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Can I Lose My Salvation?

Can I lose my salvation? Based on church history and the Bible there is a more important question: is there a salvation I do not have yet?


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My Two-Minute Answer to Can I Lose My Salvation

I'm guessing that most of you who found this page with a search would like a quick answer. Hopefully, this two-minute answer will interest you in skimming the much longer answer below.

Romans 5:9-10 says:

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life.

Many teach that Jesus saved us from wrath on the cross. Even the beloved hymn, "In Christ Alone," says so, but Scripture does not. It says that we have been reconciled and justified by Jesus' death, but salvation from God's wrath is future and accomplished by his life in us.

Romans teaches that God rewards a life of "patient continuance in doing good" with eternal life (Rom. 2:6-7). Jesus died so that we would live righteously by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1-9). If we ignore this and live by the flesh, we will die, but if we, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body, then we will live (Rom. 8:12-13).

Thus, more importantly than "Can I lose my salvation?," you must ask, "Will I live righteously be the power of the Holy Spirit, so I can reap eternal life?" (Gal. 6:7-9).

John 15:6 and 2 Peter 2:20-22 make it clear that you can also lose the salvation from sin's power you already have, which you obtained from faith, but that only happens to apostates, people who walk away from Jesus. Salvation from wrath, though, needs to be obtained by faithfully continuing in the faith, walking in the Holy Spirit (Col. 1:21-23).

My Much Longer Answer to Can I Lose My Salvation

The Final Judgment

We do not take passages like 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 seriously enough:

For we must all be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive the things in the body according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are revealed to God, and I hope that we are revealed also in your consciences.

One day, Christians and non-Christians alike will face a final judgment. Paul describes this in Romans:

[God] will pay back to everyone according to their works: to those who by perseverance in well-doing seek for glory, honor, and incorruptibility, [he will repay] eternal life; but to those who are self-seeking, and don’t obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, [there] will be wrath, indignation, oppression, and anguish on every soul of man who does evil, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Rom. 2:6-8)

When I first read this, shortly after I was saved in 1982, I was puzzled. I had been taught that salvation is apart from works, but here was Paul saying eternal life is a reward for patiently continuing to do good!

It took me years to resolve my theological dilemma. I only resolved it almost a decade later when I discovered the early church fathers and began to read them.

Why should you listen to their teaching as presented by me below?

  1. Most evangelicals, in my experience, experience lots of difficult verses which they have to explain away with unlikely interpretations. For example, do you have a good explanation for Romans 2:6-7 above? I am going to explain that it means just what it says. I will show you below that Paul spends the next few chapters of Romans explaining how Jesus died to transform us into people who patiently continue to do good.
  2. This teaching comes from the time when all churches agreed with one another.
  3. The man who wrote the words in the link I just gave spoke the Greek of the New Testament as his native tongue. He was raised in Smyrna, under the teaching of a bishop who had been appointed by the apostle John. He then traveled to barbarian Gaul (Modern France, more than 1,000 miles away) as a missionary, without modern transportation, stopping at churches along the way for support and refreshment.
  4. You will see below that when you ignore modern tradition and simply believe what Romans 2:6-7 and other "difficult" passages say, then verse after verse after verse simply clicks into place.

The intial answer to the "puzzle" of Romans 2:6-7 and eternal life as a reward for works is so simple, I was stunned that I never saw it.

Why Romans 2:6-7 Means What It Says

In Ephesians 2:1-10, we read that we were saved by grace, through faith, and apart from works. That salvation, however, is carefully explained in those verses. We used to be slaves to sin and dead in our sins, but by grace, through faith, and apart from works (Eph. 2:8-9), we were "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).

Being re-created in Christ Jesus to do good works allows us to be the ones who receive eternal life because we are patiently continuing to do good. That salvation, a salvation from wrath, is something we have not received yet:

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life. (Rom. 5:9-10)

Here Paul tells us that we "were" made righteous before God and reconciled to God by Jesus' blood/death. We "will" be saved by him/his life from wrath. In other words, we used to be slaves to sin, but Jesus freed us from sin by his death (Rom. 6:7, 14). As he lives in us through his Spirit, and as we live by faith in him (Gal. 2:20), we patiently continue to do good, and we receive eternal life.

If you're having trouble with anything I am writing at this point, it may be because you have never heard this before, or perhaps the tradition that's been passed to you contradicts me (and also contradicts the Bible verses I have been showing you). More importantly, though, it might be because you know that the apostle John, in his Gospel and letters, says that eternal life is given to those who believe.

We will stick with the apostle Paul's writings right now and understand what he wrote fully. When we are done, you will see that it is not Paul and James who need to be reconciled, as Martin Luther and many who have followed him contend. Paul and James say the same things. It is Paul and John that need to be reconciled. Reconciling Paul with John is not hard to do, though. It is only their wording that conflicts. So we will get to the apostle John below.

We have seen that Paul teaches we are saved from our slavery to sin by grace through faith apart from works, then re-created to do good works by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, because of our "perseverance in well-doing," we will be rewarded with eternal life. Let's add in a couple more passages that will help solidify that idea:

Don’t be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let’s not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up. (Gal. 6:7-9)

This passage was written to Christians. Only Christians can choose to walk (live their lives) in the Holy Spirit or to walk in the flesh. If we "sow" to the flesh, we will not reap eternal life; instead, we will reap corruption. If we sow to the Spirit, we will receive eternal life and not corruption. Paul gives us a hint of how we sow to the Spirit by telling us not to grow weary in doing good, for that is how we will eventually ("in due season") reap eternal life.

The relation to Romans 2:6-8 is apparent. Romans 2 teaches that we will be rewarded for eternal life if we patiently continue to do good. Galatians adds the fact that good works come from living in the Spirit, and only then mentions that good works are how we reap everlasting life.

Paul drives this point home in a somewhat frightening way in Ephesians 5, warning us not to be deceived about the final judgment:

Know this for sure, that no sexually immoral person, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words. For because of these things, the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience. Therefore don’t be partakers with them. (Eph. 5:5-7)

There are those who argue that inheriting the "Kingdom of Christ and God" has to do with kingdom living on earth. If we are sexually immoral, unclean, or greedy (covetous), they say, we won't experience kingdom living on earth, but we will still live eternally in the Kingdom of God.

Despite the fact that many faithful followers of Jesus in evangelical churches hold to this interpretation, it is absurd.

I apologize for such a strong word. The only reason anyone would propose such an interpretation is because they have misinterpreted Paul's teaching on faith. They do not realize faith, and faith alone, brought grace to us, and that grace destroyed sin's dominion over us (Rom. 6:14; cf. Tit. 2:11-12). Faith alone brings a wonderful, amazing salvation. Hebrews describes it as "so great salvation" (Heb. 2:3). That salvation, however, is not a free ticket to heaven, but a rescue from slavery to sin so that we can do the good works that are rewarded with eternal life at the final judgment.

I know from experience that evangelicals find this almost impossible to swallow, but it is apparent that this is exactly what Paul teaches as soon as these verses are shown to you. I promise that I will address other things evangelicals have wrong, things that have your head spinning right now. The most important of those things is the horrible misunderstanding of God's mercy that Calvinism has handed down to us, especially the idea that "the slightest sin deserves eternal damnation."

All of these things are covered fully in my book, Rebuilding the Foundations.

Paul warns us that those who teach that we will receive eternal life at the judgment despite being immoral, unclean, and greedy are deceiving us with empty words. I know that many who teach this are only doing so because they too have been deceived with empty words, but it is still deceit, and it is still false.

When Paul says that the immoral, unclean, and greedy will have no inheritance in the kingdom of God and Christ, he is saying the exact same thing we saw in Galatians 6:7. Those who sow to the flesh will reap corruption. He wrote something similar in Romans 8:12-13:

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Obviously, even people who walk by the Spirit die physically. Paul is not warning us of physical death, but spiritual death, of reaping corruption rather than eternal life at the final judgment. Paul wrote both Romans 8:12-13 and Galatians 6:7-9. They are saying the same thing.

In this case, John uses the same wording as Paul. Despite teaching that faith is the only requirement for eternal life in John 3:16 and several other verses, John warns us not to be deceived by those who teach we can have "right standing with God" or "the righteousness of Christ" without living righteously:

Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. (1 John 3:7)

I suspect that most of my readers already know that John also wrote:

This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. One who says, "I know him," and doesn’t keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn’t in him. (1 Jn. 2:3-4)

We've covered enough already that you'll be able to read Paul's letters on your own and see that they all present the same picture.

So we will move on and cover four more things.

  • Romans 6:23, which is the main (only?) verse used to object to this teaching found in Paul's writings.
  • The mercy of God, which is greatly misunderstood in evangelical churches.
  • This teaching in the other New Testament writers
  • John's unique perspective on eternal life and works

Does Romans 6:23 Teach That I Cannot Lose My Salvation?

Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. The most important part of addressing Romans 6:23 is looking at Romans 6:22.

But now, being made free from sin and having become servants of God, you have your fruit of sanctification and the result of eternal life.

In verse 22, Paul says that sanctification (holiness) is the fruit of being a servant of God, and eternal life is the result of that sanctification. Isn't that the opposite of verse 23, which says that eternal life is a gift? In fact, most translations say it is a free gift! What is Paul saying??

The answer is simple, but hard to find if you are not told about it in advance. I was told about it from John Chrysostom's commentary on Romans (c. AD 386-388). Whether you agree with this article or not, you will love John Chrysostom's commentary on Romans 6:22-23.

Chrysostom begins in Romans 6:21, where Paul tells us that our former lives of shame can only lead to death. In the following comment on v. 22, "the former" refers to our old lives of shameful deeds. "These" refers to "being made free from sin and having become servants of God."

Of the former, the fruit was shame, even after the being set free. Of these the fruit is holiness, and where holiness is, there is all confidence. But of those things the end is death, and of these everlasting life.

Then he has something crucial to say about "these things" that lead to everlasting life. That life is just a hope right now, but there are things that are not just hope; we already have them.

After speaking of the wages of sin, in the case of the blessings, he has not kept to the same order: for he does not say, "the wages of good deeds," but "the gift of God;" to show, that it was not of themselves that they were freed, nor was it a due they received, neither yet a return, nor a recompense of labors, but by grace all these things came about. And so there was a superiority for this cause also, in that He did not free them only, or change their condition for a better, but that He did it without any labor or trouble upon their part: and that He not only freed them, but also gave them much more than before, and that through His Son.

In case it's not apparent, both these quotes, and the one that follows, are from the link above.

in this second quote, Chrysostom is telling us that Paul does not call eternal life the "wages of good deeds" because even the good deeds were a gift. The word "grace," everywhere it occurs, would better be translated "favor." God did us a favor by freeing us from sin and making us servants of God. Good works are good; they bring benefits. In between the previous two quotes, he describes those benefits:

... first the being freed from wickedness, and such evils as the very recollection of puts one to shame; second, the being made a servant unto righteousness; a third, the enjoying of holiness; a fourth, the obtaining of life, and life too not for a season, but everlasting.

If God has freed us from wickedness, made us servants of righteousness, allowed us to enjoy holiness, and is rewardig us with life from heaven as we live, then we cannot call eternal life "wages." No, eternal life is the fruit of holiness, but since holiness, too, is a gift to be enjoyed, the eternal life and the good deeds alike, are gifts.

Romans 6:23 is not contradicting Romans 2:6, where eternal life is said to be a reward for patiently doing good works; instead, Paul is explaining that by faith we can enter into the favor (grace) of God (Rom. 5:1-2), be freed from sin's dominion (Rom. 6:7, 14), and thus walk in the holiness whose fruit is eternal life (Cf. Heb. 12:14).

It is critical that once you understand that there is a final judgment that we all will face, a judgment at which we could be condemned with the sons of disobedience (Eph. 5:5-7), that you also understand the great gift that God has given us, the rewards of obeying him in this life, and astounding mercy he has for the righteous.

That judgment should be on our minds throughout our lives (1 Pet. 1:17), helping to keep us on the narrow path when things get hard, but it should also thrill us, for we are able to trust God that he will continue the work he has begun in us (Php. 1:6). At the judgment all things will be set right. Those who have continued in the faith steadfast, immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord (Col. 1:22-23 ;1 Cor. 15:58) will be rewarded, and those who have disobeyed, mocked, and done evil will be rejected and perish. The justice that all the righteous have longed for will be satisfied. We will know there was good reason that we withheld our own vengeance (Rom. 12:19) because we will see the vengeance that belongs to the Lord administered justly on the last day.

