Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Can Salvation Be Lost? (Part I)

Today I'm bringing up another important topic. Controversial as it is, the question of whether one can “fall from grace” has a great impact on a person's spiritual life. So, as usual, I'm jumping into this minefield with both feet.

My view? In short, I cannot agree that anyone can “lose” their salvation.

Remember my series on justification? (Click here for Parts I, II, III, and IV) In Part IV of that series I referred to Romans 8:30 - and I made the point that justification is once and for all. Let's revisit that verse, in context:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (my emphasis)

Again, I'll point out the flow of Paul's argument. Everyone who is justified - that is, declared righteous by God - is glorified (has eternal life). No exceptions. One cannot be declared righteous by a perfect, holy God and wind up in hell anyway - if that were to happen, God's declaration of righteousness (justification) means nothing. God would be shown a liar! And furthermore, the justified sinner suffering in hell would be suffering for the same sins that God counted as punished in Christ!

Remember the basis of salvation - the blood of Christ. If a justified sinner can be lost, the sinner's sins would be punished twice, the punishment borne by both Christ and the sinner, and then Christ's suffering and death on that person's behalf would be in vain. With respect to that individual, Christ's blood would be wasted. God would have failed.

Consider this Scripture as well:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (John 6:37-39)

Jesus makes the following points:

a) Everyone given to Christ by the Father will come to him. No exceptions. (verse 37)
b) Whoever comes to Christ will NEVER be cast out (verse 37).
c) It is Christ's mission to do God's will (verse 38)
d) It is God's will that NONE of those given to Christ, who come to Christ, will be lost (verse 39)

So we see that if anyone were to come to Christ and then be lost, the Father's will would NOT be done, and Christ's mission would fail. God does not fail! A person who truly comes to Christ, then, is eternally secure - because this is God's will.

Why? Because salvation is the Lord's. It depends on God, not man.

Think about it. If salvation can be lost because of a person's behaviour and actions, what does that salvation depend on? God's grace? Or human effort? If human behaviour can “lose” salvation, then salvation is dependent on human effort. This is wrong – salvation is by God’s grace alone. It is a gift that is unearned, unmerited, and undeserved. If you never earned salvation in the first place, then how can you “unearn” it and so lose it?

The idea that sin can cost you salvation is bad theology, for two reasons. First, sin is the problem we are being saved from in the first place! If it wasn’t an obstacle to one’s salvation when he was first saved, then why is it now? Was the person less sinful before, and now is more sinful? If that’s the case, then only those who are less sinful can be saved. But where’s the line? At which point does sin become so serious that the person is unsaveable?

Second, and more seriously, the idea that salvation can be lost equates to salvation by works. Think about it – in this view, salvation is no longer dependent on God’s grace and mercy. It’s now dependent on human behaviour. Such salvation is no salvation at all – it is conditional at best. It’s like “salvation” is actually a probation period, at the end of which (presumably at death) if you’ve been good enough, God will save you.

I once spent a week in Morocco, a Muslim nation. I had the opportunity to ask many questions about Islam, and let me tell you – this view is identical to the Muslim view. What kind of assurance is that? How can even the best Christian be sure of his salvation, since we all sin?

What use is the Cross, in this view? What does Christ’s sacrifice actually accomplish? How powerful is it, if a person can enjoy its benefits one moment and the next his sin becomes so strong and rank it overpowers the Cross?

What’s the logical result of this theology?

How is one saved? “Easy – just stop sinning!”

This view repudiates the Protestant Reformation. It is, in fact, very similar to the Catholic view, in which “mortal” sins can put a Christian in peril of hell, where the person has to do good works to balance out sin, and where the person must go to Purgatory to work out residual sin before entering heaven. Both views depend on the same, unscriptural presumption: that human effort must be added to Christ’s work on the Cross, in order to be effective.

No. The Cross doesn't merely make a man SAVEABLE, if he adds his own effort. The Cross SAVES.

Jesus said, on that Cross, “It is finished.” I believe Him.

Next time, I'll deal with the equally wrong idea that a Christian can believe and then go on sinning without fear...


Anonymous Brad said...

Jeff, i agree with yu, but what is your take on hebrews..chapter 6 is it?

8:41 AM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

You know, that's a good point - I should deal with some of the verses, like Hebrews 6, commonly cited against perseverance of the saints.

I'll do that in my next post - wait for it.

11:38 AM  

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