Those who follow this blog–thank you for your endurance!–will recall that a few months ago, we posted several assurances of the eternality (is that a word?) of our salvation. We mentioned two or three of the strongest affirmations of Scripture that one’s salvation, once given by the Lord Jesus Christ, is forever secure.
To our surprise, some protested.
I should not have been surprised. After all, I was raised in a church of the Arminian persuasion that teaches (officially at least) one can be saved multiple times. As a teen, I recall my mother mentioning some in our large family who were Southern Baptist–“missionary Baptists” she called them–who believed in the doctrine familiarly known as “once saved, always saved.” Mom would say, “They believe you can go out tonight and get drunk and still be saved tomorrow.” Which is true, of course. We do believe that, although that’s not our favorite way to express it. Smiley face, please. (And most definitely not something we encourage. But a person’s salvation has to be stronger than Jack Daniels or we are all in big trouble!)
To be fair, I never once heard a pastor of our home church teach that people may lose their salvation. The pastors have always seemed certain of our security in Christ.
Anyway, long story short, since some protested and insisted that one can lose his salvation in direct contradiction to the sayings of our Lord, the subject will not leave me alone. I’d like to return to it, if I may. (As President Reagan once said, “I paid for this microphone.” It’s my blog, so I can choose any subject I please. Please smile.)
So you will know, I’m not angry and not even arguing. (I am a lover, not a fighter.) Just trying to get at the truth of this most vital doctrine.
It matters a great deal.
Some random thoughts on this subject….
Those who believe in the possibility of losing their salvation will quote scriptures which they say we must answer, such as those which speak of “falling from grace” and “making shipwreck.”
I get that, but they are missing something.
They have it exactly backward. Anyone who believes in the possibility of losing salvation must answer a thousand statements to the contrary throughout the Word. And they can start with John 3:16 where Jesus says “Whosoever believeth in me shall not perish but have everlasting life.” What does “shall not perish” mean, and what does “everlasting life” mean?
When they finish, they can stay in the same chapter and look at verse 36. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.”
Why in the world would the Lord would say such a thing if it was conditional on anything and could be reversed by something we do?
We’re not proof-texting here (that comes later!), but simply pointing out that there are hundreds of references in the New Testament to eternal life, never die, shall not perish, and such.
Does the Bible mean what it says?
The Word calls believers “children of God” and “sons of God.” Can a child become not a son or daughter? Did God choose the wrong metaphors?
My hunch is some think of the Lord’s teachings in the way we view modern commercials or receive the promises of politicians, and are not to be taken literally. Just as we know the futility of holding a candidate to his campaign promises–he would say, “Well, circumstances have changed”–I suppose some think we must give our Lord wiggle room to have exaggerated or oversold His product.
I find that most troubling.
Did Jesus exaggerate the security of the believer? Did He overstate Himself when He said “shall never perish”?
Take John 10:27-29, which is as strong a statement as Scripture contains on the subject. (But do not overlook the fact that the New Testament contains many such statements, each just as solid and affirmative.)
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
How wonderful is that? How precious and assuring.
Question: What does it mean? Stop and consider that (for the next year, then we’ll talk!).
A sweet and sincere friend said, “Well, no one else can snatch them out of God’s hand, but surely I can take myself out.” She explained, “I made the decision to come in and I can make the decision to go out. It just makes sense.”
Am I the only one troubled to see how loosely we play with the Lord’s statements and how lightly we take His promises?
My answer is three-fold:
1) You did not make the decision alone to “come in” on your own. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father draw him” (John 6:44). Free will has its place, to be sure. God does not force salvation on anyone.
Surely no one believes that the Father looked up in surprise one day and was so excited to find out that we were coming to Him for salvation. “Hey, Gabriel! You’re not going to believe this! Old Sarge is walking the aisle. Alert the angel band. Big news!”
Our coming to salvation was initiated by Him. Even faith is a gift of God, we’re told (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This isn’t Calvinism, friend (for anyone wanting to get off on that side road). It isn’t any “ism.” This is just the Word.
2) When we did come to Jesus for salvation, and were born again by the Spirit of God, we were forever changed. We are new creations in Christ. We have become children of the living God, our names recorded in the book of life. I am not the same ‘me’ as before.
There is no undoing of that.
That’s why we cannot just walk in and out of salvation as though it were a civic club which we joined, then realized we don’t have time to do all it requires and pulled out and went home, to re-join another day. Salvation changes us for all time.
3) Did you notice that our Lord said, “My Father, who has given them to Me is greater than all”?
Is God an Indian giver? (Sorry, native American! You understand the expression.) Does He give today only to take back tomorrow? Does He make these great promises but later point to the fine print like a hot-shot salesman in your living room?
If I can take myself out of Jesus’ hand and out of the Father’s hand, does this make me “greater” than God? It would seem.
Even such a seemingly innocuous line as Luke 10:20 teaches the security of believers. Jesus cautioned His disciples not to rejoice over successes from their preaching missions, but “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” As every disciple learns eventually, our missions and revivals sometimes bear fruit and sometimes come up empty. If our joy is tied to the results of our latest forays into the world with the gospel, we will forever be excited and depressed, hot and cold, happy and discouraged.
Jesus wants none of that. He wants His disciples always rejoicing.
So, He did something wonderful and profound: He tied our joy to our salvation.
When Jesus told His followers to rejoice “that your names are written in Heaven,” He was assuring a constant flow of thanksgiving and rejoicing by His people. After all, this salvation of His does not fluctuate, is not conditional on anything. It’s settled once and for all.
Nothing else makes any sense. If we can have it and lose it, then get it back and lose it again, the Lord chose the wrong metaphor and is guilty of misleading His people.
Now, on the subject of losing your salvation and getting it back…..
Scripture has not a single instance of anyone losing his salvation and then getting it back. Not one.
In fact, Hebrews 6:4-6 points out that if someone did in fact lose their salvation, it would be impossible for them to be saved again since that would require Jesus going to the cross all over again.
To save you a second time would necessitate a second Calvary.
(Note: We are aware that the Hebrews 6 passage implies the possibility of losing one’s salvation. That’s a text we have to deal with. But do not miss the major thrust of the point the inspired writer is making: The impossibility of being saved twice. In fact, he/she seems to be saying that if one loses salvation, that’s it for them forever.)
If I were the devil, I would want God’s people to be in constant turmoil, worrying about their salvation. Even though they could point to a time when they repented and received Christ, I’d have them worrying if they had done something since to reverse the situation. I’d stir them up to feel guilty over every sin and tormented by their doubts and fears.
That way, we would not have to worry about them doing anything for Jesus to reach others. People preoccupied with their own slippery standing will not be rescuing the dying around them.
My question to you: Why not choose to believe the Lord Jesus above your own fears?
Finally, even though I suggested that you meditate on John 10:27-29 for the next year somewhat in jest, it’s not a bad idea. In fact, stay with the entire chapter. It’s a mother lode of spiritual insights and blessings.