Can a believer lose their salvation?
As much as those reading this might want me to give a quick yes or no answer, such a response would be reckless and not in keeping with the clarity of God’s Word.
Christians have been debating this question for a very long time. Typically the two schools of thought are as follows: 1) once a person is saved they can never be unsaved, and 2) since we are saved through an act of our will, we are also free to exercise our will to reject that salvation at some point, thus becoming unsaved.
Of one thing I am certain: there is no power in the universe, spiritual, material or otherwise that can effect a separation between us and the love of God. The Apostle Paul makes that abundantly clear in Romans chapter 8:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
And as Jesus said, “…no one can snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28 (NIV)
So the Bible reveals that believers have wonderful security and safety in Christ. We need not fear for our salvation, and wonder if Satan or anyone or anything else might rob us of the life that we have in Christ.
But the question we need to ask ourselves is this: is there anything that we ourselves can do to risk our own salvation? The Apostle Paul seemed to think so. As he addressed the believers in the region of Galatia he passionately warned them of their flirtation with adopting certain aspects of the Law in addition to their faith in Christ as the Savior. Specifically the believers in Galatia were being influenced by certain false teachers who were teaching that the Jewish rite of circumcision was a necessary requirement to being saved. In response to that idea the Apostle wrote the following words:
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Galatians 5:2 (NIV84)
The Apostle Paul recognized that the believers in Galatia were very close to adopting the belief that circumcision was necessary in order to be saved. So he warned them in no uncertain terms that if they allowed that belief to continue and submitted to the rite of circumcision, the result would be that Christ would be of no value them at all.
Remember, Paul is writing to born again believers! Why in the world would he say to a believer that Christ would be to them of no value? How could those words possibly apply to a Christian?
The Apostle makes it clear in his letter to the Galatians that when we attempt to add anything to the cross—such as trying to be a good person or incorporating water baptism or, as the believers in Galatia were doing, adding circumcision as a requirement to being saved—is to place one's very salvation in a perilous standing. Why? Because salvation is a GIFT. That means it comes to us freely and apart from anything we can possibly do to secure it on our own. To add some other requirement is to suggest that what Jesus did on the cross was somehow insufficient and that more must be done. But we recall the final, victorious words of our Savior on the cross when He cried, "It is FINISHED!" And it was. Nothing more need be done. We need only to receive.
So, can a person lose their salvation? No…it cannot be lost. Can a person place their salvation in jeopardy by compromising their trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross? The Apostle Paul believed this to be possible. And why would we jeopardize something as precious as the gift of salvation that we’ve received at the cost of Christ’s own suffering?