Can Christians Lose Their Salvation?

The theological question of, “Can true Christians lose their salvation?” is a sensitive one.  (In my book hand in Hand, I deal with this question, along with the other differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.)

Though in light of the whole Bible, I believe Christians cannot lose their salvation, I also believe the biblical evidence is substantial for both the Arminian and Calvinist positions. John Wesley and Charles Finney were great men of God who took the Arminian position. John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon were great men of God who took the Calvinist position. It is not stupid or immoral or faithless to take either position. 

The biggest mistake in studying this issue is selecting those passages that most fit with what a person already believes. We should study the “whole counsel of God,” not ignoring or twisting or interpreting away those passages that challenge our position. 

I also think it’s important to note that anecdotal evidence of human experience has little weight in determining this issue, since none of us can know for certain who was truly saved and when. For example, a man we know who professed Christ, who once went regularly to church and taught Sunday School, has lived in sin for twenty years. He dies today. Which position does this prove? Neither, since we don’t have a copy of the Book of Life in front of us. We don’t know whether he ever was a Christian, and we don’t know whether he’s now in Heaven or Hell. (Scripture gives us ground to speculate based on the fruit we saw, but we can’t be sure.)

Even biblical examples don’t prove one side or the other. Saul and Judas are often cited as proof that a saved person can lose his salvation. Saul is problematic because the Holy Spirit was given and withdrawn from Old Testament saints, who weren’t permanently indwelt by the Spirit as in New Testament times. Jesus said He had chosen Judas who was “a devil.” But does “chosen to be an apostle” mean “chosen to eternal life”? Judas’s apostasy proves nothing except that someone who on the outside is a disciple of Christ can turn his back on Him. But that doesn’t answer the question of whether that person was a true Christian in the first place. (I share more thoughts about eternal security here.)

Sam Storms, who I know and appreciate, is the author of a new book called Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security. I recommend watching this excellent interview of Sam by Justin Taylor on the issue of eternal security or perseverance of the saints.

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries