This is the one aspect of the gospel which the natural man thinks he might be able to like. But like all spiritual truth, the natural man can only love the truth through a distortion of it. We should therefore begin with misunderstandings of the doctrine:
1. The Existence of Distortions: “If you teach the security of the believer, then men will become complacent, etc.” Yes, some will twist the grace of God into a licence for sin. But we do not decide what to teach on the basis of pragmatics. Look at what was done with Paul’s teaching. Notice what he says in Romans 3:8 about the accusation and his accusers. Their condemnation is just.
2. Once Saved Always Saved: What does this mean? It is a wonderful truth or a damnable heresy depending upon what is meant by saved. Take a look at 1 John 2:19.
3. Losing Salvation: The question is not whether the elect can lose their salvation — as though salvation were a possession of ours, like car keys or something. The real question is whether Christ can lose a Christian or not. The Bible teaches us that salvation means that we are a possession of His.
4. Both Sides Have Their Verses: This approach dismisses the question as one not having any great practical importance. But wise pastors know that it is a question of great pastoral import. There are many Christians who have been distressed over whether or not they could have assurance of salvation.
Man-centeredness causes some to talk about this as though it were a mere reversal of regeneration. But when salvation is understood biblically, i.e. as rooted in the eternal will of the Father in election, in the eternal blood of the covenant which secured their salvation, and the resurrection of the Spirit bringing them into life, the whole picture changes.
Man is mutable and what he does can be undone. God is immutable and what He effectually does cannot be undone. There are many passages which assert this, but one of the clearest is found in Romans 8.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord
But What About . . .?
Let us look at two passages which are commonly brought forward as evidence that Christians can lose their salvation.
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
What does it say? It does not say anything about Hell or everlasting damnation. The context is that the author of Hebrews (in the mid to late 60′s) is trying to talk some Christians out of returning to the Temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. Obviously, they would have to go to Jerusalem to do this, and it was a masterpiece of bad timing, for Jerusalem was going to be destroyed. The Lord Jesus had prophesied that this would certainly happen within a generation, and that generation was almost up. The only thing they had waiting for them in Jerusalem was raging fire that would consume the adversary. They would not find in Jerusalem any sacrifice for sin. That was done, once for all in the death of Christ.
and 2. What is the context?