Another term people use to explain “falling from grace” is talk about losing one’s salvation. Like falling from grace, this idea means that persons can become believers in Christ by grace through faith, but through sinful, disobedient, or disbelieving actions, can somehow lose their salvation. Still no one has been able to tell me when that happens. This teaching again makes maintenance of one’s salvation dependent upon the person who receives it. It may come by grace, but it must be maintained by religious works and avoidance of certain behaviors, which the group decides are unacceptable.
The apostle Peter wrote that God “has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1: 3-5). What is that inheritance? Four places in the New Testament, Jesus talks about inheriting eternal life. (See Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:17; Luke 10:25; Luke 18:18).
Eternal life is the inheritance. Notice how Peter described it: incorruptible, undefiled, not fading away. These terms speak of the quality of this inheritance. It does not become corrupt with time, as metal corrodes. It does not become polluted or adulterated with impurities added to it. It does not diminish or lose value as earthly investments do. He also said that it was guarded in heaven, and that believers are kept by the power of God because of faith so that the salvation will be revealed in the last times. There is no one stronger than God who can guard our salvation.
In my upcoming book, Evangelism on the Go, I wrote about an experience I had in college. I related how, as I reflected on John 3:16, the word “everlasting” grabbed my attention. I focused on that word for a moment, then I realized something. Everlasting means that it does not end. If a person ever received everlasting or eternal life, and then lost it, it wasn’t everlasting. Jesus did not promise probationary life that is conditional as to how well we hold a certain standard. He promised eternal life, one that never ends. As Peter said, it does not spoil or diminish. God reserves it in heaven for us. God himself keeps us through faith. It is beyond our ability to lose.
John 5:24 says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” Again, Jesus used the word “everlasting.” When a person believes Jesus’ words, and believes in God who sent Jesus, he or she possesses eternal life. That’s the present tense. Not “will have,” but “has everlasting life.” That person also passes from death to life. That cannot mean physical life, because the person does not change physically, and all people die physically. It is speaking of spiritual life, which did not exist before the person believed. He or she was dead in trespasses and sins (See Ephesians 2:1-5).
The only way that a person could lose eternal life and pass back into spiritual death would be to receive a death sentence or condemnation. However, Jesus said that once a person believes in his word, that person will not “come into judgment.” Judgment on that person’s sin has already taken place. There is no further judgment, so, the person cannot lose eternal life and go back to death. Such life would not have been eternal.
Similarly, Paul wrote in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” If you are in Christ, there is no condemnation. You have been acquitted. There is no double jeopardy in God’s court. Jesus paid for all your sin once and for all on the cross (See Romans 6:10, Colossians 2:13-15, 1 Peter 3:18; and Hebrews 7:27, 9:12; 10:10). Your debt has been paid in full.
How does a person become “in Christ Jesus”? In Ephesians 1:13, Paul wrote, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” You become “in Him” after hearing the gospel and believing in Him.
Believing the gospel requires repentance (Mark 1:15). Repentance is a change of mind and heart toward sin. Believers are to die to sin and live in it no longer. (Romans 6:2). Christ died for us so “that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15) Does that mean that believers can say they believe and then act anyway they want? Paul’s response would be, “May it never be!” (Romans 6:2 NASB). We are to live in sin no longer.
When we repent, we acknowledge our sinfulness and turn away from it. We turn to Christ in faith believing He died for our sin and rose again. As an act of gratitude, we live the rest of our lives as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). Once salvation is found, it cannot be lost. So, let’s live like a grateful saved, person rather than a lost one.