A cold chill filled the room. Some of the youth sitting around me were squirming. Others sniffled as if they were holding back the tears.
I was mad.
The speaker at my church youth camp was really going to town. I was a senior in high school, and fairly knowledgeable of the Bible, so his words didn’t shake me up. The implication he made was that if you’re doing “the nasty” at the moment Jesus comes back, you’ll be left behind. But I asked myself, Is he saying that if I have sex with my girlfriend minutes before or minutes after Jesus comes back, I’ll be okay?
Immediately following that evening’s meeting, it became obvious who in my youth group was doing “the nasty” with their boyfriends or girlfriends, because they were distraught. The offending girls were crying uncontrollably and the boys were totally disengaged.
But his words beg the question: can we lose our salvation? Can we do something so heinous that God finally says, “I’m done with you”?
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INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Ezekiel 10:1-11:25. In my experience, many people in society equate ecstatic visions with low intelligence. But in this case, Ezekiel, a man who was highly educated, received perhaps the most vivid visions in Scripture. Daniel, who was also highly educated, received similarly spectacular visions.
Chapters 10-11 continue Ezekiel’s vision about the defilement of Jerusalem and the temple. The cherubim are angels (the word is plural for cherub). At the end of chapter 10, the glory of the Lord slowly departs from the temple. This provides us with a vivid picture of the spiritual life. Rarely do we suddenly lose our desire for God. But over time, it slowly fades away until we no longer care.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
When I was a teenager, I committed myself to studying what the Bible says about eternal security, that is, the belief that Christians can lose their salvation. In fact, I kept a long list of Scripture references in my Bible proving that if we stumbled trying to walk the straight and narrow, we’d be toast (literally!). The book that bolstered my argument, more than any other, was the epistle of Hebrews. Today’s reading served as the core of my beliefs:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Hebrews 6:4–6 (please pardon the long quote!)
The above passage has prevented countless teenagers and adults from really messing up their lives because they’re afraid of losing their salvation. It has also shipwrecked the faith of many.
Growing up, one of my best friends did “the nasty” with a girl and got her pregnant, which resulted in a quick marriage, a quick divorce, and a broken life. At 20 years of age, he also knew the above passage and determined that he couldn’t return to the faith because if he tried, he would be crucifying Jesus all over again. “My goose is cooked!” he told me.
But consider this: If we can’t do anything to earn our salvation (see Romans 4), can we then do something to lose it? If so, then our salvation is based on our efforts and not the finished work of Christ on the cross.
While I don’t intend to demean the word of God in regard to this passage, it’s also helpful to take into consideration the whole corpus of Scripture. I could quote numerous Scriptures that convey a different message, but I’ll just quote one. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” If Christ lives in you, he will continue the good work he started.
The underlying question in all of this still remains: is there an unforgivable sin?
My short answer: If you’re concerned that you’ve committed the unforgivable sin against God, you’re probably okay. Obviously you haven’t strayed so far that the Holy Spirit can’t reach you. Furthermore, God never intended for us to live in the fear of being damned to hell for doing something. That doesn’t sound like the abundant life Jesus speaks of in John 10:10.
But what about people who aren’t concerned? It seems to me that forfeiting our salvation is possible, but not probable. Perhaps it happens in the case of apostasy, where a person completely rejects the faith, but only on rare occasion.
So where do we go with Hebrews 6:4-6? Looking closely at the verse, nowhere does it say that people who turn their back on Jesus will be left behind. The seed of the gospel still remains, but it lies dormant in the soil of their hearts. It’s certainly not the abundant life, but it also speaks to the love of Jesus that never lets us go.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17–19
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- If it were true that you could lose your salvation, how would it affect your faith?
- If it were true that you couldn’t lose your salvation, how would it affect your faith?
- Do you live in the fear of God or the love of God? Why?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado