Can A Person Lose Their Salvation?
For some reason, when the doctrine of unconditional eternal security can be proved to be false from Scripture, the objections and cries is to accuse the other of advocating that one can “lose” his salvation, and basically teaching a “works salvation.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
An image develops when accusing the other of teaching that one can “lose” salvation. It’s like a child who loses his toy and is saddened because he has lost it. In the same way, the proponents of unconditional eternal security set this image in the mind of another who teach that salvation can be “lost.”
Though the Bible doesn’t use such terminology as a person “losing” his salvation, the Bible does tell us of those who have “cast off” their faith (1 Tim. 5:11-12). It would be better if we define the person as being lost rather than salvation being lost. This can be understood as we read the story of the Prodigal Son – he “was dead,” – he “was lost” (Luke 15:24). A person who is alive (saved) is not lost, but a person not saved or possessing salvation is considered as “lost.”
I have heard many times that salvation is a gift (which it is), and for God to take back a gift, would make Him an Indian giver. The problem isn’t with the one who gave the gift, but what the person does with the gift once he has received it. The definition of “lose” in Webster’s Dictionary is; to undergo deprivation of something of value: to free oneself from: get rid of.” A person can throw away a gift, or lose it through neglect.
None of us can merit salvation, it truly is a free gift, and although it is a gift, it is connected to our present relationship to God (1 John 1:7). It is also true that God keeps us, but it is also true that it is only through faith that He does (1 Peter 1:5; See also 1 Tim. 5:11-12 once again). It is possible to despite the Spirit of grace and depart from the living God. It is also true that God will never leave us nor forsake us, but yet it is possible to forsake Him (Heb. 10:29; 13: 5; Heb. 3:12). We can gradually drift and grow cold through neglect (Heb. 2:1-3), and fail the grace of God (Heb. 12:15).
Proponents of unconditional eternal security may say that one “losing salvation” is not a biblical term, but they also fail to realize that that there is no such term as “eternal security” as well! I agree that terminology can be legitimate if it summarizes Scriptures accurately. An example of this would be concerning the Trinity. The word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, but there is great evidence that describes God in this manner and the term is used for brevity. In the same manner, we can define apostasy as a “loss” of salvation. So we can abandon the idea that “losing” is something that is out of our control.
Jesus said He is the Vine from which all life flows (John 15:1-6), and if we abide in Him, and He in us, we will not be cut off (Rom. 11:19-23). It is possible for us to become deceived and fall away (2 Peter. 3:17; 1 Tim. 4:3-4). We can become entangled in the worldly lusts and forfeit our salvation (Matt. 13:21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-20; Eph. 5:5-7). It is possible to depart from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1), be thwarted by persecutions and fall away (Luke 8:13), and can return again to sin and fall from grace (2 Peter 2:20-22; Gal. 5:2-4).
Again, it is possible to depart from the living God, and this means separation from the life of God, which is the absence of salvation, thus, the person is lost and dead. He has lost salvation, not because God took it back, but because the person departed from the living God. His heart grew cold through neglect, and failed to live in the grace of God.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared
to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly
lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and
godly in the present age.” Titus 2:11-12