Can You Lose Your Salvation *


Many Christians declare: "Once saved, always saved!" By this they mean that once a person confesses faith in Jesus Christ, he is "saved" from all God's punishments for sin, including hell. Whatever he may do for the rest of his life, he is guaranteed a place in heaven.


Catholics--and many other Christians as well--reject this teaching as unbiblical. For example, there is this warning in the Book of Sirach: "Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin. Say not: 'Great is his mercy; my many sins he will forgive.' For mercy and anger alike are with him; upon the wicked alights his wrath." (5:5-7)


Some might object that this passage doesn't apply to Christians; after all, Sirach is an Old Testament book that doesn't even appear in Protestant Bibles. Nevertheless, the New Testament echoes this warning to Christians:


    For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened and    tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the holy Spirit and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to bring them to repentance again, since they are recrucifying the Son of God for themselves and holding him up to contempt. (Heb 6:4-6)


At the same time, in speaking of severe trials ahead for his followers, Jesus predicts that "the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved" (Mt 24:12-13). Not the one who makes a one-time confession of faith, but the one who perseveres to the end.


To clarify further, we should note that "salvation" means much more than an initial experience of faith. It's a lifelong process, in this world and the next, which culminates--if we faithfully persevere--in perfect holiness and the vision of God. (See "Is Purgatory in the Bible" and "What Does the Church Teach About Heaven?") After the "new birth," St. Peter says, despite undergoing "various trials,... you attain the goal of (your) faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Pt 1:3, 6, 9).


So we don't obtain our salvation one day and then "lose" it another. Instead, for a lifetime we must "work out (our) salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12).


Other related scriptures: Rom 13:11; 2 Thes 2:3-5; Heb 10:26-29; 1 Pt 1:3-5; 2:2-3, 6, 9.


Catechism of the Catholic Church: 95; 169; 620; 776; 780; 830; 980; 1129; 1257; 1696; 1811; 1889; 2036; 2090-92.


*Quoted from The New Catholic Answer Bible. Wichita, Kansas, Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005.


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