This much debated question has strong reasons to support both sides of the ‘Once saved, always saved’ and ‘Can a Christian lose salvation’ debate, and is partly dependent on our understanding of what a Christian is – an external label or a devoted follower of Christ? A true believer is a person who is fully trusting in Jesus as their Saviour and with the help of the Holy Spirit living within, they are empowered to live a changed life through ongoing, inward transformation (Prov 3:5,6; Rom 12:2; 1 Cor 3:16, 6:19,20; Gal 5:24). His or her life contrasts with that of someone who professes to be a Christian yet exhibits no change of behaviour. Unless there is growing evidence of Christ’s nature forming in their life we can question whether they are a real Christian (Mt 3:8, 7:16,20; Gal 5:19-23).
Eternal security is not an issue to be treated frivolously
to trust God and do right, otherwise their faith will be in ruins (1 Cor 15:1,2; Col 1:21-23; 1 Thes 3:5; 1 Tim 1:18-20). By continuing to believe and live rightly we indicate we are truly disciples of Christ (Jn 3:16, 8:31, 11:26, 15:1-6). So Paul writes “Pay attention to yourself…Continue in these things, for in doing this you will save…yourself…Fight the good fight of the faith. Lay hold of the eternal life, whereunto you were called…” (1 Tim 4:16, 6:10-12). He was reminding Timothy to give close attention to his faith as he saw there was a possibility of him losing it. At the end of his life, Paul said, “I have kept the faith…there is a crown of righteousness stored up for me…” (2 Tim 4:6-8).
Salvation is a gift of God’s sovereignty that cannot be earned yet it is our responsibility not to fall away from grace (Gal 5:4). After preaching to others Paul said that he needed to maintain a tight restraint on himself so he would not be disqualified through failing to live righteously (1 Cor 9:27). The Bible says “The wages of sin is death” which indicates a Christian can lose their salvation “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live” (Rom 6:23, 8:13). It is essential to ‘hold fast’ to our faith so unbelief doesn’t cause us to depart from God, for when we deny Jesus He will also deny us (2 Tim 2:12,13; Heb 3:6,12,14). The Bible declares, “Without holiness, no-one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith…Be sure to make your call and election sure…so you will not fall from your secure position” (2 Cor 13:5; 2 Pet 1:10, 3:17). Those who overcome or endure to the end will be saved and inherit the Kingdom of God (Mt 10:22; Rev 2:7,11,17,26, 3:5,12,21).
Countless people live in presumption, considering they are saved, for although professing salvation they do not possess it and will be sent to the lake of fire. This place of suffering will be populated by those that reject salvation or mistakenly think they will make heaven even though they fail to live as Christ requires, including abandoning their sinful lifestyle (Mt 7:21-23, 25:41; Jn 14:15,23; Rom 6:4; Eph 5:9,10). While escaping everlasting doom is solely initiated by the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf and nothing we can do can earn our salvation, it is our responsibility to live out the new way of life, bearing fruit, and proving we’re truly born-again (Jn 8:31, 13:35, 15:8; Eph 2:8,9).
Salvation is not dependent on our works but our relationship with Christ who is the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him for, "Whoever has the Son has life, and whoever does not have the Son does not have life" (Mt 7:21-23; 2 Thes 1:8,9; Heb 5:9; 1 Jn 5:12). However, the words, “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” must be balanced with the human responsibility “The Lord knows those who are His. Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (Rom 10:13; 2 Tim 2:19). Many claim to know God yet it is not backed up by their lifestyle (Tit 1:16; Jas 2:14). The possibility of forfeiting one’s salvation is a real incentive to live righteously and stay away from sin, for when our focus remains on God, not even trouble and persecution can separate us from Him, yet we can drift away by allowing sin to bring detachment as He will not force us against our freewill (Isa 59:2; Jn 10:28; Rom 8:35-39; Jas 1:12-16).
The ‘cheap gospel’ gives false hope to the ungodly, who don’t take the Christian life or its ‘code of conduct’ seriously, thinking that no matter how they live they will be welcomed into heaven merely because they have said the ‘sinners prayer’. It makes a mockery of the extreme price Jesus paid to free us from the clutches of sin, for “No-one who is born of God will continue to sin…they cannot go on sinning, because they has been born of God…Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God” (Gal 5:1; 1 Jn 3:8-10). How can such a person expect to gain entrance into heaven when they walk in the devil’s ways? The Bible is very clear, “The wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-11). Jesus stated, “Unless you repent (turn from sin) you will likewise perish” (Lk 13:3,5).
Does your lifestyle truly reflect your hope of heaven?
1 Jn 1:9). Repentance refocuses us on our allegiance to Christ our Saviour, and strengthens the relationship with the life-giver.
Those who stand firm to the end will be saved, because they have maintained the connection while those who don’t continue, will be like dead branches, pruned and thrown into the fire (Mt 10:22; Jn 15:4-6; Rom 11:20-22; Heb 3:14). May we not be among those that “shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved” for “He became the source of eternal life to all who obey Him” (Heb 2:1-3, 5:9, 10:38,39). Included in a list of those who are doomed to hell are the "cowardly", those who are not prepared to stand up for Christ (Mt 10:32,33; Rev 21:8).
Restoring the wayward
When you bring someone back to God who has wandered from the path of true life you are saving this sinner from the error of a way that leads to spiritual death (Gal 6:1; Jas 5:19,20). We should be observant of others and lovingly challenge them if we see them doing ungodly things while being on guard so we ourselves are not tricked out of our secure position in Christ. As the relationship with Him grows so will our spiritual strength for “Godly faith teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (Tit 2:12; 1 Pet 5:8; 2 Pet 3:17,18).
We must not to presume on God’s love and grace and it is irresponsible to tell a person who allegedly made a decision to follow Christ at some stage in the past that they will go to heaven if they are not maintaining a Christian lifestyle. Salvation is an ongoing process that will only be completed when we get to heaven. Currently we are ‘being saved’ and while acknowledging Christ as Saviour is essential, so is continuing to make Him Lord, by walking in vital relationship with Him as our life source, like a branch connected to a vine (Jn 15:4-6).
“The person who says, ‘I know Him’ but does not do what He commands is a liar…Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” in obedience to His Father (Heb 10:7; 1 Jn 2:5,6).
These warnings from Scripture indicate we must walk uprightly before God and in obedience to Him or else our eternal destiny is in jeopardy. Why only do just the minimum to scrape into heaven? So rather than debating this topic, if you understand the seriousness of being saved from eternal torment do all you can to ensure you will be admitted into heaven.
Eternity is too long to regret not living a life on earth that ensures heaven will be our everlasting dwelling.