How secure is salvation? Part 3

People frequently ask me if I think that a person (usually a friend or relative who has turned away from God) can lose his or her salvation. In this series of posts, I am responding to this question by studying what the Scriptures say on this extremely important subject.

In my last post, I listed some passages that seem to teach that salvation is not secure, that we can lose it. We’ll explore these a little more over the next couple of posts. Here is the first one.

But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves. 2 Peter 2:1

At issue here is the phrase “denying the Master who bought them.” Does “bought” mean the same thing as “saved”? Or can a person be “bought” but not “saved”? What do the Scriptures say?

1. Jesus’ death satisfied God’s wrath for sin for all people.

He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world. 1 John 2:2

The traditional word, translated here as “atoning sacrifice,” is propitiation. A main definition of this word is the concept that God’s wrath on people because of sin is turned away or satisfied by Jesus’ death. Notice that Jesus’ took care of sin’s penalty, not only for those who believe, “but also for the whole world.”

2. Every sinner – whether they will ultimately be saved or not – is under God’s wrath until the point of salvation. This is what Paul taught the Ephesians.

And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest… Ephesians 2:1-3

So even though Jesus’ death turned away God’s wrath for sin for the whole world (“bought”), that wrath remains on people – even on those who will believe – until the point of salvation (“saved”).

This is Peter’s point: the false teachers could have had salvation. On the cross Jesus had “bought” salvation for them just like everyone else. But they denied him and his work, opting for their own plan instead. Because of this, they had no other options, and they brought “destruction on themselves”. God’s plan is salvation, not destruction.

This leads into the point the writer of Hebrews made in two other sometimes-confusing passages:

For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age, and then have committed apostasy, to renew them again to repentance, since they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves all over again and holding him up to contempt. Hebrews 6:4-6

For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God’s enemies. Hebrews 10:26-27

The writer wasn’t making the case that a person could have salvation then lose it. His point was that, because Jesus’ death was once for all (all time and all people), it’s impossible to jump in and out. If you could fall away (“committed apostasy”) – which was not his point – you couldn’t be saved again. This goes against the teachings that you have to constantly make sure you’re saved. If you could lose it, you could never get it back.

Additionally, if a person claims to believe and even becomes a part of the community of God’s people, but never has the genuine life change that God provides at salvation (“deliberately keep on sinning”), there is no hope for him.

Because Jesus’ death is the only acceptable payment for sin, if someone plays with it then rejects it, or rejects it outright, what else is there? They have nowhere else to go.

We’ll tackle a couple more confusing passages in the next post.

How secure is salvation? Part 2

open vault door
Open Vault Door (Picture by Eric Rice)

One of the most important discussions I have with people has to do with the concern about their salvation. Many people believe that they can lose salvation, or have it taken away, depending on how they live, what sins they may commit, or what good things they never do.

In this post, I’d like simply to show the Scriptures most frequently used to support their beliefs, emphasize a phrase or two, and give some questions I’ve been asked.

For those who believe “once saved, always saved”, these passages can be troublesome and are often called “problem passages”. In the following posts, we’ll explore them a little further and see if they accurately represent the teaching of the rest of the Scriptures.

But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves. 2 Peter 2:1 Does this mean that I could deny God and lose my salvation?

Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you– unless you believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 What if I don’t hold firmly to the message?

You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace! Galatians 5:4 I can fall away from grace if I return to my old ways?

So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air. Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 Could I be disqualified?

“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me– and I in him– bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and are burned up.” John 15:5-6 If a person doesn’t remain in Jesus, he is sent to hell? How can I be sure that I am “remaining”?

For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. Notice therefore the kindness and harshness of God– harshness toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. Romans 11:21-22 Again, how do I know if I have continued enough to be spared and not cut off?

For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age, and then have committed apostasy, to renew them again to repentance, since they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves all over again and holding him up to contempt. Hebrews 6:4-6 What if I left the church for a long time and lived a sinful life? Is that apostasy? Is it impossible for me to be saved?

For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God’s enemies. Hebrews 10:26-27 But I thought we would never stop sinning until we got to Heaven. How are we supposed to be perfect after we’re saved?

I testify to the one who hears the words of the prophecy contained in this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book. Revelation 22:18-19 What if I have misquoted the Bible to someone – does that count as adding or taking away? Is that big enough to lose my salvation over?

Stay tuned, and we will study these and the rest of the Scriptures together.

How secure is salvation? Part 1

Question mark by Marco Bellucci.

A friend of mine asked a question on his Facebook page last week. It’s an important question. A matter of life and death really.

It’s a question that I have answered innumerable times – for people who just lost a friend or family member, for people whose marriages are falling apart, for people who can’t seem to get control over the sin that continues to dominate them.

It’s a question that everyone asks at some point. My friend asked,

“Salvation: is it eternal or can you lose it?”

I am going to write a series of posts on this extremely important topic. Together you and I will explore the Scriptures – those that seem to say salvation is forever and those that seem to say it’s not.

Before I do that, though, let’s open the comments on the question itself.

  • Has someone ever asked you? What was your response?
  • Have you ever asked someone else this question? How did they respond?
  • What passages can you think of that seem to contradict each other?

And then stay tuned as we ask and answer: “What does the Scripture say?” (Romans 4:3)