Before we press on to the other New Testament writers and then John, we need to enjoy an excursus on the mercy of God.

Excursus on God's Mercy

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Stop and give some thought to 1 John 1:7. What is it promising you?

The fact that we can be cleansed from all sin by walking in the light should make us long to know precisely how we can walk in the light. There are a couple somewhat long passages that will help.

This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, lest his works would be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God. (John 3:19-21)
For you were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth, proving what is well pleasing to the Lord. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather even reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things, when they are reproved, are revealed by the light, for everything that reveals is light. (Eph. 5:8-13)

If you skimmed those verses, that's no problem. I'm going to explain them to you.

More than anything, light is about exposing. Darkness hides things. Those who walk in darkness hide their deeds from man and God. Those who walk in the light expose their deeds to man and God.

The fruit of walking in the light is "goodness, righteousness, and truth" (Eph. 5:9). When you walk in the light, not only are you letting God (and your brothers and sisters in Christ) look at your deeds, you are also looking at the light of God. That exchange will transform you. As Paul wrote:

But we all, with unveiled face seeing the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

There is a transformation that happens by looking at God. This is tied to John's statement that if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. By beholding God and exposing ourselves to him, we can expect the fruit of goodness, righteousness and truth. We can also expect fellowship with those who, like us, are walking in the Spirit. And finally, we can expect that in exposing our deeds to God, good and bad, we will experience ongoing cleansing of sin by the blood of Jesus.

We give God effort, but he is responsible for the fruit. Paul describes the effort he gave God in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and Philippians 3:7-15, and he calls us to do likewise. Peter says we should "make every effort" to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10). The results, however, belong to God. In Romans 6:22, we saw that becoming servants of God resulted in holiness, the fruit of which is eternal life. God provides results; we provide service. We do not forsake our service, and he will not forsake us nor withdraw his favor.

As Jesus put it, apart from me you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5)

One terrible thing that Calvinism has done to all Protestants, Calvinist or not, was convince them that God's justice has something to do with punishing every sin. That's warped. It is wrong, bad, evil, and slanders God. Calvinist teaching from 500 years ago has caused otherwise good and sane people to believe that God punishes the slightest lawbreaker. They base it on a passage that says that adulterers and murderers are both lawbreakers, and therefore we should not judge one another (James 2:8-13).

The point of that passage is that we are all lawbreakers who will face the judgment one day, in need of the mercy of God. Judge without mercy, and you will be judged without mercy (Matt. 7:1-5).

But what, then, will happen to those who judge with mercy? You get it. They will be judged with mercy (Matt. 5:7).

Take, for example, the adulteress that was brought before Jesus at the beginning of John 8. We know what Calvinists think should happen to lawbreakers. They should all be sent to hell unless someone dies for them. That's gruesome, not just.

Jesus, who will judge us on the last day (2 Cor. 5:10), showed us what God thinks should happen to lawbreakers. He scowled at those who condemned the adulteress because he knew their hearts, and then, when he had run them off, he chose not to condemn her but just to tell her to stop sinning. It's apparent that he trusted his kindness to produce the repentance (Rom. 2:4) that has always brought forgiveness, even to the wicked (cf. Ezek. 18:20-30).

Jesus is just like his Father. God is not waiting to condemn us. He is waiting for us to repent (2 Pet. 3:9). He is not waiting idly for us to repent. He sent Jesus to ransom us out from under the power of sin, by his blood, so that we can be among the blessed to whom God will not impute sin (Rom. 4:8; and read Ephesians 1:7 at

That was a race through a teaching on the mercy of God that is covered fully at I Desire Mercy and Not Sacrifice.

Let's move on to how other New Testament writers address faith, works, eternal life, and a salvation that we have not yet received.

Other New Testament Writers on Whether I Can Lose My Salvation


Let's begin with Hebrews because we don't know whether Paul wrote it, then move on to documents we know Paul didn't write.

I'm going to address Hebrews simply. If you are honestly interested in whether you can lose your salvation, you will read the New Testament. When you get to Hebrews and read it, it will be apparent that Hebrews was written to warn you that even if you are saved now, if you turn away, you will not be saved. The whole book addresses this. You don't need me to show that to you. Just read it.


Matthew's Gospel is like Paul's letters. Eternal life is a future reward that will be obtained by doing God's will. In other words, it is only at the final judgment that eternal life is rewarded, so eternal life, in Matthew, is a salvation that we have not received and will only receive if we continue to the end.

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 7:21)
If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire. (Matt. 18:8)

In these passages, entering the kingdom of heaven or being cast into eternal fire, has to do with how we lived. Of course, in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) Jesus had not yet revealed that he was going to die, rise again, send the Holy Spirit, re-create us in himself (Eph. 2:10), and live in us (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:1-4). He had not yet revealed that we would be able to live out the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), do the will of the Father, and avoid stumbling by the grace he would reveal (Rom. 6:14; Tit. 2:11-12; Heb. 12:1-2).

This is just one more difference between John's Gospel and letters and the rest of the New Testament. In John, Jesus is quick to reveal that he is the Son of God, while that is withheld from everyone except the apostles in the other Gospels. In John, Jesus freely talks about the life that will come to us through faith in him, while in the rest of the Gospels, Jesus teaches repentance and faith, but he does not reveal the power that is coming to transform us.

Again, though, we will get to John's perspective below.

Back to Matthew, there are just too many passages to go through all of them. You'll have to read through Matthew's Gospel yourself and see how consistent Jesus is about eternal life or the eternal kingdom being a reward ot the judgment for a life lived for him. I am going to cover two more passages, though.

First, in Matthew 19:16-23, a rich, young man comes to Jesus asking him what he must do to have eternal life, and Jesus tells him to keep the commandments.

Let me pause the story here. Because of Reformation tradition, we have many reasons to disbelieve what Jesus said. Some say that Jesus was just testing the man because no one can keep all the commandments. Others say that was true under the Old Covenant, which still applied while Jesus was alive.

