“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
As a young believer new to scripture study and naive in my relationship with the Father I became frightened by verses in the bible that spoke of believers in apparent danger of losing their gift of salvation or at least being errantly confident in their salvation. Verses like:
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” Matthew 7:21-23
Or this one:
“I know your works: you are neither cold [n]or hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot [n]or cold, I will spit [vomit] you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15, 16
It was terrifying to imagine going through life under the impression that my salvation was assured and find out too late I missed it because I failed to understand some important truth! It felt as if I could lose God’s gracious salvation simply by being clumsy or forgetful. That couldn’t be right, could it? So what was it that the first believers understood about salvation that I was missing? As I describe in my article, The Journey of Blessings, I believe the truth I was missing was that salvation, from our limited perspective, is a transformative process and it is within this truth I feel the answer to the question, “Can I lose my salvation?” can be found.
Salvation, in a sense, is the journey we take in search of the heart of God. While seeking God can have various personal motivations, the foundational conclusion is always the same, we need him. By this we finally recognize that life without God is not life at all but rather a very slow death. Real life, truly living, requires a relationship with the source of life, the Author of it, YHVH. Though every believer knows we first must believe (Hebrews 11:6) and then repent (Acts 3:19,20) to be saved, this is only the beginning of seeking God. It is arguably the genesis of salvation’s transformation.
So why does understanding this help answer the question whether salvation can be lost or not? Well, if salvation is a journey or in Apostle Paul’s recurring analogy, a race to be persistently and intentionally finished then it is not some object that can be accidentally lost, however, like a race we can give up and quit. Now, I want to make sure the significance of this is not lost on you. We cannot accidentally or unintentionally “lose” our salvation. It can neither be taken away nor stolen. Salvation is accepted or rejected of our own free will because it is either pursued or it isn’t. One day, in the end, we all will be held accountable for how we handle the offering of this most precious gift.
Okay, if that’s the case, then what do those verses mean? This can be where the truth for a lot of believers can become blurred and inspire debates on things like, Law vs Grace, but I think the answer is much simpler than all that. Let’s go back to Matthew 7 and look at what these “believers” used as their defense against their judgement.
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'”
Note that their claim for absolution was not based on Christ’s sacrifice for them but on what they did for God “in his name.” Many people in the world can do great and miraculous works, not just Christians. Reference Mark 9:38. Judas also before he betrayed Jesus did many miracles on God’s behalf but that alone did not justify him or save him from being overtaken by Satan. Any works whether miraculous or mundane, are not enough to save, justify, or sanctify. Thank God that through Christ’s sacrifice and subsequent resurrection we now have the opportunity to return to a perfect fellowship with Him. If we submit humbly, believe confidently, repent sincerely, seek earnestly, love absolutely, testify boldly and endure resolutely then we will begin to be saved. And the verse in Revelation? Well, that one is simple, either you’re running the race or you’re not. You’re either running toward salvation or awaiting judgement, there is no in between.
So, to summarize, salvation is more than a “one and done” endeavor it is a transformation requiring our constant participation. Not as a way to earn it but as a way to continue in it. Salvation cannot be lost because it is an intimate relationship with our Creator, an ongoing act of grace and love. But like any relationship we must invest, we must participate or it will die and us with it. By vigilantly participating in the salvation transformation we guarantee God’s guarantee is meant for us (Hebrews 3:14). So take heart and be of good cheer because you are beloved of God!
“For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.’”
May God always be your passion and may you continue to grow in His grace, love and mercy!