Q&A: Can I Lose My Salvation?

Can I Lose My Salvation?

Question

Doesn't Hebrews 3:6 say I can lose my salvation? If I don't hold firm to the end then I'm Hell bound!

Answer

Hebrews 3:6: But Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

In looking at Hebrews 3, we first need to look at to whom the author is writing. Hebrews 3:1 reveals the original audience to be "holy brothers, who share in a heavenly calling," so, the writer's audience are those he assumes are already partakers of God's heavenly call. He's addressing the elect and those who have been called by God (John 6:37, 44, 65; 15:16; Acts 13:48; Rom. 9:16, 22-23; Eph. 1:4-5: 2 Thess. 2:13; Rev. 13:8; cf. 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 1:4). He's speaking to those Paul describes as being "in Christ" (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:7, 13; Phil. 3:9). Or as Peter said, "To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:1).

Second, let's read Hebrews 3:6 again. The word "if" is a very important word in context. Focusing a moment upon this conjunction, it speaks of a condition of already being something. Hebrews 3:6 does not say you will become God's house if you hold fast to your hope. Rather, it states, we already are God's house if we hold fast to our hope. So, part of what defines genuine Christians is the reality that they keep holding on to God—like Jacob did at Jabbok (Gen. 32:26-28). True Christians are confident. They have ongoing hope, confidence, and faith. This passage is an assurance of salvation and not the denial of it.

Hebrews 3:14 confirms this when it says, "For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." Here we have another "if" statement similar to Hebrews 3:6. Note that "share in Christ" (Heb. 3:14) is the same as sharing "in a heavenly calling" (Heb. 13:1) and being "God's house" (Heb. 3:6). Hebrews 3:6 doesn't say "in God's house," but rather "are his house"—God's house. True Christians are the body of the invisible church (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 4:21; 5:23, 30, 32)—God's house. So, if God's house ever lost just one genuine believer, it would never be a completed house! But Jesus assures us that he will build his entire church—every single person that encompasses it (John 6:37, 39; 10:28; 17:2; 1 Cor. 6:14; Rev. 13:8)—and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).

Therefore, Hebrews 3:14 assumes that we are already "in Christ" and members of his body, which is his invisible church. Again, true Christians will hold fast firmly until the end. As they hold on they demonstrate or give evidence to the fact that they are already partakers of Christ.

Assurance is a theme in the book of Hebrews. For instance, the benefit of Christ's work that is ours is expressed by the Greek word parresia and is translated as "confidence" or "boldness" in Hebrews 3:6; 4:16; 10:19, 35. Parresia is also used in 1 John to describe the confidence that believers can have before God (1 John 2:28; 3:21; 4:17; 5:14). Such assurance belongs to those that are "in Christ" (Heb. 6:11; 10:22; 11:1). And God works his perseverance in his people. As Hebrews 13:21 states, "equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." Who is working in us? God himself. He works in us to hold fast unto the end: "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13; cf. Rom. 8:1, 28, 35-39).

Then the writer of Hebrews gives his readers an example of what God doesn't work in genuine believers. He writes:

Hebrews 6:7-19 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.' As I swore in my wrath 'They shall not enter my rest.'" Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

The author's point here is that similar to the Old Testament visible church in the wilderness (cf. Acts 7:38), the New Testament visible church has unbelievers in it as well (i.e. Demas, Elymas, Judas). Just like in the Old Covenant, there may be lost baptized members in the visible church. Consider Ham. He was cursed (Gen. 9:25), but he was baptized with the rest of Noah's family (1 Pet. 3:20-21)? The baptism in the Red Sea (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-2) was applied by God to many with whom he was not pleased and who subsequently were destroyed by the Destroyer (1 Cor. 10:5-10).

The author of Hebrews is addressing the same type people in Hebrews 3:7-19. He's addressing mere professors that possibly may be among the genuine possessors of Christ. In context, those are the rebellious (Heb. 3:8, 15, 16), those continuously hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:8, 13, 15), who provoke the living God (Heb. 3:10, 17) and are disobedient (Heb. 3:18). In context, these terms describe unbelievers (Heb. 3:12, 19). So, these aren't "partakers" of Christ (Heb. 3:1; Eph. 3:6; Phil. 1:7; 2 Pet. 1:4), but only "hearers" (Heb. 3:7, 15, 16) deceiving themselves (cf. Jas. 1:22). None of these have entered into God's eternal rest (Heb. 3:7, 11, 18), Compare this to those "in Christ" who already have entered into the inaugurated rest of God and are still waiting for the fully consummated reality of it which will appear at the second coming (Heb. 4:3, 9, 10).

Related Topics

Why did Noah's nakedness lead to Ham's curse?
Losing Your Salvation
Make Your Calling and Election Sure - 2 Peter 1:10
What is Evanescent Grace?
A Salvation Check-Off List
An Eternal Hell is for Real - The Heresy of Annihilationism?
What is the Visible / Invisible Church?
What Jacob Learned when Jumped at Jabbok

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).