This is a topic that has divided theologians and churches. Whereas some state that it is possible for a Christian to lose his salvation once saved, there are others that maintain that eternal life is for life and as the term implies, for eternity. There are verses that seem to support both viewpoints and there are legitimate arguments in favor of both.
Before we begin to explore this question, we need to understand what it means to be saved. When within the sovereign will of God, man takes a decision to accept Jesus as his Savior and Lord, repenting of his sins and deciding to live a new life of obedience to God, salvation results.
This momentous decision for man is characterized by regeneration wherein the spirit within man that was dead is brought to life by the new indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s decision and brought about by his grace without which salvation cannot be brought to pass. This is also man’s decision without which he cannot enter this new life. In a mysterious but real way, both God’s sovereignty and man’s decision coalesce in that moment of truth for the new believer and a moment of rejoicing for the company of angels in heaven over a sinner who finds his way home.
It is also accompanied by man being transported at that very moment from being a purely temporal being who is limited in space and time to becoming a being who is both temporal and eternal, the latter being true because now he shares in the life of God (eternal life) by virtue of God’s spirit dwelling within him, causing an awakening of his spirit. Eternal life has already begun for a Christian and when his body dies, his spirit continues to partake of God’s eternal life. So salvation for a Christian needs to be seen not just as a ‘pass grade’ that God gives man on his examination for life, when he right chooses Jesus as his Savior, with the benefits of eternal life to be received in the world to come. Rather it is partaking in the eternity that God is, by sharing the eternal life that originates in Him through the indwelling of God’s Spirit. Suffice to say, it is a big deal!
This understanding of eternal life becomes important because the first thing that we need to understand in studying this topic is that most people who appear to leave the faith and go away were never truly regenerated in the first place.
‘They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us’ (1John 2:19).
A number of people are familiar with Christianity. This can be a result of familial upbringing, teaching in schools or elsewhere, being attracted to the philosophy of Jesus or being influenced by a Christian life lived well. The resulting familiarity can lead many people to declare that they are ‘Christian’ without having been truly regenerated as stated above. Now some among these are so familiar as to even do great things in Jesus’ name.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7)
It is incredible but true and also concerning that many who perform marvelous things in Jesus’ name are those who are not regenerated in Christ and not known by God.
So herein lies the first answer to the puzzle. When a person ‘exits’ the faith, it is most likely that he never ‘entered’ in the first place. We will dive into this topic further in the Thursday post. Meanwhile, feel free to share your opinion on this subject.
- FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
- CAN A CHRISTIAN LOSE HIS SALVATION?- Part 2