I suggest instead that our study of Paul at the beginning of this article proves that Jesus was simple telling the man the truth. A pattern of obeying God's commandments is what leads to eternal life. That is exactly what Paul says in Romans 2:6-7, and he then spends the next six chapters telling us how Jesus' obedient sacrifice of himself, his sin offering to God, frees us from sin and makes us obeyers of God rather than sinners (e.g., Rom. 5:19; Rom. 8:1-4).

Thus, it is true that Jesus knew the rich man could not obey the commandments, but it is also true that obedience to the commandments leads to life. In fact, even the apostle John, the only New Testament writer who says that we have eternal life while we are on earth, says that if we don't obey Jesus' commandments, we don't have eternal life (1 Jn. 2:3-4; 5:13).

Jesus then drills down to the real issue. Jesus lists some commandments as examples, and the rich man says he has kept them since his youth. The rich man, though, like all of us before knowing Jesus, was dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1-3) and blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). He did not know that he was violating the greatest commandment of all, loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. He loved riches more than God. We know this because he loved riches more than he loved the poor and more than he loved Jesus, God's sent One. When Jesus asked him to give up his treasures to the poor and follow Jesus, the rich man refused.

Whether you agree with the way I just explained Matthew 19:16-23 or not, one thing is certain. Jesus told the rich man that if he wanted eternal life, he had to do some things. The main thing he had to do is what Jesus calls all of us to do, forsake our attachment to our possessions so much that we are ready to lose them or give them away for the sake of Jesus (Luke 14:33). In fact, right here in Matthew 19, Jesus tells Peter that leaving houses, family, or land for his name's sake will be rewarded in this life with a hundred times more and that those who do so will receive eternal life (Matt. 19:27-29).

The rich man had forgotten that God puts himself in debt to the man who gives to the poor (Prov. 19:17). It is a truth that you cannot outgive God. In Luke 6:38, Jesus says, "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you."

We're off subject, and I will get us back on subject by getting to that second passage I promised. First, though, I want to give a caveat in regard to God paying us back on this earth. I don't understand this the way the prosperity preachers understand it. Being rich is not necessarily a blessing. Jesus said right here in Matthew 19 that it is so difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven that it takes a miracle (vv. 23-26). Paul said, "those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation, a snare, and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction" (1 Tim. 6:9).

Jesus was not promising that those who give will be wealthy in money and possessions. Instead, he was giving us a glimpse of the church. In Acts we can see that the church was a family, sharing their possessions, allowing everyone to have many brothers, sisters, parents, lands and houses, a hundred times more than they could have had alone. You'll find this especially shown in Acts 2:42-48 and 4:32-33.

Okay back to eternal life as a reward that we have not yet received.

The second passage I mentioned is the clearest of all. Other than the Book of Revelation, Matthew 25:31-46 is the only thorough passage on the final judgment in the New Testament. When Jesus comes and sits on his throne, all the nations will be gathered before him. He will divide them into sheep and goats. He will tell the sheep to inherit the kingdom that was prepared for them "for" (i.e., because) they had taken care of the poor (Matt. 25:34-36). Then he will tell the goats to "depart ... into the eternal fire ... prepared for the devil and his messengers, for ..." (i.e. because) they did not help the needy.

Note: I really hate that translators don't translate the Greek angelos as "messenger," which is what it means, rather than "angel," which is a word we made up because it sounds like angelos.

Like another long passage on God's judgment, Ezekiel 18:20-30, the Judgment of the Sheep of the Goats not only tells us that the final judgment will be according to works, like so many other passages do (e.g., Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:17; etc.), but it also tells us that it is not the sinlessly perfect who receive the reward, but simply those who practice righteousness on an ongoing basis. "Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season you will reap, if you do not lose heart" (Gal. 6:9).

There is a righteousness of Christ that we receive. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "The One not knowing sin, he made a sin offering for us that we should be [the] righteousness of God by him" (Apostolic Bible Polyglot). It is important that we understand, though, that just as the reward of eternal life is for those with a pattern of doing good, so the righteousness of God is for those with a pattern of personal righteousness. The apostle John says not to be deceived about this:"

Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. (1 Jn. 3:7)

Mark and Luke

Let's move on to Mark and Luke. Luke, of course, wrote not just the Gospel in his name, but also the Book of Acts ("The Acts of the Apostles") as well.

The Gospels of Mark only uses "eternal life" twice, both of which uses we have covered in the story of the rich, young man. The rich man came running to Jesus, asking how to obtain eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep certain commandments, then tells him to sell what he has, give to the poor, and follow Jesus. Shortly thereafter, Jesus tells Peter that those who give up houses, families, and lands will receive a hundred times more now, and in the age to come, eternal life (Mark 10:17-30).

The Gospel of Luke first has a similar story in Luke 10. A lawyer asks Jesus what must be done to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks the lawyer what he thinks. The lawyer answers:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

Jesus was satisfied. He said, "You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live" (Luke 10:28).

That wasn't good enough for the lawyer. Luke says he wanted to justify himself (Luke 10:29), so he asked who his neighbors were.

Jesus, of course, wanted the lawyer (and the rest of us) to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:44-45), so he told the lawyer the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35). At the end, he asked the lawyer which person behaved like a neighbor toward the man who was mugged (Luke 10:36). The lawyer sheepishly admitted it was the Samaritan, though he could not get himself to say "Samaritan," but only "he who showed mercy on him" (Luke 10:37).

The point, of course, is that once again, receiving eternal life is tied to obeying, in this case obeying the second-greatest commandment. We can see that the writer of Hebrews, whether it was Paul or not, agreed with this, writing:

Though [Jesus] was a Son, yet [he] learned obedience by the things which he suffered. Having been made perfect, he became to all of those who obey him the author of eternal salvation. (Heb. 5:8-9)

As an aside, let me point out that Jesus did not become obedient by suffering, as though he was not obedient until he suffered. Instead, he learned what it was like for us mere humans to obey by obeying through his own suffering. He got a feel for the difficulties we face as humans, so that "we don’t have a high priest who can’t be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but one who has been in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).

