"Can I lose my salvation?" and other questions Christians might ask
Can I lose my salvation?
Short answer: Only if you want to.
This question has been debated by Christians for centuries. Groups like the Baptists will say that if a person gets saved at all he can never lose his salvation no matter what. Others, like the Pentecostals, will say that a person is capable of losing his salvation. The two different philosophies on this subject are known as the Calvinist and the Arminien positions. Neither side has it really together because extremists on the Calvinist side would say one could be a Hitler and still die in a saved state if he had ever accepted Christ no matter how far he strayed, whereas an extreme Arminien Pentecostal might stupidly say that one could go to Hell for wearing makeup or smoking cigarettes!
But leaving extremism aside, despite what the Calvinist would say, the Bible clearly and unequivocally says that it is possible for at least some people to lose their salvation:
King James Bible
New Jerusalem Bible
For it is impossible for those who were one enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
As for those people who were once brought into the light, and tasted the gift from Heaven, and received a share of the Holy Spirit,
and tasted the goodness of God's message and the powers of the world to come
and yet in spite of this have fallen away--it is impossible for them to be brought into the freshness of repentance a second time, since they are crucifying the Son of God again for themselves, and making a public execution of him.
In Section 6 I dealt with this subject in relation to committing what the Bible calls the Unpardonable sin. Beyond that the question is not whether or not one can lose his salvation but how one can lose it. To answer that, let's return to how we get saved in the first place: Remember, it's by faith alone. And since it's by faith alone that we get saved it's by lack of faith alone that we can lose it! So let's ponder how we can come to a place where we lose our saving faith.
Remember that James pointed out some attributes of true faith that has the power to save an individual from his sins. That sort of saving faith results in a sincere change in a person that motivates him to desire God in his life and to at least want to live a life that reflects the qualities of God in his character. A person in this state is assured he cannot lose his salvation no matter how bad he blows it or falls short of living a godly life.
Paul, however, lists a number of sins in Galatians 5:16-21 which will prevent a person from entering Heaven. These include: adultery, fornication, idolatry, sorcery (i.e. Occult involvement), hatred, envy, murders, drunkenness, wrath, and revelries (i.e. partying) to name a few. The question is--does the act of committing any of these sins cause one to lose his salvation? Probably not--else most of us will be going to Hell because all of us have felt hatred, at the very least, since becoming Christians. Paul is most likely indicating that a person who lives a persistent lifestyle that includes these things either has never been saved to begin with or will ultimately lose his salvation in one of two ways: either by turning away from Christ to pursue ungodly lifestyles on a long-term basis or by persisting in an unrepentant lifestyle for so long that eventually the person's heart becomes hard and he no longer consciously exercises faith in Christ as his savior. The second chapter of the book of Hebrews states the same idea:
King James Bible
New Jerusalem Bible
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of out confidence stedfast unto the end;
while it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the day of provication.
Take care, brothers, that none of you ever has a wicked heart, so unbelieving as to turn away from the living God.
Every day, as long as this today lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin,
because we have been granted a share in Christ only if we keep the grasp of our confidence firm to the end.
In this saying, If you would only listen to him today; do not hearden your hearts as in the Rebellion...
This brings up the question of an Old Testament term called backsliding, which is to fall into a lifestyle of sin after coming into a relationship with God (Christ). I went through a period in my life of 15 years of backsliding. In the initial stages my heart turned cold towards God and I ceased consciously trying to serve or follow Him. Yet I believe there was enough grace for me at those early stages that if I had died I still would have made it into Heaven by the mercy of God.
As the years wore on I became increasingly bitter and hostile toward God, and actually mocked the Gospel. I consciously figured I was going to Hell and that there was no remedy for it. Fortunately for me, I wanted deep down to come back but figured there was just no way. At the very end, when God did a marvelous move in my life to bring me back, I was cursing God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. The next day I was on my knees.
I would say I have no reason to believe I would have died in a saved state in the latter days of my time away from God. So, from personal experience, I must conclude that one can eventually go so far from God that he can, indeed, lose his salvation. However, the good news is that God is merciful, and that if a backslider wants to come back, God will provide a way!
