As a Protestant, I always believed that my salvation was assured no matter what I did. I could sin away and it would not change my relationship with God or the fact that I was saved. Of course, I believed that if I really loved God, I would choose not to sin but I never imagined that my sin would separate me from God in any way. I believe this line of thinking actually allowed me to justify living my life "on my own terms". I easily fell into all sorts of things I never imagined I would. Looking back, I can see just how damaging it was to live my life this way. Though I continued to attend church, there were no real fruits from my faith whatsoever. There was an ample amount of grace from the people I attended church with, however... perhaps a bit too much. No one ever took me aside to explain that what I was doing was truly harming my soul and my relationship with God. I was assured of my salvation and so my relationship with God didn’t matter too much. Why did I need to do anything if I was already saved?
Can a person’s salvation be taken from them? The short answer is no.
John 10:27-28 (RSV)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.
Amen! No one can take my salvation away from me...
But the real question is:
Can a person intentionally turn their back on Jesus Christ and knowingly sin, and in turn, lose their salvation? The short answer is yes.
When we sin, we damage our relationship with God and this act of disobedience can cause us, by our own doing, to lose our salvation.
In the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21, "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Jesus said we would be persecuted and hated and that many will fall away "but he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13, RSV).
Notice here that "saved" is in the future tense and that we must "endure to the end" to be saved. This clearly indicates that we can lose our salvation if we fall into sin and are led astray.
This is also made clear in other passages in Scripture:
Romans 11:22 (RSV)
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.
How can you be cut off from something you don't already have?
Galatians 5:4 (RSV)
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
How can you be severed from Christ if you were not already a part of Christ? How can you fall from grace, if you didn't already have grace?
Even Paul feared being "disqualified" in 1 Corinthians 9:27 (RSV) when he wrote, "but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." Paul further goes on to warn us, "Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:11-12, RSV)
Scripture is clear on the matter. If we choose to sin and separate ourselves from God, we can lose that which has already been given to us: eternal life. This has caused me to take a much more serious look at sin in my own life. The thought of being separated from God because my sin has so greatly offended Him, is not a happy one. I cannot just say I’m a Christian and do whatever I want with the idea that I’ll be saved “no matter what”.
God does not take salvation away from me... but if I deliberately sin and sever that relationship with God, I will be cutting myself off, falling from grace... and those who do not endure to the end will not be saved.
Prayer: Most High God, please help me to recognize the temptation of sin before I fall into it. Keep your word close to my heart and give me the desire to please only You. Give me conviction of heart, grace and strength to do what is right and to live each day in service to You. Help me understand that assurance of salvation comes only by knowing that I am striving to live my life on your terms and not my own. Give me the humility to work out my salvation in fear and trembling and to continue hoping for the day that I will see you face to face. Amen.
Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.