The question of whether someone can lose their salvation is a debated topic in Christian theology. In this comprehensive article, we will examine several biblical figures and whether they permanently fell from grace or not.
If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: According to many biblical scholars, King Saul is viewed as someone who was originally saved but later lost his salvation due to continuous, unrepentant sin.
Understanding the Concept of Losing Salvation
Theological Positions on Eternal Security
There are differing theological views on whether a Christian can lose their salvation after being born again. The main positions are:
- Eternal Security (also known as “once saved, always saved”) – believes that once a person is truly saved, they cannot lose their salvation or be eternally condemned. Salvation is secure forever.
- Conditional Security – believes salvation can be lost through unrepentant sin or falling away from the faith. Ongoing faith, obedience, and endurance are necessary to remain saved.
- Partial Security – believes salvation can’t be accidentally lost but only through intentional rejection of Christ or willful falling away. Some intentional sin may result in loss of rewards but not loss of salvation.
Key Bible verses used to support eternal security include John 10:28-29, Romans 8:38-39, Ephesians 1:13-14. Verses used to support conditional security include Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-27, 2 Peter 2:20-22.
Warnings Against Falling Away in Scripture
There are several passages in Scripture that warn against falling away from the faith and losing salvation. Key examples include:
- Hebrews 6:4-6 warns that it is impossible for apostates who have fallen away to be brought to repentance again.
- 2 Peter 2:20-22 says it would have been better never to have known Christ than to turn back after knowing him, implying loss of salvation.
- Revelation 3:5 promises to blot out from the book of life names of those who do not overcome and persevere, suggesting names can be removed.
- 1 Corinthians 9:27 talks about the possibility of being disqualified from reward, which eternal security doctrine says cannot happen.
- Revelation 22:19 warns that those who take away from God’s word will have their share in the tree of life taken away, even for believers.
Advocates of conditional security see these passages as strong warnings that salvation can indeed be lost if a believer falls into unrepentant sin and willful rebellion against God. Eternal security supporters offer alternate interpretations, but agree the warnings should be heeded as an incentive to not drift away.
Old Testament Examples
King Saul was the first king of Israel, anointed by the prophet Samuel. Saul started off as a humble man, but later became disobedient and proud. God rejected Saul as king because of his disobedience. Saul consulted a medium, which was forbidden (1 Samuel 28:7).
He also refused to wipe out the Amalekites as God commanded him (1 Samuel 15:9). As a result, the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and he lost his close relationship with God (1 Samuel 16:14). Though he retained his title as king, Saul had forfeited God’s blessing and protection.
His life ended tragically when he committed suicide after being critically wounded in battle (1 Samuel 31:4).
King Solomon was known for his great wisdom, wealth, and prolific writings. However, toward the end of his reign, Solomon’s heart was led astray by his many foreign wives. He began worshiping their gods instead of being fully devoted to the Lord.
As a result, God raised up adversaries against Solomon and promised to tear the kingdom from his son’s hand (1 Kings 11:9-13). Though Solomon remained king until his death, it’s clear that his disobedience led to the loss of God’s favor.
The united kingdom built by his father David ended up being divided after Solomon died. Solomon’s life is a sobering example of how even the wisest man can be led astray into idolatry and lose their standing before God.
Saul’s Armor Bearer
After being critically wounded in battle against the Philistines, King Saul asked his armor bearer to finish him off by thrusting him through with a sword (1 Samuel 31:4). However, the armor bearer refused, so Saul took his own sword and killed himself.
Though not stated explicitly, it seems Saul’s armor bearer likely lost his salvation by refusing to obey the king’s order. As a servant of the king, he should have fulfilled his master’s request. By refusing, the armor bearer was being insubordinate and faithless.
This act of disobedience likely cost him not only his position, but also his salvation. His life ended shortly after when he too was killed by the attacking Philistines. The armor bearer’s tragic story illustrates the importance of obedience, even when commanded to do difficult things.
New Testament Examples
Judas Iscariot is perhaps the most well-known example of someone who lost their salvation in the New Testament. After being chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve disciples, Judas ended up betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, leading to Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 26:14-16).
This act of betrayal showed that Judas’ heart was not truly with Jesus. Though he was outwardly a disciple, he did not have genuine faith.
Some key verses that point to Judas losing his salvation include John 17:12 where Jesus calling Judas “the son of perdition” and saying “none of them is lost but the son of perdition.” This term “son of perdition” means someone headed for destruction and lostness.
Additionally, in Acts 1:25, Peter states that Judas turned aside to go to his own place showing he forfeited his apostolic office and ministry.
Another New Testament figure who lost his salvation was Demas, who was initially a traveling companion of Paul during the apostle’s early imprisonments (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24). But later during a separate Roman imprisonment, Paul wrote, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me” (2 Timothy 4:10).
This departure showed that Demas ultimately loved worldly things over Christ. Though he began seemingly strong in the faith, he did not persevere proving he was never truly saved as 1 John 2:19 states, “they went out from us, but they were not of us.” His life ended sadly as faith in riches eclipsed faith in the Savior.
According to tradition, Demas became a pagan priest in Thessalonica.
The Unfruitful Branches in John 15
John 15 contains Jesus’ teaching about Him being the true vine and His followers being the branches. In John 15:2, Jesus makes an interesting statement, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he (God the Father) takes away.” While debates exist on what exactly Jesus meant, one viable interpretation is that these fruitless branches represented people who were initially followers of Jesus in some sense but ended up falling away showing they never possessed genuine saving faith.
John 15:6 further states, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” This graphic language certainly points to the danger of being an unfruitful follower of Christ who does not stay connected to Him.
Overall, while Judas and Demas are clearer examples due to direct biblical statements, the unfruitful branches passage serves as another sober warning not to have lifeless faith but instead enduring faith in Christ.
In closing, the question of losing one’s salvation is complex, with examples on both sides of the theological debate. While Judas Iscariot and King Saul seem to be biblical examples of those who fell away, examples like Solomon and John 15’s unfruitful branches are more ambiguous.
As we have seen, there are good arguments from Scripture for different positions.
Ultimately, this article aimed to provide an in-depth examination of this theological question. We encourage readers to continue studying the Bible, avoiding sin, and developing their relationships with God.