Can Christians lose their salvation?

The quick answer to this question is, “No, Christians cannot lose their salvation, because salvation is a state that is secured by the power and love of Christ, not by the works of men.”

The doctrine that best addresses this question goes by two names – “perseverance of the saints” and “eternal security.” Wayne Grudem defines perseverance of the saints in this way: “all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and…only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again” (Grudem 788).

Here is a gathering of many Scriptures that help us see this vital doctrine clearly:  

All those who are truly in Christ will persevere to the end

Consider that in all the following passages, God’s salvation is eternal. It cannot be revoked. Also, it cannot be trumped, thwarted, lost, or rejected by the flesh, the world, or the devil.

Isaiah 45:17 “But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.”

Isaiah 50:7 “For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”

Isaiah 60:19 “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.”

Isaiah 51:6 “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.”

Isaiah 51:8 “For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.”

John 6:37–40 “All who the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and He who comes to me I will in no wise cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 10:27–29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 1:13–14 “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:5 “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

1 Corinthians 1:8 “who will also confirm you to the endthat you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 2:12–13 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

2 Timothy 1:12 “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

These passages undeniably teach that God’s salvation is eternal. When God grants salvation to someone, no one can take it from him or her, because salvation is grounded on God’s love and power, not on the works of the individual. 

Perseverance in holiness is a mark of salvation 

Consider the following passages, which teach that all those who truly have salvation will also persevere in holiness: 

John 8:31–32 “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Colossians 1:12–13 “He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Hebrews 3:14 “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”

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 it might become plain that they all are not of us.” 

Those who appear to “lose their salvation” were in fact false believers

Those who fall away from the faith appear to “lose their salvation” because they originally possess many traits of a Christian but were not in fact Christians. Scripture repeatedly affirms that there will be false believers living among true believers. They are in fact false believers, though – not true believers that later “lose their salvation.” The following scriptures describe this reality:

Matthew 7:22-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Mark 4:17 “And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.”

Galatians 2:4 “Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—”

Hebrews 10:26–27 “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”

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 it might become plain that they all are not of us.” 

We must affirm from these passages that it is possible for a person to be a false believer. While claiming to be a believer, such a person may look like a Christian, participate in Christian causes, pray, and even do miracles or “mighty works.” But that person is in fact not a Christian, and never was.  

To summarize all the Scripture passages above, we can say that the true believer has “eternal persevering security.” As R.C. Sproul says, “If you have it, you can’t lose it; and if you lose it, you never had it.”

For more on this topic, see this sermon which was preached at our church in January of 2022: