Eternal security? or Can you lose your salvation? Part 3
In Part 1 I looked at some of the more-quoted passages often used to demonstrate the eternal security of the believer. The question was raised as to whether or not the believer could still exercise freedom of will, not only to accept salvation, but to also reject it after accepting it.
In Part 2 I looked at the passages that are used to demonstrate that a person may lose his salvation. I decided that, while it appeared possible for a Christian to lose his salvation, it wasn’t a clear-cut conclusion. It did appear that it might be possible for new (or immature) Christians to be drawn back into the world which they may not have fully let go of.
In the Hebrews 6:4-6 passage it is clear that The Writer to the Hebrews considers it possible for them to lose their salvation through God not permitting them (Hebrews 6:3) to renew their repentance, after falling away from what clearly looks like a description of a born-again Christian. But The Writer also makes it clear that a certain type of Christian is at risk here: the new-born baby Christian (Hebrews 5:12-14). The Writer also teaches that going on toward perfection will probably remove or at least greatly minimise the risk of losing salvation (that is, apostatising).
Of course, some will claim that an apostate is an unbeliever who has rejected the gospel, yet the word “apostasy” comes from the Greek word apostasia which is translated “a falling away” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. An apostate is someone who falls away from belief in the gospel and his salvation; it doesn’t define someone who never believed in the first place. You can’t fall away from where you never were in the first place!
The Writer to the Hebrews is teaching that in order to not fall away, one must grow as a Christian, and continue to grow, for it is the lack of growth that he associates with a falling away. On this basis, a more mature Christian should be better protected from falling away. But is this teaching consistent with other passages? In 2 Peter 2:18 it describes those who fall away as having firstly “clean escaped from those who live in error”. That word “clean” means clearly or obviously, yet some dispute this, claiming that the original word was “barely”. That is, those who have “barely escaped”. Either way, however, it is clearly talking about those who have escaped, either cleanly or barely. However, “barely” would be more consistent with Hebrews 5:12-14 which describes these people as new-born babes, ones who had barely escaped the world and its error.
But, are there passages that teach that less mature Christians are somehow more at risk than those of mature age? Look at Luke 9:23-25 – 23 And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? Look at the choice in Vs 25 which is clearly part of taking up your cross daily and following Jesus. This passage (similar to passages in Matthew 16:24-26 and Mark 8:34-37) does tie this choice to whether or not you take up your cross.
Jesus also said that if you didn’t take up your cross and follow Him, you were not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:38) nor could you be His disciple (Luke 14:27). It is clear that taking up your cross somehow takes you across some line drawn in the sand that commits you fully to the task. So, what does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus?
Tozer wrote some very thought-provoking words on this in Ch.10 (The Old Cross and the New) of his book “Man – The Dwelling Place of God”.
The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.
The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
It seems that there are two kinds of Christian: (a) those who take up their crosses (thus they can be Jesus’ disciple and are worthy of Him) and (b) those who don’t take up their crosses (thus they cannot be Jesus’ disciple, nor are they worthy of Him).
There’s a choice that all Christians must make in order to be a disciple of Jesus, and to be worthy of Him, and that is to take up their crosses and follow Him. For unless you take up your cross and follow Him, you are what I would call a de facto or P-plate Christian, one who still has significant desires for the world (1 John 2:15-17). Too many become Christians for the benefits to themselves: forgiveness for sins, eternal life, heaven forever, etc, but fail to do it for what they can give to God. (See Romans 12:1-2) They want their salvation, but aren’t yet ready to give up the world. They will continue to have conflict in their lives, between Christ and the world. At some point they’ll have to make up their minds which one they really want, Christ or the world. This is the choice associated with taking up your crosses and following Jesus. To take up your cross you must make a choice to forsake the world. If you cannot forsake the world, then you cannot take up your cross and eventually you are likely to succumb to the love of the world (that is, you will have traded your soul for the world). “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
People today want to have Christ without losing the world. But we may only be a true follower of Christ by taking up our crosses and turning our backs on the world. Until a Christian turns his back on the world, it will always be there, tempting him and demanding his return. Such a Christian is unworthy of Christ, and is always going to be at risk of returning to the world (at the expense of his soul). Such a Christian cannot be Christ’s disciple, for he loves the world too much. He might declare himself to be a Christian, having repented with godly sorrow, and prayed the sinner’s prayer for salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10a – For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of).
His name is written in the book of life. He is one of God’s children, having called upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13). But he still has friends and a social life in the world, and so he shares his Christian life with those of the world, not to win the world for Christ, but to keep those things of the world that which he cannot afford to let go of yet. Note what Hebrews 2:1 says – Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let [them] slip. That “let slip” has the idea of having hold of a boat rope in your hand, yet through being distracted by something else, we let it slip out of our grasp without realising that it has gone. We then look up and notice the boat is drifting down stream, already out of reach. Too late!
