Can We Lose Our Salvation?

Can we lose our salvation?  If you’ve been following along on this blog, then you know that lately I’ve been dealing with topics and scripture related to Calvinism. As I’ve explained, I used to be a Calvinist and had once held tightly to those doctrinal beliefs. However, I have since abandoned those beliefs.

Calvinism is often summarized by its five major points: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. These five points make up the acronym TULIP. Today I want to focus on the final one; Perseverance of the Saints.

I had alluded to this doctrine in my last blog. It’s the belief that if a person has been elected by God to be saved, then after that person is regenerated – or born again – that it’s impossible for that person to no longer be saved. God’s election is so sure that that person cannot be un-saved. Calvinists believe that a person may fall into sin – even very deep sin – but that they cannot lose what God has done for them. No mere person can undo the mighty work of God. And so, the Calvinist believes, their faith will preserver to the end, and they can have complete assurance of their salvation.

Now, even many non-Calvinists hold to something similar. In other words, you don’t have to be a Calvinist to believe this. This teaching is rather common among some Baptists, for example, and is often referred to as the “once saved always saved” doctrine. One of the differences between non-Calvinists who hold to this teaching and the Calvinist is that the non-Calvinist doesn’t generally believe in some of the other points, like that Jesus didn’t die for everyone, which Calvinists affirm. However, once saved, they tend to agree with the Calvinist that that person cannot lose their salvation. They might disagree with the Calvinist on how they got to that point, but at that point there is certainly some agreement. And, strange as it may seem, even the Arminian and Calvinist agree that there is an assurance of salvation to those that believe. However, there’s little agreement beyond that point within these two theological camps.

You know its funny, as I was preparing this video and going over some of the scripture that best demonstrates this doctrine from a Calvinist perspective, I realized that each of the passages I found were so weak that it’s hard to pick one that really makes the point. That’s because to see the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints you actually have to start with the assumption that it’s there. On the other hand, if you begin with the assumption that it may or may not be there, you realize that it’s just very hard to find. However, we’ll take a look at one passage here today just to see how the Calvinist understand the passage, and I’ll show you how the Calvinist brings his own interpretation to it. This one is probably one of the stronger Calvinist passages, but I believe that it still really fails to make the point. But I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The passage is from John 6, beginning with verse 35 “And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

To the Calvinist, this passage strongly suggests that if God the Father has given one of us to God the Son in order to save, that Jesus can’t lose us, and will raise us up at the last day to everlasting life. They will point out that anyone who comes to Jesus can never hunger or thirst; that He unconditionally sustains that person, and that Jesus said that He will lose nothing that the Father had given Him.

Now that I’m no longer a Calvinist, and have taken off my Calvinist lenses so to speak, it’s very easy to see the assumptions brought to the passage by the Calvinist himself. Jesus said that whoever comes to Him and whoever believes in Him – He will satisfy. Note that the verb tense is present – to come and to believe. The present tense might well be understood as keep coming and keep believing. In other words, there’s a huge difference between saying “whoever believes” and “whoever had believed”. The first suggests something ongoing, while the second suggests that the requirement was at least at one time met – they had believed. Therefore, the first part of this “Calvinist” passage suggests to us that there is a condition. To never hunger or thirst requires that we keep coming and we keep believing in Jesus. Once we cease from coming or believing, then it would seem that there’s no reason to suspect from this passage that we will continue receiving something from Jesus.

Now the next part of this passage says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” The Calvinist will point out that anyone whom the Father elects to send, cannot but come to Jesus. And then, of course, Jesus will never cast them out.  This actually demonstrates Unconditional Election as well as perseverance of the saints.  It seems that God is choosing whom to send to Jesus. And, this is true. However, what the passage doesn’t say is on what basis the Father elects to send to the Son. Yes, it could be because God has unconditionally elected a person from the beginning of time – or, it could be that God has just found someone whose heart is open and He sends that person to the Son. This verse doesn’t rule out that second possibility. And, the non-Calvinist has no problem believing that Jesus will not cast that person out. Of course not. Why would he cast a person out who has come to Him? Note that the passage does not comment on whether or not that person decides to walk away from Jesus. It only suggests that Jesus will not cast them out.

