Ask Anything: Can you lose your salvation?

Thanks to Randy Smith, the Ask Anything Workhorse for again providing an excellent response.  Much like the question, “Does God Get What God Wants” this question can tend to be more theoretical than actual in that the Bible offers a clear path to assurance of salvation.  

Q: Is it possible to lose your salvation?

Q: Can you lose your salvation by becoming lazy, busy, turning your focus elsewhere and going through motions?

A: We are saved through faith and belief in Jesus Christ. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV). This the only way to salvation. There is nothing else you can do to earn salvation, but to accept the grace or gift of God. This is known as justification by faith. The doctrine of justification by faith in Christ is the heart of the gospel.

To understand the principle of justification by faith alone, we must first understand the meaning of the central elements of this doctrine; justify and justification. First, is the matter of justification. Paul writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25, NIV).

By the grace or gift from God, we are made righteous before God or receive justification through the faith of Jesus Christ based on our belief in Him. This is not the faith in Christ, rather the faithfulness of Christ that we are saved. On the other hand, God will justify or declare us in right standing before Him by our belief in Jesus Christ. Clearly, there is a distinct difference between the two terms.  

Before going too much further, one must also clarify the difference between justification and sanctification. The two terms are closely related, however, distinctly different. God does not justify whom He does not sanctify, and He does not sanctify whom He does not justify. Both are essential elements of salvation.

Whereas, justification is declaration of our right standing before God, sanctification is the process of the Holy Spirit making us holy. We should note the differences between what God in Christ has done for us (justification) and what He does in us (sanctification). Additionally, there is a difference in the time that it takes place in the Christian life.

Justification is a one-time event. On the other hand, sanctification is a life-long process.  The Christian grows in holiness and more and more conforms to the character of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit applies God’s word to his heart. Justification replaces the guilt of sin of the believer with Christ’s righteousness. In the process of sanctification, the Holy Spirit removes the dirtiness of sin and directs the believer to conform to the will of God.

Finally, as sanctification requires faith, it also requires obedience to God, good works, and the participation of the sinner to play an active role in the process.  Conversely, the only requirement from the believer in justification is faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul describes this concept clearly in Acts 13:39, Romans 3:21-5:11, Galatians 2:11-21, and Titus 3:4-7.

The message is abundantly clear from the Pauline corpus, justification does not come through works but through Christ and his faithfulness and on the basis of their belief in Him. The only thing that matters before God is justly fulfilling the requirements of the Law and keeping it inwardly and spiritually. God does not consider anyone righteousness by boasting or glorifying the Law or by mere outward marks like circumcision. “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29, NIV). With that understood, when does justification occur in the Christian life?

Justification is instantaneous, and then it is complete. After all, how can one be more right before God?  It is like being pregnant, one is justified or one is not justified. There is no in between.

“In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas, He formerly condemned, He now vindicates.  Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.

We have put our faith in Christ in order to be justified out of his faithfulness, because out of works, no one is justified. Therefore, in consideration of the evidence, justification is a one-time event in which God declares the believer in Christ righteous.  This belief does not make the believer righteous. However, we are justified by the faithfulness of Christ at Calvary.  Once the believer is one with Christ, they become justified. Justification is more than simple pardon; pardon alone would still leave the sinner without merit before God. So when God justifies, He imputes divine righteousness to the sinner.

By the grace from God, we are made righteous before God and receive justification through the faith of Jesus Christ based on our belief in Him.  Through the study of Acts and Paul’s letters to the Romans, Galatians and Titus, one cannot be justified before God by merit, obedience to the Law, or any other man made measure. Justification comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Based on our belief in Christ, through His faithfulness, we are saved.  This one-time declaration of righteousness by God is attainable by faith and faith alone. This doctrine is deeply rooted in the scriptures. The doctrine of justification by faith in Christ is the heart of the gospel. Without it, there is no salvation, no sanctification, no glorification—nothing.

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