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Can Salvation Be Lost With One Sin?
Over the years as I have contended for the faith against eternal security (Jude 3,4), I have met some people who say they reject eternal security, but then teach a Christian can engage in occasional acts of adultery, drunkenness, theft, etc. and remain saved. Such usually deny that David lost his salvation when in unrepentant adultery and murder. Others have said it is possible to lose your salvation, but it is very hard to do so. One even stated that you must tell God that you don't want him before you'll lose your salvation. It is the purpose of this article to examine the Biblical evidence for these claims to see if they have validity and to ascertain if Scripture states salvation can be lost with a single act of certain kinds of sin. (Please know that all sin is not of the same degree—some leads to death while others don't, 1 John 5:16,17.)
How many times must a righteous person sin in order to lose his salvation? Must it be lifestyle or continuous sinning? Does one have to practice sin before he becomes unsaved or shows himself never saved to begin with, as some would say? Let's look at God's word.
The Eternal Facts A true grace teacher declared:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9,10, NASB). According to the above Scripture, if any person is described there he will not inherit the kingdom of God. So how hard is it to become a bible-defined adulterer or any of the others in the list? Must a person practice adultery before he becomes a bible-defined adulterer? Must it be lifestyle? Here are the facts:
If a man commits adultery with another man's wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. (Lev 20:10) As just shown, God's word is consistent with the definition of the word adulterer—one who commits adultery. Hence, any person who commits one or more acts of adultery is an adulterer. The same can likewise be said about the other words bolded in 1 Cor. 6:9,10. The definition is one who commits that particular act, whether it is stealing, drunkenness, idolatry, etc. It doesn't have to be 5, 16, or 113 times or the nebulous lifestyle before they become a fornicator, idolater, adulterer, effeminate, homosexual, thief, covetous, drunkard, reviler or swindler of 1 Cor. 6:9,10. This is crystal clear, as shown above, with the word adulterer.
It Doesn't Have To Be Continual Other Scriptures reveal the same devastating truth, refuting the idea that continual or lifestyle sinning is the only way to lose salvation (or show one was never really saved). For example:
or Lifestyle Sinning
If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. (Num 35:16) Again, a single act of murder makes a person a murderer. (That would include suicides, who are self-murderers.) Such a single act of sin will exclude any person from God's Kingdom, unless he repents:
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (Rev 21:8)
Disowning Jesus The Lord Jesus told those already saved the following:
But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. (Mat 10:33) Later we learn that all of the original apostles, except Judas who betrayed Jesus, disowned the Lord:
Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same. (Mat 26:31-35) So how hard was it for Peter to disown Jesus and fall away? It wasn't very hard and occurred in a short period of time:
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said. But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth." He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!" After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away." Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Mat 26:69-75) Just like Peter, a real Christian can disown Jesus (or fall away). The Apostle Peter did this by denying he was with Jesus or knew Him. He didn't have to say, I don't want you (and it didn't have to be lifestyle). What Peter said was enough to cause Jesus to disown Peter! If Jesus disowns you, then you can't be his sheep anymore, just like other unsaved people. Christians are described as God's possessions: his sheep (John 10:26,27; 21:16,16), his bride (Rev. 19:7), his body (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:24); etc.
Adam and Eve The first act of disobedience by man in the Bible occurred in Gen. 3. God had forewarned Adam that the day he would eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die (Gen. 2:17). That is exactly what happened with a single act of sin. It wasn't lifestyle habitual practice, but a single act of sin that brought both Adam and Eve to their spiritual death.
David Became An Evildoer Shockingly, even people exceedingly strong in faith can afterwards stray to the point of committing sin that leads to death. David did this. David's glaring sins were one act of adultery and one act of murder, which would exclude him from God's kingdom and place him in the lake of fire (1 Cor. 6:9,10, Rev. 21:8). For at least 9 months, he was a bible-defined adulterer and murderer because of his single acts of adultery and murder.
Nathan told David:
Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. (2 Sam 12:9) Note, David did what was evil. You might say this is no great revelation of truth. Of course adultery and murder are evil. But false teachers, some of whom say they reject eternal security, would declare David didn't lose his salvation, even though 1 Cor. 6:9,10 and Rev. 21:8 are so clear. When 2 Sam. 12:9 is coupled with this and the following, we have even more supportive evidence that David did lose his salvation at that dark time in his life:
David Died Spiritually
If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. (Ezek 33:13) Those who do evil, like David did, die spiritually, according to the above. The following is also evidence that David lost his salvation for a time:
But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. (Ezek 18:24)
If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it. (Ezek 33:18)
If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. (Ezek 18:26) Sadly, some will reject the clarity of these Scriptures and try to distort the facts to say that David didn't lose his salvation (die) after committing adultery and murder. Such a person is as bad or even worse than an eternal security teacher, even though he might outwardly deny the teaching of eternal security.
Note: The strong warnings of Ezek 18:24,26; 33:13,18 were not just hypothetical, as some say, for such happened to David.
Even David knew he was an evil doer during that time and hence one who died spiritually (not physically) because of his sin:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (Psa 51:1-4) Furthermore, some like to misuse Psa. 51 to say David only lost the joy of his salvation. They somehow miss how David humbly and sorrowfully asked God for mercy because of his sins, as just cited, which is also how Jesus said the repentant tax collector got saved (or justified):
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:13,14) After David prayed for mercy, forgiveness (and salvation), he also asked for other things like the joy of his salvation to be restored (Psa. 51:12). Psalm 51 is the prayer of a man who had backslidden.
