More on whether one can loose one’s salvation

Some claim that Colossians 1:21-23 teaches one loose one’s salvation. Let us look at the text:

 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

How you interpret this text depends on your understanding of ‘if’. In considering the ‘if’ clause, some consider the ‘if’  to mean that if one does not continue in the faith  they loose their salvation.  However, a different view says God has reconciled you only if you continue in the faith. That if you do not continue in the faith, then you were never reconciled to God to begin with.

Another verse people will sometimes point to is 2 Peter 2:20-22.

20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: A dog returns to its vomit, and, A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.

At its surface, this verse certainly gives the appearance that one can loose one’s salvation. But we must look at the fuller passage. For brevity, we will only focus on 3 other verses in 2 Peter 2. 2 Peter 2:1 tells us of whom Peter is speaking:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.

Peter is speaking of people who are obviously not walking with God, but following sinful desires, as we can see in 2 Peter 2:9-10.

9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.

So then, how do we interpret 2 Peter 2:20-22, where he speaks of having escaped the corruption of the world, of being entangled yet again in the world? What does Peter mean when he said it would have been better for them to never have known the way of righteousness? It seems to me that this is another example of the parable of the sower, where only one seed produces fruit – that which perseveres. There is a difference between coming to know someone and having faith in them. For some people, they come to know about Christ, or even have what appears to be a salvation experience, yet there is no lasting fruit. This is what is meant in 2 Peter 2:20-22. These people came to know about Christ, and may have even made professions of faith, yet their fruit makes it evident they were false teachers – the very people John warned of in 1 John 4:1-3:

In fact, John was very clear about the antichrists he was warning of in 1 John 2:19:

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

Their actions showed they never truly trusted Christ. This is why we are told to test the spirits in 1 John 4:1-3:

1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

It would have been better for them to be ignorant than to turn away from the salvation offered by Christ. But just because you turn down something does not mean you ever had it to begin with.

Even Jesus warned in Matthew 7:15,

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Ok, so then how do we deal with Romans 11:22?

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Looking at the whole of Romans 11, we see the context is speaking of God’s chosen people, and how God kept a remnant for Himself – both in the Old Testament times, and in the New Testament time. And make no mistake, it is definitely God’s doing according to Romans 11:4-6:

4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

I like the way a professor of mine once put it: You are either in the world or in the community of God. If you are in the community of God, you are either among those who are not yet saved but will be, those who are not yet saved but will not be, and those who are saved. A poor visual representation would look like this:

Not saved Saved
Not saved ever Not saved yet Not saved ever Not saved yet Saved already

To be cut off is to be removed from the community of God, but this does not mean this person was ever saved to begin with. You can be in the church (those who claim Christ, but do not necessarily have true lasting faith), but not be OF the Church (those who have lasting evidence of true faith). It is the continuing in faith that shows we are saved.

Eventually, we will look like this:

Not saved Saved
Never saved Saved

All will be either saved or not saved – in heaven or in the lake of fire. But the question before us today is whether one has the ability to loose one’s salvation.

So then the next text to examine is 1 Timothy 4:1.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

The question was asked, “How can someone depart from something unless they were once there?”.

One’s understanding of this verse is dependent upon one’s understanding of the term ‘the faith’. This could mean one’s faith in Christ; it could mean the teaching of faith in Christ; or it could mean the community of God (which would mean those saved and unsaved); or it could mean those who are saved. It would be unusual for someone to speak of one’s faith or even someone else’s faith as ‘the faith’. Therefore, it is unlikely to be the first option. The next two options are essentially synonymous, as the community of God would be those who learned the teaching of faith in Christ. I doubt it would be the last option, since those who believe have been sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption, as we are told in Ephesians 4:30,

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Given this, I think one departs from knowledge, or from the teaching of the Apostles – that is to say, they knew the truth, and may have followed it for a while, but were not saved and so left the community and left the truth being taught – but which they never fully put their faith in.


