Can You Lose Your Salvation?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. We’ve been going through Dave Hunt’s book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, and if you’ve been tracking with us, you know that we’re in the neighborhood of chapter 24. Chapter 24 deals with the eternal security of the believer, a topic which finds sincere and committed Christians on both sides of that teaching, or doctrine. Now, Dave, since there are true believers with differing views on this topic, shouldn’t we just kind of slide by it, not wanting to offend those who might disagree with us on this? I mean wouldn’t that be prudent?
Dave: Well, Tom, I think those on both sides have to have enough grace to allow each one to express their beliefs. I think the Bible deals with this issue, whether you believe the Bible teaches falling away or whether you believe it teaches eternal security, it is a legitimate biblical topic and therefore something that we should address. We have to.
Tom: Now, you begin the chapter talking about a complaint that we hear often, and that is those who believe in falling away accuse those who believe in eternal security of promoting “cheap grace.” What’s “cheap grace?”
Dave: Well, there is no such thing as cheap grace. Grace is grace; you can’t pay for it. So, if you say, “Well, I am paying a cheap price for it,” that points to, apparently, your works. Somehow you are going to merit grace, and you can’t merit grace. Now, on the other hand, grace was purchased at infinite cost. God cannot simply be gracious. He can only be gracious to us (now I’m speaking in regard to salvation) He can only graciously forgive us our sins if the penalty has been paid, and that cost God everything: the death of His Son—He had to pay the full price for our sins. So, cheap grace, number one, is not a biblical term; it’s not even a rational term.
Tom: Dave, what about falling from grace?
Dave: Well, once again, how can you fall from something you didn’t earn? Salvation cannot be partly by grace and partly by works. It’s either one or the other. There is no way that I could merit God’s salvation. “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is [that is, salvation is] the gift of God, not of works.” That’s quite clear.
And Paul says, “If it’s by work, then it is no more grace; otherwise grace isn’t grace.” If it’s by grace, then it’s not by works; otherwise work isn’t work. So, there is no way that you can mix these two.
Now, I understand that a person feels—well, but if you don’t live the life . . . James said that faith without works is dead, and you must have works to show your faith. Well, that’s to show your faith, to demonstrate your faith to others. But on the other hand you have Paul in 1 Corinthians 3, and he gives the case of a person—all of his works are burned up. He didn’t do one good work, and yet if he had faith in Christ, he is saved.
So, we are not saved by works; we are saved by faith. Now, of course, if you are a real—a true—Christian, if you’ve been born again of the Spirit of God, Christ is living in you, then He would be empowering you unto good works. “We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works,”. . .
Tom: Right. Ephesians:2:10.
Dave: . . . so we should be living good works. On the other hand, good works are not the means either of getting saved or of remaining saved. That’s another problem. If I’m going to lose my salvation, Tom, on what basis would I lose it?
Tom: Dave, before we get to that, because that’s really an important part of this, but you write that salvation cannot be purchased even in part by us because it requires payment for the penalty for sin. So, some see their keeping their salvation in the sense of a payment, which is so contrary to the gospel.
Dave: Well, Tom, we . . . on the one hand—I know that there are people who are people who are very strongly opposed to the idea of what they call “once saved, always saved,” eternal security, because they believe that it promotes worldliness, it promotes carnality, it promotes the idea that, “Well since I’m saved, then I can live any way that I want.” Well, the Bible would tell you that if you think you can live any way you want, and if this is your desire, then that in itself would be an indication that you’re probably not saved.
I mean, there is such a thing as a carnal Christian; but a person who doesn’t want to please Christ, he doesn’t love Him and just wants to go his own way, but he wants to look to Christ to be His savior from hell—I don’t think that person has understood the gospel. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” So, if I really love the Lord, I am going to live for Him.
I understand that there are people who say, “Well, but by saying that you’re eternally secure, you’re encouraging people to live a sinful life, because they don’t have to live a good life in order to stay saved.” No, you can’t live a good life in order to stay saved. You live a good life because you are saved! I often say sometimes to Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, “You are knocking on doors and trying to live a good life in order to earn your salvation. I have knocked on thousands of doors and brought the gospel to people—not in order to get saved, but out of gratitude to the One who died for me and gave me eternal life as a free gift.”
So, you have a far greater motive to live a good life if you believe that Christ procured your eternal salvation than if you are under fear that you might lose it if you don’t live a good life. Now, I find nowhere in the Bible that it tells me what sins would cause you to lose salvation or how many sins would cause you to lose salvation. In 1 John 2, he says, “These things write I unto you that you sin not.” That’s our aim, that’s our desire—having come to Christ and having been given eternal life as a free gift, we love Him! We don’t want to dishonor Him. So John says, “I write this to you that you sin not . . . but if you sin . . .”
None of us is perfect. “If we say we haven’t sinned, we deceive ourselves,” and so forth. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” It doesn’t say anything about getting saved again. I don’t find that term in the Bible. For example, the man in Corinth—that was a horrible thing! He had his father’s wife, and Paul says, “Put out from among yourselves . . . ”
Tom: And so he was removed from fellowship.
