I often wonder if those who assert a believer in Christ as Savior - someone who has been justified - take the time to examine exactly what they are claiming with regard to all we receive in our salvation, when they claim that salvation can be lost. Many of the dismissals in adjudicating that we can lose our salvation are absent of the due diligence inherently necessary for such arguments pertaining to how all which is consummated the moment we believe and are saved, is terminated when we, somehow, have our eternal life vanquished, only to be rehabilitated when one returns to salvation, possibly many times (some say this is accomplished through repentance and absolution and others through getting “saved again” or re-believing and so on, there is a myriad of theological formulas for the reconstitution of one’s salvation out there).
Salvation isn’t just…
Salvation isn’t just, “you’re going to heaven” and when you allegedly become unsaved you are now just “not going to heaven”. Rather, a litany of extensive and ultimately legal declaration(s) and works by God occur that, if we were to really be able to lose our salvation, would require the view that all these things, far more than just going to heaven, have been reversed, nullified or obliterated and must all be obtained and performed anew in order for one to be saved, again.
All that we receive at Salvation
Made popular by the late Lewis Sperry Chafer and modified by various Pastors and Bible teachers since, there is a list is things received at salvation which stand in confrontation to the man or woman who would argue that man’s salvation can be lost. Such arguments are made in the absence of the accompaniment of a reverse accounting which explain how all these blessings received at salvation have now, suddenly, dissipated, capitulated and/or been obliterated.
Yes, they say, we can lose our salvation because look here, there and yonder with a handful of proof-texts. But nay, it is when one asks them to explain how a Christian is de-justified, de-sanctified, de-positioned with Christ, de-adopted and de-credited with the righteousness of Christ and so on.
Missing, as well, in the assertion that one can lose salvation, is a thoroughly Biblical explanation as to how this so great a salvation and all of its properties are re-transacted when the person, who has allegedly lost their salvation, recovers that salvation again, and again, and again - determined of course, by how often they lose their salvation. AWOL are the explanations of how one is then re-justified and re-re-justification and re-re-re-justified along with all of the other reapportionments of salvation’s properties when one allegedly returns to salvation or is saved again.
I plan to deal with just a handful of the blessings received at salvation to make my point. And of course that point is that when a person claims we can lose our salvation, all of the magnificent properties of salvation have to be walked backwards, if such a putative claim is made, seeing that to lose salvation is to lose all of its possessions. Subsequently, this demands a thoroughly sufficient doctrinal/theological argument of the reversal of all of the corresponding blessings given by God and received at salvation (an assumption not permitted merely by logically assuming they must be undone). If you are interested, click here, and this link will take you to The Riches and Grace in Christ Jesus by Lewis Chafer and the list he compiled.
The Uphill Climb for those whose Justification is Tentative
As I said, here is but a sprinkling of the blessings received at salvation which, by default, must also be reversed when one is allegedly unsaved or loses their salvation and worse, supposedly reconstituted every time someone returns to salvation, over and over again - its absurdity plays itself out in a rather prima facie manner:
1. The Righteousness of Christ is imputed or credited to Us (Romans 4:3-5)
2. We are made Holy (Hebrews 10:10)
3. We are justified, legally declared acceptable by God by way of the righteousness of Christ credited to us (Romans 4:3-5)
4. We are regenerated (Titus 3:5)
5. We are sealed by God’s Spirit unto the day of our full redemption (Ephesians 4:30)
With just these five blessings of salvation, alone, one is faced with an impassable theological task when championing the view that they can be eradicated.
Imputed or Credited with the Righteousness of Christ
Though we have been imputed or credited with the righteousness of Christ (Romans 4:3-5), this apparently can be lost through some kind of sin, even the sin of unbelief. Thus, Christ’s righteousness, a work he has done which is credited to us the moment we believe, is reversed or nullified according to opponents of permanent or perfect justification. Thus, we are now back to not possessing the righteousness of Christ. Think of what is being asserted here.
Placed upon us the moment we believe is the cover of divine righteousness. This is not merely a metaphorical exercise but a legal one. God, legally or forensically, declares us righteous. This covers our past, present and future, the entirety of our being and apart from another court proceeding in heaven, it stands, forever. It is not merely an immediate or contingent declaration by God but by its very nature, a permanent legal rendering.
Thus, if one argues that salvation is lost (and all of its properties, accordingly), getting past just this hurdle will prove to be hopeless. Where, crusaders, are your citations and arguments that the divine legal rendering has been overpowered by sin and reversed by the court of heaven, whether as a result of conduct or unbelief after one is rendered righteous by heaven? No such doctrine exists or is even remotely implied in the Bible.
In that righteous credit referred to above, we are also made holy. Hebrews 10:10 says of the believer, “having been sanctified”. The verb tense which the writer uses in reference to our having been sanctified is quite revealing, it is the perfect tense. That tense, in Koine Greek, indisputably refers to a completed or once-and-for-all action in the past with a permanent result in the future. This language is deliberate and for a reason.
Once we are sanctified, made holy, we cannot be made unholy though we may act as such. Christ’s righteousness is not something that can be erased because it is the thing which erases.
But to those who would counter this, please explain how you feel free to challenge the use of the perfect verb tense here and insist that though Hebrews 10:10 uses the perfect tense it is, in fact, an imperfect and tentative holiness which can be lost and further, one that will be performed again though God says it has been done, once-and-for-all in the past with permanent results in the future. Your argument is with God’s claim and remains so.
Further, to accept the proposition that salvation can be lost, we must also acquiesce to the notion that the divine legal verdict of our innocence is destroyed along with its objective, namely our justification which it, too, apparently has no real standing legal power. We must believe that the verdict by God that we are declared just and that God’s justice has been satisfied by way of the propitiation of Christ which we receive when we believe on him as Savior, is guaranteed – not by God - but by our sustained faith, conduct or both! We are now the adjudicator of our own justification, it seems.
Another passage in the epistle to the Hebrews which stands as a stalwart gatekeeper against such predications is Hebrews 10:14 – (ESV) “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” The word “perfected” is the Greek word τετελείωκεν (teteleiōken). And just like the earlier Hebrews passage, it is in the perfect tense; a once-and-for-all completed action in the past with no further action in view but with permanent results in the future which stands in defiance to those who would counsel otherwise.
Dear friend whose sad salvation is so fortuitous, based on what grammatical property do you now maintain that the Greek perfect is again, imperfect and clumsily used by God in his inspiration of the text? And to what text(s) do you point us to believe God mistakenly permitted and inspired the use of the perfect tense, here, in referencing our being made “perfect” which directs us else ways and overrides its clear and unimpeachable meaning?
We are regenerated – born again or spiritually resurrected by God’s Holy Spirit and made anew - when we receive our salvation. Titus 3:5 states (KJV):
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
Is there really the suggestion that this new man, our regenerated being, who is made alive, not by any human power but the divine power of God through the Holy Spirit, suddenly dies again when we allegedly lose salvation but further, upon renewed belief, repentance or absolution or all of the above, he springs back to life with this process taking place every time someone returns to “the faith”?
The elephant in the room, of course, is why we are made alive by the Holy Spirit in the first place. We are washed or cleansed of our sin and reconciled to God. To assert we can lose salvation is to forward the dubious theological view that we can become in need of the washing of regeneration again, which, somehow can occur over and over again, each time we return to salvation from “falling away”.
Then what good is the cleansing in the first place if it is itinerant? To be in need of being washed from our sins a second time is to say we weren’t sufficiently washed the first time!
But what did our Lord tell St. Peter in John 13:10? Jesus said to him:
The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.
Sealed until our Future Redemption
Finally, Paul writes and tells us we are “sealed unto the day of redemption” by God’s Spirit (Ephesians 4:20). The verb used there is an aorist verb which refers to an action in the past with the indicative. While not the same as the perfect tense, its use clearly directs us to understand this is not a process that is repeated, rather a past action with a resulting condition and the very reason for this is to secure our salvation as the sealed ones, not by our own conduct, faithfulness or whatever but by God’s declaration and legal seal.
And aside from this, the text is clear of the duration of this action, until the day of our redemption. This is a reference to the future, when our bodies are glorified and we enter into our fully glorified state. There is no counter or objection raised in Scripture where this is presented as contingent or subject to our conduct or sustained faith. But when one argues that we can lose our salvation, here again, stands an impregnable barricade which denies such a thing can occur - that is unless you feel free to dismiss the promise of these words which state emphatically and unconditionally that we are sealed by God the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. But understand what you are doing if so choose.
It really is amazing how negligent those who assert salvation is something that can be lost, fail to provide the theological citation and explanation of how all these benefits are all subject to putrefaction; these benefits which are instantaneous when one receives salvation. I am not referencing what Paul wrote about concerning our works as God’s children which will be judged at the Bema Seat of Christ which indeed, may be lost - but our salvation and all of those things equally prescribed to all believers the moment one believers which are kept by the integrity of God.
God’s great recantation of all he blesses us with at salvation requires a theological, line item, justification which I believe is grossly and embarrassingly missing by those who claim salvation is held by something other than God and can be lost by the believer through some action on his or her part.
If you are going to assert this, explain then, how one goes to being declared just by God and given eternal life and then unjust and having it taken away then back again to justified and how many times it may be possible, not to mention all of the other promised permanent blessings of eternal life which, itself and by its very nature, cannot be eternal if it can be lost.
I think so much is rushed over and the implications, both practically and more greatly theologically, are simply not considered and certainly not explored when these kinds of postulates are entertained and affirmed. I have never read any treatise on the Scriptural citations and arguments regarding how the thirty-three (33) plus blessings given at salvation are lost and regained by the believer and done so several times if one is consistent with such a view. I have read general claims in abundance but believe the full apology for such a view does not exist because mid-way through its development I have no doubt it would be abandoned and likely has on many occasions.