)
Judas believed in vain. Demas believed in vain. Many others believed in vain.
Let's Suppose Now that Someone Has Truly Believed and Turned from Dead Works to God? They are born of the Spirit. Can such a person ever lose their final salvation? Can you lose your salvation?
What Does Popular Bible Teaching Say Today?
Some popular Bible teachers today would teach that once you have truly believed in Jesus, you are eternally secure. One such teacher is Charles Stanley. He teaches in his book "Eternal Security, Can you Be Sure?" as follows:
"The Bible clearly teaches that God's love for His people is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from te faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand" and that "… believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation …".
Some follow the lines of thinking advocated by Charles Stanley, but many more follow a teaching called Calvinism, which would say concerning those that turn away from the faith "they were never really saved in the first place". Calvinism and advocates of the so-called "Doctrines of Grace" believe in something called "The Perseverance of the Saints" – a doctrine which says that those truly elect by God, those truly regenerated, will never finally fall from faith – they will persevere in faith ultimately because it is God who makes them do so.
The "Reformed Doctrines" of Calvinism encourage those who do trust in Christ to believe that they are elect and they can never really fall away from Christ. Nations like Holland however are a testimony to the fact that a lot of people who thought they had "Reformed Faith" ended up living like the devil and going to hell in the end anyway. Somewhere along the line the "Covenant" God had with so many Dutch families got violated – but it wasn't God who violated it, it was the people themselves who thought they were secure in sin and got continually hardened in unbelief against more and more that the Bible taught.
Experience has shown that for many, this teaching of the eternal security of the true believer is so closely identified in people's minds with the true meaning of the gospel, that any appeal to the Scripture to call this doctrine into question would be treated with about as much openness as the suggestion to believe that the Bible wasn't true after all, or that we must follow the Pope to enter heaven. In other words, it wouldn't be considered at all.
Neverthess, for God, the testimony of the Holy Scriptures outweighs the testimony of thousands of Bible teachers, no matter what their evangelical credentials may be in the courts of the modern church. So I encourage you to take a fresh and unbiased look at what seems to me to be OVERWHELMING SCRIPTURAL EVIDENCE of the fact that it is possible for a believer to lose their salvation.
I am going to look briefly at many passages of Scripture. I am aware that there are those who have generated theological reasons why these Scriptures do not really mean what they so clealy seem to say or imply. Many times people refer to "the context", but when you look at what they mean by "the context", many times it is simply their entire systematic theology concerning everything the Bible says about salvation. This "context" therefore is read into the text so instead of the text meaning what it seems to clearly say, the scholarly and erudite theologians have many believing it means the exact opposite, if it means anything at all. Ok then, shall we begin?
"For if after they have escaped the pollutions 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. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."
This passage is talking about people who are deceived by false teachers and false prophets who are after their money, and who tell them that they are free to go after the lusts of the flesh. Some questions:
According to the text:
Did these people know the way of righteousness? Yes or No.
Could Peter have been referring to something or someone other than Jesus as the way of righteousness? (John 14:6).
Did these people know Jesus?
Did these people ever escape the pollutions of the world through the KNOWLEDGE of the LORD and SAVIOR Jesus Christ?
Is it possible to escape the pollutions of the world WITHOUT JESUS? i.e. by one's own effort? (A lot of professing Christians don't seem able to escape them even while professing faith in Christ – but that is another issue). These backsliders apparently HAD escaped the pollutions of the world. How did they do it?
Is this passage talking about people who get entangled again in the pollutions of the world? Yes or No?
If these people had not known the way of righteousness, were they in a good place spiritually? Were they going to make it to heaven? Yes or No?
How can it be that those who are entangled again in sin and overcome are WORSE OFF than those who never knew the way of righteousness, if the backsliders who once knew Jesus are going to heaven, wherease those who knew know Jesus are lost and go to hell?
This passage absolutely doesn't fit with the doctrine of eternal security.
The whole point of this passage, is that there is a REAL DANGER to the church from false teachers. Many believe the false teachers and end up in a worse spiritual state than ignorant unbelievers.
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Is this referring to physical death or spiritual death? All people will die physically – all the people Paul originally wrote to died physically. If death in this context is physical death, then the promise of Romans 8:13 would imply that they could avoid physical death.
It is clear this is speaking of spiritual death. The picture has been consistent throughout the Word of God. "The soul that sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). "… but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:17). In the latter passage, it is so clear that it was not physical death that was referred to, because Adam and Eve did not die physically on the day they ate the forbidden fruit.
It is SIN which causes SPIRITUAL DEATH.
Is it possible to spiritually DIE if you are not first of all SPIRITUALLY ALIVE? Paul was writing to the Christians in Romans. They were spiritually alive. But Paul says to them, "If you live according to the flesh (sinful nature) you will die" (Romans 8:13). Doesn't this teach then that it is possible for those who are spiritually alive to spiritually DIE through pursuing the lusts of the sinful nature?
What About the Prodigal Son?
In Luke 15, Jesus told the story about a son who left his Father's house and wasted his share of the inheritance on wild living. He spent his money on prostitutes and lived a sexually immoral lifestyle. This is Jesus talking:
11 He said, “A certain man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of your property.’ He divided his livelihood between them. 13 Not many days after, the younger son gathered all of this together and traveled into a far country. There he wasted his property with riotous living. 14 When he had spent all of it, there arose a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. 19 I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 “He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat, and celebrate; 24 for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ They began to celebrate. 25 “Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the servants to him, and asked what was going on. 27 He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and healthy.’ 28 But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out, and begged him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’”
There is something in this passage which should raise a question mark in any person who believes in the doctrine of eternal security. The Father said "your brother was dead, and is alive again." The son knew who His Father was, and He knew what it was like to live with the Father. When the Father said that "your brother was dead", he clearly wasn't meaning to say that he was PHYSICALLY DEAD. Rather, he was SPIRITUALLY DEAD.
Sin means separating yourself from the Father, and becoming spiritually dead. A person CAN lose their salvation if they, by their own choice, decide to walk away from the Father's house and live seeking the LUSTS OF THE FLESH and of the MIND.
Jesus said "Not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord" will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 7:21). A real believer CAN decide to stop following God's will – and do His own will. But such a person, who chooses to wilfully sin, and waste their life and resources on a sinful agenda, has no Scriptural basis for being assured of "having eternal life". Anyone who turns their back on a relationship with the Father turns their back on eternal life also. For Jesus said:
"This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ." (John 17:3).
We are supposed to conduct our lives on this earth in FEAR – fear of God.
"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:" (1 Peter 1:17)