Don't Look Back From The Plow The Lord must have shocked the people of his day by teaching the following:
But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62, NASB) Another translation says:
Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62, NIV) There is no essential difference between these translations because those who do enter God's kingdom will serve Him there (Rev. 22:3). Not to be fit for service in the kingdom of God is not to enter the kingdom of God, but to go to the lake of fire. Either way, looking back will exclude one from the kingdom of God.
God wants us to be faithful to him and love him more than any person or thing in this world. The Lord elevated this to a salvation issue (Mt. 10:37-39; Lk. 14:26,33). James commented similarly:
You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4) Christian people who chose to be friends of the world become enemies of God again as they were before their salvation. That is the same as committing spiritual adultery. Remember also Lot's wife who looked back one time and was destroyed (Gen. 19:26). Jesus mentioned her:
Remember Lot's wife. "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." (Luke 17:32,33)
Your Words People have a hard time believing that words can endanger a person to hell fire, but Jesus actually taught this:
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, "Raca," is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, "You fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Mat 5:22) Through this single act, such extreme danger of hell fire becomes a reality, even for people previously saved. This parallels another eternal truth about words. Jesus also taught:
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Mat 12:37) Your words can bring condemnation or the opposite which is justification. Remember, Peter disowned Jesus with his words.
Eternal Sin It is also through words that a person can commit eternal sin, which will never be forgiven:
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin. He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit." (Mark 3:29,30) Notice please that eternal sin is committed through words. It also seems from this Scripture and the historical background of the book of Hebrews, that some of the people addressed there committed eternal sin and couldn't be renewed by repentance (Heb. 6:4-6). Raging fire was awaiting them, even though they had been previously sanctified by the blood of the covenant (Heb. 10:26-29). There was no eternal security for them and there is none for us today.
Idolaters Paul wrote to those already saved and knew that their spiritual identity could be changed to idolater by a single act of this sin:
Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry." (1 Cor 10:7) Paul referred to the golden calf incident in Exodus 32. Hence, by that single act of idolatry they became idolaters and he knew the same could happen to these Christians he addressed. Remember, idolaters will go to the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8).
The Mark of the Beast In spite of the clear warning regarding the mark of the beast, many will take it because of the heavy pressure to do so. The saints who yield will lose their salvation with this single act of disobedience:
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. (Rev 14:9-12) Faithfulness to Jesus to the end of our life is needed for salvation, even though it might mean severe persecution and physical death:
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (Rev 2:10,11)
In Summary There are various ways for a Christian to lose his salvation. Sometimes a single act of sin can do it, while at other times it won't happen as abruptly, as with being lukewarm (Rev. 3:15,16). Furthermore, one doesn't even have to sin to lose their salvation. They can lose it by believing a false gospel (1 Cor. 15:2 cf.1 John 2:24,25) or preaching a false gospel (Gal. 1:8,9). What a shock this is to those who have been deceived by those who change grace into a license for immorality by teaching David never lost his salvation or a single act of sin like adultery, suicide or drunkenness won't cause this. Jude identified all who change grace into a licence for immorality as ungodly (Jude 3,4), divisive, who don't have the Spirit (v. 19) and for whom blackest darkness is reserved forever (v. 13).
False teachers that declare lifestyle sinning not only ignore or twist the above Scriptures, but also dangerously portray the possibility of a loose, wild, immoral person as being a Christian. Ponder 1 Cor. 6:9,10 and the list there. (See also Eph. 5:5-7 and Rev. 21:8.) According to such false teachers, declaring their unscriptural version of grace, if a person previously saved commits occasional acts of fornication, idolatry, adultery, being effeminate, homosexuality, theft, covetousness, being drunk, reviling and swindling all at the same time he remains saved. This is a horrible and deadly distortion of the true Christian described in the Bible. Please note that Paul didn't have to consider the lifestyle of Elymas to know he was a child of the devil (Acts 13:10). See also 1 John 3:10.
Moreover, such a teacher proclaiming lifestyle sinning is no real friend of the immoral, since he is only endangering their souls to hell by misleading them with a false security and their so-called grace and gospel message. They are not being merciful or loving by preaching their lies and tickling the ears of the backslidden. The loving and vital message the immoral need to know is they must turn from such sin for salvation's sake.
False shepherds say the righteous person who becomes an evil doer can still go to heaven, but Jesus made it crystal clear such will instead rise to be condemned and thrown into the fiery furnace:
Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:29)
The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mat 13:41,42)
Both Are Just As Deadly The bottom line difference between eternal security teachers, who unashamedly declare a Christian can commit the occasional acts of sin such as cited in 1 Cor. 6:9,10 and remain saved, and those who say they reject eternal security but teach the same, is non-existent! There really is no difference. Both are just as deadly and are misleading people to hell by their message. If you are a real Christian flee from such a congregation and so-called "pastor," regardless how convenient it may be to remain. Don't endanger your eternal soul and the souls of those you love by attending and supporting such a ravenous wolf in sheep's clothing. Don't share in his wicked work (2 John 10,11). [Please pass this article on to your friends who might benefit by it.]
The Believer’s Conditional Security is the most powerful and complete Scriptural refutation to eternal security ever written with no close second. This 801 page volume is the book the eternal security teachers do not want you to read! If you want to help your family and friends out of the doctrinal snare of eternal security get them to read this book. Many lives have been changed by it. Bulk discounts are available. GOD BLESS YOU.
Can Salvation Be Lost With One Sin
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