Even the example in 1st Corinthians I mentioned of a man who was living incestuously with his stepmother shows it takes more than mere commission of sin to lose one's salvation. Paul Hands him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his soul might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. If anyone was living in a willful state of sexual sin that could endanger his salvation, this man was. Yet Paul seems to indicate he could technically die in a saved state--at least at that point. How much longer this man would have been able to die in a state of grace we don't know. It certainly seems that Paul was worried that if the Devil didn't kill him soon he would eventually lose his salvation altogether if he did not repent.
And so the bottom line is, if you really want Christ in your life, keep on, keeping on. He'll keep you secure no matter how bad you blow it. If you know you're in a state of backsliding, stop, pray, get yourself into church and start back on the right path. God will help you. If you try that and you still can't seem to get back that freshness of Christ in your life, keep praying and ask God what the problem is...He'll get the word to you somehow!
My church says that I'm going to Hell unless I get baptized the way they teach. What is the correct form of Baptism? Is sprinkling all right? What about infant baptism?
The very word baptism comes from a Greek word that means to immerse. It has its origins in the dye trade of the Middle East, in which tanks were used to dip cloth in. When immersed, the cloth would take on the color (or traits) of the dye it was immersed in. Baptism as a religious practice was performed by the Jews long before John the Baptist was born and it is definitely not a Christian invention. In the days of John, baptism took place in either rivers or special tanks called mikvahs. Immersion/baptism was so important to the Jews that if a community had the money to pay for either a synagogue or mikvah, the mikvah took precedence over the synagogue. Most of the time when you read the word wash in the Old Testament, the word means to perform a ceremonial immersion, not wash in the way we use that word today. Baptism was actually the most common ritual practiced by the Jews, who underwent it numerous times during the year. John's baptism was simply one more that was added to the list, although it had Messianic overtones. In the world that Jesus and the Apostles lived in, baptism would be viewed not as a one-time event but as a regular part of walking with God. Getting re-baptized after having been in a backslidden condition, for instance, while not mentioned in Scripture as a necessity, would have been absolutely appropriate to the customs the Apostles would have grown up in.
To this day, Christian denominations have a lot of misunderstanding about baptism and teach a variety of arbitrary theology on the subject as if it were Biblical truth. For instance, there is a false theology taught by some churches that a person must be baptized in the name of Jesus for the baptism to count, and that a person cannot be saved unless this formula is followed.
In point of fact baptism of the 1st century bore little resemblance to the way we baptize today. For instance, people of the 1st century vocally confessed their past sins to those gathered around during the early history of Christian baptism. Often they were baptized naked. The actual process involved the converts dipping themselves three times under the water, completely covering their heads as a rabbi or minister watched to verify complete immersion. He then pronounced the baptism kosher. At no time did he assist the person being baptized by actually touching him.
There is no direct evidence that children were baptized in the early years of the church. This is inferred by some who note in the Bible that entire families received baptism upon conversion to Christ. The idea of baptizing babies became popular in later centuries when the idea that an unbaptized person could not go to Heaven began to flourish, along with the notion that baptism had replaced circumcision as a sign of one's covenant with God. Thus people baptized babies in case they died before reaching adulthood. There is nothing overtly wrong in baptizing babies, but nothing in scripture suggests that infant baptism substitutes for baptism as an adult convert to Christ. As baptism is not a requirement for salvation, a Christian who relies on past baptism as an infant is not denied salvation in Christ, however.
