Summary: This message wrestles with some apparent contradictions in Scripture about whether a Christian can lose his or her salvation.
One saved, always saved? Is that true or can a Christian lose his salvation? If so, how and when does that happen? This is one of the most common questions that people ask me about Scripture.
I do not give a quick yes or no answer: first, because there is a lot you have to know to get a sound, biblical answer to that question; second, because there are people in both camps that are sincerely walking with the Lord; and third, because there is a progressive learning experience most of us need to walk though while gaining an understanding of this.i
However, this is the fourth message in a series concerning grace; and that subject naturally leads to the question. We have laid some foundation for addressing the matter this morning. We cannot deal in depth with such a broad subject in a 45 minute message. There are major theological truths that feed into the answer. And again good people can disagree on this and still walk together in love.
It is the extremes that get us into trouble! Extreme Arminianism leads to unhealthy expressions of legalism. Extreme Calvinism leads to a kind of fatalism that engenders apathy and the moral laxity that I have alluded to in previous messages. These two theological camps are named after two men, John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius.ii It would take hours to explore their theologies and the variations developed by their followers. We won’t go there.
What I want you to understand at this point is the importance of receiving the word of God just as it comes to us in Scripture—allowing that to create balance in our understanding. There is a tension of truth found in the Bible that often challenges the rational mind. Let me give you a few examples.
Sovereignty of God verses Freewill of Man
Love of God verses Wrath of God
Mercy verses Justice
In Rom 11:22 Paul tells us to “consider the goodness and severity of God….”iii
Today, we are particularly dealing with the tension between: Assurance and Security of the Believer verse Warnings and Admonitions to the Believer.
If you allow the Bible to speak into your life in the way God has provided it in Scripture, you will find a healthy balance in your walk with God. If you pick one side of the tension and reject the other side, you will eventually go into error.
The street next to my house has a deep ditch on each side of the road. If I stay in the middle of those two ditches, I will proceed just fine on my journey. If not, I will crash.
Over the years I have witnessed many people go into error. In every case, there was some truth in what they were saying. That part is usually not what got them into trouble. What got them into trouble was the other side of that truth that they rejected. When you listen to teachers, don’t just listen to what they say; listen to what scriptures they avoid. What truths in the Bible (and you have to read it yourself to do this)—what part of it do they not say? Paul said to elders at Ephesus, “…I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). If the preacher teaches on prosperity, does he ever deal with passages about self-denial (and vice versa)? If he teaches on the love and mercy of God, does he ever share the warnings and exhortations? (The whole counsel of God as it is given to us in the Word).
So the Calvinist who labors to explain away 2 Peter 2:20-21 just to maintain his system is not being honest with Scripture. The Arminian who explains away Eph. 2:8-9 is making the same mistake. Eph. 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” 2 Peter 2:19-21 says, “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.” Both verses are inspired by the Holy Spirit and should inform our theology.
We need to compare scripture with scripture in developing our understanding of truth. But we must respect the inspired Word of God more than a preferred theological system. We must allow Scripture to shape our understanding of truth, rather than trying to force passages to fit into our theological system. That’s why inductive Bible study should take precedence over deductive study. That’s why Biblical Theology should drive Systematic Theology and not vice versa. I will resist the temptation to go into all that.