There are three main positions that people take on this issue…
POSITION #1 – YOU CAN LOSE YOUR SALVATION BY NOT BEING FAITHFUL
Some people would argue that we can lose our salvation if we fail to walk closely with God. Sometimes Christians refer to this as ‘backsliding’. People who hold this position would argue that if we continue to ‘backslide’ and embrace a life of sin, then we will eventually destroy our relationship with God and we will no longer be saved.
POSITION #2 – YOU CAN ONLY LOSE YOUR SALVATION IF YOU STOP HAVING FAITH
Others would argue that we can never ‘backslide’ our way out of heaven. They believe that we were saved by grace, through faith, and that we remain saved by grace, through faith. As a result, it is impossible to ‘sin our way out of heaven’, just as it was impossible to ‘do enough good works to get into heaven’.
However, just as it was necessary to place our faith in Jesus in order to be saved, they believe that it’s necessary to keep our faith in Jesus in order to remain saved. We don’t have to walk closely with Jesus in order to remain saved, but we do need to keep our faith in Jesus in order to remain saved.
POSITION #3 – YOU CAN NEVER LOSE YOUR SALVATION
Many others believe that we cannot lose our salvation under any circumstance.
We cannot ‘backslide’ our way out of heaven’. They, like those who hold to ‘Position #2’, believe that it’s impossible to ‘sin our way out of heaven’, just as it was impossible to ‘do enough good works to get into heaven’.
Nor can we lose our salvation by losing our faith. They argue that it is actually impossible for a true Christian to ever lose their faith. That faith is a gift from God. And that God has promised to continue to work in and through our lives until we get to heaven. If a person once claimed to be a Christian, but now no longer has faith in Jesus, they would argue that they were never really a Christian in the first place.
‘Position #1’ is clearly not correct because it contradicts the message of grace…
It relies on what we continue to do, rather than Jesus’ finished work on the cross. People who hold to this view have most likely never trusted in Jesus to save them.
‘Position #2’ and ‘Position #3’ are both possibilities…
(a) Both can argued from the Bible.
(b) Both have to deal with certain ‘difficult Bible passages’ in order to maintain their case.
(c) Both can point to respected Christian leaders who hold to their view.
(d) Both believe that our salvation is secure because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, not because of our ability to stay close to Jesus
(e) Both believe that those who remain saved continue to have faith in Jesus.
The main difference is that according to ‘Position #2’, it is possible to disown Jesus and completely stop believing, whereas according to ‘Position #3’, a true Christian can never disown Jesus and stop believing because faith is a gift from God, and God has promised to continue His work in us until we get to heaven.
One way to think about this is to consider a mother carrying her baby as she walks across a busy street…
Position #1 says: If the child lets go of the mother, the mother will let go of the child.
Position #2 says: If the child lets go of the mother, the mother will continue to hold onto the child. But it is possible for the child to kick and scream enough till eventually he pries his way out of his mother’s arms.
Position #3 says: If the child lets go of the mother, the mother will continue to hold onto the child. And no amount of kicking and screaming will make it possible for the child to pry himself out of his mother’s arms.