Only Two Possibilities:
Eternal security is one of those issues you can’t ignore.
It involves salvation and, more specifically, whether or not you can count on it when you need it most, at death.
Some people believe once you’re saved you’re always saved. You can never lose it so there is no need to worry about keeping it. Others think there is no guarantee. It can be lost by any qualifying misstep, although there is debate as to where that line is drawn.
Settling the issue isn’t easy. You can throw out a few verses to prove whichever side you take but for every verse you quote there are plenty of reinterpretations to confuse things.
So I’ve decided to come at this from a different angle. I think much of the confusion can be cleared by taking an analytical/philosophical approach and that is the point of this post. I want to ask and answer pertinent questions. What you learn from this process is that once you ask one relevant question it opens the door to another and then another and eventually you have an avalanche of un-answerables.
When you do this for both sides you realize that one side fairs much better than the other.
Those of us who believe in “once-saved-always-saved” (yes, I’m one of those people) are very happy that it’s true. Those who don’t believe it have a lot of questions to answer most of which are not directly addressed in the Bible.
That fact alone should give you pause. If you have questions about how to keep your salvation intact – a very serious issue indeed – but you don’t have specific answers, then how can you be certain?
It doesn’t make sense that God would give us a salvation we could lose and then refuse to give us very clear, obvious, easily accessed and straight forward instructions on how to keep it.
Living with that uncertainty everyday would be enough to induce a nervous breakdown. Would a loving God be so cruel?
Thankfully, the opposite, eternal security (once saved, always saved), is a lot easier to live with and enables more productivity. You don’t need to worry about keeping your salvation so energy can be channeled into better less selfish pursuits.
You’re secure. You can relax. God will take care.
Sounds too good to be true, I know, and it doesn’t parallel life as we experience it but we are talking about something that doesn’t claim to parallel life. It is impossible without God. Every theory about salvation is too good to be true. Eternal security just happens to be the most rational choice.
But, as I said, thinking you can lose salvation raises many questions that the Bible just doesn’t answer. Let’s take a look.
If we could lose salvation . . .
At what point would salvation be lost? Where do we draw that line?
Or in other words, How bad must a sin be? For example, let’s assume murder can cause you to lose salvation. Is it only first degree murder that counts or is name-calling (the emotional equivalent of murder) enough to put us in the negative?
And that same question applies to many other issues. How much must one steal before it qualifies as bad enough? How big a lie must you tell?
If only the really bad sins cause the problem, then we need to know which ones qualify as really bad? The Bible doesn’t stipulate.
Because of that, and in order to be safe, maybe we would have to consider any sin on any level serious enough to put us out of sync. And then, whatever we must do to right the pathway would be done every day, several times a day. We would spend a lot of time trying to keep track of our sins and then make amends to keep our salvation.
And that creates even more dilemmas.
If You Can Lose It How Is Salvation Renewed
Even if you could define clearly the point at which salvation is lost you’ll still need to answer several more questions.
- If you lose your salvation can you ever get it back?
- If you can get it back how many times can you get it back? Is there a cut off point?
- If you can get it back what must one do to make that happen?
These are important questions. We can only speculate about the first two but most people think “confession” is the answer to that last question and I agree. If salvation can be restored (assuming you can lose it), confession would be the means. What else could you do?
The Apostle John did mention confession:
If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
That’s a great promise but we need to ask what he’s talking about. Is he talking about renewing your salvation or just your focus? Are we confessing to get saved again or to make lifestyle adjustments?
If he’s talking about salvation then we need to ask if he’s talking about first salvation or subsequent salvations. If it is subsequent we could have a problem with timing.
What If You Forget To Confess Or Die Before You Do
Let’s say the average person sins 10 times a day and each time they lose their salvation. But, thankfully, they can confess and be renewed to salvation. It would work something like this:
- You name call a driver who cuts you off in traffic.
- You’re hurriedly shopping for last minute supper items so you swear under your breath as a fellow patron fiddles with a hand full of change to pay the cashier, taking far more time than is necessary.
- You ruminate over unkind words spoken to you at work, thinking vengeful thoughts about the person who said them.
- You imagine sexual encounters with people you work with or pass on the street or see on the TV.
And with each sin you lose your salvation. But, not too worry, you confess it right away and all is well. Salvation is restored. All of that sounds good so far.
But, what about the time you were busy and distracted so you failed to confess immediately and forgot about it later? What then? Will a general confession beforehand do?
Please, Lord, forgive all the sins I will forget.
Or must we confess in graphic detail after the fact?
Or maybe before you got around to confessing you had a heart attack and died? Or if you didn’t die immediately but went into a coma and died later? What then?
That may sound silly but remember, we are talking about something very important: salvation, eternal life, where you go when you die and getting it right is imperative.
If we can lose salvation we need to know exactly how that works.
There are two problems with the “confess sin get salvation back” theory. One is you would never stop confessing. You would constantly be stressed with the need to keep track of your sins, making sure you know exactly when you have sinned, and getting fessed up right away. An all consuming endeavor.
Would there be time or attention left for much else? I’m not so sure.
The second problem is the fact that it is possible to commit a sin and die before you confess it. And then we must ask this next question:
Is it possible to confess 99.9% of your sins but die before you confess that last one and lose it all? Can that possibly be right?
That is a scary possibility to entertain. And then . . .
Does Confession Have A Procedure? Is Penance Required? Is It Done In Public?
The list of questions about the “lose-it-confess-it” approach is endless:
- Does confession have a procedure or a formula to follow? Must it be accompanied with some type of prayer?
- Must we confess out loud, to people, or can it be done quietly to God?
- If out loud, must we confess only to qualified people, e.g., a priest?
- Is confession alone enough or must I do something afterward to prove my sincerity?
The Bible does not answers these questions. Some churches try to suggest answers but it is all very speculative.
One thing for sure though. If we teach salvation can be lost and then renewed, what we’ve done is traded “Eternally Secure” for “Eternally Neurotic!” Any sensible person would see it as hopeless and just give up.
With these dilemmas in mind a good question to end with is:
Why then would anyone believe salvation can be lost? What motivates this kind of thinking?
The answer is simple.
The Idea Is A Good Way To Keep People In Line
Think about it. Convincing people they can lose their salvation puts a lot of pressure on them to behave. It becomes a protective device, a way of controlling the actions of others.
That isn’t biblical and I don’t think it works but it is a motive and it sure stirs the water.