Why do believers worry that they can lose their salvation? If the Scriptures are so clear that we can’t, why are so many of us concerned about it? In the last few weeks I’ve discussed the security we have in our relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Today, I want to address the question, if the Bible is so clear that we’re secure, why is it that so many are concerned about the loss of salvation for themselves or others?
The simple answer to this question is we let our faulty perspectives cloud our clear understanding of Scripture. Here’s a few ways the smoke gets into our eyes.
First, we doubt the security of salvation because of our experiences with others. I’m sure everyone knows a person that seemed to have a vital walk with the Lord Jesus, and then abandoned the faith. What about them? They are so far from God, we think, that person must be, absolutely, positively, lost.
Second, some of us doubt our own security because of our struggles with sin. It may be an addictive behavior, like drugs or alcohol, or persistent sexual sins, and we wonder why we continue to scuffle and strain without seeing transformation in our lives. That makes us sure that we’re actually lost.
Third, some of us struggle with difficult passages like Hebrews 6:4-6 or 10:26-27. Despite so many verses (like the ones I pointed out in recent weeks) that seem to assure us of our salvation, these are sticky and we strain our confidence in those other passages.
In light of these problems, here are some suggestions that have helped me clear my eyes and have given me assurance. First, we need to interpret our experiences through the scriptures and not the other way around. Too often we recognize that the Lord Jesus will never leave us or forsake us, that He holds us securely in His hands, and that nothing will ever separate us from His love, and then we say, but what about Fred and Gina, they seem to have lost their salvation. Let’s always start with what the Bible teaches and then look for explanations of our experiences instead of prioritizing our personal experiences and using them to interpret the Word of God.
A second guide to help us is that we need to interpret unclear passages in light of the clear teaching of Scripture. When I was a freshman at Moody, I believed in the security of the believer but I was tortured by Hebrews 6. I remember virtually badgering one of my profs for an explanation and nothing he said satisfied me. Then he taught me this crucial interpretive principle: we need to interpret the unclear verses of the Bible in light of the clear ones. That resolved it for me. I know the Bible was harmonious and clearly taught the perseverance of our Savior. From then on I would always pursue the meaning of Hebrews 6 and other difficult passages in light of what the Bible plainly taught.
A third help is to remember that oftentimes passages that seem to refer to loss of salvation actually refer to loss of rewards. For example, Paul’s words in 1 Cor 9:27, where he says he disciplines himself, so that after preaching to others, “I myself will not be disqualified” actually refers to being disqualified from receiving rewards or maybe disqualification from the privilege of proclaiming the gospel. It’s not about losing his salvation.
Finally, we need to remember that people who seem to abandon the faith may have never known the Lord at all. That’s why 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.” It’s why the Lord Jesus will tell some at the final judgment, “I never knew you, depart from me” not “depart from me, you lost it.” And for those who have wandered but really do know the Lord, they will actually repent and be restored before it’s all over.
Too often we struggle because of our own human inconsistency. We have good days and bad days. On good days, we almost feel God’s love in a tangible way. But on a bad day, we wonder how anyone could love us, let alone God Himself. But God will never love us more or less than He does right now. Karla Worley once wrote, “On a scale of one to ten, God loves me ten on my best day and a ten on my worst day. There’s no way I can lose God’s love by what I do or don’t do. There’s nothing I can do to make Him love me less or more. Amazing!” She goes on to say it’s the best kept secret of the spiritual life, “the little understood mystery, we call ‘amazing grace.’”