Saturday, May 27, 2023

Can a Genuine Believer lose their Salvation?

Once an unbeliever has given their life to Christ, been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, reborn of Christ, and placed into the kingdom of God, can such a person fall away, and lose their salvation? 

This question is so incredibly important. It goes to the very core of the gospel: How does it work?

Some say this isn't really that important. It is actually very important. If I can lose my salvation, does that mean I should live in perpetual fear of losing it? And if I can't lose my salvation, should I live however I want, and do whatever I want, because hey, I'm already good? 

Here we find two extremes on the position. First, more commonly in evangelical Christianity, many say you can never lose it. In fact, even if you renounce Christ, turn away from God completely and go back to a life of sin, you're still saved no matter what. That seems to be the height of theological insanity, to assume that one can do anything, anything at all, including renouncing faith in Christ, and still remain saved.

Then there is the other extreme, the Christian plucking the flower saying, "he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not." They've lost their salvation five times today, and tomorrow isn't looking any better. That is an absolutely absurd theological position as well.

Here is the theological balance found in the scriptures: Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. We can be assured of our salvation. We can consider ourselves safe in Christ. Along with these things: Remain in Christ, if you do not, you will wither, and be removed from the vine. Do not make a habit of sinning, because one who sins deliberately can be cut off. Stand firm to the end, finish the race, otherwise it is possible to have believed in vain. Do not disqualify yourself after having preached to others.

This is the concept of remaining in faith. Abiding in Christ. We must hold fast to our faith, not drifting away, while also knowing that Christ holds us firm, and we do not need to fear the Father losing his hold on us. This sacred balance is a difficult one. 

We're tempted to shift toward either theological extreme, I can never lose it, or I already lost it. But we must find a theological balance: Christ holds me fast, so I must remain in Him. 

So, can a genuine believer lose their salvation? The answer to that question is yes. 

Some would say well, if someone falls away it's because they were never saved in the first place. But let us not be deceived by this theological slight of hand. 

If we are "falling away" from something, we must already have it. If we "fall off" a horse, we must've already been on the horse and riding it. If we didn't ever really have it, then we couldn't fall away from it.

As it says in Romans 11:19-22, one who has been grafted in, can also be grafted out: 

"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."

Is it possible for one who is genuinely a branch in the vine to be cut off? According to Paul in Romans, the answer is yes. 

And again, it says in 1st Corinthians 15:1-2: "Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." 

Here Paul writes to believers who have taken their stand. They are in faith. They are in Christ. They've taken their stand on the rock of Christ. But Paul warns them to "hold firmly" to the word. "Otherwise" he says, you have believed in vain. Plain and simple meaning: If you don't "hold firmly" you can lose your salvation. 

As Jesus said to his disciples, "remain in me, and I will remain in you." (John 15:4)

The command is: remain in me

The promise is: then I will remain in you.

That is the sacred balance. Our part is to remain in Him. His part is to remain in us. 

John 15:5-6 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."

Man-made theology of our day and age says you can never lose your salvation. It's therapeutic. It's meant to be helpful. But unfortunately it's had devastating consequences. A generation was told they couldn't lose it, so ironically enough they left. They left the church, went back to the world and said things like, well, I've been baptized so I'm ok. I'm saved forever no matter what. We've done great harm to people by telling them that. So we need to repent and teach a biblical soteriology, of abiding in Christ to the end. 

1st Corinthians 15:58, "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."