Monday, August 31, 2009

Losing Salvation: What is Salvation?

Outside of christianity, when is the word "salvation" usually used? I really can't think of it being used at all in the world. The closest we get is the word "saved," which is usually used to mean some sort of rescue. For example, Steve saved Bob from getting eaten by a lion by shooting the lion. Now, the idea of needing to be rescued implies some sort of danger. Now here's a good question, if Bob was saved from the lion, how would he become un-saved? Would Steve bring another lion to kill Bob? Bob's salvation doesn't seem like something that could be somehow "lost" or "misplaced" somehow. Bob's "salvation" from the lion cannot be "lost." Steve could bring another lion to kill Bob, but it would be a malicious act of violence against Bob. It would not be a simple undoing of saving him.

If you walk up to a random person on the street and tell them that they need to be saved, they will probably think to themselves that they really don't need to be saved from anything, because they see no danger. What do humans really need to be "saved" from, in a spiritual sense? I would say that people need to be saved from:
  • The preeminence of sin over their life
  • The power of sin in their life
  • The presence of sin
  • The penalty of sin
Before we are saved, we are "slaves to sin" and therefore need to be freed from that to be able to desire and practice righteousness. As believers, we need to daily saved from the power and influence of sin in our lives, as we become sanctified. Finally, when we die, we will be saved not only from the eternal penalty of sin, but also from the cumbersome presence of sin. This, my friend, is what we need to saved from. So what's my point? My point is that spiritual salvation is not quite something as simple as being saved from a lion, because it is a past, present, and future event for us christians. We have been saved from the dominance of sin over our lives, we are being saved from the power of sin, and we will be saved from the presence and penalty of sin. Past, present, and future.
Ephesians 2:8
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God"

1 Corinthians 1:18
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

Romans 5:9
"Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."

As you can see, salvation is not only in the past, but also the present and future. I would encourage you also to read this website, LinkToAwesomeWebsite , which has another few awesome verses about this past/present/future deal. Anyway, if we have not yet attained our future salvation, how can we "lose" it? You cannot lose something you do not have. All we actually have right now is the salvation from the preeminence of sin in our lives, and the promise of ongoing and future salvation. That promise is God's promise, and God's promises always come to pass. If God promises that you will be saved in the end, then no matter what you or anyone else tries to do to stop that plan, you WILL be saved. It's that simple.
John 10:28
"And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish"

Never here is translated as "never." If Christ gives someone eternal life, they will never perish. Ever. Not now, and not in the future. That is a promise.

To go along with this whole idea that we have the promise of future salvation, there is the doctrine of predestination. That's a long word. Predestination means that before the world was ever formed, God choose our destinies. Before we ever existed, God mapped out our eternal destiny. Take for example a christian: God knows from eternity past that this person will accept Christ as Savior and pre-destines that person to be saved from sin, and from the eternal penalty of sin.
Romans 8:29
"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son..."

Romans 8:30
"Moreover whom He predestined... these He also glorified."

We'll call this guy JoeTheWishyWashyChristian. So, from eternity past, God has chosen that JoeTheWishyWashyChristian will be with Him in heaven forever. Then, at about 0 AD, or 33 AD, or whenever, Christ personally pays for all the future sins of JoeTheWishyWashyChristian. Now time rolls on, and in 1984, JoeTWWC (his nickname now) accepts Christ as His Savior and is Born again. So far, so good. Now, during 1984, JoeTWWC is "saved" and so we know that his future is (as predestined from eternity past) heaven. Time rolls on again, and in 1994, JoeTWWC turns away from God and states that he doesn't want Christ to be His Savior. When he dies, then, God sends him to hell. Wait - what? We already established the facts that:
  1. God predestined JoeTWWC to be conformed to the image of His Son and to go to heaven
  2. Everything God promises or predestined will come to pass
  3. Therefore, it does not logically follow that JoeTWWC could possibly end up in hell
If salvation is, as Scripture claims, a past, present, and future event, then when JoeTheWishyWashyChristian turn away from, God will continue saving him from the power of sin and faithlessness in his life...
Philippians 1:6
"being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ"
...will continue conforming him into the image of Christ, and will eventually welcome him into heaven.

Think of all the fictitious stories of people who sold their soul to the devil... the whole concept of selling their soul was that they couldn't just undo the deal later. They were afraid that they couldn't get it back. In a much less scary way, if you give yourself to God, and you belong to Him, you can't just undo the deal later. God is more powerful than the devil, you know. ;)

So basically, being rescued in not generally something that can be undone. The whole idea of undoing a salvation situation doesn't really make sense. Secondly, what we have in regard to salvation from eternal damnation is futuristic: we only have a promise. That's important because we know that whatever God promises will come to pass. Finally, a christian has been predestined, and that's in the past - there is no way to lose that, or otherwise get around it.

