Does the Bible Teach That You Can Lose Your Salvation?

Galatians 6

Listen to what Paul says [in Galatians 6), “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness, keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). 

The word “any” there is important. It is the Greek word “teeny,” not in the sense of “If anyone is caught in some teeny tiny sin you should restore them but if anyone is caught in any type of sin,” the Greek word there emphasizes the sort of indefiniteness of what Paul is describing, they can and they should be restored. This comes on the heels of what Paul said in Galatians 5 where he talked about the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.

When you look at the fruit of the flesh you know some of the things that Paul lists are quite jarring: sexual sin orgies drunkenness, people blowing up in anger, idolatry, these are the types of things that I think he has in mind when he says, “Hey look, if anyone is caught in any of these things, if they fall back into that, come alongside of them and restore them.”

Anyone who is repentant can be restored to fellowship with the church, but some sins, in my opinion, would preclude an individual from serving in certain capacities in the church. For example, if a person had been convicted of child abuse and come to faith, repentance looks like not serving in the children's ministry. If your sin had to do with money, it's unwise to serve as the church treasurer. Restoration doesn't always mean, let's stop being smart about the oversight and care of the church.

That's why I think we have to be especially careful with pastors and church leaders who are caught up in some of the things that the Apostle Paul mentions here and so as long as the person is living, breathing, we never want to assume that they're beyond the grace of God. The gospel, the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, is powerful. And there are some things that we might think a person could never come back from that, but God is able. That doesn't mean, however, we want to be foolish in how we care for the church and oversee the church.

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6 says, “Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity not laying again a foundation of faith toward God. It is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened," that was early church speak for baptism, “who have tasted the heavenly gift,” the Lord's Supper, "and have shared in the Holy Spirit and have tasted the goodness of the Word of God, and the powers of the age to come and they have fallen away to restore them again to repentance since they are crucifying once again, the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” There are two ways to read that I think one is to say, he's writing to a Jewish, Christian audience warning them about going back to Judaism. That would make sense of crucifying Christ afresh. You're going back to the sacrifices because the temple was still in operation. If you go back to Judaism and the sacrifices there you're crucifying Christ all over again. and there's no restoration. There is no salvation if you go back to that. 

Another interpretation would be, they can't be restored because they've hardened their heart, they've walked away. He says in verse 7, “For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it produces a crop useful. It receives blessing, but if it bears thorns and thistles it's worthless and near to being cursed. And, is to be burned.”

Notice he says, there are people in the church, growing up in the church hearing the Word, they've been baptized they even participate in the Lord's Supper. The Word of God just falls, but it falls on thorns and thistles. It is near to being cursed, he says, doesn't say it is cursed yet, it's near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

But here's the key verse, verse 9, “Though we speak in this way. Yet in your case beloved we feel sure of better things, things that belong to salvation.” So I think that what the writer is saying is, whichever interpretation you take, what the writer is saying is, those who really are saved who do belong to Jesus Christ. Do not hold the gospel in contempt. They're not crucifying Christ, all over again.

People who trust in Christ, receive the Word of God when the rain falls, they cherish that falling rain that comes from God as He speaks to us. And it bears fruit. It doesn't just fall on hard [hearts]. That is important for us to see. Hebrews six is not saying people lose their salvation. And if it were, it's also saying they can't be brought back to repentance, which means there is no such thing as people losing their salvation. And then “getting it back again.” If that's how you interpret this passage, but I don't think that that's what the writer is saying. 


Adapted from an answer given on Episode 131 of the Core Christianity Radio Show. 

Photo of Michael Horton

Michael Horton

Michael Horton (@MichaelHorton_) is the Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. The author of many books, including Core Christianity, he is also the host of the new Core Christianity radio show, a daily Bible question-and-answer show broadcasting nationwide. He lives with his wife Lisa and four children in Escondido, California. 

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