Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Can you lose your salvation? (Part 2)

Many folks struggle with the concept of eternal security, the idea that if you're saved, you're always saved. Just as it is with every other teaching, it's quite legitimate to ask the question, "Is this doctrine biblical?"

Regarding eternal security, the answer is yes. If a person has been saved by God, that person will always be His child and will spend eternity as a co-heir with Christ (see Romans 8:17).

When engaging in conversation about a subject as important as this one, it's important that positive and negative approaches are both saturated with biblical insight and wisdom. Because there is a time to go on offense and time to go on defense, this topic will be discussed in two parts. First, I played offense and asked seven questions that may cause the other side of this argument to question his belief in maintaining salvation. Now I'll go on defense and answer some common objections to eternal security of the believer.

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If your salvation is secure, it doesn't matter how you live after you "accept Jesus." Once-saved-always-saved thinking minimizes the importance of personal holiness, does it not?

This is the most common objection to eternal security, though the flawed thinking behind this retort is exposed in the objection itself. The skeptic unknowingly reveals his presuppositions by asking this question. Before I unpack that, though, I do want to say that I can understand the heart behind wanting holiness to matter -- and I appreciate that immensely. God has called His people to be holy, even as He is holy (1 Pet 1:15-16). It's a big deal. Those who believe that salvation can be lost do right to rebuke Christians who abuse grace. Their theology is wrong, but their rebuking is sometimes spot on.

Here's the false presupposition: My goodness is directly tied to God's acceptance of me.

We can know that presupposition is false because our goodness plays no part in the gospel message. We preach, "Believe in Christ," because we cannot believe in ourselves. Jesus had to die for us as the perfect sacrifice because we could not pay for our own sin. To be saved, we all must believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). So we know that the charge of the gospel is to trust in Him and not in self.

Here's the connection: The gospel message not only saves, but sanctifies.

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No other good news could bring about a good life. For a person to grow in godliness and live a holy life, he must constantly refer himself back to the gospel -- that God is good and he has no goodness within himself. He must throw all of his weight on the foundation of grace through faith. All he does is rest in Christ's finished work and God is faithful to work in him. God gets all of the credit as the One who wills and works (Phil 2:12-13).

Therefore, we conclude that there is no distinction between the method of salvation and the method of sanctification in that God is the effective cause and it is all done by faith. None of it is earned; it is all of grace for God's own glory.

In other words, no Christian can work really hard to stop gossiping and, when she realizes that she's not gossiped for a while, say to herself, "I did it!" There are two things wrong with this: (1) She didn't do it, God working in her did it, thus He must receive all the credit and (2) She now is exposing the pride of her heart, which God must deal with in His grace.

Going deeper into Scripture, we see that this life set apart, the sanctified life given as a gift from God, is a part of the big, eternal plan of the Father. Romans 8 sees salvation and sanctification as being inextricably tied together. So does 1 Corinthians 6. So does Ephesians 2. If you're in God's elect pipeline to be saved, you absolutely will be sanctified. They aren't separate events.

A person who believes you can lose your salvation will disagree with this thesis. This is because the presupposition of those people is that there is a disconnect between sanctification and salvation so that, in a sense, Christ saves but self sanctifies. You must keep up your own faith -- with totally free agency so that you are completely responsible -- in order to maintain a good standing in Christ that allows you to get into heaven. It's gospelized Pelagianism.

Next time I'll look at specific passages that are sometimes used to teach that a Christian can lose his salvation.

< Part 1              Part 3 >

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