Friday, June 17, 2022

Can I Lose my Salvation? The Answer might Surprise You

One of the most important questions about how salvation works in Christ is the question, after having received salvation in Christ, as I continue my journey through life, can I lose it? Is falling away possible? Or is my salvation eternally secure? 

This is probably the single most contentious question in the modern day body of Christ. Let's take a look at the scriptures levied in the discussion and draw a conclusion from the word. 

What do the scriptures teach? What did Jesus our Lord teach? What did Paul or John or Peter teach? Let's take a look at the best scriptures mustered for eternal security:

John 10:27-29 ESV My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 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.

In John 10 we see Jesus using the metaphor of a shepherd and a sheep pen to describe salvation. He indicates that he gives his children eternal life, and no enemy can snatch them by force out of the sheep pen, which is the Father's hands.

John 6:37 ESV All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

In John 6 Jesus is describing how salvation works to a crowd that is chasing after him because they want free bread. He describes salvation in simple terms, comparing eating bread to receiving the bread of life from Jesus. He reminds them that he's not going to cast out those who earnestly follow Him. He will be their consistent provider, not just providing food, but much more. 

Romans 11:29 ESV For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Examining the context of this scripture is extremely important, because in Romans 11, what's being discussed is the partial hardening of Israel. So what this is talking about, is that the Jews have been hardened, as the Gentiles are gathered in for salvation. But it's indicating God's blessing is on the nation, and he will gather them to himself during the tribulation, the time of Jacob's trouble. 

Romans 8:38-39 ESV For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In Romans we see a great deal of the how God preserves us. Death or life can't steal us from God. Angels can't affect our salvation, rulers can't affect our salvation, no outside force in the world can't affect our salvation, but notice how sin, and apostasy are not mentioned, or free will, in this list. God preserves us, but, we can flee, or turn.

Jude 1:24 ESV 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

Here we find a beautiful doxology from Jude, which again indicates how we can have an assurance of our salvation. We can believe that if we obediently follow God he will preserve us to the very last day. Our part is to remain faithful, and steer clear of sin. 

2 Corinthians 1:22 ESV And who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

This verse reminds us how to test if we're standing firm in the faith, we can sense God's Holy Spirit upon us. We're told elsewhere in the scriptures: 2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" These instructions to Christians remind us, it is possible to fail the test. 

Philippians 1:6 ESV And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Here we find a beautiful introductory statement in Paul's wonderful letter to the Philippians. He's writing to a very faithful church in persecutions. And he encourages them by telling them, in your case, given your faithfulness and obedience to God, I'm sure God will bring his work in you to completion. But once again, we see it's not a blanket statement to say everyone will always be brought to that point everywhere successfully. Free will has a place in all this.

Romans 8:28-30 We know that all things work together[m] for the good[n] of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.

Here we see Paul reminding the church in Rome that God is working all things together for their good. God foreknows who will believe, he predestines their sanctification to the conforming of them to His son Jesus. He calls them. He justifies them. And he glorifies them after death. Reading this scripture in isolation we might think alright, this teaches eternal security. But when we examine all the scriptures together, how do we balance these statements with all the scriptures? We balance them with the concept of free will, of sin, of falling away, and the possibility of shipwrecked faith. 

Now let's take a look at the best scriptures mustered to indicate conditional security (falling away): 

Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV 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, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 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.

Plain and simple, we see someone who has fallen away described here. They've shared in the Holy Spirit. They were in every way in the family of God, but fell away. And now in this circumstance, they can't be restored. Not a fun scripture to examine, it's concerning, but it says what it says. 

John 15:1-6
 HCSB “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned."

We see in John 15 the very last teaching Jesus shares with his disciples before he is betrayed and crucifies. He reminds his closest disciples, remain with me, abide in me, and you will bear much fruit. But if you don't you'll shrivel up. Branches (Christians) who don't bear fruit appropriately and depart from the vine, will shrivel up, and be gathered and tossed into the fire (hell). Very clear and basic, if a Christian departs from Christ who is the vine, he will lose his salvation and be sent to hell. Once again, not a fun scripture, but it's the word. 