The point I want to make is that Jesus is the author of eternal salvation for those who obey him (Heb. 5:9). Peter repeats this in Acts 5:32, saying:

We are his witnesses of these things; and so also is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.

Jesus died and rose again so that we would have the power to live for him and not for ourselves (2 Cor. 5:15). In this way, infused the with Holy Spirit, we are able to live by the Spirit, produce the fruit of the Spirit, and overcome the flesh (Gal. 5:16-25). In this way, we are among the obedient who receive eternal salvation by our Savior who walked the path before us. For us, he is both an example to follow, and he lives inside of us to empower us by his Spirit.

Okay, let's wander back to Luke again. I pray that the sidetracking I've done is encouraging, despite the frightening topic of this post.

It is in Luke 18:18-30 that we find out that the rich man of Mark, whom we found out was young in Matthew, was also a ruler. Thus, it takes all three synoptic Gospels to find out that the rich man is a rich, young, ruler. The story, though, is exactly the same as it was in Mark and Luke, and that is the only other mention of eternal life in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke did write Acts as well, but there are only two mentions of eternal life in Acts, in Acts 13:46 and Acts 13:48. These are unconclusive for our subject. Paul accuses the Jews of judging themselves unworthy of eternal life, and then Luke reports that the Gentiles, as many as were appointed to eternal life, believed. That second verse is one Calvinists love, but we are not addressing foreknowledge or predestination in this article.

I do not want to leave Acts, however, without addressing two interesting verses. One I have already covered, Peter saying that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him (Acts 5:32). The other is Acts 26:20, where Paul testifies that he ...

... declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance.

In Acts 11:1-17, Peter explains to the Jews the miraculous signs and visions that led to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, being baptized in Acts 10. When he is done telling the story, the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem agree with Peter that "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life!" (Acts 11:18).

Repentance leads to life. This is why Paul would say that he was testifying everywhere that people should repent, turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance. When Cornelius repented, God gave him and his family the Holy Spirit. Someone who repents and believes in Jesus will find that they have the power to do "works worthy of repentance."


James does not use the term "eternal life" is his epistle. We all know, however, that he said that we are justified by works and not faith only (James 2:24).

Martin Luther complained that Romans 3:28 ("justified by faith apart from the works of the law") and James 2:24 cannot be reconciled, but the reconciliation is easy if you understand Paul. By faith, and apart from works of the law or works of any kind (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5), we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph. 2:10). If we refuse to do those works, we will be judged with the sons of disobedience (Eph. 5:5-7).

Paul was presenting and arguing for his Gospel of faith to the Roman Christians, a faith which powerfully justified those who believed it, resulting in holy living (cf. Rom. 1:16-17). James was not trying to be precise. He was just driving home the point that if your faith does not produce good works, your faith is useless and dead (James 2:14-20). Paul would agree with this and said so in Ephesians 5:3-7, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, and Galatians 5:19-21.

There is no need to reconcile Paul and James. They teach the same things.


Peter, too, does not use the phrase "eternal life" in his letters. He does use "eternal" twice. He says in 1 Peter 5:10 that God has called us to eternal glory in Christ Jesus. That verse includes a blessing that God would "perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you" after you have suffered a while.

Much clearer is Peter's use of "eternal kingdom" in 2 Peter 1:11. In the first chapter of his second letter, he explains how to be "richly supplied" with an entrance into the eternal kingdom. I do love 2 Peter 1:3-11 as an explanataion of the way of faith.

  • In verse 3, we are told that we have been given "all things that pertain to life and godliness."
  • In verse 4, we learn that he has given us "great and precious promises," and we can use those to partake of God's divine nature because we are already delivered from "the corruption that is in the world through lust."

Clearly this is a reference to what we receive as a gift, by faith, because Peter starts to talk about how to build on our faith in the next verse.

Yes, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence; and in moral excellence, knowledge; and in knowledge, self-control; and in self-control perseverance; and in perseverance godliness; and in godliness brotherly affection; and in brotherly affection, love.

We build on our faith, which has already given us everything that pertains to life and godliness and allowed us to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. We do so by supplying "moral excellence" in our faith. This means simply that once we are saved, we start doing good as best we know it.

Of course, since we do not understand the Word of God on the first day we are saved, we need to supply knowledge, so that our "moral excellence" is more excellently moral. In our knowledge we supply self-control because knowledge only benefits us if we do it (James 1:22). In self-control we supply perseverance because perseverance is just ongoing self-control. The result of giving "all diligence" (2 Pet. 1:5) is that godliness, brotherly affection, and love will be produced in our lives.

Verses 8-9 tell us that if we give all diligence to these things, we won't be idle nor unfruitful in our knowledge of Jesus, but if we lack these things, we'll become so short-sighted that we are almost blind.

The kicker, the place where Peter teaches exactly what I have shown you that Paul teaches, in in verses 10-11.

Therefore, brothers, be more diligent to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble. For thus you will be richly supplied with the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10-11)

Simply put, if we want to know for sure that we are called and chosen, then we need to be "more diligent" in doing these things (the things in 2 Peter 1:5-7) because if we do them we will not stumble. Instead, that diligence will lead to being richly supplied with an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior.

Since this article started on the subject of "can I lose my salvation," we need to cover one other passage in 2 Peter.

For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in it and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:20-21)

We saw in 2 Peter 1:4 that escaping the corruption that is in the world through lust is a gift we receive by faith, but here Peter tells us that if we have received that gift, but we are "again" entangled in the world and overcome, we are worse off than before we were rescued by faith in Jesus.

Those who don't believe the things I am showing you in this article like to argue that the end of 2 Peter 2 is about false teachers. Indeed, 2 Peter 2 is primarily about false teachers, and "they" in 2 Peter 2:20 is probably a reference to those teachers. Nonetheless, do we really believe that only false teachers will bo condemned if they are overcome by the world? Surely, if we are overcome by the world, we will receive the same condemnation that these false teachers receive.

The subject of 2 Peter 2 is not only false teachers, but also those "many" who "follow their immoral ways" (2 Peter 2:2). In verse 9, we are told that "the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment," but if we follow in the footsteps of these false teachers, we are not the godly but the unrighteous. Paul warned us what happens to Christians who practice immorality (Eph. 5:5).

Let's move on to our last New Testament author, Jude.


