My last post on whether or not you could lose your salvation was a bit of a mess. Well, that was mainly because I didn’t know exactly where I was going with it. Since then, I’ve gone through a bit of a paradigm shift. So now I want to approach it differently.
My contention: it is completely impossible to lose (or give up, as some will say) your salvation.
Why do I say this? See, it all goes back to a particular question. The question of whether salvation can be lost or abandoned goes back to the more fundamental question of this: what is salvation based on?
What Salvation Isn’t Based On
Naturally, there are a few different ways that people tend to answer this question. Some people will answer, “My salvation is based on the good deeds I do. If I am a good person, God decides I’m saved.” This cannot stand up to any Biblical scrutiny. We are told repeatedly in Scripture that salvation belongs to God, and comes through the blood of Jesus. It is by grace, through faith, not of works, so that no one can boast.
The next answer you’ll hear is, “My salvation is based on my faith in Jesus.” Yet even this isn’t right. Sure, salvation comes through faith, but that’s not what our salvation is based on. This will probably sound strange to many of you, so hold on a minute while I cross off the other answer people give to this question.
Salvation comes through faith, but that’s not what our salvation is based on.
A final common answer is actually a combination of the previous two. “My salvation is based on my works and my faith. If I believe in Jesus and live a Christ-like life, I am saved.” This doesn’t eliminate the problems of the previous answers, though. It actually makes them worse! The reason for this is that both previous answers contain along with this one a deadly, unbiblical word. What is this word? “My.”
Perhaps my point would be more clear if I changed the question. Instead of “what is salvation based on,” since that usually puts our minds into works vs. faith mode, let’s ask “who is salvation based on?” This changes things. There is only one way to answer this question.
Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
Who (And What) Salvation Is Based On
Jesus is the basis of our salvation. This is the clear testimony of Scripture. I could chain together a long list of references for this, but I doubt that I need to because it should be blatantly obvious. Our salvation is based on Jesus. Is it also based on ourselves? Is salvation a little bit of Jesus and a little bit of us? Of course not! Salvation is, as we Protestants like to say, solus Christus, “in Christ alone!” It is all of Christ.
At this point I should probably back up for a moment. What does this have to do with our faith? “We are saved by faith, right?” you ask. Well, kind of. We are saved by grace through faith. This grace is the obedient life of Jesus, and it is what saves us, not our faith itself.
Our faith and works flow straight from Jesus’ own faith and works.
See, consider what most of us Protestants would already say about works. We would affirm that our good works cannot save us, but that they happen because we are saved and are the result of the Holy Spirit. And we would also agree that Jesus’ good works are involved in saving us. His righteous life counts on our behalf. The truth is, though, that faith works the same way. We are justified, according to Galatians 2:16, by “the faith of Christ.” (Nerd Note: most modern translations say “faith in Christ.” But the KJV before them and now a growing number of contemporary scholars agree with the more literal translation “faith of Christ” or “faithfulness of Christ.”) Jesus’ perfect faith in God, walking step by step trusting the Father, is part of how His life saves us. Our faith, like our works, are caused by the Holy Spirit, with Jesus’ own faith being what really counts.
So what am I saying? Are our faith and works nothing, just inventions of the Spirit, that have nothing to do with salvation? Not exactly. The most important thing the Holy Spirit does is make us “in Christ.” We become united to Him as members of His body through the Holy Spirit. So our faith and works flow straight from Jesus’ own faith and works. His salvation life comes to us through the Spirit, so that we can believe and do good deeds in His power. We become part of the life He lived (and lives!), and that life is the basis for our salvation.
To try to explain this topic in much detail and counter any objections would take longer than I have time for here. But at the core I think it is a simple and Biblical truth: Jesus saves. Our salvation all comes from Jesus, from beginning to end. It is based 100% on Him, with our faith and works coming from Him, too. So even if our faith and works aren’t good enough, even if we don’t believe enough or do enough, they are based on Jesus’ perfect faith and works which save us anyway.
So What About Losing Salvation?
If you’ve followed along so far, you should see where I am going with this. If salvation is not based on our own faith or works, then there is simply no space for us to lose it or give it up. If Jesus is the basis for our salvation, and He believed perfectly, worked perfectly, and remained faithful even to death, then our salvation is eternally secure because of His eternally perfect life! We are secure because Jesus.
So, if this is the case as I’ve said, then what do we make of people who believe for a time and then abandon the faith? Quite simply, they have no connection to Christ. They never did. Jesus’ life cannot be extinguished. No matter how hard we try, if we are truly connected to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, that can’t stop. It’s not even in our control. Your will can’t overcome a changed nature united deeply to God Himself through Jesus. So anyone who stops believing never was united to Jesus. That doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t believe at all. Certainly that had some kind of faith, otherwise Jesus and James could not call it “faith.” But this faith is not of the Spirit, and does not flow from Jesus’ own faith. It is a faith of the flesh, corruptible and altogether insufficient. It cannot save, and it cannot reach up to bring God down. This faith, paradoxically, resists the Holy Spirit and seeks to establish its own salvation without love and union with Jesus.
Anyone who stops believing never was united to Jesus. Their faith is a faith of the flesh, corruptible and altogether insufficient.
A lot of these ideas in the last couple of paragraphs really need further explanation and reference to Scripture. Unfortunately, I don’t have the space left to do that in this post without going way past the average reader’s attention span, so I’ll save it for a part 3. But hopefully this will be helpful. Remember that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, and nothing can take that away, because it is based on the unchanging perfection of Jesus, not the ever-changing imperfections of yourself.