CAN SALVATION BE LOST?
It may come as a surprise to many that after reading some of the articles at eternalsecurity.us, that many people have written in with a concern. The content of their message was not that they disagreed with the conclusions of the articles, but that they found the terminology of “losing” salvation to be offensive. This present article considers whether the terminology of “losing” salvation is erroneous, or whether it is proper to speak this way. I personally do not like the term. One will notice that the majority of references in my articles were written in context to someone who used the term “losing salvation” or the “loss of salvation” in their objection.
It is widely understood that to be against a doctrinal eternal security is to be for losing salvation. Unfortunately, those in opposition to the false doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved have set a framework in which we are sometimes forced to work. With the nearly universal idea that “losing salvation” is the antithesis to doctrinal eternal security, one must consider answering questions about it in a way that people can relate to and understand. It is wise to use the framework they already have their minds set upon. It is a common ground foundation, a place in which to start the discussion.
Personally I don’t like the term “losing salvation.” In many peoples minds it implies that salvation is fickle and easy to lose. It inspires the image of a Christian losing their salvation as a little boy loses a ball, standing there stunned and disappointed, not knowing how or why this could happen. This is the image that the proponents of eternal security sometimes have of those who teach that salvation can be “lost.”
Many have written in throughout the years and stated their opposition to the term “lost.” I am sympathetic to this, for I prefer to use the idea of “casting off” or “throwing away” salvation to avoid the ambiguity that the term “lost” brings into the picture. (1 Tim. 5:11-12).
Is it more proper to define a person as being lost instead of salvation being lost? We can certainly see this in the parable of the Prodigal Son--he was “was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:24). One thing is for sure; a person in a state of being “saved” is not lost, and a person not possessing salvation is considered as being “lost.”
If one receives a gift of a tennis racket for their birthday, they “gained” a racket. If one decides that they no longer treasured that gift and misplace the racket or threw it out, then they no longer possess that racket at this time. It is therefore properly considered lost. The racket may still exist somewhere, but it is a loss to them. This idea would be legitimized by the definition of "lose" in Webster's Dictionary; to undergo deprivation of something of value: to free oneself from: get rid of. In this sense I believe it is proper to speak of throwing away the gift of salvation as truly a “losing” of one’s salvation. Not in the sense of being unintentional or accidental, but through intentional actions or through subtle neglect.
Although salvation is a gift, it is a gift that is described as being gained (not merited). (Acts 2:38-39; 16:30-31). None of us are in a state of inherent righteousness that God owes us salvation. Salvation is foreign to us; it is something by nature that we do not have. It is a “gain” to us, although it is a gift. Salvation is inexorably connected to our present relationship to God. (1 Jn. 1:7). While God is the One who keeps us, it is only through faith that He does so. (1 Peter 1:5). We must be careful not to do despite the Spirit of grace and depart from the living God. (Heb. 10: 29; 3:12). He will never leave or forsake us, (Heb. 13:5) yet we can forsake Him. (Heb. 3:12). This can be done knowingly and abruptly, (Heb. 10:26-27), or we can drift and subtly grow cold through neglect. (Heb. 2:1-3). We can fail the grace of God, though it does not have to be so. (Heb. 12:15; 6:9).
The Bible never describes this idea with the words “lost salvation.” For some strange reason the proponents of "eternal security" seem to feel free to criticize the idea of "losing salvation" as an unbiblical term, while ignoring the fact that the Bible never speaks of “eternal security” either! However, some terminology can be legitimate if it summarizes Scriptures statements accurately. We can accurately derive the idea of Trinity from God’s revelation throughout the Scriptures. "Trinity" is not a Biblical term, but because of the wealth of evidence that describes God as being so, I believe we can accurately use the term for the sake of brevity and easy clarification. In the same way I believe we can also be correct in defining apostasy as a “loss” of salvation too. To do so we must discard the notion that the “losing” is something that is out of our control. Life is in the Son (1 Jn. 5:11). He is the Vine from which all spiritual life flows ( Jn. 15: 1-6). If we abide in Him, and He in us, we will not be cut off. (Rom. 11:19-23). While Bible terminology does not use the wording of “lost,” it cannot be questioned that the absence of that gift in an individual, and their separation from the life of God is a loss indeed. There is a wealth of references in the Scripture defining this danger. To summarize them as describing a “loss” is accurate, yet ambiguous to some. Perhaps most of our dispute about this is terminology and preconception of what that term means. It is unfortunate that it has become a distraction that has been used as a tool to cloud and evade the essence of the matter. Hopefully an awareness of the ambiguity of this terminology will give us wisdom to see when this is raised as a wall to evade the truth.