Jude, the Lord's brother, is the last New Testament author to be covered before we get to the apostle John. He does use eternal life, just once, but he also speaks of eternal fire.

Even as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, having in the same way as these given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are shown as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7)
But you, beloved, keep building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21)

In verse 7, Jude emphasizes that the behavior of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the cities around them are examples of the type of people who will suffer eternal punishment. Sodom is famous in the USA for being a city of homosexuals, but the description of their sins in Genesis are much worse. It was not just homosexual sex they were attempting, but gang rape. Later, Ezekiel describes the sin of Sodom in this way:

Behold, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and prosperous ease was in her and in her daughters. She also didn’t strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. (Ezek. 16:49)

This verse is not actually about Sodom. God is talking about Israel through Ezekiel, insulting them by calling them Sodom. The point is that eternal condemnation is not just dealt out for homosexuality, but for pride and for being full and prosperous while neglecting the poor and needy. There is also the list we read about Ephesians 5:3-5, and Paul has an even longer list of sins that lead to eternal death in Romans 1:18-32.

We're not to be like Sodom and the surrounding cities. We are to build ourselves up in faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, keep ourselven in God's love, and look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

I think it's apparent that Jude, too, understands that there will be a final judgment for Christian and non-Christian alike, a judgment by works, just as Paul teaches. Also just as Paul teaches, Jude believed we will be saved from wrath and rewarded at the final judgment for a life of submission to God, walking in his love and mercy.

We have now covered all the New Testament writers except the apostle John. There are two things to remember as we discuss the different wording used by Paul and John, especially in regard to eternal life.

  • Paul speaks of eternal life as a future reward for "perseverance in well-doing" (Rom. 2:6-7). John speaks of eternal life as a current possession of the Christian (John 3:16; etc.).
  • "Eternal" is not a description of our possession of eternal life; it is a description of the life itself. The life of Jesus is eternal whether we have it, don't have it, did have it, or never had it. The life remains eternal even if we are a branch that does not bear fruit, and we are cut off from the vine and its eternal life.

The Apostle John's Unique Use of Eternal Life

Let's start with John's most well-known verse:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Actually, I only just realized that John 3:16 could be taken Paul's way, that we believe now, and the end result, at the judgment, is eternal life. So let's use a couple verses that clearly say believers have eternal life now, on earth, before the judgment. I'll use one from his Gospel and one from his first epistle, both well-known, even though neither have been held up on signs by fans in sports stadiums nor made it to Tim Tebow's sun shadow.

He that believes has eternal life. (Jn. 6:47)
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 Jn. 5:13)

The first church I attended as a Christian, back in 1982, used Dr. D. James Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion to train me and the rest of the visitation team in evangelism. At the end of our outlined presentation of the Gospel, we used these two verses to assure anyone who accepted our Gospel that they had eternal life. They have "eternal" life, we told them, and if it is eternal, it can never be taken away.

John 6:47, taken alone, and without any other verses, does seem to say that. 1 John 5:13, however, does not even seem to say that. It clearly states that if you want to know you have eternal life, you should read "these things I have written." Yet no one ever asked, "What are those things John wrote so I can know I have eternal life?" None of us on the visitation team asked that either. We just read the book and did what it said without thinking about it.

I am happy to report that a quick Google search shows that times have changed. There are quite a few absurd things that Christians used to believe that evaporated like fog under the morning sun when exposed to the bright light of the World-Wide Web. Just yesterday, I was thrilled to hear a man, born in the 80s, say, "No way!," when I told him a lot of Baptist churches in the 80s taught that you could be a Christian and go to heaven without even trying to obey Jesus. The internet has brought us bad things but, when used properly, it has also brought progress and knowledge.

It's hard to find anyone teaching the absurd idea that you can be a Christian without trying to be like Christ anymore. It was not hard in the 1980s when I was first saved but, thank God, it is difficult on May 23, 2024, to find anyone on the internet using 1 John 5:13 to assure a person of salvation without bringing up at least a couple of "these things I have written to you."

Also, in Evangelism Explosion's defense, there is effort in the outlined Gospel presentantion to explain faith as real trust rather than "mental assent."

This little walk through the past brings me back to reconciling Paul and John. John says we have eternal life now; Paul says it is a future reward. The rest of the New Testament agrees with Paul. What's up?

Well, first, if we get away from the "eternal life" wording, we find John explicitly agreeing with Paul.

[The Father] also gave [the Son] authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. Don’t marvel at this, for the hour comes in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. (Jn. 5:27-29)

Even here John's wording is different than Paul's, but the idea is the same. Paul says all of us are coming into judgment (2 Cor. 5:10), as does Peter (1 Pet. 1:17), and Paul adds, "... whether good or bad." John has only those who have done evil coming into judgment, while those who have done good will receive a resurrection of life, seemingly pre-judged as worthy of the kingdom of God.

I used "worthy of the kingdom of God" with 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 in mind:

We ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.

In this passage, Paul also suggests that "perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions" indicates that God is currently judging the Thessalonians as worthy of the kingdom of God.

Since our worthiness has been brought up by this passage in Thessalonians, let's address the common protests by our brothers and sisters in Christ that we cannot be worthy. It is almost a mantra in evangelical churches. Admittedly, there is cause for saying we can't be worthy. Jesus told us that after we have done everything that we have been commanded, then we should say, "We are unworthy servants! We have only done what we have been commanded to do!" (Luke 17:10; cited from memory).

Humility is a good thing. As I have read through the writings of the early church fathers, I find them often referring to themselves as unworthy servants. This is humble, but Paul prayed, "that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects" (Col. 1:10), and Jesus said that it is only the worthy who will walk with him in white (Rev. 3:4). He also suggests that the unworthy will have their names blotted out of the Book of Life (Rev. 3:5).

Look up the New Testament uses of "worthy" sometime. Paul regularly urges his churches to walk worthy of the Lord, and he regularly prays for them to do so. Be humble and call yourself unworthy, because there is a higher standard that we are always striving for, but also give yourself to living worthy of your calling (Eph. 4:1). Paul was confident that the Thessalonians were doing so (2 Thes. 1:5). Jesus said that a few in Sardis were doing so (Rev. 3:4).

