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Can Salvation Be Lost?

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie


Sarah’s slumber slowly grew less deep as the sunlight streamed through the window.  She gradually awoke as day dawned.  Suddenly, she jerked awake.  “Where is my wedding ring?” she thought, looking in horror at her hand.  At once she tore back the blankets and began hunting around in the sheets.  Failing to find it, she looked under the bed, but could not see it there either.  She sat on the bed and racked her brain.  “Where could it be?  I’ve lost it!”



Lisa finished mixing her bread ingredients and removed the doughy lump from her bowl.  She set the mass on the cutting board and was about to begin kneading it when she noticed her wedding ring.  “Better take that off,” she thought, and quickly removed it and set it aside on the counter.  She then kneaded her bread and did not notice all day that she had forgotten to put her ring back on.[1]



These two women both had something in common – they found themselves without their wedding rings.  However, Sarah lost hers, while Lisa left hers.  What is the difference, and how does it apply to salvation?


Today, most Protestants/evangelicals believe that once a person is born again, he can never lose or forfeit his salvation.  They believe in “unconditional eternal security,” that no matter what the regenerated person does, he will still go to Heaven in the end.  Although I believe their position is unscriptural, I also believe that we should avoid saying that a person can lose his salvation.


The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines “lose” as “To mislay; to part or be separated from a thing, so as to have no knowledge of the place where it is”.  The word “lose” has a connotation of innocence and ignorance on the part of the person who did the losing.


If we use that definition of “lose,” then Christians can never lose their salvation.  A Christian will never wake up one morning and find to his horror that his salvation is gone, with no idea of what happened.  However, he can forfeit his salvation.


The dictionary defines “forfeit” as “To lose or render confiscable, by some fault, offense or crime; to lose the right to some species of property or that which belongs to one; to alienate the right to possess by some neglect or crime”.  Forfeit has a strong connotation of fault or guilt on the part of the one who forfeits.


God will never arbitrarily take salvation away from someone to whom He has granted it, but if a person willfully rejects God and walks away from his salvation, he has forfeited it.


“For it is impossible for those who were once 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 to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.  For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:4-8).


“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.  But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:20-22).

[1] The Bible teaches against the wearing of wedding rings (see I Timothy 2:9, I Peter 3:3).  We use these stories only as illustrations.—Ed.


Originally published in The Witness, March 2013.