Can a person lose salvation? First off, when this is debated both sides usually are debating from a very humanistic standpoint and arguing about a very cheap salvation. The debate always seems to center around a very selfish idea, “Can I after believing and begin justified still end up in hell?” Can you see the humanism in this question? The debate that follows will have two sides armed with scriptures being quoted to support the case that you cannot end up in hell if you have truly believed, or to prove that one can still end up in hell even if they have believed unto salvation at some point. Unfortunately the debate is of no value at the outset, and the question of whether or not a person can end up in hell after initially believing is nearly a sinful question to even ask. Since when was salvation all about heaven and hell? In fact is salvation at all about heaven and hell? Certainly the ‘saved’ will end up in heaven, and the ‘unsaved’ will end up in hell, that is a statement of fact, but what is the purpose of salvation?
We must again revisit the three tenses of salvation and examine what the whole purpose of salvation in order to assess whether this point of contention is even worth debating, or if there is even really a point of contention.
There is the past tense of salvation: “I have been saved from the penalty of sins committed in the past.” We call that justification. Some would say at the point of justification we are also forgiven for sins we will commit in the future as well, personally I am ok with that, and even agree to an extent with that.
There is also the future tense of salvation: “I will be saved from the presence of sin in an eternal heaven.” We call this glorification. I think there is little debate on this, and that everyone would agree that the future tense of salvation includes a sinless heaven.
Then there is the present tense salvation: “I am being saved from the power of sin right now.” We call this sanctification. Now there is a lot of debate on sanctification, can someone be made perfect and sinless right now, or is sanctification an ongoing process and so on. That is a legitimate debate, I have a hard time believing anyone to be perfected, but at the same time I do not dare make a claim that the Holy Spirit is unable or even unwilling to perfect someone.
So we come back to our question, can someone lose salvation? You need to specify what you mean by salvation. Can someone become ‘unjustified’ and have to pay the penalty for sins they have already been forgiven of? Of course not! Can someone enter into a sinless heaven and sin? Well, it wouldn’t be a sinless heaven if there was still the chance of sinning. Clearly glorification as well as justification cannot be lost. You will not sin when you are glorified, and sins past will not be counted against us at the point of being justified.
So can someone lose salvation? Well in the present tense the answer must, if we are to be honest, be yes. It is clear that men and women are prone to backsliding, even the most devoted of believers backslide, and the sins that at one point we had power over, and were saved from, we at times commit again. We have lost present tense salvation from the power over that particular sin. People then want to ask the question whether or not they can go to hell or not based on that backsliding. That is were the whole debate begins, but why? Who cares about heaven and hell if we are not as close to the Lord right now as we once were, or as we desire to be? Do you not see it? So many people want to know whether or not they still get to go to heaven after they sin and they miss the whole point! Do they not want restored to present tense salvation again? Forget about heaven and hell for a minute, the Kingdom of God is at hand! Maybe the real reason you debate this so much is that you do not have a strong desire for salvation in the present tense. You are too worried about convincing people that you are sealed and that Christ will not let you go to enjoy and long for present tense salvation. Or on the other hand you may be too worried that you have lost salvation to realize that the Lord came to give you present tense salvation. Moreover God gets the most glory when He works present tense salvation in His people, so concern yourself with His glory and seek present tense salvation! Forget the silly once saved always saved debate that you find so important and begin to work out your present tense salvation with fear and trembling, and also with great joy and comfort in the presence of the Lord.
I hope that all made sense.