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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Can a person lose his salvation? Conclusion

This is the last post in my series about how a person cannot lose his salvation. I encourage everyone to read the entire series but I'm going to recap my points briefly. I've talked about how salvation is described as a fundamental change in our nature – how we are “born again” and “pass from death unto life.” The Bible continuously describes our salvation using words of permanency like, “everlasting life” and “they shall never perish.” Furthermore, the Bible attests in many places that it is God who secures us in our salvation and we are kept by His power, not by our own works. Finally, I talked about how the majority of verses critics cite are “negative arguments” where they point to a conditional statement and argue the opposite. For example, in Revelation 3:5, God promises to not blot from the Book of Life the name of the soul that overcomes; critics argue that means God could blot the name from the Book of Life if the person fails to overcome.

There are a few verses, however, that critics cite which are not negative arguments. It's my opinion that in every one of these cases, the people being described are not – and have never been – Christians. Following are a few examples.

Perhaps the most cited passage is Matthew 7:21, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” This verse is cited as proof that a confession of faith alone is not enough to guarantee salvation but, rather, confession must be followed by good works (that is, “doing the will of My Father”). In the context of the entire passage, however, Jesus makes it clear that these are people who only claimed to be Christians but never had a personal relationship with Him. Consider verse 23, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” I've written before about the emphatic force used in this passage in the Greek. Jesus is saying He, never knew these people – not even ever! They are not people who knew Him then became lost. They are people who never knew Him but thought they were saved because of the good works they did in His name.

Another passage sometimes offered is Hebrews 10:38, Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. The argument is made that this means if a believer should turn away from the faith (that is, “draw back”), then God will no longer have any pleasure in him. I don't believe that interpretation is valid when the verse is considered in context. Verse 39 says, But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. The epistle writer is clearly intending to exclude himself and his readers from the group that could “draw back.” He instead identifies the Hebrew audience as those who believe unto salvation. It is only lost people who hear the gospel and draw back that displease God.

There are other passages people cite and providing an exhaustive list would be too long for this series. The passages above are just example of how some passages used to argue that a person can lose his salvation really are talking about people who were never Christians. 1 John 2:19 says, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” In this simple statement, John makes clear that people who “leave” the faith were really never of the faith. I'm not sure how much more overtly this could be stated.

In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), the seeds that falls on the stony ground or among the thorns represent people who seem to accept the gospel but later turn away when faced with trials. Only the seeds that falls in the good soil, the ones that produce fruit, are Christians. Time after time, Jesus tells us that we can judge a Christian by his fruit. We may not be able to look at a person's face and know if he's a Christian but we should be able to tell by judging his actions. There have been – and will always be – people who claim to be Christians but really aren't. Maybe they even genuinely believe they are. But at the end of the day, they had never really become a sheep.

2 Peter talks about this same thing. Some people hear the gospel and enter into fellowship with believers. Later, they return to their former ways but are worse for it because they have heard the truth. Peter quotes Proverbs, describing them as dogs who return to their own vomit or pigs that return to wallowing in the mire. They never became lambs; that is, they never experienced the life changing transformation of being born again. They remained dogs and pigs and, eventually, returned to acting like dogs and pigs.

Ultimately, of course, God is the judge of who is saved and who is lost. We may form opinions based on men's actions but God sees their hearts and He knows who are the sheep and who are the goats. Even Christians sin. I've sometimes said that a sheep might get dirty but a pig wallows in the mud. Christians will also be judged for their sins. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 talks about the time every Christian will face, when his works will be judged by fire:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

My sin has consequences – not just in this life but eternally. Every moment I spend on worldly things is time wasted building a house of wood and straw. It is time I could have spent pursuing things that will last eternally. When other saints are casting their crowns at the feet of Jesus (Revelation 4:10), I could be standing there empty-handed knowing I had squandered my reward. But regardless of whatever loss sin might cause us to suffer, Corinthians is clear that it cannot cost us our salvation.

Read the entire series


Steven J. said...

Some random and disorganized comments in reply:

I've written before about the emphatic force used in this passage in the Greek. Jesus is saying He, never knew these people – not even ever! They are not people who knew Him then became lost. They are people who never knew Him but thought they were saved because of the good works they did in His name.

Yet in the sentence immediately following "I never knew you," Jesus declares that those who do the will of his Father in Heaven will enter. This implies that those who said this did not think that they would be saved by their good works, but by what has been called "easy believism" (is "believism" even a word?). The epistle of James with its "faith without works is dead" is perhaps less explicit that Jesus' statement that "if you love me, obey my commandments," but even Paul "saved by faith, not by works," is replete with lists of the works that he assumes will follow from saving faith. One can quibble over whether this is "confession must be followed by good works" or "a true confession can only proceed from the sort of faith that will produce good works," but the difference between them does not seem immense (this is not the same thing as asserting that good works earn salvation -- Jesus seems emphatic enough in Luke 17:10 among other places that they do not).

Some passages give no obvious hints of merely describing conterfactual hypotheses -- they speak as though apostasy were a real possibility. And again, some of the passages you cite that seem, at first glance, to make apostasy impossible seem more constricted in meaning in practice: John 2:19 is not obviously about people who start out as seemingly sound converts, but about "antichrists -- denying that Jesus is the Anointed One." The discussion seems to center on heresy, not apostasy. I suspect that in general, just as every passage that seems to imply that it is possible for a true convert to fall away from the faith can be interpreted so that it is talking only about false converts, it is possible to interpret every passage that seems to teach perseverance of the saints as referring only to God not reneging on His side of the covenant, or to the covenant not covering false teachers, etc.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

Thank you for your comments. I know that my theological posts are not as interesting to you as my posts on apologetics but I appreciate your feedback.

The people being described in Matthew may have thought they were doing the will of the Father by doing good works. Actually, they were doing rather incredible works like prophesying and casting out demons. Jesus, however, called them workers of iniquity. We cannot do any good work apart from Jesus. Isaiah 64:6 says that our righteousness is like filthy rags. It is only by abiding in the vine that we are able to produce fruit.

People sometimes confuse “doing the will of the Father” with “doing good works.” Jesus told us the will of the Father. In John 6:40, Jesus said, “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.” So the Father's will is not that we do good works but that we believe in the Son and have eternal life.

The entire 2nd chapter of 1 John talks about judging between Christians and false Christians. It reiterates a common command repeated often in the New Testament that we are to judge people by their works. Verse 9, for example, says, “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.”

Thanks again for your comments. God bless!!