SHEPHERD TO SHEEP
CAN A CHRISTIAN FALL OUT OF SALVATION?
One of the most frequently asked questions by Christians is if a believer can fall out of salvation. Some say your salvation is secure and some say you can fall from grace. Advocates from opposing sides can be very opinionated and even harsh to the opposite camp. But many of us have a concern for a friend or loved one who once professed Christ but are not living for Christ. Are they saved? Will they go to heaven? Let’s take a fresh look at this topic close to hearts.
Let’s talk first about the group that says the Bible teaches the security of the believer’s salvation. One of the main verses is: (John 10:28-29) And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. Notice how this verse relates to eternal life being eternal and the emphasis on how a believer will never perish. Then there is the confidence that God’s hand is on the believer and He won’t allow any of His children to be snatched from his hand.
But then there is the other camp that believes you can fall out of salvation. The main scripture for this is: (Heb 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, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 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. This verse seems to state that after you come to the Lord you can fall away and not be renewed to repentance. What is a Christian to believe and which side is right?
My personal belief is that if a person is truly saved they have eternal life and will never perish and that God’s hand will be on them for protection. They may stray at times and even backslide but the Good Shepherd will bring them back (Luke 15). And if they choose to remain carnal their whole life then they will be saved “so as through fire.” They will gain heaven but lose their reward at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:12-15).
So what about the Hebrews passage? I believe in context the writer is referring to Jewish Christians who were suffering persecution and were therefore reevaluating if they wanted to continue being a Christian. It looks like from the passage they were going back to animal sacrifices and therefore crucifying again for themselves the Son of God and putting Him to an open shame.
I think that when you see a professed believer not serving the Lord it is important to have this perspective: Either he/she is saved but temporarily backslidden or perhaps in an arrested state of carnality. Or they never were saved to begin with, which would fit this scripture: (1 John 2:19) 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 they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
So how do you know? Only God knows. (2 Tim 2:19) …“The Lord knows those who are His… We can judge people’s fruit (Mat 7:20) but we can’t judge them personally (Mat 7:1-5). Only God is the judge (James 5:9).
I believe a Christian’s security is wrapped up in the finished work of Jesus from the cross. Saying you can fall out of salvation puts the emphasis on the believer’s works. And we know we can’t work for our salvation (Eph 2:8-9). But neither should a person misuse their freedom in Christ and live in sin (Gal 5:1; Rom 6). And if you love Jesus you won’t be concerned about falling out of salvation. You will just enjoy your salvation…forever!