March 9, 2016

Can I lose my salvation?

Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ have varying interpretations of biblical teaching. While we agree that Jesus is the Savior who died for our sin and rose from the dead, one area of fog is the matter of eternal security. Does the Lord keep us in faith after He grants it? Or can we refuse to believe and throw away that gift?

Both cannot be true. However, confusion arises in trying to reconcile verses that support either position. For instance, those who think we can toss it all will point to passages like this one:

And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:65–67)

Interpretation is not an easy task. One important part of it is trying to understand how the original readers would have understood it. In this instance, it seems important to figure out what it means to walk with Jesus. In today’s church, this refers to people who have given their lives to Him in faith and are following His teaching as best they can. 

But in that world, it could have meant something more like groupies. Jesus was a fascinating figure, but when He told them “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56) and followed it with, “No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father,” some of them didn’t want any part of it so they quit following Him. No doubt they started looking for another ‘hero’ to chase after, one that would not be quite so weird.

Chambers thinks that those who turned back refers to those who didn’t walk into sin but “relapsed” and therefore applies to those who are involved in Christian work but are doing it apart from Christ, not walking with Him, but I’ve a problem with that approach. Jesus said that apart from Him I can do nothing. Refusing to rely on Him and follow His direction IS sin. Anything else I rely on, including my own ideas, becomes an idol that replaces God.

Jesus also asked the twelve disciples if they wanted to go away. Chambers says this means we know Jesus but have to “maintain a venturing attitude toward Him all the time.” That is, I’m to always be seeking Him and His will for my life, in absolute dependence on Him. For him, this is what it means to walk with Jesus.

When I step back and take a look at the bigger picture, these twelve were not yet filled with the Holy Spirit. They literally walked with Jesus like the groupies, and their devotion to Him was tenuous. They swore allegiance, yet abandoned Him at the crucifixion. Their loyalty was not secured until He rose from the dead and until their lives were transformed. While I can learn from their mistakes and their best attitudes, I’m not sure that I can form my theology based on this period of time before Jesus’ death and resurrection, or before the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was these later events that cemented the reality of oneness with Christ.

While I don’t want to get into a debate with Chambers, his thoughts do make me consider my own beliefs about living the Christian life. Some of these ‘followers’ walked away because they didn’t like what Jesus said to them. I’ve been in that place of not liking His words to me, but His hold on me is much stronger than my emotions.

However, Judas did more than walk away. Jesus said, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” This Judas was one of the Twelve, yet he was going to betray Jesus. (John 6:70–71) He was a ‘disciple’ but never united with Christ. Every reference to him points to his greed, not his faith. It is the same with the other ‘disciples’ who walked away. They wanted the free bread and were not willing to give up their own way to walk the way of Jesus.

To me, there is a vast difference between those who are religious and those who know and walk with Jesus. The former walk wherever they want at any given moment and can walk away. While those whose lives are united with Christ might try it, because He lives in them, their feet have trouble cooperating. Eventually the “relapse” gives way to repentance and the stumbling believer is pulled to his feet by Jesus’ saving grace.

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