Is it possible to lose your salvation?
When it comes to this question we cannot forget that there is a word for it in the New Testament called APOSTASY.
In a few places the Bible calls it “falling away” or, “apostasy.” The Greek word apostasia, means “a defiance of an established system or authority; a rebellion; an abandonment or breach of faith.” This speaks to a deliberate turning away (what we covered last post).
Let’s look at some places that talk about APOSTASY:
Hebrews 6:4-9 “those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away…”
This passage says that there were these people who had “once been enlightened” (or in our case “Saved”) and that it is possible for them to “fall away.” This passage is also highly debated because it says that after they fall away it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. There are many explanations on this that I may go into later, but the point here is that it IS possible to once be saved and to fall away, otherwise it would not be mentioned.
Then they were never saved in the first place!
This is the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. Here’s how it goes: Man “A” says, “A Scotsman would never eat cake.” Man “B” says, “My uncle is a Scotsman and he eats cake!” To which man “A” responds by saying, “Then he’s not a TRUE Scotsman!” It’s called an informal fallacy that tries to retain a statement while throwing out logical counter examples.
Let’s put it into our terms today. Man “A” says, “You can’t lose your salvation.” To which man “B” says, “My uncle was saved. He was a preacher, led many to Jesus…shoot, he even cast out demons! If he didn’t LOVED JESUS, no one ever did. But his daughter died in a car wreck and he turned his back on Christ. He now leads the largest Atheist group in the nation.” To which man “A” says, “Then he was never TRULY saved in the first place.”
HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY KNOW THAT??!!! I find that a very unfair statement. There are people who have turned their backs on Christ who if they weren’t saved back then, no one is saved now. But beyond an emotional appeal, Scripture just doesn’t back that idea up at all.
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!‘
There’s a lot there but I’ll just focus on one tiny bit. First, “many will say ‘Lord, Lord’…” Not everyone who says they are a Christian are really Christians. Second, How can you say that someone who “cast out demons, prophesied, and did many wonders” was not ever saved in the first place? Those are all things that only Christians can do through the power of the Spirit. There is a lot more there, but let’s move on.
John 15 talks about how Jesus is the vine and “we” (Believers) are the branches. This suggests that we are a part of the tree, that we are “in Christ.” BUT…
John 15:6 If anyone does not abide (other translations say “remain”) in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Did someone say FIRE???
The context of the beginning of John 15 suggests that the branch was once a part of the tree, but the branch withered (because it did not abide in Him—it “drew back” as discussed last week.)
Those of the once-saved-always-saved camp resist this phrase “throw them into the fire” in John 15, saying that it’s not talking about “hell” but more of a “refining fire.” They cite the passage in 1 Corinthians 3:13 where we (Christians) shall pass through the fire.
1Corinthians 3:12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Keeping symbolic language straight, this fire in John 15 is there to consume those who are being discarded. 1 Corinthians 3 on the other hand, is speaking of a testing fire like that of a silver smith. This fire tests and refines those whose names “are written in the Lambs Book of Life.”
Revelaion 20:14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Rev 20:15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
The fire referred to in John 15 and Revelation 20 is NOT a “refining fire” but rather a place of punishment, otherwise, the Devil, the Antichrist, and the false prophet would all be being refined in heaven. This does not make sense since this fire is called “the second death.”
What other places indicate that one could have “been saved” and then “fallen away?”
Let’s look at the Parable of the sower found in Matthew 13:20-21 talks about 4 types of soil. The soil is symbolic of the “type of person,” the seed is the “word of God.” One seed never sprouts (so this is the person that does not receive salvation) because as soon as he heard the word, the birds (or the devil) snatched it away before it could take root. The other three soils do receive salvation.
How do I know that? because in this parallel to faith, when the seed is received by the soil, and sprouts, this is symbolic to Salvation.
So the first seed never takes root. The last seed sprouts and makes it to the end. But the two middle seeds sprout, and then turn away. “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” This guy didn’t make it to the end because when persecution came, or the Christian life was “too hard” this person falls way.
In the Greek, “falls away” is “G4624 skandalizō: To scandalize; from another word G4625 Skandalon, which is the place on an animal trap where the bait is placed. It means, “to entrap, trip up, or entice to sin, apostasy, or to offend.” So the seed that fell on rocky places “fell away,” to a place of “apostasy.” The context of this story was that it ends bad for this one.
Other places this word “Skandalon” is used:
Matthew 24:10 “And then many will be offended…” That word “offended” is the same word from the passage above dealing with the rocky places. Some translations say “offended,” the other half say “fall away.”
This leads me to believe that this type of offense was so intense that it could be confused with falling away or maybe it was the same thing as falling away. They took the bait on the “Skandalon,” or the trap, and fell away so to speak, because of their offense. When a person takes an offense and embraces their bitterness, it twists them up and shuts them down. They are chained to it. Remember G4624 means to trip up or entice to sin, apostasy, or to offend.) I see it all the time. People get offended to the point that they walk away from God.
Matthew 24:10 continued: They “…will betray one another, and will hate one another.
Verse 12 continues “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” The form of the word “Love” here is Agape, which was only possible for believers to have according to Romans 5:5 “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the, Holy Spirit…” “Agape,” or God’s form of love is the type of love that we now share once it is “shed abroad in our hearts,” and only those who have salvation, have this love inside of them. So in verse 12 it says that this type of love will grow cold. “Grow cold” suggests a slow, step by step, degree by degree chilling or choking out of the Agape in believers.
Verse 13 “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” We looked at this in part 1, but again, it seems here, like the other many verses in Hebrews, that only those who endure to the end shall be saved. The implications of that are that those who do not endure to the end shall NOT be saved. Those who only go halfway will not be saved. Those who are choked out by the cares of this world, or whose roots don’t grow deep enough on that stony path, those who do not hold on to the end, shall “fall away,” so to speak.
Galatians 1:6 “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel…Gal 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. Gal 1:9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” These are people who were once with “the Way” and are now “turning away” and therefore are “accursed.”
2Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first…”
This verse is talking about “that Day,” which by context, is speaking about the Day of the end, or judgment day, or something around that timeframe. Before that time comes, there will first be a “falling away” of those who were “once near”…once saved.
It’s worse to have known and turned away…
2Peter 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them…
This passage states that after one is saved (the knowledge of the Lord) and again entangled in sin (pollutions of the world) that the punishment for turning is worse for them than having not known. This goes back to the language of “intentional” verses “unintentional” turning away from God in defiance.
Once-saved-always-saved proponents would say that you don’t lose your salvation, or “go to hell” here, but that the torment of knowing what you could have had will be so torturous that there will be “wailing and gnashing of teeth.” So in their view, you won’t go to hell, but you will be standing far off in “outer darkness,” kinda in the shadows, which they interpret to mean, “not hell, but just outside the gates of heaven.”
I don’t think that is contextually an option because most of Jesus’ black and white teachings of dividing sheep and goats, 5 virgins who can’t get in the door, and the 5 that do, fish that are thrown back and fish that are kept, etc. Jesus’ parables seem to draw a strong dividing line with little gray to it. There’s no orthodox teaching about some place that is “kinda in/kinda out” of heaven anywhere in the Bible.
So this view doesn’t fit the context of “it would have been better for them to have never known, than to know and turn away…” because being in the “outer darkness” as they see it, would still be better than hellfire and torment for eternity, therefore, with that conclusion, it would NOT be “better to have never known than to have known and turn from it.” I think it’s simple to say that between the option of sitting outside the gate looking in, and burning in hellfire for eternity…sitting outside the gate is better, right?
Hell is a scary thing! It’s not something to flippantly talk about. It’s not something to say like, “that person is just going to hell.” Because it is a scary thing, people throughout the ages have tried to make it just “go away.”
Catholics came up with the doctrine of “Purgatory” because they just couldn’t think about people they loved who weren’t living a lifestyle that bore the fruit of a relationship with Christ, going to hell.
Luther was like, “nope, that’s not a thing in the Bible!” You can’t pray a dead relative into heaven. It might make you feel better about them dying and not knowing Jesus, but it’s not a thing. You can’t have a relationship with Christ for someone else…not a thing.
But in doing this, Calvinists and others, still uncomfortable with the thought that one could fall away, had to come up with some other form of “security,” or “insurance” so that we don’t have to think too much about hell. If we can make “falling away” go away, if we can make Apostasy about something else or for JUST REALLY BAD DUDES, if we can do some kind of theological gymnastics to make it go away….
But we can’t take away the many verses that indicate a possible “falling away,” can we?
1Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 1Ti 4:2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (sounds eerily familiar to “love growing cold” wouldn’t you say?)
Searing indicates the burning of nerve endings so that one cannot feel, in this case, the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve noticed that those who cling to the “once saved always saved” ideal, try to make it impossible apostatize. They will cite Arius and Pelagius as those who were just “really bad guys” because they taught horrible doctrine (which they did)…Maybe Judas Iscariot could apostatize, but not a normal Joe.
But to narrow the focus to these verses to a few heretics throughout history is to take away the real danger of apostasy for the normal person in the pew. Their attempts in this regard, is to try to provide some kind of security so they won’t have to worry. But nothing can take away the repeated emphasis throughout scripture that one must CONTINUE until the end.
Hebrews 10:36 “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:” He’s saying, keep your confidence because you need to keep your endurance. Why? Because AFTER you have done the will of God—not before, not half way, but after, you will receive the promise.
Next time we will look into the word “sealed” and John 10 where it is “impossible to snatch you out of God’s hand.”