Next Page [Part 2: White as Snow]


Mike Barlotta said...

Saw this post on the SEA Facebook page and came over to give it a read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

A quick question. Do you accept the Free Grace movement and their teaching that one can reject Christ and still be saved? That is what it looks like you are advocating. And I think it is on this point that many Arminians (as well as Calvinists) would disagree.

You present the following timeline for JoeTWWC:
1. God chose Joe to be saved
2. Jesus paid for Joe's sins
3. Joe accepts Christ by faith
4. Joe rejects Christ
5. Joe dies

There are a few things here to point out. From our vantage point we don't know whether God chose Joe to be saved or not. What we do know is that God chose all those who are in Christ by faith to be saved. And we know that God knows who these individuals are via foreknowledge.

What we can say is that based on the evidence of what is presented in #3 - #5 that Joe is most likely not saved when he dies. Why? Because he does not have faith in Christ. We can debate whether Joe was ever saved at #3 or forfeited the salvation that was once his by faith at #4 but Scripture teaches that an enduring faith is a saving faith (see this link).

I don't want to hit you with a lot of links but I would hope you take a look at Colossians 1:20-23 teaches on this topic as well as another way to interpret/understand the passage in John 10, which you refer to.


Skarlet said...

Hey Mike,

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts here. I hope that you also got to read parts 2-5 of this blog series? This first one only barely scratches the introduction to the topic.

Now, to clarify a couple of points, for the thought experiment, we know *for sure* that Joe was promised salvation, and so if he died and went to hell, then that promise would have come to no effect. Such a situation *could not happen in real life.*

In real life, if anyone “prays a prayer,” but never really fulfilled the conditions to receive the new birth or the Holy Spirit, and never was promised salvation, then that person was never saved and we shouldn't be surprised later if they renounce the faith and die in unbelief. The other alternative is a person who really does meet the conditions for promised salvation, and then does not die in unbelief.

I read two out of the three blogs you mentioned, because the third link was broken. Is saving faith a one-time event? Yes, I would say so. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." If this meant "believe ongoingly for the rest of your life, and THEN you will be saved" then a person would need to first believe for the rest of their life, and only *then* would experience salvation (including the new birth and the indwelling of the Spirit). So, if a person is indwelt and born again after believing at one time, then we can conclude that in God's eyes they are among those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and are promised salvation (including future salvation - a promise of God which can never come to no effect).

It is God who is the author and finisher of our faith. If a true believer, who really is promised salvation, who is sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption, becomes backslidden for a period of time, we have every reason to believe that God will bring them back to full faith, renew the Spirit in them, or otherwise chasten them rather than giving up on them. True faith would lead to enduring faith, because Jesus would be the one who is the finisher of our faith.

I also read through the commentary and discussion of Colossians 1:20-23. I see good points in both positions. If the "Free Grace" position boils it down to only REWARDS being at stake, then they are very wrong. Even setting salvation aside, there is much as stake. If you live a carnal life, you will hurt others, stumble other believers, and turn aside non-christians from entering the Kingdom. How we live is a life-and-death matter. If Moses did not obey God and return from his life shepherding, how many more Israelites would have lives and died in slavery?

Christ died for us, Colossians tells us, not just so that we have a ticket into heaven, but so we can be sanctified. Christ died to save us, not just from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin over us and the presence of sin in our lives. He died for us so that we would grow to become holy and blameless, on this earth, workmen who need not to be ashamed when He returns and when we are presented before Him.

Ephesians 2:10 similarly tells us, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Good works in this life are not just for rewards, neither are they just for achieving salvation as they grow naturally through our faith (if we stay grounded in our faith, when otherwise we might slip into a carnal lifestyle). Good works and becoming blameless is *part of our salvation* and is also a reason why Christ died for us - He wanted to see us become Christlike people, free from the sins we used to live in.

Even among believers, those who fall away from the faith and hope of the Gospel (which includes Calvinists, often enough, who no longer have the faith they once had in a God who loves the sinful man) can fall into lifestyles with various gossip, envy, bickering, and otherwise NOT blameless lives. The only way to avoid this fate is to remain firm in our faith.

Skarlet said...

I just thought I'd add an additional comment. In the blog about the Colossians passage, this Scripture was cited as proof that a person can lose their salvation:

"But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven."

I definitely don't think that that's what the verse means. What does it mean to deny something or someone? Simply put, it means "to say no to."

We are told to deny ourselves and take up our cross, in fact, in Luke 9:23. In other passages, we are also told to deny worldly lusts. This means that we are to say "no" to our lusts, and to say "no" to our own selfish desires when we take up a cross of sorts.

With that in mind, let's look at the passage about Jesus denying us -

"If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself."

