googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Can a person lose his salvation? Part 4

Friday, February 10, 2017

Can a person lose his salvation? Part 4

I don't believe a person can lose his salvation. In this series until now, I've cited verses in the Bible that clearly say that our spiritual birth is like our physical birth – it is a transforming event that permanently assigns who we fundamentally are. Furthermore, once we are saved, God promises to keep us. In light of these verses, I cannot see how salvation could be temporary or conditional.

Of course, other people will cite other verses that seem to suggest that it is possible to lose our salvation. When confronted with two passages that seem to present differing ideas, the solution is not to decide which passages we believe are correct. The reality is that both verses are correct and the truth lies in a harmony of the two. In this post, I will discuss some of those passages often cited to support the idea that a person could lose his salvation.

Some passages that people cite, seem to include a condition of continuity. Consider Revelation 3:5:

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

In my first post in this series, I quoted a website that used the analogy of a free car to represent salvation. That author was full of analogies. When discussing Revelation, he said this:

Notice that God's pencil, which wrote your name in the Lamb's book of life, also has an eraser at the other end. The name can be erased from the book of life if you don't overcome.

Can I just say that I find it odd that someone would quote a promise where Jesus says He will not do something and use it as evidence that He might do it? Anyway, the author is attempting to highlight the condition that a person must overcome or else his name will be erased from the Book of Life. There are other verses that seem to carry similar conditions:

But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Heb 3:6)

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; (Heb 3:14)

By reading just these verses, the implication seems to be that we must continue professing our faith until the end in order to receive our reward. But as I've already said, our understanding of any verse must be tempered with the rest of the Bible. In a previous post, I cited 1 Corinthians 1:7-8:

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If my continuance in the faith rests in my own hands, then my salvation is in peril. My flesh is weak. My faith wavers. But Jesus has saved me and He lives to continuously makes intercession for me. Those verses that talk about salvation being conditional on my continued faith must be in harmony with the promise that I am kept by the power of God. I know I will stay fast to the end because He has promised to keep me firm until the end.

There are other verses I could cite but I don't want to make this post too long. In short, it's my opinion that nearly all of the verses usually cited could be characterized as “negative arguments.” This is where a verse says one thing and the argument is made about what would happen if the opposite were true. I can't say I never make negative arguments but I don't believe negative arguments are strong arguments. I might say, for example, “I work hard so I can get ahead.” The opposite would be, if I don't work hard I won't get ahead. Perhaps I wouldn't, but where in that argument is found the possibility that I won't continue to work hard? I believe the same thing is true of the Bible. Perhaps if I stopped believing I could lose my salvation but that doesn't necessarily mean it is possible for a truly saved person to stop believing.

Perhaps the most cited verse to support the possibility of a person losing his salvation is John 15:1-2:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

This is almost cited like a “gotcha” verse. At first reading, this verse is also a type of condition where God “takes away” any branch not bearing fruit (“cuts off” in the NIV). In other words, if a branch doesn't bear fruit, it's cut off. I very, very seldom appeal to the original language but, in this case especially, I believe most, mainstream versions of the Bible don't accurately translate this verse.

The word being translated is the verb, airw (airō, Strong's 142). It is sometimes translated as “takes” but the primary meaning is “lift up.” Even in verses where it is translated as “takes,” the meaning is still usually, “take up” or “pick up.” In the parable of the sower (Mark 4:15), for example, Satan “takes” the word which had been sown; the picture painted in the parable is of a bird “picking up” the seed that fell by the way.

In John 15, Jesus creates the metaphor of the Father as a husbandman. Every branch that abides in Him will bear fruit. He “lifts up” the downtrodden branches so that they are able bear fruit and He prunes the fruitful branches so that they can produce even more fruit. This is easily understood by anyone who has seen a vineyard. Even today, branches are still tied and held up from the ground. Note that in verse 6, it is only those branches that do not abide in Him (i.e. are not Christians) that are cast into the fire.

I believe the problem is that we sometimes see instances of people who profess to be Christians and seem to be saved, but later they reject Christ and live like they're lost again. They fit the bill of people who seem to have been saved but did not continue in the faith. Earlier I used the term, “truly saved.” I chose that deliberately because I believe many of the verses that seem to talk about someone losing his salvation are actually talking about people who were never saved. That will be the subject of my next and final post in this series.

Read the entire series

1 comment:

Steven J. said...

I suppose that part of the problem is that, barring a peek at God's books and being able to see if they change during a convert's lifetime, "apostates and lapsed believers were never true converts" and "salvation can be lost" cannot be distinguished empirically. Indeed, given that God is supposed to dwell and operate outside of time as well as within it, even that might not work.

But there are a lot of passages that, on their face, imply that a convert might not persevere to the end, or might give up the faith. And a lot of passages that seem to argue otherwise can be interpreted as saying something a bit less and a bit different from what you argue. Does 1 Corinthians 1:7-8 mean that God will not permit any convert to apostasize, or does it mean simply that He will keep up His end of the covenant if the believer keeps up his end -- that God will keep the promises He has made, not that there is some subset of True Converts among the larger set of apparent and professing converts who believe themselves Christians?

Likewise, the mainstream translators are presumably aware of the root meaning of airo. They are probably more aware than you (or I, of course) are of how the word is actually used in other Greek texts. If someone tells you he is depressed, you don't assume (simply because that's what the word literally means) that he's actually being pushed down into the ground. If the translators understand "lifted up" to mean "removed from the vine," they may well have good reason to translate it that way.

Birth is irreversible, of course. But birth does not guarantee indefinite survival; it does not even guarantee that you can't be disinherited or transferred to a different family, through, e.g. adoption (now or in the first-century Roman or Jewish worlds. Again, I think you're arguing for the broadest and most absolute meaning of the verses that support your position and the narrowest and most restricted conceivable meaning of the verses that seem to support the contrary position.