God’s Love and Christian Perseverance
There is no greater knowledge in the world than knowing one is saved by the loving Creator and Savior (1 John 5:13)—that one is a member of the blood-bought body of Christ that Jesus will one day take home with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). Though sin separates man from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), knowing that Jesus paid the debt for sin (Acts 20:28), knowing that one has become a recipient of the gift of salvation (see Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; see also Lyons and Butt, n.d.), and knowing that no outside forces, not even Satan, are strong enough to separate a Christian from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39), Christians should be the happiest people on Earth. No one can force a saved person from the spiritual safety found in Christ Jesus (John 10:28). No one is strong enough to take away the Christian’s gift of salvation. No one can make a saved man live in sin. No one can separate a follower of Christ from the love of Christ!
But, do not mistake Christ’s love (1 John 4:8), the power of His soul-cleansing blood (1 Peter 1:18-19), or the promise of spiritual safety (Romans 8:35-39) for a free pass to disobey the Master without suffering eternal consequences (cf. Romans 6:1). Although many have bought into the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” (i.e., a Christian can never fall out of favor with God), Scripture repeatedly denies such a claim.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mathew 6:14-15). What will happen to a forgiven Christian who becomes unforgiving? God will not forgive him of his sins. What happened to the servant who was previously forgiven an enormous debt, but later failed to forgive the small debt of another? “His master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers” (Matthew 18:34). “So,” Jesus said, “My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (18:35). When a person receives the gift of salvation (through confessed faith, repentance, and immersion in water—Acts 2:38; 8:26-40; 16:30-34; 22:16) and becomes a Christian, God forgives him of his debt. If he, however, becomes hardened and unforgiving, God will “deliver him to the torturers” (Matthew 18:34; 25:31-46).
The Bible nowhere teaches that Christians who, for example, lose their first love or who become lukewarm are still in a right relationship with God. Jesus never said that hypocrites are still saved. To the Christians in Ephesus who had lost their first love, Jesus said, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:5, emp. added). Christians who become lukewarm cannot remain in that state and expect to receive “the crown of righteous” on Judgment Day. Lukewarm Christians must “repent,” or, Jesus said, “I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:19,15-16). Unlike imperfect, yet saved, Christians who are striving to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:5-10), impenitent Christians defiantly living in sin are in a lost state and must repent in order to begin walking in the light again. A Christian should not expect to inherit heaven if he does not remain faithful to Christ. Jesus taught: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Christians should rejoice that no one can forcefully take the gift of salvation away from them. But, it is possible for Christians to lose hold of their own salvation (i.e., “fall from grace,” Galatians 5:4) by willfully becoming disobedient to the Master, Jesus Christ. Christians may choose to walk in darkness (becoming unforgiving, unmerciful, lukewarm, etc.), and thus forfeit their eternal life with God in Whom there “is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Or, Christians can choose to “walk in the light as He is in the light,” and forever remain in a saved state, having the blood of Jesus Christ continually cleanse all sin (1 John 1:7-9).
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (no date), Receiving the Gift of Salvation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Taking%20Possesion%20of%20God%20Gifts.pdf.