The first and the last line affirm eternal security. We who have been born again, those to whom the verses in Romans apply (that we have been buried with him), WILL FOR SURE live with him. And even if we are faithless, He is faithful as the author and finisher of our faith, for He cannot deny Himself and will not break His own promises or say "no" to His own Spirit, with whom we are sealed until the day of redemption.

The middle two lines, on the other hand, show us a choice of sorts. If we are faithful in growing in Him and serving Him here, there will be eternal gains. On the other hand, if we deny Him - If we say "no" to Him - then as He stands before God the Father as our High Priest, He will say "no" to us and our prayer requests.

Isaiah 1:15 "When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood."

If we are saying "no" to Him, He will be saying "no" to us. If we deny Him, He will deny us.

And falling away from the faith is not the only way to deny God, obviously. We deny God anytime we say no to His leading, His advice, or His commands.

Titus 1:16 "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work."

I have *lived with* a believer who for years while professing Christ was denying Him in practical living and living a carnal and sinful life, until just two weeks ago when he experienced the renewing of the Holy Spirit (praise God!) Did that man lose his salvation and regain it? No, for we know from Hebrews that if a person could lose salvation, then they are lost forever and there is no more salvation left for them. Rather this Christian was living denial of Christ, backslidden, and God who is the author and finisher of our faith brought him back to the right path.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a very thorough reply. In this comment I will address just a few points.

for the thought experiment, we know *for sure* that Joe was promised salvation, and so if he died and went to hell, then that promise would have come to no effect. Such a situation *could not happen in real life.*

That assumes to much. The point under debate is whether a person who expresses faith (believes) and then rejects Christ (stops believing) should expect to be saved in the end. If God foreknew that Joe would be in Christ through faith then we would have to alter the timeline and add step #4.5 Joe accepts Christ again.

Colossians tells us, not just so that we have a ticket into heaven, but so we can be sanctified.

Agree. But the verses in question emphasize that we will not be presented holy & blameless if we have a faith that does not endure. Not if we lack works/fruit. So while you make good points about the works/fruit of a believer, this passage deals with someone who stops believing and how they will be presented in the end.

I have *lived with* a believer who for years while professing Christ was denying Him in practical living and living a carnal and sinful life, until just two weeks ago when he experienced the renewing of the Holy Spirit (praise God!) Did that man lose his salvation and regain it?

I have carefully separated fruit from faith. Believers can backslide (sin, lack fruit etc) and then repent. This is very different than rejecting Christ (a faith that stops). Also it may be the case that the person was never saved until 2 weeks ago and had only a nominal faith to start with.

this meant "believe ongoingly for the rest of your life, and THEN you will be saved" ...

This is what many passages do say, including Colossians 1:20-23 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 among others. Also in many passages believe is a present active verb, which indicates a need to persevere (see this link about John 3:16).

Regarding the 2 Timothy passage I would ask you to consider these 2 articles, which highlight that these verses do not teach us that one can deny Christ (stop believing, apostate) and then expect to receive an entrance into the kingdom.
part 2

Mike Barlotta said...

One more note.

And falling away from the faith is not the only way to deny God, obviously. We deny God anytime we say no to His leading, His advice, or His commands.

In the Titus passage the point Paul is trying to make is that the profession of faith of the people described is not real (and probably never was) and we can base that assessment on the fruit/works that they produce, which aligns with what Jesus told us - "we will know them by their fruit". I don't see Paul teaching that every time we sin we deny Him.

Fruit or works can be used to assess whether someone who says they accept Christ actually is a believer. But, that said, we must be careful to not make snap judgments about others, and Paul seems to describe a persistent pattern of behavior that is evident in those described. Our lives should be evidence of our faith, however, it is faith that places us in Christ not works. And the lack of faith indicates we are not in Christ.

Skarlet said...

Excellent thoughts! And I think we may actually be talking past each other at some point. There are a couple things that I hope I can clarify here.

First of all, you said, "The point under debate is whether a person who expresses faith (believes) and then rejects Christ (stops believing) should expect to be saved in the end.” But no, I am not debating that point.

The point under debate, as I understand it, is whether a person who "is saved" (who has been born again, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, and has been promised salvation from hell) can possibly "lose" that salvation and end up in hell.

I would argue "once saved always saved." That is, "once promised salvation, never does that promise come to no effect." And in real life, I think how that plays out is that no true believer rejects Christ and dies in unbelief, but rather if a saved individual backslides that God will chasten him and bring him back to active faith.

It is very interesting that you think that Acts 16:31 does, in fact, mean that a person must believe ongoingly for their whole life before meeting the condition. See, the biggest problem with that is that it would mean that FIRST you need to die (thus completing your lifelong believing), and only THEN would experience regeneration, justification, and the indwelling of the Spirit (all parts of salvation). That is a pretty hard thing to argue. See, whenever God saves a person with justification and the new birth, that means that they have already met the condition that God set forward. So if that condition takes a lifetime, then only after that lifetime would the benefits be experienced.

