Elon, North Carolina
Tonight, we want to try to answer several questions: Can Christians lose their salvation? Can a saved person ever become lost? Does the Bible teach “Once saved, Always Saved” It is a very controversial question. This is a question that has divided the body of Christ but it is important to know what the Bible teaches on this subject. This may be one of the most important questions anyone can ask.
Churches that are part of the Arminian/Wesleyan/Holiness tradition (Methodist, Nazarene, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Assemblies of God) believe that Christians can lose their salvation. Churches in the Reformed or Presbyterian tradition believe in the “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) doctrine.
Most Baptists believe in eternal security, especially Southern Baptists, but not all Baptists accept this. There are Free Will Baptists who do not believe in eternal security. They are a strange species of Baptists.
Both sides have very good verses. If you think that you can’t lose your salvation, Arminians can show you some pretty convincing verses that say you can. If you think that you can lose your salvation, Calvinists can show you some pretty powerful promises in Scripture that make this impossibility. Which side is right?
I believe that one side is right but there are elements of truth on both sides. Arminians focus on the warnings in Scripture and there are real warnings. Calvinists generally focus on the promises in Scripture. What we need to do is to believe both the promises and the warnings.
I am going to summarize what the Bible teaches in four main points. There are many misunderstandings about what the Bible really does teach on this topic. You need to understand all four of these points. If you stop at the first point, you can easily be lead into error or come to a wrong conclusion. If you come from an Arminian background, try to listen to all four points. Don’t get hung up on the first point. Many of your questions will be answered in the other four points.
People who Believe in Christ are Eternally Secure.
I want to give you three passages which give proof for the doctrine of eternal security. There are many other passages we could look at but these three present an excellent case for the position. If they do not convince you, I doubt four other passages would as well.
This is a passage that has been abused and we will come back to it later and see what it does not say but what it does say is pretty amazing. Jesus says several things about his sheep. He says, “I give them eternal life”. Eternal life is a gift. It is not earned. The only condition in John is to believe. Thirty-five times in John faith is the only condition of salvation (e.g., 3:18, 16; 5:24). Jesus says, “I give them eternal life”.
That proves Jesus is God. Only God can give someone eternal life. If you notice, Jesus does not say, “I give them six months life or ten years life” but “eternal life” (life that lasts forever). On top of that, eternal life is something that we can have right now, not something that we get when we die”. It is a present possession. Notice the present tense verb in John 5:24.
Then Jesus says, “and they shall never perish”. In fact, in Greek it is a double negative (never ever by any means perish). In English, you are not supposed to use a double negative. In Greek you use a double negative to emphasize something. Jesus uses the strongest possible language to say that his sheep will never perish – None of them.
Jesus didn’t say that some of them will perish and some of them will not perish. He didn’t say that they might not perish. He said that they will NEVER perish. In ANY of his sheep ever perish (and Arminians believe that in fact MANY of them will perish), then Jesus would not have used the double negative here to make absolute emphasis that they will not perish.
The Jesus says that “no one can snatch them out of my hand” (10:28b). The KJV says “to pluck.” The Greek word means to take something suddenly and violently. Arminians say, “while no one can snatch us out of his hand, we can jump out. We have free will” but there are several problems here.
- Jesus said, “no one can snatch them out of my hand” and no one means NO ONE. In 10:28 he said, “No one WILL snatch them”. In 10:29 he says, “No one CAN snatch them”, as if to say, “Not only won’t this happen, it can’t happen”.
- Jesus already said, “they will NEVER perish” (double negative). If they jump out of his hand and perish, this would not be true.
- We are not holding on to Jesus’ hand, like a little child holding their parents hand as it crosses the street. He is holding on to us. He is not in our hand. We are in his hand and we are not just in Jesus’ hand, we are in the Father’s hand (10:28, 29). We are doubly protected.
- Jesus says, “my Father is greater than all” (10:29). Does the all include the sheep? Of course, it does. For the sheep to jump out they would have to be stronger than the Father and Jesus would have to be a bad shepherd (cf. 10:11). What shepherd would protect the sheep from wolves but let them wander anywhere they want and do whatever they want? He wouldn’t be a good shepherd if he didn’t restore them when they wander.
This passage teaches five important things about Christians in relation to eternal security.
