If a person has received Christ as their personal savior and is now saved, can they lose their salvation if they sin? In other words will they go to hell if they slip and say a curse word, or lie or gossip?
This question is indicative of a couple misunderstandings, and addresses one of the most contentious disagreements that Christians have had since the New Testament was written.
So let’s take a look at each part of the question.
“If a person has received Christ as their personal savior and is now saved”
The phrase “receive Christ as personal Savior” is not found in Scripture. While that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, it should cause us to evaluate such a widespread use of it. Jesus and Paul gave us clear examples of presenting the Law of God to convict of sin, and then presenting the Savior as the solution to sin problem.
There is no doubt that often we can persuade a person to “accept Christ as their personal Savior” without that person understanding what true Christianity is. Too often it follows a presentation of “Jesus will improve your life” rather than presentation of God’s holy law which convicts that sinner and reveals the true need for a Savior.
“Can they lose their salvation if they sin?”
This is not a question that can be answered in this setting. It has been argued with convincing points from both sides for hundreds of years. There are difficult Bible verses to deal with no matter which position you take and to present either conviction as simple, “black and white”, or “how could you believe otherwise?” is to ignore many Bible verses that are difficult and deep.
For example, the Bible declares eternal security by declaring us sealed and guaranteed by no less than the Holy Spirit Himself (Eph 1.13-14); but then warns us some who were “once enlightened” can “fall away” (Heb 6.4-5).
Each side will have their arguments to explain these verses as if the explanation is simple and easy. But my point remains… we too often take a hard core position on something Biblical without acknowledging that the Bible may not be as “black and white” as we finite human beings want to pretend it is.
Is that a wishy-washy position on my part? No way. It’s being realistic about Scripture. We are all too quick to declare we know GOD’S OPINION on something when in reality is OUR CONCLUSION. They are NOT the same thing.
When it comes to this issue about eternal security (“can you lose your salvation?”), the Bible is clear on the one hand that a true Christian can be secure about their final destination and the faithfulness of God’s promises… while on the other the Bible repeatedly warns about being on guard, being alert and constantly evaluating the genuineness of our salvation.
Let’s just take the Bible for what IT actually says, instead being dogmatic (and excluding others) about what we CONCLUDE that it says.
“In other words will they go to hell if they slip and say a curse word, or lie or gossip?”
First of all, people don’t “slip”. Whatever is in their heart, comes out of their mouth (Matt 15.18). But the question remains… will a person “lose their salvation” for one curse word or lie? No matter which side of the “eternal security” argument you fall on, the clear answer to this question is “no”.
When a true Christian commits a sin, they are blessed with grace and the ability to ask forgiveness and receive cleansing (1John 1.9).
There is no such idea in Scripture, in any way, that a person loses their salvation with every committed sin, and somehow gets “re-saved” over and over again with each prayer of repentance. It simply is not in Scripture, nor is it in keeping with the overall picture and purpose of Christ’s atoning death on the cross.
Remember, we are not talking about the unrepentant person who continues in unconfessed sin day after day (which goes back to the much harder question of “once saved, always saved”). The question was “will they go to hell” if a person “slips” and “lies, curses or gossips” (implying a one-time or occasional sin)? The answer must be a resounding “no” if the person is truly saved.
Every authentic Christian will struggle with sin at times in their life. To deny it is to lie and the truth is not in you (1John 1.8). However, every authentic Christian life should be identified by a consistently decreasing level of sin, and a consistently increasing level of holiness. The mature Christian should struggle with sin as AN EXCEPTION, not as a daily rule.
No, a true Christian will not “go to hell” for a committed sin; but neither will God allow one of His children (a true Christian) to go unchastened and undiscplined if they do not adequately and consistently deal with their sin by repenting and asking for forgiveness.