I had the privilege of discussing the topic of assurance of salvation last night at our life group session. Our original text came from Revelation 3:1-6 (the letter to the church in Sardis). What was most refreshing about that chat was that so many were able to move past the more difficult aspects of that discussion to affirm the truths we can all agree upon. God is sovereign and judgment of the believer and unbeliever is strictly up to Him. If a person is concerned or worried that they might have committed the unpardonable sin and are bound for hell, it almost certainly means they are not.
But the conversation about whether or not a true Christian can lose or forfeit their salvation was still a major part of our discussion. And we had to acknowledge that the Christian church is far from agreement on this matter. In one night, we made both a biblical case for “once saved, always saved” and also “someone can lose their salvation.”
So, what did we conclude? One point that came out was that a true Christian does not have a license to continue living like hell. Some might argue that anyone living like hell isn’t a Christian, but I think the New Testament provides plenty of examples where that is just not true. Why else would such warnings exist in the first place?
Another point that we drew out was that Christians should never “write someone off” as a hopeless case. While spending time working with someone whose heart is hardened or unrepentant might be time ill spent, the notion that we could ever identify whether or not someone was truly hopeless as opposed to just backslidden is a bad notion. We must always proceed from the standpoint that “it ain’t over till it’s over.”
So where do I fall on the matter? My current understanding of Scripture is that a Christian is a new creature. Fully changed in a permanent way. God rendered a declared judgment of righteous. The notion that a true Christian had the power to unravel that which God wove together seems difficult to accept. Reluctantly, I believe that a Christian cannot lose (or forfeit) their salvation. I say reluctantly because passages like Hebrews 6:4-6 seem hard to reconcile:
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.”
It is possible that the “those” in verse 4 refer to people who aren’t actually (nor have they ever been) Christians, but in light of the things they have experienced, that seems like a tough read. It is more likely that the author of Hebrews is speaking of a bona fide Christian who have totally abandoned their faith.
So, for me, the tension remains. I find comfort (if not certainty) in passages like Romans 8:38-39:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If you are a practicing Christian, here is something you need to hear. If your heart and mind is that the addicted, impoverished, and broken people dug their own grave and the rest of society is not responsible for their bad mistakes, then I ask you to wake up.