The evidence for this is in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
“24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Paul states here clearly that he can be disqualified from salvation if he did not continue until the end. Tell me, can a person be disqualified from a race they are not a part of? Say you were watching a race. The announcer said on the loudspeaker, “[Your name] has been disqualified from the race and can’t be a winner”. How absurd would that be? The race has already begun and the runners are halfway around the track. How can you be disqualified when you already can’t win the race? Even if you ran down and somehow convinced them to let you join the race, there is no way you could win since the race is already started and human legs cannot run fast enough to beat the other runners who are already nearing the finish line.
No, it is clear the analogy here is referring to people who are already running the Christian race. Paul is saying that Christians who do not continue as Christians will be “disqualified from the race”, meaning, plainly, that they will lose their salvation. If a Christian turns from God and decides not to “be a Christian” anymore, they will lose their salvation.
Therefore, the third condition of salvation is not that you said the sinner’s prayer once, but that you continued as a steadfast Christian until your last dying breath. Otherwise, you can and will lose your salvation.
3b. You must never turn away from God if you want to retain your salvation.
To clarify, this third condition of salvation is the refutation of the doctrine of “eternal salvation” – that is, “once saved, always saved”. There is no biblical precedent for eternal salvation; on the contrary, the Bible tells us plainly that we can indeed lose our salvation if we turn from God.
Moreover, you only get one chance. That is to say, the Bible implies that if you turn away from God, then you have forfeited your salvation.
Hebrews 6:4-6 says,
“4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”
Now, one might say, “well, that only means as long as you ultimately turn back to God before you die then you are okay”. Not so. Hebrews 6:6 says that they are “crucifying once again“. Can you “crucify once again” after death? Certainly not. You only get once chance. If you decide to reject God after becoming a Christian, then you have forfeited your salvation, according to the Bible.
It is worse to know and turn away than to never have known
There is no hope left for you if you intentionally forfeit your salvation, sadly. In fact, the Bible tells us that “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them” (2 Peter 2:21).
If it was really true that you get unlimited chances until death to choose to follow God and blatantly turn away, such as the Calvinist doctrine of “eternal security” falsely teaches, then why would Paul be saying here that it would have been better to never have known God in the first place than to know and turn away? The reason is clear once you can see past modern corrupt doctrine and focus solely on the Bible. The reason is because you do not get unlimited chances to turn away from God. Once you turn away, according to the Bible, it would have been better to never have known.
It seems to me that the reason it could be worse to know God and turn away than to never have known, is because if you have never known, then you are already going to hell, but you still have a chance, and you are also ignorant of what God has to offer. However, if you turn away after knowing God, this is worse, because now you have forfeited your salvation, and this is even worse for you on two levels. First, it is worse because now you know what God has to offer and what you are missing out on. Second, it is worse because since you turned away, you lost your chance.
This reminds me of King Saul after he disobeyed God and God rejected him as king.
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”
26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!” (1 Samuel 15:24-26)
Saul was an arrogant and prideful man, and he disobeyed God’s commands. However, even after he changed his mind and asked for forgiveness, it was too late, God had already rejected Saul as king of Israel. This should serve as an example to believers to “in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) be sure not to turn away from God! If you do and you turn away, your salvation is lost – possibly forever (only God knows your heart).
Will you lose your salvation if you sin just once?
Now, does this mean if a Christian sins once after becoming a Christian then they lose their salvation? No, I do not believe that is the case. However, Hebrews 10:26 says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left“. However, I do believe this is referring to abject defiance to God, which is essentially the same as Hebrews 6:4-6, which is turning away from God.
I do believe that all Christians need to spend their lives working on any sin to eliminate them. This does not mean we will be immediately perfect, but it does mean that we do not have the option to turn away from God.
We hear often of relationships where a boyfriend and girlfriend will get together and then separate and get together again and go through this cycle several times. However, this is not the case with God. We cannot “come and go” with God, as can be seen from Saul when God rejected him. Once we have received the saving grace of God, we don’t have the option to turn away if we want to ultimately receive eternal salvation.
Can you “accidentally” lose your salvation?
Now, please do not be worried in this regard, because if you are feeling fear of losing your salvation, that is a good sign. You should feel fear, as the Bible says, this fear will keep us from straying. However, do not worry because as long as you keep this healthy fear of God and work hard every day and never, ever turn away, God won’t let it happen “accidentally”.
You might fear that you might “accidentally” become overcome by sin and lose salvation, but I believe that God will not allow this to happen, because in the John 10:29, the Bible gives us the comfort, when Jesus said, “for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.“
Now, please, please understand that although John 10:29 is often used as a verse to support Eternal Security – it is not! Again I say, it is not support for eternal security! You must understand the distinction between this. Jesus told us that “No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.” Jesus told us that no one can cause you to lose your salvation – no one but yourself. Jesus’ statement excluded other people from being able to take away your salvation, but you can still choose to lose your salvation.
You always have the freedom of choice to turn from God and doom yourself to hell. However, it will not happen “by accident”. You won’t just be able to be influenced against your will by a false preacher, or by a bad relationship, to turn away from God and lose your salvation. However, you can still make a choice to listen to these false preachers or bad teachings and turn away, but you are faced with a choice and you do not have to choose to turn away from God.
Watch out for false teachers
Now, please understand, others can be instrumental in causing your to turn away from God, by trying to manipulate or deceive you, but God will “always provide you a way out”. This is why it is so important to associate with good people and not get in with the wrong crowd. The Bible says that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). So beware who you associate with, who you hang around, and who your friends are.
However, God will make sure that “no one can snatch” you away from God and cause you to “by accident” lose your salvation. It must be your choice. If you, by your own choice even against God’s holding you out of the hand of the enemy, decide on your own that you want to turn away from God, then and only then will you lose your salvation. You can lose your salvation, but it won’t happen by accident. It can only happen by your choice.
One example might be someone who wins the lottery and is faced with a decision. They can continue living a Godly life and trying hard to do good, or they can choose to go and turn away from God and begin leading an immoral lifestyle. My hope and prayer is that most Christians would not turn away, and while perhaps making a string of bad choices will never turn away from God. Don’t choose hell for temporary worldly gain!