Like elaborated in my previous post, crucial to answering this question is to understand what it means to be saved. Being saved is partaking of the eternal life of God and is a big deal.
Let us look at two key verses that support contrasting viewpoints on this topic. Those who say that eternal life cannot be lost would find these verses from John 10 most relevant.
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
Jesus is talking about his sheep, those who believe in him and follow him. He makes it clear that no one can snatch them out of his hand and they shall never perish. The Bible makes it clear that salvation is not the result of good works. No one can claim salvation on the basis of merit. It is God’s love and mercy that includes you in him. Once you are saved, you are entering into eternal life or in other words, sharing in the life of God.
A number of Christians live in mortal fear that they have committed that unpardonable sin that takes them away from the love of God. Nothing can be farther from the truth. No Christian can claim a lifetime of perfection after being saved. The idea of God saving men through Christ is to put them on a path of achieving perfection, by obedience and transformation, which is a lifelong process. God first loved us and his love for us will not be taken away no matter what and that is what makes Christianity attractive and legitimate. No man can by himself, even begin to think of achieving the requirements that God has of him without the grace that is made available through Christ. And so it is the extended hand of God with his love that will not be taken away, which makes discipleship a reality.
Now let us look at a verse that supports the view that salvation can be lost.
4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (Hebrews 6)
There is no doubt that this verse refers to regenerated believers- enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit and so on. Falling away does imply a situation wherein salvation is lost by virtue of rejecting Jesus. This verse and others do mean that when a Christian takes his faith lightly and willfully espouses worldliness, he sets himself up for a life that is lived dangerously- away from the center of God’s will. Over a period of time, he could reach a stage wherein the warmth of God’s love is absent and the truth about God does become fuzzy, leading him to a point where he could ultimately reject Christ.
Will God intervene and prevent such situation? For sure, he will and through reminders, encouragement from other Christians, through circumstances, through suffering and so on, he will bring a multitude of interventions designed to prevent the Christian from reaching a point where he would reject Christ and lose his salvation, which is beyond doubt, the most precious gift man can possess.
But remember, God has created man with an independent will and if a person is bent on rejecting Christ, God will not forever stand in his way. Man’s will shall triumph even if it be for something as drastic as falling away from the faith. If being saved is a big deal, being disrupted from that eternal union is a bigger deal, for when saved man is bent on rejecting Christ, he is causing a disruption in the very eternal life of God by his decision. Hence the strong words in Hebrews 6:6.
How do we reconcile the two contrasting viewpoints? To say that it is easy to lose your salvation is to make light of God’s work in saving man. To say that it is impossible to lose your salvation is to make light of the pre-eminence of man’s will in charting out his life course. It is critical to understand what it means to be saved as elaborated previously. God’s definition of ‘my sheep’ may not correspond with our definition of the same and hence the confusion that is bound to arise when trying to reconcile John 10:27 with Hebrews 6:4-6.
So to summarize, will God’s love be taken away from a believer? No. Will the evil one snatch those that belong to Him? No. Is it God’s design for man to be saved and then lose his salvation again? No. Is it justified for a Christian to live a life of disobedience to God once saved? No. Can a Christian bring himself to a point of willfully rejecting Christ? Yes. Is it easy or common for that to happen? No. Can a Christian rest assured in the unfailing love of God? By all means, yes.
If you found this essay useful or this blog encouraging, would you consider introducing it to at least one friend?
- CAN A CHRISTIAN LOSE HIS SALVATION?- Part 1
- THE ORIGIN OF A SERVANT LEADER