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Can I Lose My Salvation?

written by Pastor Bob Coy
Sr. Pastor Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale

Dear Pam,

Thank you for your e-mail. Your question is a very common one. It is not always easy to get a balance between grace and works. Especially when you consider the following two areas of Scripture:

(Rom 4:2-5 NKJV) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. {3} For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." {4} Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. {5} But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

(James 2:17-20 NKJV) Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. {18} But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. {19} You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! {20} But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

As you can see, your question is not without merit. There have been volumes written concerning the faith versus works debate, as well as many denominational splits over it. But I believe that a deeper look at the Biblical principles, through the lens of God's grace, will shed enough light on the subject to help you have a clear understanding of God's heart.

Let me start with the truth that we have been created in the image of God and as such are triune beings. We are comprised of our body, soul and spirit. We can have an interaction with God on all three levels. I believe that in the body realm, many people experience God emotionally. They feel His love, they sense His warmth, they are thrilled by His awesome power. In the soul realm, a person can intellectually accept the facts of the Gospel. They can know that Jesus is the Son of God, just like they know that George Washington was the first President of the United States. They can intellectually understand that in order to not go to hell, they must accept what Christ has done for them. They can mentally assent to the fact that they are sinners, in need of a Savior. But the third area, that of the Spirit is one in which God transacts business. The Bible teaches:

(John 6:44 NKJV) "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.


(John 14:6 NKJV) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Here you have two mutually exclusive truths. No one can come to the Father unless they come through Christ; and no one can come to Christ unless the Father draws them. But the Bible also teaches:

(John 6:37 NKJV) "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.


(Mat 18:14 NKJV) "Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

(John 3:16 NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

So we see that salvation is a work of God exclusively, yet anyone who desires it can obtain it. The key to conversation rests not in our emotional or intellectual response to Christ's invitation for salvation, but rather in our volitional response. We can know Christ died for us, we can feel that He loves us, but until we choose by a voluntary act of our will to accept Him, we do not activate the power of Heaven to transact the experience of salvation.

Next, consider the verse in Hebrews that explains what faith is:

(Heb 11:1 NKJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

What does every Christian hope for? They hope that Christ resides in their heart. They take this hope by faith. But what is the evidence of this unseen essential? It is the life of Christ manifesting itself in the life of the believer. That's why the Bible teaches:

(2 Cor 5:17 NKJV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

(1 John 2:6 NKJV) He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

(Gal 5:19-25 NKJV) Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, {20} idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, {21} envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. {22} But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. {24} And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. {25} If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

(Titus 2:11-14 NKJV) For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, {12} teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, {13} looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, {14} who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

(Rom 6:7-19 NKJV) For he who has died has been freed from sin. {8} Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, {9} knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. {10} For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. {11} Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. {12} Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. {13} And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. {14} For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. {15} What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! {16} Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? {17} But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. {18} And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. {19} I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

(Mat 5:16 NKJV) "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

(Col 1:10 NKJV) that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

(Titus 1:15-16 NKJV) To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. {16} They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.

(Titus 2:7 NKJV) in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,

(Titus 3:8 NKJV) This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.

(1 Pet 2:9-16 NKJV) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; {10} who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. {11} Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, {12} having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. {13} Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, {14} or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. {15} For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; {16} as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.

I could continue for another 30 pages, but I think you can start to get the picture. Good works do not save a person, but a saved person will manifest good works.

Many people mistakenly assume that because they have made a mental assent to or engaged emotionally with the facts of the Gospel, that they have somehow become a Christian. The Bible clearly and unequivocally teaches that if a person is truly "born again," then his or her life will reflect that change. When someone says I believe in Jesus, the evidence of that fact is seen in his or her subsequent actions. This is true for any statement of belief. If I tell you that the building in which you are sitting as you read this letter is burning down, and you say, "I believe you, Pastor Bob." I will know if you really do believe me by whether you run out of the building or not.

For a Bible reference on this, check out Hebrews 3. The author is giving a lesson on faith from the Israelites' experience in the desert after they came out of captivity in Egypt and were headed towards the Promised Land. At many places along the way to the Promised Land, God tested the heart of the people to see if they truly believed Him.

(Exo 15:25-26 NKJV) So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them. And there He tested them, {26} and said, "If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you."

(Psa 81:7 NKJV) You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah

And what was the correct answer to this test of faith?

(Heb 3:17-19 NKJV) Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? {18} And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? {19} So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

God equates obedience with belief. The Israelites failed the test of faith because they did not put their money where their mouths were. They did not walk the talk. They said they believed, but they did not obey and God said that their disobedience was proof of their unbelief. The New Testament puts it this way:

(1 John 2:3-6 NKJV) Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. {4} He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. {5} But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. {6} He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

If someone states that they are a believer in Jesus Christ, then their life should reflect the truth of that statement. If it does not, then God calls them a liar.

I pray that this helps to clarify the position of works to salvation. Someone rightly stated that we are saved by faith alone, but saving faith does not stand alone. It will always be accompanied by a life that reflects the love and obedience of Jesus.

Till the Whole World Hears,