Can a Christian lose salvation? What about good works?
An answer to an e-mail
I believe we have to distinguish the different aspects of salvation. First we are given justification-newbirth-sonship. This is a settled position. It is a framework. It is a foundation. It is being qualified (Colossians 1:13). It is eternal redemption, not borrowed redemption. Works do not come into it at all. We have total assurance of salvation since justification brings with it glorification. Romans' 'those whom he justified he glorified' does NOT say ''those whom he justified he sanctified, and those whom he sanctified he glorified.' Neither the beginning nor the end of salvation can be lost.
The middle part of salvation does need to be attended to. We do need to please God. It is possible to displease God. Our works do not come into the FRAMEWORK but our works DO come into achieving something for God, inheriting the promises God wants to give us. Our works get judged in judgement day. It is possible to receive a reward; it is possible to 'suffer loss' (1 Corinthians 3). This is the will of God our sanctification. We shall be chastised if we neglect this.
Think of it in terms of a family. When my children went to study abroad thousands of miles away I would say to them 'This is your home. It does not matter what you do, this is where you belong. Even if you do something stupid it will make no difference. There is nothing you can ever do which will make you lose your position here at home. If you get into trouble or face anything you cannot handle, make one telephone call and I shall be by your side within 24 hours. Once an Eaton always an Eaton; this is your home forever unconditionally. Nothing can make you lose it.'
BUT this did not mean that I did not care how my children behaved at university. I could still be angry with them if they did something bad; I could still be pleased with them if they did well.
There is a difference between the FRAMEWORK and what happens WITHIN the framework.
Salvation is given to us as an unlosable framework, a foundation which never has to be rebuilt. But then WITHIN THAT FRAMEWORK we live for God and it does matter how we live. Both in this life and at the judgement day we can gain reward or lose reward. The framework is without works - sheer grace plus nothing. WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK grace trains us to live sober, upright and godly lives and a lot depends on it - but the framework does not depend on how well we do.
In Matthew 24-25 more than one subject is being dealt with. Both eternal hell and what I might call "temporary hell" (being saved THROUGH fire) is on the agenda in Matthew 25. Christians will face SOME kind of loss, some kind of judgemental fire — but it is not loss of saved-status. 1 Corinthians 3:15 may be used as an interpretive principle here.
Hope this helps.