Whenever I get asked this question, I find that I must first ask some questions of my own. People deserve a thoughtful response and not just a quick yes or no. So in an effort to do just that, I’m going to share and respond to what I have found to be the real concerns that often lurk behind this question.
The first version of what some are actually asking is: ”If I continue to make mistakes and fall into sin, is there a point where God will say, ‘That’s enough!’ and erase my name from the Book of Life?”
Quite simply, the answer is no. Let me explain why.
We must always keep in the forefront of our minds that we are saved by grace through faith. Jesus extends forgiveness of sins when we place our full confidence in His finished work on the cross. Sinful failures are always unfortunate but they are inevitable. And yet, God’s grace is greater still and the blood of Jesus Christ is a perpetual spring of cleansing and renewal.
Just remember…you didn’t receive salvation because of good works, and you can’t lose it because of sinful actions. Just know that the blood of Jesus keeps on cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:7) according to the promise of 1 John 1:9.
The second variation of this question goes like this: ”If I commit some sin and fail to confess it before I die, will God send me to Hell?”
This question is closely related to the one we just looked at, and it comes from those who believe they must keep themselves saved by accurately and exhaustively confessing and repenting of every single misstep. Although this idea is held by far too many Christians, once again it’s just a thinly veiled version of salvation by works.
Confession of sin is important, to be sure, but as I said above, we are saved by placing our confidence in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross — not by flawlessly remembering and acknowledging each and every sin we’ve ever committed.
The third version is a more straightforward question that wants to know: ”Is it possible for a born-again believer to go from a position of faith to one of unbelief?”
As I study the Word of God, I find the New Testament filled with repeated warnings written to born-again believers about the possibility of abandoning faith in Jesus and walking away from Christ.
If, as some confidently assert, that walking away from the Lord in unbelief isn’t a possibility, I would have to ask them why there are so many warnings about doing that very thing scattered throughout the New Testament? Warnings like: Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1–2 The word “if” in the passage above is vitally important to note because it introduces a conditional clause. We sometimes forget that although salvation is free, it is not unconditional. It is conditioned on faith. As the Apostle Paul states above, the continuation of faith is absolutely necessary. Furthermore, we can also see that the Apostle Paul believed it was possible to ”believe in vain.”
Also, take note of his words in Galatians 5:
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. vv. 2–4
The Apostle believed that it was possible to ”fall away from grace.” But how? In this case, it was by adding circumcision as a requirement to salvation. This is what the believers in the Galatian churches were being tempted to do and Paul warned them that if they made that move, ”Christ will be of no advantage” to them. That warning was spoken to believers.
Finally, we also see that the author of Hebrews believed it was possible to “drift away” from the message of faith in Jesus Christ.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1
I understand there are many sincere followers of Christ who passionately reject any idea of a true believer ever walking away from the Lord in unbelief. I respect their position, but as I study the Word of God, I cannot embrace it because of repeated warnings by the New Testament authors about doing that very thing. As a Bible teacher, it is my responsibility to respectfully communicate the message of God’s Word without bias or partiality.
So, can you lose your salvation due to sin? No! The Apostle Paul told us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord (see Romans 8).
Does someone who once confessed Christ as Savior have the freedom to turn away in unbelief and walk away from the Lord? The Bible suggests that is possible.