Can a believer lose their salvation? Can they go back into sin to where they are no longer a Christian, disowned by God? I pondered this question recently coming to the conclusion that such an idea is highly improbable because of three scriptural truths. (1) We are born again—not simply good people, now [2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15]. (2) we are being conformed to the image of Christ [Romans 8:29] It’s happening now! [2 Corinthians 3:18] And our minds are being transformed as well [Romans 12:2]. Our salvation is not a static, but a dynamic, aspect of who we are in Christ. And (3) This conformation along with His word written on our hearts is in accordance with the covenant promise of Jeremiah 31:33ff. It seems that the divine effort in all of this along with God’s promised grace [and love, Romans 8:28] make it highly unlikely that we could ever go back to being the person we were before salvation [Romans 8:35].
If this be possible, my warning to all would be: don’t go there!
Circumcision? Ouch! [You have to be Orthodox to get it.]
On the other hand Hebrews 6:4-6 is a warning to the Jewish Christian who still cherishes the Torah and desires to practice its rituals, which can no longer bring them into God’s favor or forgiveness [Hebrews 10:1ff]. In fact, shock of shocks, that was never God’s purpose with Torah Law! [Galatians 3:24-25].
(I wonder how many people see a Sunday morning ritual as a guarantee for salvation even as they live the rest of time unaware of God’s interest in them.) In that regard, I am, also, reminded of the 10 virgins [Matthew 25:1ff], five of which lost out because their oil “ran out.”
Can we say it this way: it is like two travelers waiting at the train station. One has secured their ticket carefully and wisely in their belongings while the other left it on a seat in the terminal. When the train came at midnight after the ticket counter was closed, this foolish, would-be, passenger couldn’t locate their ticket and while the other boarded, they were retracing their steps. The train left without them. They lost their ticket (they lost their salvation? Or did I stretch this parable beyond its intended emphasis—to be always alert in prayer?)
Did They Turn Around, Only, or Go Back To Who They Were-That is the Question!
Peter [2 Peter 2:20] chimed in “if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.” The question might be asked, Is backsliding the same as being backslidden?
There is a bit to unwrap here because I don’t think we can isolate these scriptures from the Biblical message of New Covenant grace in which it is written. There are 2 words for “if” (‘if ever’ & ‘if in the case that’; this second is used here. compare: Hebrews 6:9 NIV) as well as 2 words meaning to “go back” (“backslide” means to some believers “to return completely” into sin. Used here in 2 Peter 2:22 of dogs and pigs; the other is used in 2 Peter 2:21 NIV “to turn back”).
The wonderful thing about this word “to return” is that it is Old Testament lingo for repentance [Acts 26:20]: returning to the Lord! Peter’s use of it here is somewhat exceptional! [Way to go, Pete!]
The verb tense is also important (the perfect in 2 Peter 2:20 ESV suggests a state or condition, “after having escaped … if they are again entangled, they are -in a state of—worse off than before” ).
[A footnote here: Some Greek manuscripts used the first word “to return” (backslidden: back to where they were) in 2 Peter 2:21 KJV. But the Committee that decides these things when the Greek text was compiled preferred the word “to turn back:” 2 Peter 2:21 NIV (backsliding, in a sense, facing the wrong way, “turning their back to God” says the NIV) …I smile at the twists and squirms we endure. 😊 ]
मुझे माफ़ कीजिए – Samahani sana – lo siento mucho – es tut mir so leit –मलाई धेरै माफ गर्नुहोस्
I’m so sorry but there’s a little more here! “After having known [experienced. what?] “the way of righteousness” [God’s covenant faithfulness] they turn away from—let’s go with: “they turn their backs on”—the holy commandments delivered to them verbally [taught them].” As Jewish as this sounds, Christianity has commandeered the word “commandments” [1 Timothy 6:14]. They are now what Christ taught [John 15:10].
Then I read in a commentary, “the Holy Scripture teaches that relapsing from the state of grace is possible.” Another seemed to disagree: “This verse underlines the seriousness of apostasy” and added 2 Peter 2:22 references 2 animals that Jews did not think “clean” and the meaning is “they revert to their true nature” which means, if these animals signify apostasy, they were never saved in the first place.
Have fun interpreting Peter!
Free Will or Predestined-That is the Question!
Are we predestined or do we have free will? The question is pointless because again, we are lining up scripture against itself because we fail to see the context: the New Covenant grace. Both sides are part of relationship [Philippians 2:12-13].
“Predestined” is Greek for planning ahead of time, and God has done a ton of planning [Hebrews 4:3; 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:18]. Neither predestination nor free will alone determine or define relationship.
A Covenant with God is Relational
We have to consider the entire Bible for context. And that context is the covenant relationship we have with God. For that relationship to be real we need the freedom to participate in it willingly. God’s grace is God’s participation—and grace is a powerful love! “Who we are” in Christ or “what we do” as Christians—alone—does not define that relationship. Both are indicators of the reality of our salvation: faith and works: a faith that is faithful, a faith in action. (Thank you, Brother James, for saying it! James 2:24).
[For that matter, “Who God is” and “What God does” in our lives are inseparable aspects of His relationship with us – Hebrews 11:6].
You’re near done reading this. Hang in there a few more words!
Zooming Out To See the Bigger Picture!
In teaching through Zoom overseas, I talk relationship exclusively [Christ and His Bride] and they like how I use the examples I have accumulated after 55 years of marriage [Ephesians 5:32]. We have defined righteousness as “covenant faithfulness.” And fellowship, too, speaks of a growing intimacy with God which germinates and sprouts in the soil of persecution [Romans 5:3; Philippians 3:10]. You get the point.
I like what one Asbury U student testified, “It is not who I am but whose I am.”
Probably only American believers struggle with this issue because our world has been so quiet when it comes to persecution—thanks to the First Amendment.
This might be changing.