Summary: Jesus gives us eternal life, and we shall never perish. Sounds plain. But what about those Hebrews verses...
Can I lose my salvation?
My, the conversations this has stirred up among us through the years. It’s obviously not as clear as one would like it to be. Again we hang on God’s every word, and lean not to our own understanding or interpretation or favorite theologian or author.
There are a few lines of thought we can use from the “no” side. No, you cannot lose your salvation, says the “Calvinist” (sorry to keep mentioning his name, but that’s how it is viewed today).
Why? Paul: Romans 8 again. Verses 29-31. (I paraphrase)
“There’s this group of people. God knew them a long time ago. He decided that this group of people would be born again, made in the very image of His Son Jesus. Jesus would then be the firstborn in that New Family, and all the ones the Father knew ahead of time would be considered brothers and sisters of Jesus. So, this same group, the ones He saw and planned, He called out from the world. (He called many others too, but this group was also chosen… “many are called but few are chosen).
This same group that He knew, and made into the image of His Son, and called out from the world, He justified through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus. And this same group is the group that shall share the very glory of God forever. Now, who can come against such a group as this? They are God’s chosen, that is, they are God’s justified or saved or ransomed. Who could possibly separate this group from God if God has decreed that they are His own?”
A fair translation, I think? A reasonable position, taken from Holy Scripture. Who can deny it? Who would want to? Such security! If I am known, I am always known. If I am conformed to Jesus, I am always conformed. If I am called, I’m always called. If I am justified, I’m always justified.
If God has put His stamp of approval on me, will He take it away?
This is not just from Paul. John gives us a parallel passage from the lips of Jesus Himself in chapter 10, verses 27-30. Again allow me to modernize the text, while you are reading originals:
“As a Shepherd of My people, I know how to speak in such a way that they (my sheep) will hear My Voice. I have a personal knowledge of each one. I speak and they listen. If I say ‘Follow’, they follow, wherever I want them to go. Each one of them receives eternal life from Me. I mean eternal. Never, never will they be lost, or perish. Absolutely no one has the power to take them back from Me once they are Mine! No one. Not the Devil, not even themselves.
“They are secure. And that is not their only security. You see, before the Heavens were, My Father gave Me those very sheep. He said, ‘This one, and that one, and that one over there, they are all Yours, Son. Take care of them. I give them to You. But though I give them totally to You, they are still totally Mine. They are in My hand as well as Yours.’ So you see, the true sheep of God have the double protection of My hand, and the hand of My Father around them. Of course, I and My Father are also One…”
Even our favorite John 3:16 states that whoever believes in Jesus will never perish! And the great apostle adds to this security statement in his first epistle:
2:25. This is the promise Which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
So there you have it. Jesus gives us life. He doesn’t take it back somehow. Promise made, promise kept. Case closed.
But I see in the back of the room a hand waving violently to catch my attention, and I now hear a voice crying out “Hebrews, Hebrews!”
What about the Jewish people? What has that got to do with it? “No, no, not that Hebrews! The book of Hebrews, filled with warnings about losing your salvation!”
Oh. That Hebrews. Case not closed. Not yet.
One thing for sure. If Paul really was the writer of Hebrews, it is certain he is not going to contradict in this book what he said in Romans! Even if he did not write it, if our teaching about the inspiration of Scriptures is correct, there is not going to be contradiction from any other Spirit-filled first century author. But maybe a different emphasis, a different point of view.
Let’s deal with Hebrews, then with a couple things Paul says elsewhere that may trouble us too. And remember, verses that trouble us may be game changers for honest people, or they may merely be challenges to and tests of and fuller meanings of the teaching that is found clearly in other places.