22 February 2005
Just a Reflection
Can you lose your salvation? This topic has come up recently in several conversations and comments. The most obvious situation was in talking with one my friends who was having a discussion with his religion professor. In working through the keys to the conversation and pressing him on his own beliefs and views it was a good opportunity to hear my own perspective. This subject has been much debated and like a lot of doctrine, it is in my opinion, one of the many incomprehensible aspects of God. Not that it can’t be known or accepted as fact, but that the limitations of our humanity don’t allow us to fully comprehend the true nature of salvation. After all, we have the essential self-centeredness that makes freewill possible. Rather than regurgitate what others believe, I’m laying down my own perception. This is more for me, to clarify and solidify my own position. In no way am I judging or disdaining those who might believe differently. For me, as for others, this passage is a crucial part that makes up my life-view: My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. --John 10:29 There are numerous other passages such as: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. --Romans 8:38-39 These obviously speak to the immutability of salvation. All of this is before you move into the discussion on the aspects of salvation and theology which transcend time. I don’t want to get off down a rat-hole about predestination and other fun (albeit confusing) topics, so these passages should suffice. But then you have to reconcile the unshakeable hold and timelessness of salvation with this passage: Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. --Matthew 7:22-23 And of course the heatedly argued: For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. --Hebrews 6:4-6 How can there be such contradictions? Well, simply put, they don’t contradict each other at all. They must be examined in context and applied consistently before sense can be made from them. The Matthew passage is pretty simple. This passage is speaking about those who are not really saved. There will be those who imitate belief but have not received salvation. These people will even imitate the fruit of a believer in works. But without relationship there can be no salvation. Actually, this is one of my key reasons for railing against the church so often. I won’t get off on that tangent here though. The Hebrews text is a more involved passage. In context it becomes more apparent that he is talking about those who really are saved but no longer show fruit. The text is speaking about faith in works. They have fallen away from repentance, not salvation. They haven’t lost their salvation, but have lost their ability to witness or impact others in a service to God. The repentance written here is clarified early in the chapter as “repentance from dead works”. There is more in this book which speaks to believers about showing their faith in works. This sets us up nicely for handling the inevitable fallout from a position in which salvation cannot be lost. Of course, there is much in scripture about this, but it’s painfully obvious here: What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? --Romans 6:1-2 This is a strong admonition about living life in avoidance of sin. What I like a lot about this passage is that the nature of sin or the strictures of a godly life don’t even fall into play. Simply that those who are saved cannot live in sin. For me, this is another big nail in the coffin of religion over faith. What I think causes much of the confusion are the underappreciated facets of salvation. Salvation isn’t something that happens when you die. It is something that happens now; it is salvation that brings the change, the change does not bring the salvation. Those who seek salvation aren’t looking for the eternal life to come; they are looking for the change today. In wrapping this up, I realize that it really hasn’t calmed my convictions about salvation. The nagging nonsense about whether I am loved and treasured still creep in. The feelings of abandonment and loss still weigh me. How do I transition the joy in salvation into joy in life? Is feeling like a pathetic excuse for a servant a valid state of mind? When do I get to feel useful again? Am I impatient? Or just tired from carrying all this baggage?