To know Scripture is to know God. One of the most important and foundational mantras heralded as the banner of the Protestant Reformation was Sola Scriptura, which translates Scripture Alone. This is theological shorthand for the belief that Scripture is the Christian’s highest and final authority. In an age where science has challenged the Bible’s declaration of God as Creator, culture has challenged the Scriptural standards for morality, intellectualism has challenged the origin and reliability of Scripture, and even within the church, laziness keeps Christians from knowing Scripture, and blatant rebellion causes us to reinterpret Scripture to mean whatever we want, we are left with a great many more questions about the Holy Bible than any generation before us.
Can a Christian lose his salvation?
I’ve written previously about the Biblical dilemma of Predestination vs. Free Will. Both of these viewpoints fall under the broad categories historically known as Calvinism and Arminianism. The purpose of my addressing the issue was to challenge Christians not to fight Scripture with Scripture, but humbly seek to understand how all Scripture agrees. I want to tackle a similar issue in a similar way here.
Topic: Can a Christian lose his salvation?
Calvinism: A true Christian cannot lose his salvation. If someone, seeming to be a Christian, walks away from the faith, it will have become apparent that they were not “saved” to begin with.
- John 10:27-28 – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
- 1 Corinthians 1:7-9 – “[He] will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Arminianism (there are two major groups on this subject): Group 1. A Christian can lose their salvation if they go on sinning, and do not walk in repentance and trust in the grace of Jesus. OR Group 2. A Christian cannot lose their salvation, because salvation is a free gift. However, a Christian can walk away from, or reject, the free gift of salvation by living a lifestyle of rebellion against God.
- Hebrews 6:4-6 – “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance.”
- John 15:2 – “Every branch in Me (Jesus) that does not bear fruit He (God the Father) takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
Look to the Stars.
For nearly all of humanity’s known history, mankind has believed that our home, Earth, is the center of the Solar System, and even the entire Universe. This is called geocentricism. However, about 500 years ago that theory was challenged by a few, then hated, men: Nicholas Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton. Their theory was heliocentrism. Over time, and after an all-out intellectual and religious brawl, their theory was finally accepted: the Sun, not the Earth, is in the center of our solar system after all. So now we know that geocentricism is false, right? Not exactly. I took my core science lab class this past semester for college. I chose astronomy. The first month of the class was about geocentric perspectives and terminology. The fact is that while the Sun is technically in the center of our Solar System, our viewpoint is still geocentric. While it is not the actual structure of the Universe, geocentrism is a legitimate perspective, and is still taught in schools. The above mentioned Biblical dilemma is much like this scientific theory. Can a Christian lose his salvation? The answer is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and we cannot just dismiss either argument outright. These seemingly contradictory verses are actually complementary, but from two different perspectives. From our proverbial geocentric perspective, we know people who have lived faithful to Jesus for as long as we have known them. They served the church, gave to the poor, loved the Bible, came to all the prayer meetings, discipled younger Christians, etc. And all of the sudden you never hear from them again. Did they lose their salvation? Geocentrically, the answer is yes. But “The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19). And they, whoever they are, will never be “plucked from his hand.” We do great harm to ourselves and to others when we stand Scripture against Scripture. The truth is as far as we can see from our perspective people walk away from the faith. But we can’t ignore or disbelieve Jesus’ promise that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God,” (Romans 8:38-39), or that “Of those whom You (the Father) gave Me (Jesus), I have not lost one” (John 18:9). Yet we also cannot use those verses to change the meaning of the words “fall away” in Hebrews 6. As far as we can tell, they truly did fall away. Those verses are communicating to us in a way that aligns with real human experience. We cannot change our perspective, and we shouldn’t try to. That said, God has also given us heliocentric insight into what is really going on, and we shouldn’t ignore that in order to hold on to our preferred doctrines which we have found such comfort in. Verses like 1 John 2:19 give us God’s perspective: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.”
Of course you do not have to agree with my conclusion. My interpretation is not authoritative. But I do want to challenge you that the Bible is your authority. All of it. Watch yourself, and be quick to repent when you catch yourself fighting Scripture with Scripture. And I promise you that you will. All of us do. That is why 1 Timothy 4:16 says to “Watch your life and doctrine closely.”