One of the very first documents circulated in the Christian church of the 1st century was known as the Didache (pronounced did-uh-kay). It was probably circulated during the lifetime of the Apostles themselves and was a sort of guidebook for new converts to Christianity. It very nearly made it into the Bible but eventually was rejected as non-canonical. While it is not to be considered scripture, the Didache gives us a marvelous look into the theology and practices of the 1st century Christians, who presumably understood the teachings of the apostles a bit better than we do 2,000 years down the road. In the section dealing with baptism it reveals that the person being baptized was dunked three times, as we've mentioned, and that the baptism should be conducted if at all possible in open, running cold water. It also mentions baptism is permissible in warm water--and even by sprinkling if better water is not available! The point is, denominations which today present baptism in a concise, intentional, anti-Catholic manner substitute revisionist doctrine for historic truth. Christians in the time of the apostles didn't hassle over a legalistic formula of how to be baptized properly. Baptism wasn't meant to be a ritual that elevates form over substance; it was the heart of the person being baptized that mattered. The form of baptism and the language used by the pastor were and are entirely incidental regardless of what any denomination says. Just for a moment, though, let's assume that denominations like the Boston-movement Church of Christ are correct in their teaching that we must be baptized in the name of Jesus or we will be lost. If it's true that we must be baptized using a legalistic formula that includes the name of the Messiah--then all deceased members of that sect of the Church of Christ are today in Hell because Jesus was never called by that name at any time in His life! Jesus is the anglocized version of the Greek form of the Hebrew name Yeshua, and it was that name He was called by those who knew Him! We only know Him as Jesus because it is the Greek versions of the New Testament which have survived.
As to the greater point of whether baptism is necessary to go to Heaven, in no way must one be baptized in order to be saved. Rather than review the flawed arguments some use to prove otherwise, I'll review the one passage that totally destroys the argument: In Acts 10 the incident is recorded where Peter visits a Roman centurion named Cornelius, who responds to the message of the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit comes upon he and his family who then speak in Tongues. Peter recognizes that the Holy Spirit has been given to them as to the Jews, and after this, Peter has them get baptized. Since the Holy Spirit cannot be given to an unsaved individual, clearly they were saved in God's eyes--not at the point they received baptism, but at the point that they accepted Christ (if not before that point as well, since Cornelius was already worshipping the God of Israel). Beyond that, what of the Jews who died before the era of the New Testament? They didn't undergo either the baptism of John or the baptism of Christ. Did David and the rest therefore go to Hell? Obviously not. So to assert that a Christian who isn't baptized goes to Hell while a Jew under the Law would not is beyond ridiculous. Ultimately, then, despite whatever scripture someone quotes, despite whatever argument they try to use, baptism, while important, cannot possibly be a requirement for salvation. Now to be fair, it must be said that the post-Apostolic church fathers do seem to have held the notion that baptism was required for salvation. Their opinions, while of great value, are not to be held up as Divinely inspired, and must take second place to what the Bible says on the subject. But if anyone has a question about it, just do what the Bible commands in the first place--get baptized!
At the new site, A New Christian's Handbook, I go into Baptism in a bit more detail.
Is Christ Jesus' last name?
No. It comes from a word that means annointed. In fact the when the writers of the New Testament use the name Jesus Christ they may as well have written it Jesus, the Christ. Because the name of God was so holy to the Jews that they rarely used it directly, Paul often uses the word Christ as if he is employing it as a surname.
Is it a sin to drink alcohol, smoke, or use drugs?
So far as drugs go, if their usage violates the laws of the land, then the Bible considers it is a sin to use them recreationally. Alcohol is not against the law and so the Bible would not call it sin to drink an alcoholic beverage. However, there are any number of ministers who preach that consumption of alcohol is an overt sin. This stems from a sincere, but in some ways hypocritical, desire to live righteous lives before God. There is no question that the Bible labels drunkenness as a sin, and Paul states that those who live a partying type of lifestyle will not enter Heaven. At the same time neither Paul nor anyone in the Bible commands Christians to abstain from alcohol as either a prerequisite for, or evidence of, salvation. Quite the contrary, he encourages bishops in the church to abstain from wine but suggests that others simply not be given to much wine (Titus 2:3).
I hope no one infers from this that I'm encouraging the use of alcohol or tobacco. Neither cigarettes nor alcohol do anyone any good. But people should serve Christ in a sincere manner based on solid Biblical truth, not denominational teachings based on Man's ideas of what true holiness is.
