The other day I drove to work through a gray blanket of fog. I could see far enough ahead to drive safely but normally visible landmarks were hidden from view. The tall wind turbines, the houses, farms, and business that I passed were all invisible to me. Whether we admit it or not our journey with Jesus can also be very foggy. We’d like to be able to say that we have all the answers, that we can see and know the details of all of God’s truths. The mask that we often wear is one of having perfect knowledge and unshakable faith. But what if real faith is not being able to explain everything but trusting God for the few steps directly in front of us right now? Could it be that “I don’t know” is one of the most powerful statements someone can utter?
As we consider the next Intentional Tension it may be helpful to begin with an understanding of “I don’t know.” For several hundred years men and women of faith have divided over this particular set of truths. While there are two primary positions, there are also many nuances and variations. These truths have been subjected to rank oversimplification and unhelpful accusation. Let me frame the question using words that are intended to be neutral – Can a believer in Christ become unsaved? That’s the question that folks seek to understand when they throw out terms like eternal security or “once saved, always saved.”
There is very clear evidence in the Bible that believers in Jesus are secure in their salvation through Christ. The two most unambiguous verses along those lines are found in John’s Gospel. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, 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. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27–30, NASB95) And, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37–40, NASB95) Let me put it this way, God is not looking for a reason to kick you out of His family. Nothing can remove us from the loving care of Jesus Christ.
But then there are the “other” verses. The ones that seem to indicate that it is possible to turn our backs on Jesus and all that he has done for us. Consider, “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4–6, NASB95) And, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:5–6, NASB95) Taking these verses at face value creates a conflict with our previous assertion of security in Christ.
Now, I know that I will never be able to logically convince the entrenched to change their views. So, my comments are directed at those that find themselves in no-man’s-land. Going back to our guitar strings and the tension required to make them sing. What note is sounded when these two truths are set in tension against each other? I believe that the clear note from this intentional tension is grace. Receiving God’s gift of salvation is a work of grace. Walking with Jesus in that salvation is a work of grace. Drinking in God’s forgiveness as we stumble through God’s work of sanctification in our lives is a work of grace. Being restored after we have fallen (James 5:19–20, Galatians 6:1) is a work of grace. Having the free will to walk away from all that grace is a work of grace.
One of the words the Bible uses to describe our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is adoption. Consider what Paul wrote to the Romans, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”” (Romans 8:15, NASB95) There is an interesting condition in most adoption laws (I say “most” because I don’t know the laws in other countries). Simply put, an adopted child cannot be disinherited. The parents that adopted them cannot choose to remove them from their Last Will and Testament. Sounds like the same eternal security the Lord promises to us. That same adopted child can, however, refuse or disclaim their inheritance. And similarly to the verse in Hebrews 6, once someone renounces an inheritance it is impossible to reclaim it again. Let me add some practical words of grace and hope to that last assertion. Just like in estate law, nothing is final until the judge says so. My personal conviction is that God in His grace will wait a lifetime to sign-off on their choice in the hope that the wayward son or daughter will return home. God doesn’t give up and neither should we.
Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. If you have put your trust in Jesus, then He has adopted you into His family. No one can change that. Jesus holds you in His hand and no one can remove you from Him. You are saved by grace, kept by grace, grow in love by grace, exercise faith by grace, and are completed in grace. And if someone chooses to disclaim their inheritance in Christ, that is by God’s grace as well. By grace, God withholds the final gavel that seals their decision until the last possible moment in hopes that repentance of their choice and acceptance of their inheritance can be found. Grace, everything about our walk with Jesus is saturated in His grace.