Once You're Saved, Are You Always Saved?
Is it possible for a Christian to lose their salvation? What does the Bible actually teach on this fascinating question?
(START WITH EGG HUNT SLIDE)
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Before we get started this morning, I want to talk a few minutes about Easter weekend…which is just 2 weeks away now!
I’m going to tell you right now: God is going to do incredible things that weekend.
We WILL see a lot of people meet Jesus.
Which is the vision of this church: We want to be a people being changed by God…to change the world! - Reach people for Christ!
HOWEVER…”changing the world” doesn’t just “happen”
In the Bible, God ALWAYS uses and works through his people to create change.
So if we’re going to see God move a lot, then we need to pray a lot…and do a lot.
There is a decent chance that we will see more people walk through those doors on Easter weekend than we do all 51 other weeks of the year combined.
That’s an incredible evangelistic opportunity.
But if that’s going to happen we need you.
And let me tell you, God wants to use you to be a part of this.
The Bible doesn’t mention spectators when it talks about changing the world.
Remember, Renovation Church is a row boat, not a cruise ship.
There are a number of ways I want each and every one of you to get in on this with us (WE are Renovation Church. YOU are Renovation Church)
#1: Volunteer at the Egg Hunt.
This is a huge reason why people are coming.
Listen, we’re not tricking anyone.
They KNOW they’re coming for a church service.
But for those who are nervous to try church, it gives them a reason to try.
But we still need 73 volunteers to make this happen.
That’s a lot.
And you can help us.
So get out your phone right now.
I’m not messing around. Get it out. I’d like to see something like 40 of you this service sign-up.
Open up the Renovation app.
Tap on Connect.
And volunteer at the egg hunt.
Check out where you can serve.
Some of you can do multiple services even.
You can always sign up in the hallway too if you don’t like apps.
Between all of our normal volunteer positions and egg hunt volunteer positions, we’ll need over 200 volunteers that weekend.
You might already be serving in the nursery that day, but you could put out eggs after the first hunt is over at 10:35.
It’s a lot…but trust me this is not a waste of your time.
It might be the best use of your time all year.
#2: Start talking to your friends who don’t know Jesus
Especially if they have kids.
But even if they don’t…Easter is an incredible weekend to invite friends to.
It’s the #1 Sunday a year that people are most open to going to church.
Take advantage of that.
If you don’t have invite cards yet (which are a must for inviting), look under your chair.
There are ones for people with kids and those with out.
Pick ‘em up.
Listen, we can’t make people fall in love with Jesus, but we can set-up dates.
And that’s what we want to do.
A lot. You’ll hear a bit more about this in announcements.
But I want all of you not to just to invite people, but begin praying for those people.
That’s how we change lives.
Not through wise & persuasive words, but through prayer.
(SWITCH TO “ONCE YOU’RE SAVED ARE YOU ALWAYS SAVED?” SLIDE)
You know one of the things I love about our church (and I hope you love this too) is there is a TON of variety in the type of messages we do.
Sometimes we tackle really complex and difficult social issues like we did last week
Sometimes our messages are incredibly practical (like…how do I have a Godly marriage…or how do I pray?)
And sometimes our messages are more theological…where we try and study God’s word.
Today…we’re going to get theological…so put on your thinking caps.
We are continuing in our “You Asked for It” series today where we are covering your 5 most requested topics:
Today’s topic is “Once You’re Saved, Are You Always Saved?”
Before I answer that question…and explain what it even means…let me say this:
Today’s message, for some of you, might raise just as many questions as it gives answers.
And that’s okay.
This is a big subject…which opens up a lot of new subjects.
Maybe ones you’ve never even thought about before.
One of the things I can encourage you to do (if this raises a lot of questions) is to take a class this summer in our school of theology…
where we cover a lot of these topics in depth and at length (sign-ups start in May)
YOUR THEOLOGY DETERMINES YOUR ACTION
All right, before we go anywhere with this question, we need to define some terms.
Many of you that submitted this question, asked it just like this…and used these terms.
But some might be unfamiliar with the word “saved.”
To be saved is essentially just another way of saving “to be a Christian”
One who is saved from receiving the punishment for their sins.
And so the question could be rephrased: Once you are forgiven as a Christian, are you always forgiven?
Or often the question is asked this way: Can a Christian ever LOSE their salvation?
Is there something you could do or believe that would cause you to lose out on your forgiveness and heaven, and instead now be sent to hell?