1. Believers are a gift from the Father to the Son (6:37).
John 6:37 says, “All that the Father GIVES ME will come to me”. In John 10:29 Jesus said about his sheep, “My Father, who has GIVEN them to me, is greater than all”. Every Christian is a gift from the Father to the Son.
2. ALL that the Father gives Jesus will come to him (6:37).
It is a certainty. They will come to Christ, they are drawn to Christ, not by the Son but by the Father (6:44).
3. When they come to Jesus, He always accepts them (6:37).
He doesn’t reject or refuse anyone who comes to him. NIV says, “and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” Jesus will not turn any of them away.” He accepts them, regardless of their background, regardless of their past, regardless of what terrible things they have done (cf. 6:40). He says this in the strongest of terms. Jesus uses another double negative here to emphasize this fact – “I will by no means never ever cast him out”.
4. Jesus doesn’t lose any who come to Him (6:39).
None of the sheep are lost (cf. John 18:8-9).
5. The sheep will be raised up on the last day (6:40, 44).
Jesus himself will raise them. So the Father gives them to the Son. They come to the Son. The Son accepts and keeps them.
Paul describes the chain of salvation. It is a chain made up of five links (foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, glorification). The links starts in the past before the world began and goes all the way into the future. . What is important to note about this chain is that none of the links are broken.
Those that God foreknew were predestined. The predestined were called. The called were justified and the justified were glorified. Paul does not say that “some of those justified were glorified” or “most of them were glorified”. The OSAS doctrine makes since here, because all of the justified will one day be glorified (cf. Philippians 1:6).
Not Everyone is Saved who Claims to be Saved.
This second point is extremely important. A classic example of this is Judas. What do we know about Judas?
Judas: Case Study
1) He made a PROFESSION of faith
He claimed to believe in Jesus and told other to believe in Jesus as well.
2) He even had an official POSITION
He was an Apostle of Jesus Christ. There were only twelve of them on the planet.
3) He had tremendous PRIVILEGES
He got to travel with Jesus for three whole years, hear everything he taught and see his actual miracles. That was a special privilege. Not everyone got to do that.
4) He was given special POWERS
He had special powers as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave special powers, not just to some but to all of the apostles, including Judas (Matthew 10:1) – the power to cast out demons and to heal EVERY disease and sickness. That power was given to ALL of the Apostles.
5) He was PRAISED
Judas was a well respected as an important follower of Jesus, so much so that they put him in charge of the money (John 12:6). You don’t just put anyone in charge of money. You only put someone you can trust in that position.
What happened to him? He became a traitor. He betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver and then went out and hung himself. There are some Charismatic and Pentecostal groups who are going around teaching that Judas was a Christian who LOST his salvation, because he betrayed Christ. Some have even said he lost his salvation because he committed suicide. How could a disciple of Christ end up on hell? Did Judas lose his salvation?
The question assumes that he was saved in the first place. Was Judas saved? There are many reasons why people think he might have been saved. He was a disciple of Jesus (Luke 6:13). How could any of the disciples of Jesus end up in hell (Mark 14:21)? Being a disciple simply means being a follower of Jesus. It does not necessarily mean that you are saved. In fact, in John 2:11 after his first miracle many of Jesus’ disciples believed in him for the first time.
Was Judas Saved?
1) Jesus called him a devil (John 6:70). This was BEFORE he betrayed him.
2) Jesus called him an unbeliever (John 6:64a).
3) The Bible says that he was a thief (John 12:6).
That says something about his character. Paul said in I Corinthians 6:9-10 that no thief would enter the kingdom. Former thieves could enter the kingdom that that is why Paul said “and such was some of you”. It is also why one of the thieves on the cross died entered the kingdom. He repented and got saved before his death but no one who dies as a thief will enter the kingdom.
4) Jesus called him “a son of perdition” or “a child of hell” (John 17:12), a term that is used for the Antichrist (II Thessalonians 2:3).
5) Jesus called him unclean in John 13:11 because he had not experienced the cleaning of salvation. Judas was the dirty disciple.
6) Jesus said that it would have been better if he were never even born (Mark 14:21)
7) He is called the son of perdition (John 17:12). Jesus says that one of the Twelve was not clean or saved (John 13:10). This was stated BEFORE he betrayed Jesus.
The lesson we learn from Judas is that you can think you are saved and not be saved. Everyone else can think you are saved and you may still not be saved. In fact, you may go to church every week and not be saved. You may even hold a position in church (elder, deacon, Sunday School teacher) and not be saved.