The legalistic attitudes that have caused the church overall to label as sin something the Bible itself permits shows how vigilant we must guard against the attitude of believing that we are made acceptable to God because of the sin we abstain from. Righteousness is not the absence of sin--it is the presence of Christ! The ugly specter of legalism comes so naturally to us, as humans--and to the Christian church by extension--that we have unintentionally created a standard of righteousness that even Jesus Christ didn't hold to! We can see this when we take communion: Jesus, the Jews before Him, and the apostles after Him, celebrated the Passover (what eventually became our modern-day Communion service) with alcoholic wine while churches today use non-alcoholic grape juice for Communion service. Why the change? Since Jesus Himself instituted Communion with alcoholic wine, by what right does the Christian church use grape juice in its place?
Fortunately the substance of the service is what counts, not the form. But this illustrates Man's misguided attempts to live righteous lives under his own efforts rather than by aid of the Holy Spirit. Somewhere along the line an attitude developed that drinking alcohol was unrighteous and that to please God we must abstain from it. Thus the church decided to improve on what Jesus instituted by substituting grape juice for wine during Communion.
All that aside, the bottom line for we, as Christians, is to set a good example for others. There's nothing beneficial about smoking a cancer-causing cigarette or hefting a beer, and both tobacco and alcohol cause this society any number of problems! Let your conscience, as led by the Holy Spirit, be your guide on these issues. But let no one make the decision for you by holding up as God's commandment a Man-made standard of holiness that goes beyond what the Bible, itself, establishes.
Final note: a false teaching is heard every so often that the wine in the time of Jesus wasn't really alcoholic and that the grape juice we would use today is essentially what Jesus used. This lie was born out of Biblical and cultural ignorance. The wine of the Old and New Testament was absolutely alcoholic in nature and if one drank enough he would get drunk. If in doubt, attend a passover seder or ask a rabbi.
Why doesn't God, if He exists, get rid of the evil in the world?
He has been! From the day Adam sinned and invited evil into the world, God has been going forward with a plan to eradicate it--but to eradicate it in such a way that all of humanity wouldn't be destroyed in the process. You might think that God should just snap his fingers and end all evil. But for reasons we cannot understand, the means by which God chose, which included the need for Jesus Christ to come to earth and die on the cross, was the only way to defeat evil without also destroying all of humanity in the process. Thus the eradication of evil is a process, not an event! Believe me--if there was a quicker, easier way for humanity to be saved and for evil to have been destroyed, God would have done it that way. He didn't send Jesus to earth to suffer on the cross for the heck of it any more than He allows evil to continue (apparently) unabated! As it is, God chose the best and only plan to accomplish the goal. It's not His fault that we live with evil--it's our fault. And we prove it every day when, knowing better, each of us makes the choice to do something we know is wrong, even if it's lying to benefit ourselves in some way, or by no more than placing others at risk by exceeding the speed limit because it's convenient for us.
Can a person who commits suicide go to Heaven?
The Bible doesn't really say one way or another. But we can be sure that God doesn't approve of suicide. No true Christian could consider suicide as an answer to life's problems. But what of the case of someone with an incurable disease who can't stand the pain any more? Again, we don't know. If someone calls on Christ in the moment before pulling the trigger or losing consciousness, who can say what happens from that point? Whatever happens, good or bad, God never approves of suicide if it's done as an easy way out of a problem.
I think that someone I loved died in an unsaved condition. Is there no hope for them?
Many people wrestle with the thought that a parent or relative died without Christ. This, more than anything else, speaks to the fact that we should not neglect the gift of salvation that Christ offers. None of us knows when or how we will die. Death can come as quickly as a car wreck or as slowly as Alzheimer's Disease. Only a fool puts off a decision for Christ if he has the ability to make that decision now. You can't answer for anyone else but yourself. But if there is a hope at all for someone you feel didn't know Christ, it lies in the fact that God exists outside our own time and space. He exists simultaneously in the past, present and future. Yesterday is as real to Him as this instant is to us. Ask Him to look down upon your loved one in the moment before he died and put in his heart the thought to call upon Jesus in the last instant of life. Who can say whether or not that could make a difference? Just maybe it could.
How do UFOs fit into the scheme of things? Is there life on other planets?