When I was 23 years old (over a decade ago now), I was still a fairly new Christian, and had just finished my first year of seminary.
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, nor did I go to a Bible college, so I didn’t know a whole lot about the Bible besides my own reading and study.
I decided that the summer after my first year of seminary, I was going to do an independent study class, and my topic was going to be: “Can you lose your salvation?”
So I made an appointment with a professor, and sat in his office to explain my topic.
He looked at me, and he said, “That’s great, but you’ll probably want to decide first if you’re a Calvinist or Arminian…because that’s the major guidepost for how people answer this question.”
I said, “Uh…oh no!!”
In fact, I was so intimidated at the time, that I never even did the independent study.
If you’re unfamiliar with those terms (like I was for the most part), Calvinism and Arminianism are the two major schools of thought for how much knowledge and influence God has regarding the future…a hotly debated issue in Christianity.
In Christian theology, some things are simply non-negotiable.
Like the idea that Jesus rose from the dead…or that Jesus is God…or that the Bible is fully true.
However, there are other theological beliefs that are things that we, as brothers & sisters in Christ, can debate…
Because you could see how both sides could arrive at their position from Scripture.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t one truth in Scripture. There is!
It just means that when you get this deep into theology, it’s sometimes harder to clearly point to the truth using our limited understanding of who God is.
So because of that, there are some topics where there are multiple viewpoints that are considered acceptable
And Calvinism vs. Arminianism would be such a topic.
In fact, even in our denomination, Converge worldwide, there’s almost a 50/50 split on what people believe.
Because both can build fairly strong cases in Scripture.
If you’re unfamiliar with those two positions (and don’t feel bad if you are…I think MOST probably are), For the sake of time, I’m going to SIMPLIFY this in a major way.
We actually spend WEEKS talking about this in our School of Theology classes.
Calvinism, is the idea that God has decided in advance (or predetermined) all of human history, including, who will and will not become Christians.
Arminianism, is the idea that God is aware of the future, and controls much of it, but when it comes to an individual’s decision to decide to accept Him as Savior, He lets them have free will.
And both of these schools of thought seem to have Biblical support.
To the point where some, myself included, would say that they both our true, in a way that we can’t easily understand as limited beings.
Just as we can’t easily explain the Trinity…but it’s still true because we see it in Scripture!
So as we go through this today, know that there is some room for acceptable disagreement here.
What I want to do is present to you some of the Scriptures…and I’ll build a case based off of what I think the Bible says
But there is certainly room for you to land in a different place than I do, and yet still hold to a traditional Biblical view point
Not off of your ideas…or personal stories…but off of the Bible.
So back to what my professor said:
Why did he say that this issue really depends on whether you’d call yourself a Calvinist or Arminian?
Because, for the Calvinist, this is an easy answer.
If God has determined, since before the foundation of the world, that he was going to save you…
there isn’t such a thing as you having and then losing your salvation.
Either He chose to save you or He didn’t.
There are no other options.
If you’re an Arminian, you have two options.
You can (surprisingly) agree w/ the Calvinist and say that it’s not possible to lose your salvation, OR you do have the freedom to say that it IS indeed possible
THE BIBLICAL CASE FOR PERSEVERANCE
So let’s look at the Bible.
All of our verses today are in our APP if you want to study them as we go or look at them later.
Just tap Bible…and weekly verses.
So the first thing we need to do is examine what happens when a person is actually saved…when they become a believer.
What does it even me to be saved? And how are we saved?
The Bible, in many of its most famous passages, tell us that we are saved when we PUT OUR FAITH (or we BELIEVE) that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins.
And it is God’s grace, through the vehicle of our faith, that saves us.
(Ephesians 2:8-9) – NIV
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
And so if you’re not saved by works (doing good things), the reasoning stands, that you can not be unsaved by your LACK of works…or good things.
If you didn’t earn your salvation, you can’t UNearn your salvation.
Here’s a different way to think about it.
Think about all the things that the Bible describes as happening when you get saved…and then ask yourself…can they “unhappen?”
The Bible says that when we are saved:
We become a new creature (2 Cor. 5)…would God then destroy that creature?
The Bible says we are born anew…born again (John 3).
Can you become unborn?
The Bible says we are justified in his eyes…declared not guilty. (rom 4)
Can the verdict change?
The Bible says that when we believe, we get the Holy Spirit as deposit of things to come (Ephesians 1)
Does God take that back?
