Last week in my Life Group the topic of eternal security arose: i.e., can one lose one’s salvation? This is certainly a loaded question, and one that has caused many people all sorts of gried and anxiety down through the centuries. It was a lively discussion, with a lot of very good points made, but I don’t think we ever came to a solid conclusion — how could we expect to on a question that has perplexed the best scholars for hundreds of years? We might be tempted to simply ask, “So, whose right?” but that would fail entirely to capture some of the nuances of the situation. To whole-heartedly defend the argument of either camp is to impose a human system of thought upon the Bible, and to squish the Lord of heaven and earth into a little box, something that He is not too keen on having happen.
As with many things, the truth is likely somewhere in between, which then defies the traditional labels of “Calvinist” or “Arminian” altogether. Below, I will offer my perspectice on the debate briefly, and I invite my readers to respond as honestly as they like. My understanding of the questio is as follows:
I cannot deny that God is the Lord of our lives and our salvation. He is the giver of the gift of eternal life, and he is the protector and sustainer. Jesus says that he will not allow his sheep to be snatched from his hand (Jn 10:28). As we put our faith in the Lord, he will never let us down or allow us fall pray to the schemes of the devil.
On the other hand, there are too many passages in Scripture that warn about remaining in the faith (Hebrews 6:4-6 likely being the most well-known) to be taken lightly. Evidently, at some level we are responsible for choosing whether we will respond to God’s wooing and advances as he more fully forms us into the image of Christ. So, as we allow ourselves to drift away from the truth, we imperil ourselves.
So I come to this conclusion: that, when we place our trust in God, nothing can come along and snatch us away. There is nothing that can sneak up on us unwares and drag us into Hell. The hand of Jesus is a large, deep, and strong hand. But, it is open, and if we choose to jump out of it, I am not sure that God would stop us. I imagine that a person who has shown every sign of faith and faithfulness, but who then turns his or her back on God by intentionally repudiated the gift of life in Christ, walks a dangerous road indeed, and I would not be surprised if God honours that person’s request to left alone.
Let us never forget, however, that God loves us so much that he waits for even the slightest warming of the heart, the slightest indication that we have returned to him, and any faith that is rekindled, be it as tiny as a mustard seed, could very well be enough to redeem even those who have entirely turned their backs on their one-time Lord. God is a gracious God and freely gives the gift of eternal life to all who would take it; he’s not a tight-wad or a Scrooge.
Ultimately, I am suspicious of the word “lose,” and as soon as we swap terminology, some of the sting comes out this debate. Instead of speaking of losing salvation (as in, “Where is my salvation? I swear I put it down right here just a minute ago!”), we can use the words like “give up,” “repudiate,” “forsake,” “disavow,” or “spurn,” which indicate that is is possible for one to pass back into a state of eternal death, while at the same time making this a far more intentional and calcualted move. God is a good and just protector, but the human heart still remains wicked in many ways.