Could David Lose His Salvation?

Some allege that a person may relinquish his salvation through acts of blatant, persistent sin. For evidence, they sometimes point to the Old Testament example of King David. What was David’s sin? He committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, arranged the murder of her husband, married her, then covered his sins for nine months or more. After this time elapsed, the prophet Nathan revealed his sin, which led to David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51.

In Psalm 51:11, David offers a specific request to God: “Do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” Does this reveal that David’s eternal salvation was in jeopardy? No, it does not, and here are three reasons why:

David had committed blatant, persistent sin.

Outright adultery. Complicit in murder. Marrying his mistress. Arranging a long-term cover-up. If these sins did not forfeit his salvation, than what would? A second affair? Another murder? Something worse? More than nine months later, David still spoke to God as one who hoped in his salvation. His faith relationship with God was not in question, but something else was.

David had jeopardized his role as God’s appointed king.

David was the second king of Israel, preceded first by King Saul (1 Sam. 10:1, 10). Unfortunately, Saul forfeited his role as God’s appointed king. How? Through blatant, persistent disobedience to God (1 Sam. 15:23, 26; 16:1). According to 1 Samuel 16:14, “The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.” What does this mean? It meant that God removed his sanctioning presence from the kingship and dynasty of Saul. Saul continued to reign, but without the guidance and blessing of God (1 Sam. 28:6). He was “on his own,” as it were. What’s more, God transferred his sanctioning presence to David instead (1 Sam. 16:1; 13:14; 15:28; 16:13; 2 Sam 2:4).

When David asked God not to take his Holy Spirit from him, he was asking God not to end the Davidic dynasty and not to cut him off from the sanction and guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is made more clear by reading the preceding request by David in Psalm 51:11: “Do not cast me away from your presence.”

The Old Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit anointed certain people for specific purposes and in specific ways.

The Old Testament associates the presence of the Spirit of God in a person’s life with a specific purpose. This characteristic marked specific Old Testament saints, but not all. Furthermore, his presence was not guaranteed to be permanent. So his presence was not synonymous with regeneration. Consider the following examples:

  • Pharaoh recognized the Spirit of God in Joseph, giving wisdom. (Gen. 41:38)
  • He filled Bezalel for skillful craftsmanship. (Ex. 31:3; 35:31)
  • He was in Joshua, equipping him to lead Israel in place of Moses. (Num. 27:18)
  • Onlookers recognized that he was in Daniel, for wisdom and prophecy. (Dan. 4:8; 5:11-14; 6:3)
  • He came on Balaam for prophecy. (Num. 24:2)
  • He came on Othniel, Gideon and Jephthah to lead Israel. (Jud. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29)
  • He came on Samson for strength and later departed. (Jud. 13:25; 16:20)
  • He came on Azariah to prophecy. (2 Chron. 15:1)

So, when David prayed, “Do not take your Holy Spirit from me, he was not requesting to retain his eternal salvation. He was requesting to retain God’s sanction on his life and dynasty as the rightful king of Israel. And he was requesting to retain God’s continued guidance as he led the nation for God. He did not want to lead the nation, deranged and devoid of God’s guidance, as Saul had done.

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