In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He boldly proclaims that His followers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. These are tremendous claims, but I want to focus for the moment upon Jesus’ warning about salt losing its taste. Christ warns that if salt is no longer salty then it is only good for being thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. It’s a terrifying warning because it emphasizes the utter worthlessness of a “Christian” that doesn’t display Christ.
This ought to beg us then to ask a very important question: Can a Christian lose their salvation?
For the sake of our present text, let’s look at the issue using the salt metaphor, asking whether salt can lose its saltiness.
The first interpretation states that it is impossible for a believer to lose their salvation. Scientifically, we know that sodium chloride is a stable compound, which means that it will not naturally cease to be salt. Salt cannot lose its saltiness. Likewise, this view argues that a Christian will never fall away from grace. If we are saved by grace alone, why would our continued salvation be the result of anything but the grace of God? We are not saved by works, and neither can we lose our salvation by our works.
The second interpretation goes in the opposite direction, positing that we are able to lose our salvation. The commentators and theologians that support this view argue that salt in Jesus’ day was rarely pure salt. Instead, most salt was mixed with other minerals, and over time, the actual salt would dilute, leaving behind something that resembled salt without its taste. In this way, salt could lose its saltiness. Holders of this view suggest that Jesus had this in mind; therefore, Christians are able to fall away from grace.
I am more in favor of a third view, which acknowledges truth in both of the previous two. Can a Christian lose his or her salvation? I think not. Salt is salt, and a Christian is in Christ. Saved by grace, raised to life from being dead in sin, partaking in the second birth, given a new heart and new life, each of these biblical means of describing salvation do NOT point to something that is reversible.
However, there is still a valuable lesson to learn from the “salt” of the second interpretation. Though the lump of minerals may have tasted salty for a time, it lost its saltiness because in truth it was not actually salt. Though it contained a portion of salt, it’s impurity ultimately revealed its true nature.
It’s important that we keep both lessons. The Bible clearly speaks of the eternal security for believers. We rightfully should take great comfort in knowing that God alone can keep us from falling away.
However, we also cannot ignore that Jesus spoke of saltless salt for a reason, not as an empty hypothetical warning. In the end, there will be many who presumed to follow Christ but are ultimately denied entrance into His kingdom. (Matt. 7:21-23)
This interpretation is not so much in line with the phrase “once saved, always saved”; rather, it is more like, “if saved, always saved.”
A healthy fear of being saltless is good, and it’s proper to ask ourselves regularly whether our lives truly reflect Christ or not.
Am I truly a follower of Christ, or do I simply have the appearance and taste of one?
Below are related Scriptures for further reflection of this important issue.
Philippians 2:12-13 | Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
2 Peter 1:10-11 | Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Matthew 7:21-23 | Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Jude 24 | Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.
John 10:28-29 | I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
Romans 8:30,38-39 | And those whom he predestined he also called and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified… For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.