Many teach that this applies to those who have heard the gospel, yet let it slip through not giving it the importance it deserves. They then quote Hebrews 2:3a – How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation. But that word “neglect” refers more to a careless disregard of something already in your possession, something which is a responsibility of yours, rather than being careless of something you don’t have yet. You either neglect your responsibility, or you ignore something that is not your responsibility. You have hold of your salvation, your eternal life, your future in heaven – it’s in your grasp right now. Yet, your attention is drawn back to the world that you never really left, and you fail to notice that your grasp on your salvation is slipping. Your love for the world is strong and quenches your love for Christ, and, when faced with the decision to take up your cross and really follow Jesus, you decide that your love of the world is more important. Like Demas who loved this present world, you gain this present world, yet lose your eternal soul, your salvation. That which was once yours is no longer in your grasp.
Demas, that one who, along with Paul and Luke, sent greetings in Colossians 4:14. Demas, that one whom Paul called a fellow labourer (Philemon 1:24). Demas of whom Paul then declared “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10). Demas, who had now regained the world he had forsaken when he accepted salvation in Christ. Demas who gained the world yet lost his soul! Demas who let slip his salvation because of his stronger grip on the world. Demas who could never come back again to Christ!
Becoming a Christian is easy! Just receive Christ into your life and all your problems are over, forever! Or are they? Are you growing in Christ or are you constantly going back to new-born status through your love of the world? Have you matured enough to be able to test all things, especially the lies of the false teachers? Do you suffer as a Christian, keeping in mind that this is what Christians are called to do (1 Peter 2:21)? Remember that those who live Godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Is the Christian life so tough that you would rather give it up?
Like the Hebrews who were hard-hit with persecution such that they desired to go back to the temple worship which they had left behind when they became Christians. In fact, this is a major theme of Hebrews, the need to fight on in spite of the persecution.
… let us run with patience the race that is set before us – Hebrews 12:1. Note that the word “race” actually means fight, conflict, contention, and is translated “fight” in 1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Timothy 4:7.
Paul told the Romans, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2) Being a Christian means all or nothing. You don’t hand over a part of your life; you hand over all your life! You take up your cross daily (that is, take up the suffering to which you were called). You give God the right to choose what happens in your life, much like giving someone an Enduring Power of Attorney to control all your assets. No longer should you demand the right to have a say in your future; commit to God everything in your future. (You should be, after all, “a living sacrifice“.)
In particular, this means giving up the right to choose what you should do or say. God does not force Christians to hand this right over, but if you give Him this right willingly, then he will take control and you will then see the victory God has planned for you. You may (and will) fall at times, but you will always turn to God for help at those times, knowing that He is in total charge. And it is hard to see how you would ever be able to give up your salvation now. (I would say impossible. For such people their eternal salvation should indeed be secure.)
It’s like grasping your salvation with one hand while grasping the world with your other hand. It’s a tug of war, and sooner or later one side will win the battle. And the other side losing out. For the Christian, it should be the world that he lets go of, to then grasp his salvation with both hands. But, what if he should let go of his salvation to grasp the world with both hands? (Like Demas did!)
Thus, my conclusions on eternal security? I have already outlined them in this Part 3. If you want to hold onto the world, want to keep your options open, want to keep your worldly friends and social life, and don’t want to suffer as a true disciple of Jesus, then you are at risk of losing your salvation. And, if you gain salvation and then forsake it again, there can be no second option, for if Christ’s first and only sacrifice were perfect yet still insufficient for you, then no further sacrifice can ever achieve any more. Your repentance can never be renewed again. It would be better to have not known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then turn away from it (2 Peter 2:21).
However, if you wish to be eternally secure in your salvation, to know beyond any doubt that you have a place in heaven because your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, then you must take up your cross daily, follow the example of suffering set by Christ, forsake the world (that means burning all bridges that permit your return), and hand over to God all (that means all) your decision-making, that is, give to God an Enduring Power of Attorney. What you control, you can lose; what God controls, you can never lose!
Like the song (in part) says: I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning back, No turning back; Though none go with me, still I will follow; The world behind me, the cross before me.
Yes, you have free will to choose; sovereign God has given you that right. And it is as easy as believing in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9) and calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13). If you genuinely desire salvation in Christ and desire to fully serve Him, then you are saved from this point on. You may fall again and again, confessing your sins for God to restore you to fellowship with Him (and He will do so, again and again!). But if your desire is to be holy as God is holy (and this means turning your back on the world and its pleasures), then you will remain saved to the uttermost, eternally.
If you desire to keep hold of your salvation, you must hand over your right to free will here. That is, by your own free will decision you must choose to forego any further free will decisions on your eternal future. You must give this right back to sovereign God. Permit God to lock down every option that could cause you to let go of your salvation (or even to think about it). Instead, let go of the world and its pleasures forever! “No turning back, No turning back!”
And, with God’s guidance you must grow toward perfection. (Despite never being able to be perfect in this life, you must nevertheless still strive for that perfection, or rather, give God the decision-making to get you there, to be conformed to the image of Christ – Romans 8:29.)
It really comes down to who is making the decisions in your life, you or God? It comes down to what your life is built upon, your dreams and aspirations, or God’s will for your life?
What you choose you can fail in. What God chooses for you can never fail you.
What you build, you can lose. What God builds, you will never lose.
Psalm 127:1 – Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh [but] in vain.