Can You Lose Your Salvation?
“You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Ephesians 1:13
One of the most intensely debated theological questions among Christians is whether someone can lose their salvation. Those who teach we can lose our salvation often point to the book of Hebrews for proof. However, this approach neglects other portions of Scripture that support the fact that our salvation is indeed secure.
For proper context, it is vital to recognize that the writer of Hebrews was addressing his letter to Messianic Jewish believers who had begun to fall away from their faith. Orthodox Jews and Romans persecuted some, and others had not fully accepted the gospel. As a result, they considered abandoning their newfound faith and returning to traditional Judaism. The worrisome situation prompted the writer of Hebrews to try and convince these new converts to continue in their faith and not give up.
We know these new Messianic Jews were soft in their faith because of what we read at the end of Hebrews 5.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Hebrews 5:12
Soft Christians are easily intimidated and tempted to turn away from Jesus and return to their old and familiar way of life. Such is the case of the writer’s intended audience. It is also why the writer notes in chapter three how those who can endure become a part of Jesus’ house and partakers of His grace.
“But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of hope firm to the end.” Hebrews 3:6
“For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” Hebrews 3:14
Those who genuinely follow Jesus endure even in difficult times, while those who do not never really know Him at all.
Hebrews 6 and Salvation
Proponents of the ability to lose one’s salvation specifically cite Hebrews 6:4–6.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame.”
At first glance, this passage seems to say if we walk away from our faith in Jesus, we cannot repent, and He cannot renew us. But that is not what the writer means.
In Greek, the word repent means “to turn” or “make a decision” about something. To repent, therefore, means we decide to accept Jesus, to turn away from sin and toward Him instead. But the writer of Hebrews is saying it is overwhelmingly likely those who have previously accepted Jesus but turned away to go back to their old way of life will not seek Him again.
They cannot seek Jesus because “they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame.” In other words, they willingly align themselves with those who crucified and shamed Him.
People who reject Christ cannot be brought back to the point of repentance on their own since they did not know Him in the first place. They may have understood that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is the fulfillment of prophecy. Still, they did not fully understand His gift of grace or personally experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Understanding Hebrews 10
Another portion of Scripture often used to uphold the idea of losing one’s salvation is Hebrews 10:26–27.
“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
It appears the writer of Hebrews is saying that anyone who goes on sinning habitually, especially those who commit the most egregious of sins such as murder or rape, would face a “fearful expectation of judgment.” Their sin is so great that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would not help them, and they would lose their salvation. But this view of Hebrews 9:26–27 is out of context of its true meaning.
To understand what the writer is saying, we must back up and look at verses 24 and 25.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The writer of Hebrews is warning us of the willful sin of forsaking Christian fellowship and coming together as a community. These early Messianic Jews were not meeting together regularly. They were essentially rejecting the Christian community. Consequently, their faith became soft, and they considered returning to their original Jewish faith.
If they followed through and abandoned Jesus, it proved they had not truly put their complete trust in Him. They had not genuinely known Him. Therefore, His sacrificial atonement is invalidated, and they would face judgment.
They did not lose their salvation. They could not because they did not possess it in the first place.
God Protects Our Salvation
Understanding the context of Hebrews 6 and 10 proves the argument of an ability to lose one’s salvation is false. But where in the Bible does it say we cannot lose it? The answer is sprinkled throughout the Bible.
We know we cannot lose our salvation because of the perfectly unified and complete work of a triune God.
First, God protects our salvation through His holiness (Leviticus 11:44; Isaiah 6:3) and gracious forgiveness. He is completely righteous (1 John 1:5), and everything He does is righteous and just, especially as He displays His grace.
Ephesians 2:8–9 reminds us that God’s grace is an unearned gift. We cannot achieve it on our own. We are utterly dependent on His mercy and kindness and His work of redemption. The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Roman Jews,
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God sent forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness.” Romans 3:23–25
Why would God give such a great gift? It is because of His immense love for us, which is why He sent His Son Jesus to die on our behalf.
Jesus’ Atoning Work
Jesus the Messiah also protects our salvation through His atoning work. First, John 6 tells us of Jesus’ obedience to the Father and what His will is for Jesus.
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me.” John 6:38–39
Everything Jesus said and did during His time on earth was in the pursuit of doing the Father’s will. Not doing so would jeopardize His entire ministry and possibly declare Him a fraud. But we know He kept His word, and He still keeps His word, which is to “lose none of those He has given Me.”
Jesus also promised, “No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28–29).”
Jesus’ hold on those who seek Him is ironclad. No one and nothing can ever release our Good Shepherd’s protective grip on His sheep.
Jesus Our High Priest
Third, Jesus’ love is eternal, and there is nothing that can separate us from that love, not even ourselves. We are powerless against His mighty love.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38–39
Finally, because of His great love, Jesus is constantly praying for us before the Father as our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).
“Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them” Hebrews 7:25
Jesus defends us before the Father, which means it does not matter how badly we mess up. We cannot sin enough to lose Jesus’ protection.
“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 1 John 2:1–2
Jesus’ love for us, His hold on us, His prayers for us, and His advocacy on our behalf cannot diminish or be compromised, which means our salvation is safe in His care.
Sealing Our Salvation
The Holy Spirit also plays a part in protecting our salvation. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the Bible says in Romans 8:9 the Holy Spirit begins to dwell within us. We see evidence of this truth in Acts 2 when Jesus’ disciples were baptized in the Spirit soon after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
We are also sealed by the Holy Spirit when we put our trust in Christ.
Besides protection, being sealed also means He identifies us as belonging to Him. He promises to keep us until the day of redemption, which is the day God will rapture His children.
The Holy Spirit guarantees we cannot lose our salvation. To do that, He would need to remove His indwelling Spirit from us and break His steadfast seal on us. We are safe with the Lord, we cannot be separated from Him, and no one can take us out of His hand. His Spirit seals us like we seal a letter for safe delivery.
God’s overwhelming love, Jesus’ unfaltering obedience to the Father’s will, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and His seal upon us assure us that our salvation is indeed protected and safe. Nothing and no one can make us lose our salvation. We may not feel worthy, but we are nevertheless forever His.
Dr. Michael Rydelnik of the Moody Bible Institute and Open Line Radio explains our assurance this way:
“We don’t become God’s children by being good; we become His children by entering into a forgiven relationship with God because of what the Lord has done for us. He’s redeemed us by grace that is greater than all our sin.”
If you are struggling to believe you are still saved, be encouraged. You are safe, loved, and protected by our merciful and kind Lord until you stand in His presence and beyond.