Hebrews 3:12-16 ESV 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?"

In Hebrews 3 we receive a warning from the Lord to be cautious that and guard our hearts, so that we don't fall away from God. And we're reminded again, "hold your original confidence to the end." And the writer gives us another warning: Don't forget what happened to the generation that were rescued from Egypt. They died in the wilderness without going into the promised land, because of their unbelief. So be wise, and remain true to Christ. 

Matthew 24:10-13 ESV And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Here we see Jesus reminding us about the perils of the end times. He says many will fall way. Lawlessness will increase. And the love of the faithful will be in danger of growing cold. So guard yourself. And don't forget: Only those who endure to the end will be saved.

2 Peter 2:20-22 ESV For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

Similarly to Hebrews 6, the Apostle Peter echoes the warning about those who come to know Christ and later fall away. If they are totally overcome again by the world, what a sad and terrible fate this is. It's clear that these people weren't "false converts" but were actually people who knew Christ, and later fell away. 

2 Corinthians 11:3 ESV But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Here in 2nd Corinthians, Paul writers to believers who currently have a "sincere and pure devotion to Christ" and expresses his concern, that they should be cautious not to be led astray as Eve was deceived by the serpent. Pretty straight forward, they have a pure and sincere devotion to Christ, but Paul urges them to be cautious in continuing to follow Jesus. 

1 Timothy 4:1 ESV Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons

This scripture references the end times. But despite this context, implicit in this scripture is the idea that "some will depart from the faith." To depart from something, one has to be part of it first. Once again, we see a reminder not to fall away. 

Romans 11:19-22 ESV Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

It's interesting, the book of Romans is the most often levied to prove eternal security. But within the pages of Romans, we see in chapter 11 a clear indication about how salvation works. Paul echoes Jesus teaching in John 15, Paul comes the Jews, who were branches broken off from the vine, to Gentile Christians who are branches grafted into the vine. But Paul adds a warning: Don't get prideful, because in verse 22, understand the severity of God, be sure you "continue in his kindness" other you too will be cut off. So we see it's indicated: Though you've been grafted in, you can also be cut off later as well. 

2 Peter 3:17 ESV  You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

Here Peter writes to the "beloved" reminding them about the dangers of false doctrine and false teaching. He tells them to be discerning, don't be carried off by lawless people and lose your footing. 

1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

In 1st Corinthians Paul writes to believers reminding them to be cautious and to endure with the Lord. He tells them, even if you think hey I'm standing firm in Christ, be cautious, and make sure you don't fall into your old ways. As the Lord said, the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. 

For some historical context, it's important to note that throughout Christian history from the early church and beyond, one of the key tenants of the early church fathers was belief in falling away and apostasy. So in the history of the church, we see that doctrine from the beginning.

But then something happened, it was called the reformation. And people like John Calvin began to teach that salvation could not be lost. Martin Luther himself believed that salvation could be lost. Modern day Lutherans believe the same. Catholics would also agree. Generally the denominations that believe salvation can be lost include Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Church of the Nazarene, Wesleyans, The Salvation Army, Pentecostals, and a minority Baptists/Non-denominational churches. Generally, denominations that affirm once saved always saved include Baptists, Calvinists, most non-denominational churches, E-Free Churches, Presbyterians, and United Church of Christ. These lists are not exhaustive. 

So in conclusion, I put forward the word and church history to remind the body of Christ of the value of holding two truths in tension with one another: The fact that God actively preserves us in salvation, and the fact that falling away and sin are a real danger to guard against in our walk with Christ. We shouldn't get rid of either part of this simple equation of salvation. So let me encourage you today: You can trust God to guard your salvation in Christ. Nothing outside yourself can steal you away from God. No one can pluck you out of his hand. But be on guard and cautious, guard your heart from sin, and abide closely with Christ, so that the deceitfulness of this world, sin, and the evil one can't gain a foothold to trip you up on your journey to eternal life. Jesus loves you, he will certainly help you along the way. God bless you today.