8 Responses

  1. wow, that’s a lot to process. I think of it like this. If in eternity we are joined with Christ at the marriage feast, followers of Christ, at this point, are engaged to Him. They have professed love, forsaken any other, and are committed to the relationship. The groom (Jesus) has promised never to forsake that covenant, but at any time, unfortunately, we are able to break off the engagement prior to the wedding. I think this would only happen if we have found another love. Thus a man cannot serve two masters.

  2. I understand the analogy. But to me, if we do not wed, it is because we didn’t really love God to begin with, even if we were dating him.

  3. Now see, I would have to disagree with that. We live in a place that has time and are human, so we can change. It is God that never changes. Is it really love if He forced us to walk with Him even if we chose not to?

    • I can understand that. But you provide human philosophical reasoning. Please provide scriptural support.

      Your position is one I had before I began studying scripture on this matter. but looking at the whole of scripture caused me to change my mind, as difficult as it was to do so. There are simply too many scriptures that point to the fact that we are saved only if we hold fast to the end, and that no one can take us out of God’s hand, and that GOD chose us and that God will complete the good work HE began in us, etc. etc.

      We CAN change, but God works to complete the work He began in us – if He can make hearts hard, He can ensure one does not harden. SO while we think we can change our minds, God works to ensure we do not – if we are truly saved.

      I thjink Scripture teches a tension between us needing to remain holy and faithful and God ensuring we will do so – that I do not think we will fully understand until we are glorified in heaven.

      We are not deserving of salvation, nor can we earn it. But by the same token, if we can not be good enough to gain salvation, what makes us think we can be bad enough to loose it if we have it? If we think that we CAN be bad enough to lose salvation, then salvation IS a work (because it depends on us), and not a gift. And scripture tells us differently.

  4. Thanks for the info and I’ll read the other posts.

  5. The theory of “once saved always saved” is a huge deception. We can lose salvation. There are over 100 verses to back that up but the clearest of them all is John 15.
    5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

    It says right there that He will cut us loose. Therefore we would lose salvation.

    • Michelle,

      Thanks for reading, and for your response. I edited your comment to include the change you added.

      I think you and I agree on one thing: to be saved one must have faith and never be cut off the vine.

      The question really is, are those who were/are cut off ever saved to being with. I do not believe so.

      The difference is our understanding of what it means to be a branch. You assume that being branch makes you saved. It does not. It means to be in the community of God, which includes those who are saved and those who are not saved. There are some branches which will always remain on the vine; there are others which are cut off the vine – these are those who may have made a profession of faith but do not truly have enduring faith exemplified by enduring obedience, as well as those who go to church but are not of the church. Faith is not making a statement, or even having a belief. Faith is holding a belief so strongly that it changes you to act upon it. For instance, if you say you have faith a 50 year old car can make the drive from Miami to Seattle, but you do not try the trip, you don’t have faith, you have a belief. It is when you actually put that faith into action by making such a trip that you actually have faith. It is a belief that engenders a changed life, forever. To be saved, one must have faith in the redeeming work of Christ to the end. This faith must engender enduring obedience to God. If it does not, then it is not faith, merely a belief or an emotional experience.

      When Christ said ‘you are the branches’, He was speaking to people who were listening to Him – some had faith, others did not. He knew Judas did not truly believe and would betray Him (John 13:18-21).

      Those who remained on the vine, those who obeyed His commands, were those who loved Him (John 14:15).

      So when Christ said He would cut off branches that do not remain in Him, He was stating that you are only saved if you remain in Him, otherwise you are not saved. You will be threshed like grain and only the true grain will remain, the weeds will be removed. The grain is those who are saved, while the chaff is those who were part of the community of God, maybe ever participated in the work of God, but were never of God.

      Matthew 13:24-31 (New International Version)

      The Parable of the Weeds

      24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

      The only way to be saved is to have faith that does not fail – if it fails, then it was not true faith from God to begin with, because what He started, He will finish.

      Romans 8:29-31
      29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

      The difference is perspective. From our point of view, we might fail to have enduring faith where once we thought we had faith – but in fact, we have belief, not faith. From God’s perspective, HE KNOWS who will endure – it is those who are saved.

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