The Bible doesn't definitively say whether there is or is not life on other worlds. The strongest conclusion would be that there is not, and that earth is unique in creation. In the case of UFOs, alleged alien abductions, etc., it is apparent that these phenomena do not originate with God. In my Occult years I studied the subject of UFOs, which seem to go hand-in-hand with other spiritist phenomena. I do believe in the existence of UFOs and I believe in alien abductions. I do not, for an instant, believe these so-called aliens are independent life forms. They are undoubtedly demons masquerading in the guise of extraterrestrials. There is even a possibly they are a weird form of human-angellic hybrid. The 6th chapter of Genesis speaks about The sons of God taking human wives and producing hybrid offspring that God destroyed during the flood of Noah. Traditional Jewish teaching on the subject holds that these Sons of God were fallen angels that had the ability to mate with humans and produce offspring. The book of Jude alludes to this, stating that these fallen angels were cast into a prison of some sort by God for this violation. Not all Bible scholars agree with this; some believe the Sons of God were the descendants of Adam's son Seth. Be that as it may, Genesis 6 is one possible answer to the UFO question.
It's also interesting to note that many abductees report genetic experiments done by these so-called aliens. All this sounds suspiciously like the events behind Genesis 6 and may be the same old Devil up to the same old tricks.
There is no question that the entire physical universe fell with Adam's sin, and what Satan may or may not have been able to do away from the earth itself is unknown. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if UFOs and space aliens played some part during the Great Tribulation. And some Christian leaders who ridicule the idea of their existence may be the cause of many people stumbling in their faith if a flying saucer ever lands in front of the TV cameras and the crew steps out to deny the Biblical truth of creation!
As a final note, while I no longer follow the subject of UFOs, in the decades I have heard stories about them I note one interesting fact: You never hear tales of an alien abduction coming from a born-again Christian consciously striving to serve Christ! The people who find themselves encountering UFOs either have no particular religious faith to speak of, are superficial or non-practicing members of some old-line denomination, are into the New Age or dabble in the Occult. That says it all.
I once was a Christian and really trusted God, but He didn't come through when I needed Him most. Why should I continue to believe?
So far as I can tell, every Christian sooner or later in their walk with Christ is presented with a set of bad circumstances that God fails to deal with in a manner they hope. Lots of Christians make the mistake of becoming disillusioned and disappointed in God at that point and they eventually fall away. Part of the reason for this is that many times we come to Christ with the mistaken idea that He will solve our problems for us, or that if we turn to Him evil will be kept out of our lives. This simply isn't true, and Jesus said clearly in the Gospels that Christians will endure trials and tribulations in their lives. For instance, no one served Christ with greater fervor than Paul, yet in the 11th chapter of 2nd Corinthians he lists some of his trials--shipwrecks, betrayal, stonings, beatings, etc. The bottom line is, bad things will happen to Christians just as bad things will happen to non-Christians. The difference is, God can help the Christian to get through those trials more effectively than someone can without Christ. That or God can somehow, someday, bring some good out of the trial. Our job is to keep our faith and keep on following Him--even if He never removes the problem!
When Jesus first came to the earth, the Jews were looking for a Messiah who would solve their problems--drive the Romans out of their lives, give them security and assure that all their earthly needs would be met. When Jesus instead focused almost entirely on the people's making their lives right before God and purifying their hearts they rejected and crucified Him. We do much the same thing--many of us look to Jesus to be the answer to our earthly problems, not understanding that the practical realization of that still lies in the future when He reigns upon the earth directly. Until then He has promised to be our savior and to give us ultimate victory over the circumstances of our lives. But for now we must be satisfied with a Messiah who has come to change our hearts--not necessarily our circumstances.
Remember--once you become a Christian you attract even more attention of the Devil, and the Devil becomes your enemy in a greater way than he ever was before. Each time you get through a trial that God (apparently) doesn't deliver you out of, you get stronger in some way and you give the Devil a black eye.
But don't infer from this that I'm saying you're on your own and that you can't count on God to help you with life's problems. Many of us who've lived through disappointments when God hasn't moved as we've hoped can still tell you of the many other times when He has acted in marvelous ways. I'm only being honest with you that there will be times when you'll end up asking God Why? and you won't have an answer. Faith sometimes requires unanswered questions. More than one faithful Christian has cried out to God and still seen the business fail, the divorce happen, the child die. Giving up only gives the Devil what he wants.
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