Dave: Yeah, put him out, so the world knows that you don’t condone this—this is not Christianity! But then it says when he repented, “to receive him back, lest he be overcome with too much . . . he is drowned in his own sorrow.” Show him your love. It doesn’t say he had to get saved again. It says we repent of our sin. There’s a fellowship that’s been broken, but we haven’t ceased to be His sons. Hebrew 12 says, “He chastens every son that he receives.” If when I sinned I ceased to be a son, then He wouldn’t have sons to chasten.
“Well, but you have to commit a really bad sin.” Well, how bad? Where does it say that? It doesn’t say that. On the other hand, we do not want to encourage people with a false assurance. So if someone comes to me—they’re living in sin, they don’t care how they live, but they say, “I went forward at a crusade 20 years ago,” or “I made this decision in my church, and I know I’m saved because I made that decision, but I don’t have to live for Christ now. I can just commit any sin I want, and that’s going to be okay,” I would say to that person, “I couldn’t possibly give you any assurance of salvation. It sounds to me like you never were saved. You didn’t seem to understand the gospel. You have no love for Christ, you haven’t been changed. How could you have been created in Christ Jesus ‘unto good works, which God hath before-ordained that we should walk in them’ if you don’t care how you live now, and you are trusting some decision that you made for your eternal salvation?”
So, there are warnings in the Bible, Tom, about this—about people living in that manner. There are warnings. Paul writes, “Prove yourselves. Check yourselves out whether you are really in the faith.” It doesn’t say, “whether you have lost your salvation,” but “Are you really in the faith? Were you ever a Christian to begin with?” So, we want to warn people of that as well.
Tom: Dave, you know, I came out of a belief system in which I was continually working for my salvation, and sometimes I’m concerned about those who believe that they can lose their salvation because I don’t know that they really grasp the idea that what they are saying is that there’s something then that they have to do. They have to maintain, they have to do certain things, to keep that salvation via . . . , not just viable, but keep it alive or it’s going to be dead, based on their performance, what they do. Now, I came out of that guilt trip, and I can see that as a guilt trip for those who claim the blood of Christ. But now, once they’ve received salvation, their work is maintaining it, and that is works salvation, I think.
Dave: Yeah, there are a number of ways looking at it, Tom, and if we could be helpful with anyone—Jesus said, “I give my sheep eternal life; they will never perish.” Now, it would be a strange kind of eternal life if I have eternal life today—and He does say, John writes, 1 John:5:13, “These things write I unto you that believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know [that’s present knowledge] that you have [that’s present possession] eternal life.” Now . . . so, right at this moment I know, I’ve had the assurance, I have eternal life. This is what the Bible teaches. God wants me to have this assurance, and John writes to them that they would have this assurance.
Well then, if tomorrow I don’t have eternal life, it’s a strange kind of eternal life. How could it be eternal life? Furthermore, [in] John:5:24 he says, “He that hears my word and believes on him that sent me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation but has passed from death into life.”
Now, someone then says, “Well, but you can not believe anymore.” Well, but I still face the problem: well, then, what happened to this eternal life that I had?
Now another problem we have, Tom, is if I must maintain my salvation, either by my faith or by my works—either one—then one day when I walk the golden streets in heaven, would I not be able to boast before the Lord? “Well, Lord, You died for me, and You saved me, but I kept myself saved.”
On what basis could I keep myself saved? You see, now we have another problem. How good a life must I live to keep myself saved?
Tom: And then it’s performance—right.
Dave: How much faith must I have to keep myself saved? So, I’m suddenly in a morass of “how much good works do I need? I am sinking beneath the waves, but do I have enough to hang on to? It is up to me.” Now, I think that Hebrews 6 covers that . . .
Tom: Right, I want to get to that, because that seems, on the surface of it, to make a case for falling away, but it doesn’t.
Dave: I don’t think so, Tom. Well, it says, first of all, “Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands . . . ” and so forth. That is the basics of the Christian life—we shouldn’t have to go back to that. But if you have to get saved again, you would have to go back to that. It says [Hebrews:6:4-6], “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers in the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if [it doesn’t say when] if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.”
Now, that’s pretty straightforward language. It very clearly says if you could fall away, you cannot get saved again. It’s what it says. “If they fall away, it’s impossible to renew them again to repentance.” And then it tells you why. Remember, this is “if”—it’s theoretical. He’s arguing if you could fall away, you can’t get saved again. Why? “Seeing they crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh . . . ” If the death of Christ on the cross, His payment for your sins, was not sufficient to pay for all your sins, past, present, and future, the sins you committed before you believed in Him, the sins you might commit after you believe in Him—if His death was not sufficient to keep you saved, then He will have to be crucified again for you to get saved again, if you could lose your salvation. Reason number one.
