If someone cannot lose his or her salvation, what about the people who have walked away?
Then only 2 possibilities remain:
- God still sees them as Christians as they live in sin.
- They never were a Holy Spirit filled believer in Jesus Christ. They were religious and came close to a full commitment to Jesus Christ, but in the end simply fell away.
I believe churches today have many individuals who fall into those two scenarios. In the end only God knows His true followers. We can only look at a person’s life and wonder what God thinks. Yet, the Bible seems to give us some clear indications of a spirit filled believer.
1. They must believe the right doctrines – For example they need to believe there is only one God. Isaiah 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.” If you believe in more than one god you are not a Christian.
You have to believe Jesus is fully God and fully man, 2nd person of the Trinity. We read in John 1:1, 14 (NASB) “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:14a “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” There are many New Testament verses that say Jesus is God (Titus 2:13; John 20:28). You cannot deny this teaching Jesus and believe He was just a good man.
You have to believe we are saved by grace through faith alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” If you believe you can earn your way to heaven or add works to grace then you are not a follower of Jesus Christ.
These are a few examples of key doctrines of Christianity. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons reject these doctrines and are therefore outside the body of Christ. (Go to the web site for six essential Christian doctrines)
2. They must demonstrate a changed life – This is what James taught; faith without works is dead. We first trust Christ and then our lives are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean there won’t be times when we live lives that are less than honoring to the Lord. However, over the long run we will move in the right direction, trying to minimize sin and live more like Jesus.
3. They will endure until the end –Matthew 10:22 [Jesus speaking] “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” According to Jesus a follower will endure to the end.
In Romans the Apostle Paul wrote about the faith of the gentiles (non-Jews) and the unbelief of the Jewish faith. Romans 11:20-22 “Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches [Jewish], He will not spare you [Gentiles], either. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”
Some say, these verses teach you can lose your salvation. They say according to verse 22 we have to continue in God’s kindness or lose our salvation. Those who don’t endure to the end indicate they have lost their salvation.
However, I think there is another way to look at all endurance to the end verses. I firmly believe these verses are evidence of a true believer. A person who is a spirit filled Christian will endure to the end and will never fall away. Let me give you two reasons for my conclusions.
- I don’t believe you can lose your salvation based on the strong scriptures I shared in parts 1-3. Knowing the Bible cannot contradict itself I therefore conclude there must be another way to read the endurance passages.
- I believe the Bible teachers enduring is a mark of a Christian. We find this in 1 John 2:18-19. John writes “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” John, like all the other 1st century writers, was writing to an audience that was living during a time of intense persecution. It was likely many who called themselves Christians were walking away because of the risk of losing their life. John says these individuals were not true believers because if they were, they would have never left. Basically, he is saying those who continue on and endure to the end are the true believers and those who walk away, are not. Therefore, I believe the Bible teaches enduring to the end is a mark of true Christian.
This doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps in the road, times when you and I feel far from Jesus. Look at the life of Peter. Remember when he followed Jesus after his arrest and was seen by people who recognized him, what did he do? He denied he even knew Jesus on three different occasions. Here is one of the closest disciples of Jesus afraid to say he knows who Jesus is. So what happened to Peter? After the resurrection, Peter became one of the most fearless and powerful evangelists in the early church. He led thousands to the Lord and was crucified upside down for his faith. Mistakes do not disqualify you a being a Christian.
If we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, when we try to walk away from God, He will make our life miserable. After denying Jesus 3 times we read that Peter wept. I am certain he was completely broken; yet he was going to rebound in an incredible way. When we trust Christ we are His and as much as we may want to get away and live in sin, God will always bring us back. Endurance is the mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ.
I have provided three marks of a true believer in Jesus Christ. A follower of Jesus will believe the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, demonstrate a changed life becoming more like Jesus, and endure to the end.