I’ve gone back and forth over whether or not to address this, but I really think I’m going to need to. I’ve made it clear, yesterday and in other places, that I believe in what’s commonly called “eternal security,” the teaching that after someone places his faith in Christ and is truly saved, he can never lose it. Nothing he can ever do—no particular sin, no later denial of his faith—can make a truly saved individual lose his salvation.
There are two categories of answers I’ve heard to counter this: anecdotal and doctrinal. I'm sure you know what I mean by anecdotal: something to the effect of “What about this person I knew? He walked down the aisle, prayed with the pastor, was baptized, attended church for a while, and then walked away from it. The last I heard, he was sleeping around and claims to be a hard-core atheist now.”
Then there are the doctrinal, or Scriptural objections. There are passages of Scripture which, I’ll freely admit, can be interpreted to mean that you can lose your salvation.
I’ll handle them both in the same way, with what the Bible teaches. First and foremost, I need to remind you: We interpret our experiences by Scripture, not Scripture by our experiences. Does Scripture anticipate and explain the guy noted above, and does my interpretation of Scripture fit?
Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I don’t teach—and I don’t think Scripture teaches—that someone can believe in Christ and then live like the Devil. To sum up what 1 John teaches, if you show no desire to follow Christ and please him, then you probably weren’t saved to begin with. At the very least, you have no assurance that you’re saved. The Bible certainly doesn’t offer it to you.
Then we come to the Scriptural argument for conditional security (the belief that somehow you can lose your salvation). Examining the passages which supposedly uphold this teaching, I can’t help noticing that they tend to fall into one of three categories:
1) Some of them are warnings from the Old Testament in which God made it clear to his people that if they didn’t obey him, they'd die. There’s always Ezek. 18, which tells us that it’s entirely possible for a righteous man to fall away from the Lord and then die for it. My response is simple--There’s more than one “death” mentioned in Scripture. Just because a passage is talking about “death,” doesn’t mean it’s talking about being eternally separated from God. In the context of the O.T., it's pretty obvious when the author is talking about a physical death.
2) Some of them, like we mentioned in John’s epistle, are warnings to people to examine themselves to make sure they’re really saved. Actually I'd venture that the vast majority of verses used for the conditional security position fall into this category. One of the passages which I’ve heard is today’s reading. Peter is warning about false teachers, but it applies to us as well. But let’s think about it for a moment. My dog (whom I love dearly) will go back to her vomit, despite my best efforts. Or a pig goes back to the mud. You can take a pig, clean it and spray perfume on it, but first chance it gets it will head straight back to the mud. Why? Because the nature of the dog and pig haven’t changed. They never were changed on the inside. But when you received Christ, you received a new nature. Take a close look at these, if you wish, and you can see that they can easily fall into the category of “The way you can tell you’re a believer is that you’re really following Christ.”
3) Or it might be a warning about believers who stray too far from walking with Christ, such as in 2 Pet. 1:5-8. If you’re a real believer in Christ and you stray too far away from him, he’ll get your attention one way or the other. He’ll start with his word and with godly friends, but then he’ll eventually progress to harsher methods, up to and including physical death.
All of the passages that I've seen which supposedly teach that you can lose your salvation can fall under one of these three categories.
Tomorrow I plan to make a personal address to those who disagree with me on this, but I’ll end this on a more positive note. When God warns us about something, behind the harshest of his warnings and threats is a heart of love which is reaching out to those whom he loves. If you aren’t sure if you really are saved, you can know for sure right now. He loves you, and he wants you to be his.
Father God, I certainly deserve nothing from you but judgment, but you’ve showered me with grace, love, mercy, and patience. Thank you.
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