There is a popular doctrine within Christian theology known as the perseverance of the saints. You may have heard it described as the eternal security of believers. The doctrine expresses that all who are truly saved by God will never nor can ever lose their salvation. Their eternity is secure.
The question often goes: Is it ever possible, after surrendering our lives to Christ, to walk away from faith and no longer be “saved”? For centuries, Christians have debated whether or not a believer can lose their salvation. I have dear brothers and sisters who answer the question differently. Both groups love Jesus and seek to live biblically; however, some would answer the question with an emphatic yes, while others, a confident no. Which one is it?
The issue is important for practical Christian living, because, as Millard Erickson has described, “If, on the one hand, there is no guarantee that salvation is permanent, believers may experience a great deal of anxiety and insecurity that will detract from the major tasks of the Christian life. On the other hand, if our salvation is absolutely secure, if we are preserved quite independently of our lives or actions, then there may well be, as a result, a sort of lassitude or indifference to the moral and spiritual demands of the gospel.” Theology determines how we live our Christian life.
The question of whether or not a person can lose their salvation is more complicated than you may think, because there are places in Scripture that seem to suggest both (John 10:27-28; Hebrews 6:4-6). When I was in seminary, the warning passages found in Hebrews proved especially challenging to my growing understanding of eternal security. Conversely, the passages in Scripture which speak of the Holy Spirit “sealing” us and “guaranteeing” our salvation make a strong case that our eternal destiny is secure (Ephesians 1:13-14).
To muddy the waters more, I personally know people who were once fired up Christians now living a life contrary to much of the Bible’s teaching. Did they lose their salvation? It certainly appears that way.
Christians will continue to debate the issue, but I came to my personal opinion after pondering two questions about the father heart of God. First, does God love his children? Second, would he ever disown them? Perseverance has little to do with us. It’s all about God and what he has done and will continue to do. As John MacArthur has said, “If you could lose your salvation, you would.” We should properly call the doctrine the perseverance of the Father’s heart.
When I look at my children, I’m overcome with joy and love for them. Even if one of my daughters decided to disown me and leave my love, I would never disown them. Ever. They will always be my sweet girls and I will always see them as such. How much more so a perfect Father?
When we become Christians, we are called children of God. We pass from being enemies of the cross to being men and women transformed by it. God welcomes us into his family. It may be possible for us to distance ourselves from our family, though I think it’s unwise to do so, but whether we like it or not, we have a family. John 6:37 records Jesus saying, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” The ESV says Jesus will never cast us out.
You are going to fall short in this life. We all will. You are going to experience dry seasons where your love for God seems nonexistent. Thankfully, your eternal destiny is not thwarted by your ability to keep it all together. Timothy Keller once asked the question, “If you didn’t earn your salvation, how are you going to un-earn it?”
If you are a child of God, you may lose heart for him on occasions, but he will never lose heart for you. You may run from him, but he will always run to you. You may become distracted with worldliness and sin, but the Father’s heart will always woo you home. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, God the Father will welcome you into eternity with singing and shouts of joy. His heart for you, sinner, is one of grace.
If you have surrendered all, repented of sin, and trusted in the finished work of Jesus on your behalf, you will be with the Father for all eternity. Don’t lose heart. Those who are children of God will be children of God forever. Or, put another way, once a child of God, always a child of God.