Stephen Baker, Manchester
Saved then lost – is it possible?
There is a belief floating about that people who have been saved can lose their salvation. Our standard for teaching must always be the word of God. So what do the scriptures say?
We must bear in mind the following principles of biblical interpretation: a) scripture does not contradict itself; b) we must use straightforward verses and passages to explain the more complicated; and, c) scripture explains itself by reference to other passages of scripture, 1 Cor. 2. 13.
Straightforward scriptures first! In John chapter 10 verse 28, the Lord is recorded as saying, ‘I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand’. In verse 29 the Lord says, ‘My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand’. The Lord is teaching the double security of salvation. This is how safe it is to be saved; we are in the care and security of the Father and the Son. Our security for salvation is not dependent on our grasp of God but on His grasp of us, see 1 Pet. 1. 5. Note the expression, ‘My Father, which gave them me’. Similar statements are made elsewhere in John’s Gospel; we are taught that believers are given to Christ. Individuals believe, receive Him (the Lord Jesus) and, as a result, the Lord, by His power, makes them children of God, John 1. 12. In respect of the Father’s involvement in our salvation, He is giving souls to Christ, John 6. 37, 39; 17. 2, 6. This fact alone makes our salvation absolutely secure.
In Romans chapter 8 verse 1, we learn that ‘there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’. You may ask, ‘How are we classified as “in Christ Jesus”’? Paul writes to the Corinthians, 1. Cor. 1. 2, that it is believers that are ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus’. One further helpful verse in this Epistle contrasts being ‘in Adam’ with being ‘in Christ’, 15. 22. Being ‘in Adam’ defines all of humanity. Being ‘in Christ’ describes those who are saved and have eternal life. The rest of Romans chapter 8 should leave the reader in no doubt about the eternal security of the believer. As you read the potential challenges that are levelled against the saints, and then the clear conclusion of verse 39, your heart should be thrilled to think that nothing can separate you from the love of God.
What about people who turn their backs on the truth and even influence others so that they are led astray? Could they still be saved? The Spirit of God addresses this issue through Paul’s writings in 2 Timothy. There were two men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, who deviated from the truth and were teaching that the resurrection was a past event. They had such influence that they had overthrown the faith of some of their fellow believers. Were they saved? Paul says two things: firstly, the Lord knows those who are truly saved; and secondly, ‘Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity’, 2. 19. In other words, ultimately only the Lord knows those who are the true believers, but the evidence of this should be seen in the believer’s desire to move away from evil teaching and behaviour.
We must be clear that the only way that we can convince others that we are truly saved is by how we live. The Lord said, ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’, Matt. 7. 20. The proof of conversion is persistence in a life of good works. Good works and good living do not save a soul but they are an evidence that a person is saved.
Finally, what about those well-known passages in the Epistle to the Hebrews? I would not attempt to answer all of the issues in this short piece. Again, we must understand the difficult passages taking into account the simple statements of scripture. There was something unique about the situation of those early Jews if they turned against Christ. If they went back to Judaism and made sacrifices again, they would be personally repudiating Christ, Heb. 6. 6; 10. 29. It is interesting to notice that the writer is not persuaded that those who had professed faith would go back but rather that they would go on, see, 3. 12; 4. 1, 11; 6. 9; 10. 23, 35-39; 12. 12-15. In other words, he does not write to doubt their genuineness but to warn and encourage them that the evidence of their true faith will be seen in their continuance in the faith. So it is today. ‘Once saved always saved’, but the proof that you are saved should be evidenced in the life that you live for God.