Okay, back to Paul and John.

If we follow 1 John 5:13 back to the rest of his letter, "these things" that John had written say that if we want to know we have eternal life, we must be walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:6-7), obeying his commmandments (1 Jn. 2:3-4), loving our brother (1 Jn. 2:10-11), not loving worldly things (1 Jn. 2:15), and doing righteousness (1 Jn. 3:7). Believing is a super power in John's vocabulary. When we believe to eternal life (Jn. 6:47), some gorgeous fruit should spring up.

If that fruit does not spring up, then—according to John—you are just imagining you have eternal life.

Let's address one more passage, a long one, in John's Gospel, and then I'll present my conclusions on the puzzling differences between Paul and John.

That passage is John 15:1-6. John 15 is one of the most important chapters in the Bible because if you don't get its message, you will wear yourself out trying to do things you have no power to do. Christianty is a spiritual, miraculous, powerful religion that will enable you to overcome every enemy that comes against you, but not in your own power. Jesus and his apostles call us to do things that are in the realm of the impossible. Nearly 1900 years ago, someone said:

Your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them. (Justin Martyr, c. AD 160, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 10

As it was among non-Christians 1864 years ago, so it is today. Almost everyone believes that the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chs. 5-7) is impossible for humans to obey. Unfortunately, today that includes a lot of Christians as well as non-Christians. That is because we often do not live in the kind of power that the apostle John, and Jesus himself, expected us to live in.

I'm taking some time to get to John 15:1-6, I know, but that is because it seems a crying shame for me to address only a few verses in John 15 in order to show the similar thinking in Paul's and John's writings. After I make use of those few verses in John 15, go back and read the whole chapter. Ingest it, make it yours, and make sure you know how to "remain in him."

This can help you ingest John 15. Jesus told this parable:

No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch would tear away from the garment, and a worse hole is made. Neither do people put new wine into old wine skins, or else the skins would burst, and the wine be spilled, and the skins ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wine skins, and both are preserved. (Matt. 9:16-17).

This is what happens if you put the new wine of Jesus' commands and teachings into container that has not been born again (Jn. 3:7-8) nor created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10). The container will burst, and the teachings will be lost. It's like using a piece of new cloth to patch an old one. It works fine until you start washing the garment. The patch begins shrinking, and soon the garment is worse off than it was.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chs. 5-7) is recognized even outside of Christianity as the greatest or one of the greatest moral teachings ever given. Its standards are recognized as the height of morality and goodness in all nations and all religions. It has caused Jesus to be honored as a great prophet by Islam and as one of the Buddhas by Buddhists. Yet it is Jesus himself who taught us that it cannot be carried out by people who have not been regenerated by the Spirit of God.

With that said, here is John 15:1-6:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already pruned clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I in you. As the branch can’t bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me. I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man doesn’t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

We have seen that John has a lot to say about the life lived by those who are born again and have eternal life. They set a breathtaking example by walking in the light, obeying Jesus' commandments, not loving the world, but instead loving one another and doing righteousness. This is how it is done. It is done by being joined to Jesus by faith, so joined that we are each like a branch on a vine. We cannot produce fruit with being joined to the vine.

Jesus' point here, though, as reported by John, is that we must remain in him. Apparently, it is possible not to remain in him, in which case, we will be "thrown out as a branch" and wither. Eventually, we will be gathered up and thrown in the fire.

With all John says, it is easy to miss this. If we believe, we have eternal life (Jn. 6:47). How is it possible not to remain in him if we have eternal life?

Well, first the "eternal" in eternal life does not refer to our possession of it. The life itself is eternal. In fact, it is the life of Jesus himself and thus, of course, the life of God the Father (1 Jn. 1:1-4). That life is in the Son (1 Jn. 5:11). If you remain in the Son (have the Son, 1 Jn. 5:12) you have eternal life. If you don't remain, you don't have it.

I have been trying to avoid pointing out the pitiful excuses some Christians use to justify believing their tradition over what Jesus said. Here, though, I need to point out that some, who hold that we cannot lose our salvation, argue that fruitless branches are only cut off for pruning, not for burning.

I am not sure if those people have ever seen a vine or tree pruned. You prune the vine. Sometimes you prune smaller branches off a branch, but everything that is cut off withers. It is thrown away or burned. Jesus said that branches that bear fruit are pruned. Everything that is not fruit is cut off, but the branch itself is not cut off. Branches that do not bear fruit, however, are not pruned but are cut off ("taken away", Jn. 15:2). Leaving the figurative and getting literal, he says that a person who does not remain in him is "thrown out as a branch," withers, and is thrown into the fire.

It is much safer to heed the warning of Scripture rather than trying to circumvent them with explanations that, upon deeper examination, are irrational, disconnected from what the passage actually says.

What Paul and John Both Say About Losing Our Salvation

1. There is a salvation that we do not have yet.

John speaks of a coming day when Jesus will speak, and all the dead will come out of their graves. Those who have done good will rise to life, and those who have done evil will rise to condemnation (Jn. 5:28-29). Paul tells us that we "shall be" saved from wrath by the life of Jesus in us (Romans 5:9-10). "Saved by his life" in that passage is explained in Galatians 2:20, where Paul tells us that he has been crucified in Christ, but now Jesus lives in him. If we live like that, we will be saved from wrath at the judgment.

2. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God

Paul says this outright accompanied by a warning not to be deceived about it (1 Cor. 6:9). John also warns us not be led astray on the same subject. It is only those who practice righteousness who have the righteousness of Christ (1 Jn. 3:7).