Now, regarding the portion where Jesus said that He will not lose any that the Father gives Him, you might recall that I discussed that in my last video. But, if you missed that I’ll just say it again here.

Jesus does assure us that He’s not so careless or impotent to lose anyone whom the Father sends Him. However, He never suggests here, or anywhere else for that matter, that He would keep someone against their will from leaving. As a matter of fact, this is exactly what Jesus describes later in John as He’s praying to His Father in chapter 17:12, He says, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Here Jesus affirms that of those that the Father had given Him He had indeed kept. However, one that had been given to Him He apparently was unable to keep, and that was Judas Iscariot. What’s really important about this passage is that Jesus Himself includes Judas as one whom the Father had given to Him. So we can see that being given to Jesus by the Father is not sufficient alone to have assurance of salvation. I believe that the promise to keep all that the Father gives only applies to those who desire to remain.

These passages are a good representation of what we find in other Calvinist proof texts of the Perseverance of the Saints doctrine. That is, that the texts don’t demonstrate that a person who has turned from Jesus will continue to be saved – which is what the doctrine actually holds. In other words, Calvinists believe that if God has elected a person unto salvation, that that person will be saved even if they don’t want to be, even if they have turned their backs on God, even if they have become indifferent to God. Yet, they believe this without one single passage of scripture assuring them that even if a person does not desire God that they will still be saved, if indeed they are elect. Not one. In fact, the exact opposite is true; that we have numerous passages assuring us that if we no longer walk with Jesus that we can no longer be assured that we are saved. For example, Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; John 15:5-6) As you can see, Jesus offers no assurance to someone who does not abide – or believe – in Him. That person is cast out.  In John 3 we read, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life”(36). There, the condition for everlasting life appears to be believing, not election. And there is no assurance offered to those who do not believe.

You see what makes a Christian a Christian is that that person follows Jesus. In Acts 11 we read that “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (26). This tells us that the words Christian and disciple are synonymous. They mean the same thing. A disciple is a follower of a teacher, and in this case a disciple is a follower of Jesus. Someone who is not a follower of Jesus can hardly be called a follower of Jesus, because they’re not following. A Christian believer is someone who believes in Jesus. We can’t refer to someone who does not believe in Jesus a believer in Jesus. I really can’t it any more plain than that! If a person has turned their back on God and has decided not to follow God any longer, they can be offered no assurance from Scripture that they are still saved. They’re not. That’s because they’ve surrendered the one thing that keeps them saved: their trust in God.

Interestingly, the Perseverance of the Saints doctrine contains a real ironic twist. Calvinists believe that a person can act, think, talk, and feel like a Christian. They can even believe that they have the Holy Spirit, yet if they aren’t elected to salvation from God they will be damned, even if they felt like they were Christian. If they are elect, then they will be saved no matter what. The curious thing about this is that the Calvinist can really have no assurance whatsoever! In other words, the Calvinist cannot know for sure if he or she is elect until they actually stand in front of God and get judged. They believe that their doctrine offers assurance, but it doesn’t.

If you’re a Calvinist reading this, to be consistent with your belief system, then you would have to admit that it’s entirely possible that even though you feel right now like you’re saved that you may not be. You could be like those described in 1 John 2, verse 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…” Calvinists use this passage to explain how a person can look, feel and taste like a Christian, but in reality, not be one of the elect. Perhaps this is you?

So, can we lose our salvation? As a non-Calvinist, I believe that as long as I continue abiding in Christ that I have full assurance of my salvation. Jesus will not lose me. If I continue walking with Jesus, if I continue feeding on the bread of life, if I continue believing in Him, then I can be assured that I am saved.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, follower-of-Jesus blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmakerPodcast host, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us , and has worked as an investigator for over 35 years.




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