Thursday 20 January 2011

Can we lose our salvation?

This is a quick Facebook response I gave to a good buddy in Christ who messaged me yesterday with the following query "Got a deep question to ask. In our small group today we had a little debate. Can we lose our salvation? once you are saved you are saved? or can we still go to hell if we drift away even though we commited our life to God years back?"

Hi .......,
That is indeed a very "deep" question. And I'm glad you have friends with whom to think deeply about salvation and Jesus.

Q1: Can we lose salvation?
A: Salvation is not something we have gained by our efforts nor we have to be lost. God saves us through the cross, it is his work in redeeming us. And God sustains us through the cross, it is his grace that keeps us faithful and walking with Jesus.

Jesus says "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day." (John 6:30) Jesus loses none, He raises all given him on the last day.

Another verse often quoted is Romans 8:30 "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." This is called the golden chain - none of the links in the chain are broken. Calling (When you become a Christian), Justification (Forgiveness through the cross), Glorification (Final redemption when Jesus returns).

Q2: Can we drift away? Do we go to hell?
The phrase "drift away" is from Hebrews 2:1, and the bit in Hebrews that causes the most difficulty and debate is Chapter 6 verses 4 to 6. There he describes someone who has been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of God's word, powers of the coming age... yet falls away. He then says it is impossible (referring to God) to bring back to repentance, with the reason "they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace".

2 big questions that usually arises in this passage. (1) Who is it talking about? (2) Why is it impossible for this person to be brought back to repentance?

(1) Who is is talking about? We need to be sensitive when answering this. Sometimes your friends will be thinking of someone they know, whom they love. This friend was a keen Christian at one time, but now they don't come to church, they don't pray or read their bibles, they may even be in some situation of worrying sin. If so, they are asking out of concern and love.

I would first of all say who this passage is not talking about. It's not someone who has committed suicide. It's not even talking about some particularly gross sin.

It does describe about someone who has been exposed to an amazing experience and blessing, unmistakeably from God. Who has come to benefit from learning about the bible. In this, the author is actually referring to an example he has already given in Chapters 3 and 4. There he talks about the Israelites who were rescued in the Exodus event from slavery in Egypt. Yet every single one of that generation fell in the desert. And then comes the warning in verse 12 - See to it brothers that none of YOU has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

The point is the passage is talking to you. Not your friend. Not that guy. The author talks about them - the Israelites in the desert, but he is addressing you, his hearers. And he says, you make sure, you don't fall away.

So in "debating" this passage, you shouldn't be coming up with hypothetical situations (this guy saved, but then sinned). You need to confess your own sins. You need to reflect on all God's blessings on yourself. If you don't, you aren't listening to the warning the bible is giving to us - whatever position you have taken in this debate.

It is worth pointing out verse 9 - Even though we speak like this, we are confident of better things in your case - things that accompany salvation. The author is confident they are saved through Jesus' blood. The warning is real, but so is the assurance.

(2) Why is it impossible for this person to repent?
People usually concentrate on the last bit of verse 6 where it says "crucifying the Son of God... subjecting him to public disgrace". How horrible, they say. No wonder this person will be judged.

To which I reply, that's what every single one of us as sinners do. If you are a Christian, don't you confess that Jesus took your pain and shame on the cross? Isn't this what all of us - as believers in Christ - have done? We have given him our sin and received his forgiveness and life?

No, the force of the argument is the one little word "again". This person is crucifying Jesus "again". In fact, the phrase "brought back to repentance" is actually brought "again" to repentance.

And this word "again" contrasts the word "once" in verse 4. Once enlightened+tasted the gift+Holy Spirit+goodness of God's word+powers of coming age. Salvation is a once for all, unrepeateable, complete event. The cross happened once in history. There is only one Saviour.

And what this person is saying is... Jesus get back up on the cross and die again. I don't care about what you did for me through your sacrifice. A good summary of this is in Chapter 9. "Nor did he enter heaven again and again.... then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself."

It is talking about the preciousness of the cross and the power of the cross.

Q: You didn't ask this, but such a debate must always talk about sin in the Christian's life.
A: As Christians, we should not sin. We are no longer slaves to sin. But in this world, we are still living in a struggle with our sinful nature and Christians will sin. "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8)

As Christians - saved by the cross - we must always come back again and again to the cross. Jesus is our faithful high priest, our advocate who pleads for our forgiveness of sin before our heavenly Father.

"My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."

I say this because 1 John was written to Christians who might be unsure about their salvation. And we need to understand, that genuine believers do go through times of difficulty and doubt. That's why he ends his letter by saying, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."

If you or any of your friends come away from such a debate feeling worried about your salvation, 1 John would be a fantastic book to read. It was written just for you, to assure you that God's love in Jesus is secure, and forgiveness is certain through the cross.

Hope that helps!
God bless,

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