Reason number two: He says, “And they put him to an open shame.” Well, it would be a very foolish thing for Christ to save me, to purchase my salvation at infinite cost; He paid the penalty for my sins.
Tom: We could do nothing.
Dave: I can’t do a thing . . .
Tom: We were hopeless . . .
Dave: . . . to get saved.
Dave: . . . and He paid the full price. And then He hands that over to me to keep. That’s like giving a fortune to a two-year-old. They’re going to lose it! I couldn’t save myself to begin with. I couldn’t live a good enough life to get saved—in fact, I needed to be saved because I didn’t live a good enough life, because I was a sinner.
But now, from now on, it’s up to me to live a good enough life to keep this salvation that Christ purchased for me?? I’m going to lose it! So, I am holding Him up to an open shame. He has done a very foolish thing. Why would he give me the salvation to keep? Why wouldn’t He be the one who would keep me?
But, Tom, the really important—well, it’s all important, but verse 9 [Hebrews:6:9] says, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” In other words, this is theoretical that you could fall away. No, that does not accompany salvation. . .
Tom: Dave, let’s add the other element here. You’re worse off than a heathen, because there’s no hope for you. At least the heathen, up to a point, can receive salvation—but once you lose it, that’s it, according to—not according to the Scriptures, but according to the view that we’ve been hearing. It reminds me of Constantine. Constantine—he was a smart guy. He said no, “I’m not going to take Christian baptism, that is, baptismal regeneration, until just before my death.” Well, why is that? Because he knew that once he was baptized, according to the Catholic Church, and he died, he was going straight to heaven, no purgatory or anything.
Dave: Unless he sinned.
Tom: Unless he sinned, right. But if it was right at the point of death, not enough time to get into a lot of sin, not enough time in purgatory. In a sense, the same idea is here, that the heathen waits because he doesn’t want to lose his salvation—not that he has any control over that, and not that it’s true, but . . .
Dave: Right. Well, he was saved through baptism, he thought. Tom, I could just say to anyone out there, first of all—and we are repeating ourselves—we are not encouraging anyone to live in sin. If you think that you can just go on and live in sin, but you are saved, I would question whether you ever were saved. I’m not giving that kind of assurance to anyone.
On the other hand, I would ask a person who believes in falling away, “What is your assurance of salvation? One day, you hope to be in heaven. On what basis? Will it be because Christ paid the full penalty for your sins, and He gave you salvation as a free gift of His grace? Or will it be because after you got saved, you lived a faithful enough life to merit retaining the salvation that Christ purchased for you?”
I think that’s a heresy if you believe that you can live a good enough life to keep your salvation. So, I think you have to ask yourself what is my hope of salvation? Is it that He will not allow me to slip out of His grip? “I give my sheep eternal life, they will never perish, neither can any man pluck them out of my hand.”
Well, somebody says, “Yeah, but you can jump out of His hand yourself.” He’s got a pretty big hand—it covers the whole universe. I don’t think you are going to jump out. But if you want to jump out, I don’t think you ever believed in Christ.
Tom: Dave, the other option here is, those who, again, looking to something to assure themselves of their salvation, what about Matthew:7:21-23. It says, “Lord, Lord, have we not in thy name done many wonderful works?”
Dave: They prophesied, they healed, and cast out devils, and they are offering that as proof that they were saved. And Jesus says, “I never knew you.” That’s the wrong proof. Now, of course, I don’t believe they really did such miracles, either, but they thought they did. And they did it in the name of Christ. So that, again, Tom, that’s good that you pointed out that Scripture to us, because it seems to show that performance is not the basis of our standing with Christ, but it is our faith that we simply believed in Him. We received salvation as a free gift. He gave it to us. He doesn’t take it back! For me to lose my salvation, Christ would have to take back from me the gift that He gave me. He said, “I give my sheep eternal life, and they will never perish.” Once you are one of his sheep, once He has given you eternal life, you have His promise that you will never perish.
Tom: Dave, we have to conclude here—we have about a minute and a half left. You hate to keep giving warnings, but those who, again, think that they can do whatever they want, live their lives in any way, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians:13:5: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” Not for salvation. Certainly, do you know the gospel? Have you believed the gospel? Are you under the blood of Christ?
If that’s the case, that has nothing to do with works. It has all to do with faith, trusting in Him. But if you’re leaning upon your works, if you are leaning upon salvation by something that you do or don’t do . . .
Dave: See, Tom, we have another problem if you are trusting in your works to live a good enough life, because His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are so far above our thoughts. Sin, pride, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” I can’t even recognize all the sins that I have committed in my attitude, my lack of love for Christ, for the lost, and for my neighbor as myself, and so forth—there is no way that I could possibly perform, that my performance could be good enough to merit keeping my salvation. It is all of Christ! All the glory will be to Him. And if I really believe that, then a love has been awakened in my heart that causes me to live for Him, and He works through me to live a victorious Christian life.
Tom: It’s the only way it can be—the only way!