Did Judas Repent?
On the surface, it looks like Judas did repent of his sin. He showed several signs of repentance.
1) He acknowledged that Jesus was completely innocent.
He acknowledged that he had betrayed “innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4).
2) He confessed his sin.
He said, “I have sinned”. He took full responsibility for what he did. He didn’t blame anyone for his actions. By itself, this means very little. King Saul said “I have sinned”. Many hard core criminals will also say these words.
3) He felt sorry for what he did.
Some versions read that Judas “repented” (KJV) in Matthew 27:3 but the Greek word used there (μεταμελομαι) is not the normal word for repentance. While it can refer to repentance (Matthew 21:29), it generally just means remorse or regret. Judas was sorry for what he had done.
4) He returned the money (Matthew 27:5).
He could have kept it for himself but he did not do that. He returned it to the authorities. What we do not see Judas ever do is to confess his sin to God or ask to be forgiven, like King David did when he sinned. Nor do we see it result in a changed life. Instead, it resulted in death.
He went out and hanged himself. His actions only resulted in despair and death, not forgiveness, peace and a changed life. Paul says that true repentance does not result in death (II Corinthians 7:10). It is worthwhile to compare Judas’ so-called repentance with Peter’s repentance. Both were sorry for what they had done but only one experienced biblical repentance.
Let’s read one of the scariest things Jesus ever said. It is found in Matthew 7:21-23. What Jesus says here is shocking. Let me point out a couple of things about these people.
1) They are professing Christians.
He isn’t talking to Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims. “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 perform many miracles?’” These people call Jesus Lord. They don’t just call him “rabbi” or “great teacher”. They call him Lord. They do things “in Jesus’ name”. That is mentioned two or three times.
2) They believe the right things about Jesus.
They know who Jesus is. They know that He is Lord. They are doctrinally orthodox. They believe the right things. They acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ.
3) They are religious.
They go to church. They are church members. They are outwardly religious individuals.
4) They are church workers.
They are engaged in actual ministry. There are some things they are doing for Jesus (preaching, prophesying, miracles, casting out demons, teaching as SS class, VBS, AWANA). They weren’t lazy. They actually did some things and they did not just do little things for Jesus. They did some big things. They cast out demons. They performed miracles. They didn’t just preach, they uttered real prophecies. Jesus didn’t deny that they did these things. They may have had a successful ministry in the eyes of men.
What does Jesus say to them? Jesus says, not just “depart” but “Depart from ME”. I never knew you and they are shocked. They expected to be in heaven. Jesus said that MANY people will be shocked. He didn’t say that there would be a couple of people who say this. There will be lots of them. Wow! Jesus said that there will be MANY church workers who will not be in heaven and they will be surprised when this takes place. II Thess. 1:8-9
A month or two ago I had an interaction with a professing Christian who made an anti-Semitic comment. I responded that Jesus was also Jewish. He responded, “Yes but Jesus is my homie”. I was thinking to myself, Jesus is not your homie. He is your Creator and one day he will be your Judge. He will be the one who will decide whether you go to heaven or hell. Many who think that Jesus is their homie will one day discover that he doesn’t even know them and doesn’t want to have anything to do with them.
They seemed to know Jesus (called him Lord) but he did not know them. Did these people lose their salvation, as some teach? No. They were never saved in the first place. He said, “I NEVER knew you”. He didn’t say, “I used to know you but now I don’t. We used to be close but not anymore.” Of course, Jesus knows everyone. What this means is that he never knew them in personal relationship. Jesus knows his sheep (John 10; II Timothy 2:19).
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven You have to call Jesus Lord to be saved. Jesus didn’t say, “No one who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom”. However, a mere profession of Jesus as Savior and Lord does not save anyone.
Just because you have joined a church and go every week doesn’t mean you are saved. Just because you are from in a Christian family doesn’t mean you are saved. Just because you have been baptized doesn’t mean you are saved.
Just because you have taught Sunday school for fifty years doesn’t mean you are saved. Religion doesn’t save people. The Pharisees who crucified Christ were religious people. Muslim terrorists who are devoted to killing innocent people are religious people. That is why we need to examine ourselves to see if we are really saved (II Corinthians 13:5; II Peter 1:10).