3. There is a final judgment coming based on works.

Romans 2:6-7, which tells us we will be judged by our works, has been a central passage in my treatment of whether we can lose our salvation. We looked at John 5:28-29, where John, quoting Jesus, says that the Son of Man will call everyone out of their graves one day, the ones who have done good to a resurrection of life, and the ones who have done evil to a resurrection of judgment. We did not discuss this one:

Now, little children, remain in him, that when he appears, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. (1 Jn. 2:28)

While being ashamed before him at his coming is not the same as being condemned by him at his coming, we have seen already that those who do evil will be condemned at his coming. They will not receive a resurrection of life (Jn. 5:28-29). This passage does teach us, just as Paul does, that if we want to be filled with boldness when he comes, we must remain in him. Or, as Paul says:

You, being in past times alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil deeds, yet now he has reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without defect and blameless before him, if it is so that you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Good News which you heard (Col. 1:21-23)

Finally, both Peter and John use similar wording in describing how we prepare for Jesus' return:

My little children, let’s not love in word only, or with the tongue only, but in deed and truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and persuade our hearts before him, because if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have boldness toward God. (1 Jn. 3:18-22)

If we want boldness when Jesus returns, John writes, we must love in deed and truth, not just talk about love. Peter tells us, in 1 Peter 1:10, that we can make our calling and election sure by diligently doing "these things." These things are the seven attributes Peter said we must supply in our faith in 2 Peter 1:5-7. That series of attributes ends in love. So not only do both Peter and John say we can have assurance, but both say we can have that assurance in the same way, by loving in truth and deed.

Final Thoughts

One omission in this treatise concerns the witness of the Spirit. This is something both Paul and John mention. Paul wrote:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. (Rom. 8:16)

John wrote just a bit more on that subject:

He who keeps his commandments remains in him, and he in him. By this we know that he remains in us, by the Spirit which he gave us. (1 Jn. 3:24)

If you have been born again, you should have the witness of the Spirit in your heart that you are a child of God. John points out that this happens if you are obedient to God. In the same way, Peter said God gives the Spirit to those who obey him, and the writer of Hebrews (possibly Paul) says Jesus is the author of eternal salvation for those who obey him (Heb. 5:9)

Note: There are exceptions to almost every truth. I can think of two people I know who struggle to "feel" even in earthly and emotional things, much less in spiritual things. I have had a lot of interaction with one of them, and so have other teachers and leaders that I know. Except for "the witness" in our heart, this friend certainly appears to be at least as devoted to God as any of us are, but he does not have the witness of the Spirit. Many of us have a unique cross to carry. I believe God told me to tell my friend, "Blessed is he who has not seen, yet believes" (Jn. 20:29). If you, too, have trouble feeling, walk by faith and not sight. Be obedient and trust that God is both faithful and merciful.

The question addressed in this article was whether we can lose our salvation. I redirected this to a more pertinent question: is there a salvation we do not yet have? As we have seen, there sure is. There is a judgment coming at which our works, our obedience to God through Christ, will be judged. If we have faithfully served the Lord, making every effort to obey him by keeping our eyes on him and living by the Holy Spirit, we can expect to arrive at the final judgment and hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21, 23).

If we have been half-hearted, if we have compromised, if we are choosing the pleasures of this world over the commands of Christ, the leading of the Spirit, and the love of God, then fear should grip our heart. That fear should not be panic, but it should humble us to lament, mourn, and weep; to let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. But if we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, he will exalt us (James 4:9-10).

This article is full of warning. It will be depressing if you do not also lay hold of the promises that were covered as well. We have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on us lead us through this life. God's favor is upon us so that sin will not have dominion over us. If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

On the subject of fellowship with one another, I warn you that Christianity is not a "Lone Ranger" religion. The person who isolates himself "pursues selfishness and defies all sound judgment" (Prov. 18:1). In the modern era, we seem to think that "the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25) is primarily about a couple songs, listening to a sermon or doing a liturgy, and paying a relatively large amount of money for the building and performers. This is not biblical. Instead, the assembling of ourselves together should be about knowing each other well enough to provoke to love and good works and to exhort one another (Heb. 10:24-25).

Note: The word translated "exhort" or "encourage" in Hebrews 10:25 has a lot of meanings. I like to define it with 1 Thessalonians 5:14, which is a lot more specific about how we are supposed to exhort or encourage one another.

This is not just true at our assemblies, but we are supposed to exhort (the things in 1 Thessalonians 5:14) one another every day (Heb. 3:13). Nowadays we treat this command like it's impossible or almost impossible. The early churches did not. There was a tract circulating among the churches in the second century that said:

Remember the day of judgment night and day, and you shall seek out on a daily basis the presence of the saints, either laboring in word and going out to encourage, and endeavoring to save a soul by the word, or work with your hands for a ransom for your sins. ("Epistle of Barnabas," c. AD 75-135, ch. 19; in Holmes, M.W. 2007. The Apostolic Fathers. Baker Academic. You can read a clunky 1890 translation here)

I am sure "work with your hands for a ransom for your sins" seems almost crazy to my readers, but the thought would have been normal among the early churches. Peter said that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8), and this idea was certainly in the author's mind when he wrote "The Epistle of Barnabas."

Peter himself was probably thinking of Tobit 12:9, which says, "Alms deliver from death, and it purges away all sin." Early lists of which books belonged in the Bible generally did not include Tobit, but that specific verse was well known among the early churches

James ends his epistle with a call to restore a brother who wanders from the truth, promising this will "save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20). If we were as focused on helping every last one of our [local] brothers and sisters both spiritually and physically as the early churches were, we might talk more about Tobit 12:9, 1 Peter 4:8, and James 5:19-20.

The United States is a nation of "rugged individualism," where some Christians proudly announce that all they need is Jesus and their Bible. The Bible, however, strongly disagrees with this. The New Testament is littered with two powerful words: "one another."

In the United States, I urge all of us to also consider the Parable of the Sower. The sower went out and sowed seeds on 4 kinds of ground. The fourth ground had rich soil, and the seed produced fruit (probably grain) 30, 60, or 100-fold. Most of us assume we are the 4th ground, but in the wealthy West, we might want to consider what destroyed the grain in the third ground. In the third ground, "the cares of this age and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word" (Matt. 13:22).

I was horrified the first time I realized that I resembled the 3rd ground as much as the 4th. I had fruit, thank God, but I was definitely carrying "the cares of this age" around with me, and I was spending my money far too freely. If I had not been honest with myself, I would probably still be choking on the cares of this age. We have to heed warnings; not reject them. We need to heed warnings; not explain them away.

Let's work together toward love and good works, warning the unruly, comforting the fainthearted, and helping the weak ... daily, so that in due season we may reap the salvation that still awaits us (Heb. 10:24; 1 Thess. 5:14; Heb. 3:13; Gal. 6:9).

Where To Go from Here:

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