The Basics Sidebar – A Thorny Question about Salvation

While considering the wonderful, grace-filled, gift of salvation through Christ, we must come full faced with an important question. Can we lose our salvation? A question dividing Christians for hundreds of years into those saying, “no way, can’t happen” and those saying “yes, it can.” Both camps have produced mountainous volumes on why their view is right and the other wrong. Each has supporting scriptures to back up their view. In my view, both sides make good points and both sides make errors in application.

Now, there is no possible way for a 1200-word article to refute or acknowledge every argument on both sides.  If we boil away the dross, we come down to two primary verses. One on the “can’t happen” side and one on the “yes it can” side. Both verses are clear and unambiguous.

On the “Can’t Happen” side – “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)

On the “Yes It Can” side – “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)

So, we have a conflict. And not a minor one since the answer affects our attitudes, faith, and feelings of security in Christ. The problem is that to argue for or against either side, we must resort to hypothetical instances. What if someone does XYZ? God, however, doesn’t deal in hypotheticals but works inside those unseen places of our lives; our soul, our heart, and our intentions.  As God said to the Prophet Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NASB95)

There is no magical glow that announces our eternal condition for all to see. Many say and do the right things, but do not really belong to Jesus. And there are many whose lives fall far short of God’s desires, who struggle with addictive sin, but who truly are His. We cannot judge the outward appearance since that judgment is faulty. So, hypotheticals are nearly useless since only God and (to a lesser degree) each individual can say what is in their heart.

I think there is room for both camps, but we do need to recognize that there is no certain singular answer to this thorny question. While Christians may argue about it, this should not be a point of division. My personal belief is that it is possible to “lose salvation,” but it is very, very difficult and highly intentional.  In other words, salvation can’t be lost like a set of keys or a coin slipping from our pocket, but it can be rejected and renounced like citizenship or family membership. But where and when that line is crossed is ultimately up to God.

No one can snatch you out of God’s hand. No one can steal God’s gift of grace from you. There is security there. All of our sins – past, present, and future are covered in Christ. Yet, Jesus’ lambs desire to turn from sin and towards Him. We are secure but staying within that security is up to us.

We all struggle against sin. And sometimes everyone, even the most mature believer, stumbles. Salvation doesn’t rest on our personal sinlessness, but on our belief in Jesus and our desire to follow Him.  Neither are we to use God’s grace as an excuse or as a “get out of jail free” card. That moment we think, “I can do this because God will forgive me,” we are on the precipice of falling from His hand.

Are we eternally secure in Christ? Yes. Can we walk away from that security? Yes, although it is extremely difficult and is completely intentional. Can we fall into sin and still be saved? Yes, because our sins are forgiven in Christ (even those we don’t yet see). Even if we intentionally sin claiming God’s forgiveness in advance? Yes, but that is a path which will lead us out of God’s hand. Go that way often enough and every bit of our heart will be turned away from God with no path back.

For those struggling with a sinful addiction, I want to leave you with hope. If you’ve turned your life over to Jesus, you are secure in Him. You may fall into that sin many times yet. That’s not God’s desire, but it is possible. Falling is not the end of the story. Running away for God is. As long as you get up, run back to God, confess your sin, and lean on 1 John 1:9, He will forgive you. He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness. You will experience freedom from that sin in Christ. Sometimes He does that overnight, but sometimes He takes us on a longer road.

For those not struggling with a sinful addiction – yes you are. It’s just not one of the socially unacceptable or “big” addictions. You may not fall victim to drugs, alcoholism, gambling, or sexual addiction. But you may be addicted to pride, to gossip, to judgmentalism, to legalism, to self-centeredness, etc. Those are just as damning, and every bit as much of a prison – even more so since those prison bars are nearly invisible. We all have a sin addiction. Each one of us is only righteous because of God’s grace.

Like I said earlier on, it is not possible to cover all of the arguments and “if, and, or buts” of the theological positions held by various camps. I can hear them rumbling around in my head saying “but what about…” The real conversation which needs to happen is between each one of us and the Holy Spirit. Paul said, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,” (Romans 8:16, NASB95) It is also the Holy Spirit which convicts us of our sin, including the deep-seated sins we may not even know about yet.  We all need that open-hearted conversations with the Holy Spirit – both for the assurance of security and for the conviction of sin.

Dale Heinold
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