I responded in depth as to the meaning of "deny" in our Facebook conversation. But just to briefly reference it here, Peter denied Christ, yet did not fall away from the faith nor was turned away from heaven. It cannot be true that 2 Timothy means that if a person denies Christ, as Peter did, that Christ will then turn them away from heaven, for He did not with Peter.

... (to be continued)

Skarlet said...


But I think another huge area where we are talking past each other regards Colossians 1:20-23. You wrote: "the verses in question emphasize that we will not be presented holy & blameless if we have a faith that does not endure. Not if we lack works/fruit."

Now, "holy and blameless" means a lack of sin in our lives. That can be considered fruit. If you want to be holy and blameless, practically speaking, when Christ comes again, then you are not going to be living a life of self-centeredness, and you certainly won't be straying into iniquity. Anytime God tells you to stop some tempting habit, you will say "yes!" rather than deny Him (rather than refuse His command). So, to say "we will be presented holy and blameless" is the same thing as saying "when we are presented before God, it will be with good works and not evil, with fruits of the Spirit and not of the flesh."

Similarly in Ephesians 5, we read: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish."

This explicitly ties together the goal of Christ presenting us holy and blameless with route to get there, the Word and sanctification. This passage even invites husbands to also be working as servant-leaders to sanctify their wives so that when presented before God their wives will be godly women, blameless, above reproach, and sanctified.

Now I agree with you when you say that believers who backslide and later repent are a different sort of case than a reborn person who rejects the faith forever. I would go on to say that Colossians 1:20-23 is talking about, and warning against, the first case and not the second.

You can't just separate fruit from faith. Our actions show what we really believe. When the going gets rough, we humans tend to fall back upon "what works." So if we think that righteousness is good in theory, but "what works" is to get ones hands dirty, then that lack of faith in Christ will play out through a NON-holy, NON-blameless, and NOT above reproach lifestyle.

Therefore, the only way to proceed through sanctification, the only way to become holy and blameless in preparation for being presented before the Lord, is to make sure our faith in Christ is solid and secure, seeping through every crack in our hearts, mind, and soul.

The person I referred to, yes he truly was a believer before, and only came back to being in the Spirit just recently. But in the interim, he lived a life of sin (though he denied it constantly, and closed his eyes to it) - if Christ had come back two months, that man would not have been holy or blameless when presented before His Master and Savior. And why would that sad and embarrassing situation have happened? Because that man lived a life of fear, and it was not until (a couple weeks ago) through FAITH he defeated his crippling and life-controlling fears. Although he was "in the faith," he was not grounded or steadfast in that faith, and he had been moved from the hope of the gospel.

Colossians 1:20-23 serves to warn us from being like he was during those years.

Mike Barlotta said...

Per our facebook conversation and here, it appears that we would be in agreement that an enduring faith is a characteristic of saving faith.

Where we differ, and where things got confusing, is that the timeline you present for JoeTWWC did not include the step where Joe re-affirms his faith in Christ, which you are now noting will always happen to one who is truly saved when you write:

in real life, I think how that plays out is that no true believer rejects Christ and dies in unbelief, but rather if a saved individual backslides that God will chasten him and bring him back to active faith.

Regarding the point in debate, I would say that we are not so much talking past each other. I think you are a priori denying one of the premises I offered. The question is whether a person who expresses faith (believes) and then rejects Christ (stops believing) should expect to be saved in the end.”

If I understand you correctly, you deny the premise that a truly saved person could reject Christ and die in that state. You argue that this rejection/denial is only temporary. I think you are arguing (correct me if wrong) that God has promised salvation and will insure that all who made a decision to trust Christ will ultimately die in a state of faith in Christ.

Regarding Peter, I think you are missing something. Peter denied Christ (committed apostasy), but did not die in that state. He was given the opportunity to repent and respond in faith anew and did so. He fought the good fight and died a faithful disciple and thus was not denied by Christ when he died and was presented before the Father.

Mike Barlotta said...

I don't think we are talking past each other re: Colossians. We are interpreting it differently. The context of the first 2 chapters makes it clear that salvation, reconciliation, and redemption through faith are the theme that Paul is addressing making it difficult to interpret it in the way you are.

A quick look at the big problem you cite. A person would need to die in order to be:
1) regenerated
2) justified
3) indwelt by Spirit

Quite simply I would say that a person receives these spiritual blessings only by virtue of being in Christ (Eph 1). A person is only placed in Christ when they have faith. Faith is the condition for being in Christ. If one does not have faith then one is not in Christ and thus one does not receive the spiritual blessings.

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