And so I think it’s important to realize, from the outset, that the idea that you can somehow be saved…and then get unsaved…doesn’t seem to fit with HOW and WHY we’re saved in the first place.
And on top of all of this, the Bible speaks as if God’s decision is quite permanent.
He’s not taking it back…which again…wouldn’t make sense with his character.
(John 10:27-29) – NIV
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
Twice he says, “NO ONE can snatch you out of his hand.”
You’re not going anywhere.
In John 6, Jesus says He’ll NEVER lose the ones God has given Him.
There are of course plenty of other verses here too.
Romans 8: Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?
Or look at Ephesians 1
(Ephesians 1:13-14) – NIV
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
You appear to be, as a Christian, SEALED in Him…and your inheritance (in heaven) is guaranteed.
MAKING SENSE OF CHALLENGING PASSAGES
So, it seems kind of like a simple case, right?
Maybe I should just step down early?
The problem is: It’s not quite that simple.
We still have some challenging passages, and some challenging situations to make sense of.
How about some of the challenging passages?
Many of the most challenging passages come from the Book of Hebrews.
Specifically, chapters 3 through 6.
Take Hebrews 6 for example:
(Hebrews 6:4-6) – NIV
4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
The author appears to be saying that IF you’ve tasted these things of God…and walked away, your heart will be so cold, that not only will you not be saved anymore…but you won’t even be able to come back.
That sounds like a hard word.
But I don’t think it’s quite that harsh.
Let’s expand the context to the next two verses.
(Hebrews 6:7-8) – NIV - LEAVE UP FOR A MINUTE
7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
The writer clarifies his previous point with a farming illustration.
Saying if you are really truly drinking in the rain…you’ll absolutely produce fruit.
But if you’re not…you’re only going to produce thorns and thistles.
In other words: If you have absolutely no fruit (no evidence) that you’re a follower of Jesus, you probably never were a follower.
You might have experienced God, but you never were truly a believer.
MAKING SENSE OF CHALLENGING SITUATIONS
So I said that we have both some challenging passages, and some challenging situations to make sense of.
Like…what about all of those people who maybe said “the prayer” at some point…and nothing changed.
Maybe they even stood up at a service here at Renovation a few years ago…and said they now believed in Jesus.
And yet, they never went to church again…never read the Bible…and nothing changed.
Maybe you even know someone like that personally.
So are they saved? Forgiven?
For starters none of us have either the knowledge nor authority to declare with 100% certainty if another person is saved or not.
However, the author of Hebrews wants to warn the readers that just because a person has experienced some temporary blessings…and maybe even had some answers to prayer… doesn’t mean they are a follower of Jesus.
A follower of Jesus always will have FRUIT (evidence) in their life.
Jesus says in John 15 his followers will bear fruit.
Paul says in Galatians 5, that when the Holy Spirit is IN you, fruit WILL grow…like love, and patience, and self control.
If someone is both in a relationship with Jesus and following Jesus like He’s their Lord…
You’ll see changes in their life
You’ll see them starting to put others first
You’ll see it in how they talk about Jesus
You’ll see it in their obedience to God.
Just because someone professed that they made a decision to become a Christian 15 years ago, doesn’t mean they are actually a follower of Christ.
A real profession of faith, always results in fruit.
Many people, especially in America, treat their salvation much like a vaccination.
The idea is: If I just quickly say this prayer, or come forward, then I’ll be immune to hell.
And for many people, their faith does start that way (and that’s fine…and VERY good)!
But if it doesn’t go anywhere, then we can safely assume that the person wasn’t genuine in their belief…and THUS…
God didn’t actually save them.
The disciple James says their faith is dead (it was never alive) because there are no works as evidence.
And by the way, that is what the Calvinist Christian believes about this issue.
Not only because of what they see in Scripture, but because if there’s no fruit in your life, then clearly you weren’t chosen in the first place.
And even if you don’t believe God predetermines absolutely everything (you’re an Arminian), you can still Biblically hold to the idea that these types of people were never believers in the first place.
And maybe that type of thinking makes sense to you, but what if we make the situation even more challenging?
Maybe you know a person who, for years, maybe even decades, professed to be a believer, and now doesn’t follow God at all?
Maybe they’ve even declared themselves an atheist?
What do we do with that? What’s happening there?
Christians arrive at two different viewpoints from Scripture.
“Again, there is one right answer (we’re gonna find out in heaven)…but because it’s challenging to definitively see that answer in Scripture (the Bible’s not exhaustive on every little issue), we (in evangelical Christianity) accept two different viewpoints
I’ll tell you where I lean…but I’ll also give you the other option too.
Because of everything we’ve said so far…I still would side with the idea that this person was not truly a genuine believer.
Now, you may say, “Yeah, but you should have seen what I saw!”
But again, we can’t build our theological cases off of our own anecdotal experiences.
Look at how the disciple John describes those who have left Christian churches and now oppose Christ
(1 John 2:19) – NIV
19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
But, still, many seemed SO genuine!
It had to have been spiritual fruit we were seeing?!
I like how John Piper describes this.
Let me read to you what he writes.
He says, if for some crazy reason I ever end up leaving my marriage, ignoring my children, and forsaking my faith, then know this about John Piper:
His faith was an alien vestige of his father’s joy. His fidelity to his wife was a temporary passion and compliance with social pressure. His fatherhood was the outworking of natural instincts. His preaching was driven by the love of words and crowds. His writing was a love affair with fame. And his praying was the deepest delusion of all — an attempt to get God to supply the resources of his vanity.
It’s really a question of…can a person be around the church, Christians, and even interact some with God himself (for years!), and yet still not be a Christian?
Could it be that some of these people were engaged to Christ, but never married?
Jesus himself answers this question in a way that’s shocking to most of us as modern believers
(Matthew 7:21-23) – NIV - LEAVE UP FOR A MINUTE
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Apparently some people can even prophesy for Him (hear from Him…and pass it on), and not truly have a relationship with Him!
And again, look at the verbiage…
He doesn’t say, “I’ll tell you that you walked away.”
He says, “I’ll tell you that I NEVER knew you.”
But I said you had two options here.
If you’re a Calvinist…and you believe God has predetermined all things…then that was your one option (that those people were NEVER true believers)
If you’re an Arminian…(or you don’t know)…you also can land where we just were.
Or, you can hold to what I would call a renunciation clause
We would never want to say that someone…if they do enough bad things…or they ignore God long enough…will lose their salvation.
Remember you don’t earn your salvation, so you can’t UNearn your salvation.
But what about passages like this:
(2 Timothy 2:12-13) – NIV
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him,
he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
Even if you’ve been faithless to God for some time in your actions, God, like a loving spouse, is still faithful to us.
But this passage seems to say (and of course, many would say it says something else…), but it seems to at least hint…
That if you were to disown God….
If you were to say, “All right God, I no longer believe in you. And I hereby disown you. I want absolutely nothing to do with you…that you could lose what was once given to you”
Those who belief it’s possible to renounce your faith, would say:
You can’t UNearn it, but if you gained it through belief, you could lose it through official unbelief.
Again, not everyone lands there (a lot don’t)…but some do.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
So what about you?
Do YOU know for sure that you’re a believer in Christ?
The Bible says in 2 Peter 1…and 2 Corinthians 13…that we ought to examine ourselves…and make sure that we really are.
And this is a tension, by the way.
On the one hand, true believers should feel SO confident that there is nothing (no sin) that can separate you from the love of Christ.
It’s a gift.
AND YET…The Bible still holds this tension that you should still seriously ask yourself this question: Are you really a believer?
Are you just a spectator…or are you truly a follower of Christ?
And listen, we all have seasons (sometimes they can last even years!)
Seasons where our faith is not very hot…and we’re not following Jesus as closely as we once were.
That doesn’t mean you’re not a believer.
But if you look at your life…and you’ve NEVER seen the evidence…or the fruit.
You don’t see God moving in your life
You don’t see any changes
You never put God and others first.
You don’t really have any sort of relationship with Him
Then maybe you did never give your life to Christ.
Listen, this is a tension, but I think Scripture wants it to be a tension!
Believers, it’s so important that you do not doubt your assurance that God saved you.
And yet, the Bible ALSO says that it’s so important that no one has FALSE assurance of their salvation either.
And so if you know you’re a believer…this is a wonderful doctrine.
No matter where you go…or what happens…Jesus will never let ANYONE snatch you from His hand.
That’s not a license to sin (for a true believer doesn’t think that way)…
It’s a glorious comfort that He loves us…even when we fall.
And we get back UP…because of His love.
But if you are listening to this, and you’re not sure…then become sure.
Surrender your life, in faith, to Jesus Christ.
And if you do so genuinely…he will save you.
Not because of what you’ve done…or what you will do…but because of your real and sincere faith.
And thank God for that.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.