Can A Christian Lose Their Salvation?

A debate between Trent Horn (Roman Catholic) and Dr. James White (Reformed Protestant)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Here, James goes over the debate with Trent Horn as an illustration of how we should seriously track with debates and evaluate them.

What would it mean if a child of God were finally and forever lost?

Sam Storms:

Have you paused to consider what would be true were it possible for one of God’s blood-bought children to fall fully and finally from saving grace? Often I hear people casually speak of “losing” their salvation. But there would be far more involved were it possible for a justified-by-faith-alone-in-Jesus-alone believer to suffer eternal damnation. I was awakened to this yet again on reading Marcus Johnson’s excellent book, One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation (Crossway). Here is how Johnson put it:

“When God joins us to Christ through faith, he is making real in our temporal lives what he has already decreed in his eternal will and accomplished in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of his Son. To be severed from the Son would require that the Father rescind what he has already decreed and accomplished. Every benefit that we have received from being united to Christ would have to be undone. Having already justified us in Christ, God would have to re-condemn us and repeal our participation in Christ’s righteousness; having already sanctified us in Christ, God would have to reverse our baptism into Christ’s death, burial, and new resurrection life; having already adopted us in Christ, God would have to make us orphans; having already resurrected us with Christ and raised us in his ascension, God would have to lower us into death and cast us from the heavenly realms; and having already glorified us in Christ, God would have to terminate the end to which he appointed all of his blessings. In sum, having joined us to Christ, God would have to dismember the body of Christ” (175-76).

So, may I suggest that you be careful should you ever find yourself questioning the reality of the saints’ perseverance in faith, fully and finally unto the end. To argue that a redeemed and reconciled child of God can undergo un-redemption and un-reconciliation is to destroy God’s eternal purpose that he ordained for us in Christ. Praise be to God that his unshakable determination is “to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24b)!

Can a True Christian Be Blotted from the Book of Life?

Piper11Can I Be Blotted from the Book of Life?

John Piper answers – original source the Bible mentions the phrase ‘the book of life’ about fourteen times, and quite a few of those passages mention getting blotted out of the book of life. How does this NOT mean losing your salvation?” What would you say Pastor John?

When it comes to the doctrine of eternal security or perseverance of the saints, we need to speak with precision. And I think it is not quite precise to say, as Charles does, in quite a few of the Scriptures it mentions you can be blotted out of the book of life. I don’t think it ever says you can be blotted out, at least not in the sense that sometimes God does it. It says we will be blotted out if we fail to meet certain conditions. Now whether that ever happens or in God’s sovereignty can happen is another question. I don’t think so and let me try to show why.

The book of Revelation is the book that refers to this most often and it is the book that has the text that sounds most problematical, I think. Revelation 3:5 says, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”

Now some say: Well, that is a foolproof text against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints or eternal security. They assume that when Revelation 3:5 says that God will not erase a person’s name from the book of life, it implies that he does erase some people from the book of life, and that these people would once be born again, justified, saved, and, nevertheless, in the end condemned, lost, and perish. In other words, they lose their salvation on that reading of the verse.

But is that a true assumption?

The promise: “I will not erase his name from the book of life” does not necessarily imply that some do have their names erased. It simply says, to the one who is in the book, and who conquers in faith: I will never wipe your name out. In other words, being erased is a fearful prospect, which I will not allow to happen to those who persevere. In fact, there are two other passages in Revelation that teach that to have your name in the book of life means that you will most definitely persevere and conquer and thus meet the condition not to be blotted out.

Revelation 13:8 says: “And all who dwell on the earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” Now that verse teaches that those whose names are written in the book of life definitely will not worship the beast. That is what it says. In other words, having your name in the book of life from the foundation of the world means God will keep you from folly. He will cause you to persevere in allegiance to God. Being in the book means you will not apostatize. You won’t forsake the faith.

Revelation 17:8 says: “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.” Now that means having your name in the book of life means you will be kept from marveling at the beast. Those whose names are not written in the book will marvel at the beast, and those whose names are in the book will not marvel. It is infallible as far as the way this author is arguing. To have your name in the book means you won’t marvel, you won’t worship.

So the point is that having one’s name written in the book is effective. It keeps you from making shipwreck of your faith. John does not say: If you worship the beast, your name is erased. He says: If your name is in the book, you will not worship the beast. Now back to Revelation 3:5: “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.”

Does that mean God erases some people?

No.

The conquering that keeps you from being erased is guaranteed by being in the book. That is the point of Revelation 13:8 and 17:8. Being in the book keeps you from doing what would get you erased from the book if you did it.

Let me say that again. Being in the book, having your name in the book, keeps you from doing — like worshiping the beast — keeps you from doing what would get you erased from the book if you did it. And that is not a contradiction any more than the way Paul is a contradiction when he says: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).

