Another Look at the Believer’s Assurance of Salvation

In case you are wondering what I mean by ‘another’ look, I’ll tell you. Quite some time ago, we published a post discussing what might be THE definitive passage concerning the believer’s assurance of salvation:

“I give them (my sheep) eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand.” – John 10:28

Whenever I am asked If I a believer can lose his/her salvation, this passage is both the first and final answer, no matter where the conversation takes us. If we are granted ‘eternal’ life at the moment at the moment we believe in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation (and we are), if ‘never’ means NEVER (and it does), and if ‘perish’ means wake up in Hell (and it does), as far as I’m concerned, it’s game over; end of discussion. No matter how many ‘warning’ passages are trotted out to ‘prove’ salvation can be forfeited, that which is abundantly clear must be used to interpret that which is not as clear in scripture. It’s a tried and true hermeneutical principle. You can read the entire post here.

This time I would like to take a look at another set of verses used as arguments from both sides of the aisle; from those who believe you can lose/forfeit your salvation and from those who believe that God always ‘keeps’ whom he ‘saves’.

You already know where I stand on this issue, so let’s get to it!

The passage to which I refer is Romans 8:1-6:

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Rom 8:1-6 ESV)(Emphasis mine)

First, let’s consider verse 1:

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Those who hold to the position that salvation once granted can be lost will base their argument on the two emphasized phrases. If there is now no condemnation (judgment) there could exist a possibility of later condemnation if one were to move from being in Christ Jesus to a position outside of Christ. On its face, that sounds quite logical, but if we put it back in the larger context, is it?. Let’s do that.

First note the ‘therefore’ in verse 1. As we all know, when we see a ‘therefore’ we need to find out what the ‘therefore’ is there for. In this case we look back to Chapter 7, in which the Apostle Paul is discussing having been released from bondage to the Law. Old Testament Jewish law did carry condemnation for all those living under its principles, as Paul once did before he was saved on the road to Damascus and was placed in Christ. Condemnation ceased the moment Paul was placed in Christ on that dusty road.

That brings us to the in Christ issue in verse 1. Is it possible for anyone who is in Christ today to end up outside of Christ at a later date/time? Well, to be outside of Christ is to perish, or face condemnation. If those who are in Christ are those to whom has been granted eternal life, and if Jesus said that those to whom he gives eternal life shall never perish (John 10:28), those in Christ will never find themselves outside of Christ!

Now let’s take a look at the issue of ‘walking according to the flesh’ and ‘walking according to the Spirit. Some will say that a believer must first of all be in Christ and be walking according to the Spirit, or he/she might lose their salvation. They tell us that a believer can choose to walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit at any given moment. While we would all agree that believers may decide to follow the flesh or the Spirit when facing temptation, is that what the term ‘walk’ means in these passages?

Let’s take a closer look.

If we again refer back to larger context of Chapter 7, walking after the flesh clearly means living by OT Law, a life principle rather than a momentary submitting to temptation. The grammatical construct demands that the phrase ‘walking after the Spirit’ shares the same lifestyle meaning. This parallel construct is seen more clearly in verse 2, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” When anyone is bondage to OT law the natural course of life is under the law of sin and death. When a person is found in Christ he/she is living under the law of the Spirit of life, an entirely different course!

The Apostle seems to have spoken of this ‘tale of two natures’ in his 2nd Letter to the church at Corinth:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17 ESV)

As believers we battle with sin, just as Paul did (see Romans 7). At the same time, because of our new nature in Christ, we walk according to the Spirit as the natural pattern of our lives.

A freely admit that this little discussion is a small part of the discussion around the assurance of salvation, but for one old guy it’s been a profitable exercise in wrapping this old brain around the issue. I hope it has been useful for anyone who reads this post.

May God bless you all!

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