It is not nonsense to state the condition: if you conquer, God will not erase your name, and then to state the assurance, if your name is in the book, you will conquer. That is not a contradiction. God’s written down ones really must conquer, really will conquer. They must and they will. One side highlights responsibility, you must. And one side highlights God’s sovereignty, you will.

So the message for us is this: Never, never, never be cavalier or trifling about your perseverance. God uses real warnings to keep us vigilant and to keep us persevering. We are safe. But we are not careless. That is the point. Press on to make salvation your own, as Paul says, because Christ has made you his own (Philippians 3:12).

The “loss” of salvation and the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

keptDr. Sam Storms has written a new book called “Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security” (Crossway, 2015), where he looks at every passage in the New Testament that addresses assurance, security, and perseverance. I highly recommend it. He has also written a bonus chapter, available as a pdf here, where he answers a number of questions including these two:

1) “My son just turned thirty and told us today that he no longer believes in Jesus. He says he’s an atheist. What happened to him? Has he lost his salvation?”

We’ll call this young man Charley. Perhaps Charlene would be a more suitable name in your case. In any case, his (her?) life presents us with a painful and difficult dilemma.

Charley was born into a Christian family. His parents were devout followers of Jesus, and both of his siblings, an older brother and a younger sister, came to faith in Christ and have remained vibrant and deeply committed to him.

Charley was raised in the church and was usually present whenever the doors were open, whether at a Sunday service, a youth meeting, special events throughout the week, or a summer retreat. When he turned twelve, he professed faith in Jesus, largely through the influence of his parents and older brother. He was baptized soon thereafter and was discipled by his youth pastor over the course of the next few years. Charley’s faith appeared to be quite vibrant and joyful. He endured the same trials and temptations as do virtually all teenaged boys, but he never wandered far or failed to repent when he sinned. He prayed every day and read his Bible and was growing in his understanding of God.

Following graduation from high school, he went to college and fell in with a different group of friends. They challenged his faith and insisted that he was being naïve to believe in Jesus. It wasn’t long before Charley stopped attending church and eventually declared himself to be an atheist. He grew increasingly angry at the institutional church and nurtured a deep resentment toward those who had influenced him while he was growing up, having become convinced that they had hidden the truth from him and only wanted to control his life.

Charley is now thirty, twice divorced, an alcoholic, and painfully bitter and unpleasant to be around. He wants nothing ever again to do with Christianity.

So what’s up with Charley? What happened?

Some believe Charley was truly saved as a young boy but subsequently apostatized and in doing so lost or forfeited his salvation. Others also believe Charley was genuinely saved and always will be, but they believe that his reckless and unrepentant lifestyle will result in the loss of rewards in the age to come.

In ‘Kept for Jesus’ I argue for what is known as the Reformed or Calvinistic view. Those who embrace this perspective interpret Charley’s experience in one of two ways.

Some Reformed believers would argue that if Charley was truly saved at the age of twelve, he is still saved at the age of thirty and will, by God’s grace and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, eventually come to his spiritual senses and return to the Lord. This may happen only after Charley endures severe discipline from his heavenly Father, but eventually God will bring him back. In some cases, people like Charley are disciplined straightway into heaven; that is to say, the discipline of the Lord results in their physical death. They die prematurely, under the discipline of God, but they are saved eternally.

Others who hold the Reformed view contend that the likely explanation for Charley’s departure from his professed faith in Christ is that he was never genuinely born again in the first place. His so-called faith was spurious. His life of apparent obedience was prompted by factors other than a genuine love for Jesus. He was self-deluded and deceived everyone who knew him. If he had been truly born again, he would have persevered in his faith.

2) “Is it possible that Charley was really born again and that he has blasphemed the Holy Spirit? Can a Christian commit blasphemy of the Spirit?”

This question is provoked by a well-known passage in Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus responds to the religious leaders who had accused him of drawing on the power of Satan to heal a young boy. Jesus says:

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt. 12:31–32)

For Jesus to declare that whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, neither now nor in the age to come, comes as a jolt. This ominous declaration doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Something happened to provoke it. So let’s look at the context. Continue reading

Eternal Security

Pastor Jim McClarty on this vitally important subject:

R. C. Sproul answers the question, “What is the doctrine of eternal security?” as follows:

When we speak of the doctrine of eternal security, we’re using a popular description of a classical doctrine that we call the perseverance of the saints. What it means is that once a person has become quickened by the Holy Spirit, born of the Spirit, and justified through faith in Christ and therefore placed in a state of salvation, that person will, in fact, never lose his salvation. That is a very controversial point within the context of historic Christianity.

There are many Christians who do not believe that once a person is in a state of grace, he will abide in that state of grace. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, historically teaches the distinction between venial and mortal sins. Mortal sin is defined as being mortal because it has the capacity to kill or to destroy the justifying grace that is in the soul, and such a sin makes it necessary for a person to be restored to justification through the sacrament of penance. Other Christian bodies also believe that it is possible for a Christian to lose his salvation.

Advocates of eternal security say that our salvation is secure once it is wrought through faith and that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ. It is based on some passages in Scripture, such as Paul’s teaching in Philippians. It is said that, “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end.” Also, the Scriptures talk about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. Not only does the Spirit regenerate us, or quicken us, starting the whole process of Christian living, but as the Bible tells us, God gives to each Christian the sealing of the Holy Spirit and the earnest of the Holy Spirit. That term is a little bit obscure in everyday vocabulary, although when we buy a home the real estate agent might ask us to make a little down payment that we call earnest money. That is an economic phrase we use, and it is used in Scripture in that same way. An earnest was a down payment, an absolute guarantee that the balance would, in fact, be paid. When God the Holy Spirit puts a down payment on something, he doesn’t renege on the payments. God the Holy Spirit does not give you an earnest that becomes less than earnest. He’s deadly in earnest to finish what he has begun with you.

Also, the concept of being sealed by the Spirit draws from the ancient language of the signet ring of the emperor. When something was sealed and affixed with the imprimatur of the king or the owner, then it became his possession. I think we have to make this qualifier: If it were up to us, I don’t think any of us would persevere, and we would have very little to be secure about. However, the concept as I understand it biblically is that God promises that no one will snatch us out of the hands of Christ, that he will preserve us.

The Preservation of the Saints

John 6:34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”

In this passage of Scripture, Jesus presents the big picture perspective regarding salvation. His words are altogether clear and unmistakable, as He portrays the complete sovereignty of God in salvation. The crowd that was following Jesus “believed” in Him as a miracle worker and as the Messiah. John 6:14 states, “Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

However, Jesus makes it clear that this crowd did not possess true living faith – a faith that saves. They instead possessed a temporary “belief” or affection for Christ, but as the rest of the chapter shows, when Jesus finished preaching this latest message, most in the crowd were no longer following Him. John 6:66 says, “As a result of this (“this” meaning Jesus’ own words) many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”

This then is the context. Jesus is addressing this unbelieving crowd and seeks to explain to them why it is they do not believe. Lets allow Jesus to tell the redemption story from His perspective, in His own words.

Jesus starts by saying “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.” If there was ever a claim to true faith, Jesus dismisses that idea out of hand, telling them that they did not in fact believe in Him, and He knew it. He then goes on:

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.”

Each word here is vitally important. As we meditate on these words, we should notice the order Jesus gives us. All that the Father gives to Jesus – every single one of them – will come to Jesus. It is not the coming to Jesus of a certain group of people that prompts God to then give them to the Son. No, according to Jesus, its the other way round. Firstly, the Father gives a group of people to the Son, who will then come to the Son. It is the Father’s giving that takes place before the people’s coming. Jesus teaches us, in verse 37, that there is never the possibility of a single person being given by the Father to the Son who will not come to the Son.

Why do only some come? Continue reading

Eternal Security

I don’t really like the phrase “eternal security” or its popular counterpart “once saved always saved” because both tend to come with a huge amount of unscriptural theological baggage. For many people, “eternal security” means that if a person makes some sort of profession of faith and then lives a lifestyle totally at odds with that profession, even renouncing Christianity altogether, they are still “saved” because “once saved, always saved.” I don’t believe that to be a Scriptural concept in any way at all.

While it is true that a genuinely regenerated Christian can be secure in their salvation for all eternity, this is not because of a one time profession of faith so much as the possession of faith. All those who possess true faith will of course profess it, but a mere claim to faith is not enough. As James chapter 2 makes clear, faith without works is dead and a dead faith never saves anyone.

The Bible makes it clear that there is a false faith that is in no way the genuine article. Faith of the real kind will produce fruit – evidence of the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence in the person’s life. That is why we are told to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). Rather than simply being told to recall a time in our past when we made a profession we are exhorted instead to examine ourselves to see if there is present day evidence that we are truly His. As J. C. Ryle once remarked, “A tree will always be known by its fruit, and a true Christian will always be discovered by their habits, tastes and affections.”

While I certainly do believe in the eternal security of the believer, I tend to avoid the two phrases mentioned above, preferring the theological term “perseverance of the saints” or even better “the preservation of the saints.” Those who are justified will be glorified (Romans 8:30). True believers will continue in the faith because their faith is a supernatural gift from God and by its very nature, is something that endures. The Apostle John recognized this when he wrote: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19). The true saint perseveres because God preserves him! The One who started the work will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).

Yet there is a big picture concept that we need to see involving the work of the Trinity in salvation. From the archives at www.aomin.org, in an article entitled “Eternal Security: Based on the Tri-Unity of God” Dr. James White writes:
Continue reading