In DWSD, I wrote that salvation cannot be lost. I quoted passages like John 10:28 for proof, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
Can another person take salvation from you? No. Only God has the authority to either deliver or destroy our souls (Ps. 116:8, Mt. 10:28). John 10:29 says, “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Simply put, no one can come along and pull you out of the hand of God. What this verse does not say is that you can’t get out yourself, or that God can’t release you if you don’t want to be there.
Who did the Father give eternal life to in this passage? The context makes it clear that Jesus is talking about His disciples, specifically. John 17:6 says, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.”
The cross reference to this verse is found in Isaiah 8. The first part of verse 18 says, “Behold I and the children which God has given me…” This verse is clearly talking about the same men. The next part of the verse identifies them further, “…and they shall be for signs and wonders in the house of Israel from the Lord of hosts who dwells in mount Sion.” Who performed signs and wonders in the house of Israel? The disciples (apostles): “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43).
This means that the disciples were the men given out of the house of Israel to Jesus by the Father, as foretold in the book of Isaiah. The disciples would be for signs and wonders, so they therefore could not be “lost” when Jesus was taken away to be crucified. Isaiah gives further evidence of these men in Chapter 43 when God told Isaiah that the members of the remnant of Israel would be “witnesses to tell forth my praises” whom God would “preserve” (Is. 43:10, 21).
The men referred to in John 10:28 and 17:6 are the same men being referred to in 17:12, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
If the son of perdition, i.e., Judas, was “lost”, can we be talking only about salvation here? No. We are talking about the preservation of life while on earth.
We know this because of John 18:7. When Jesus is about to be seized, He asks the band of men, “Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these [the disciples] go their way: That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none” (Jn. 18:7b-9).
Is Jesus talking about the salvation of the disciples, or is He talking about the preservation of their lives, so that they can fulfill the prophecy spoken of them in Isaiah? The answer is clear. This is not about salvation.
When I wrote DWSD, I had not researched Reformed theology. I believed John MacArthur when he explained that in Hebrews 6:4, for example, people who were “partakers of the Holy Ghost” couldn’t be saved because they only had part of the Holy Spirit – not wholly believing.
Does the Holy Spirit give of itself only in part?
Is there any other biblical example of God “imparting” the Holy Spirit in fragments? Can someone be given half of the Holy Spirit, or a tenth? Can the Holy Spirit be only partially powerful in someone and wholly powerful in someone else? There is no example of this anywhere. Biblically, a person either has the Spirit of God, or he doesn’t.
In fact, the Greek word here that is translated into English as partakers speaks to fellowship, togetherness, and being involved with others. It has nothing to do with fractions or pieces of a whole. It’s like taking part in a soccer game. You’re running up and down the field with everyone else, fully engaged in the game. The breaking down of the English word into part-takers changes the meaning of what the Greek word metohous intended. Therefore there is no such thing as being partly indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
After we believe in the Lord as our Saviour, the Holy Spirit seals us with His promise of eternal life (Eph. 1:13). We are subsequently indwelt with Him (1 Cor. 6:19) and remain in His fellowship (Phil. 2:1) until one of two things happen. We remain in the faith until our souls are taken up to be with Christ, or we quench the Holy Spirit and count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing. “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19), the Bible says. If we don’t have it, we can’t quench it. And only the saved have it.
So, indeed, when you look at Hebrews 6 and 10 and read about those who have fallen away, putting the Son of God to an “open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6), at those who have “counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing” and therefore “draw back unto perdition” (Heb. 10:29, 39), you might realize that, yes, people can choose to shipwreck their own faith and breach their part of the marriage contract between them and God. When Israel “thrust [God] from them” and worshipped other gods, God called them covenant breakers and adulterers (Hosea 6:8, 7:4, Neh. 13:27, Ps. 44:17).
How can someone break a covenant if he never agreed to enter into one?
John 12:23 tells us that God draws us to Him through the sacrifice of His Son and Hebrews 10:39 says that some will “draw back”. If God’s “draw” is irresistible, how is it possible for someone to draw back?
So, I was wrong. The once-saved CAN lose their salvation… but only on their own terms. No one can come along and pluck you out of the hand of the Father but you can jump out yourself. The marriage covenant is entered into by the willing, not the unwilling. If you change your mind, and scripture makes it clear that it is possible, God will not force you to stay.
But be assured of this: God is faithful and never breaches His part of the contract. The simple fact is that man is not always faithful. People can lose their faith. People can go astray. People can be deceived. People who at one time called themselves Christians, who acted out a holy life, partook of the sacraments, and confessed their faith before others, can and do fall away (1 Tim. 1:9, 2 Pt. 2:15, Gal. 1:6-7, 2 Pt. 1:10). And we’ve all heard the trite words of the Reformists who judiciously state of a person who has fallen away, “Oh, he was never saved in the first place.”
Well, he sure had you fooled, didn’t he?
Scripture makes it clear that those who are called the servants of God, who are invited to His table, who are branches of the good root, and who perform wonderful works in His Name can be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. They can also cease to abide in Him, at which point they are gathered together and thrown into the fire where they are burned (Mt. 22:13, 25:30, 7:22-23, Jn. 15:6). They can choose to cease believing in God as their Saviour and their names can subsequently be blotted out of the Lamb’s book of life.
So if the Lamb’s book of life was written before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), and it contains all the names of the saved, and it is irrefutable because it was ordained and determined by God before time, then why does God say that names can be blotted out of it (Rev. 3:5, 22:19)?
God has told us why. Because while God’s desire is to see all men saved and to hold fast their faith, the fact is that not all men choose to. This is why we are exhorted to continue in the faith, to stand fast in it, to contend for it, and to walk in it (Acts 14:22, 1 Cor. 16:13, Jude 1:3, Heb. 10:23, Rom. 4:12). God has guaranteed us spiritual free will so that when we make a decision to deny Him, to reject Him as our Father and our Saviour, He is just in punishing us with hellfire. God never delivers wrath or punishment to the unaccountable. He delivers it to those who make free will decisions.
The reason we hear “once saved always saved” as a mantra from Reformist theologians is because if salvation can be lost, John Calvin was wrong. If John Calvin was wrong, so were all the other Reformers who followed in his footsteps, like the Puritans and the Hugenots. TULIP is therefore wholly wrong, as is the fundamental Reformist doctrine taught in many “Christian” seminaries and institutes of “higher learning”. John MacArthur, John Piper, RC Sproul, Paul Washer, and James White (among so many others) are wrong, too.
And so were we, because we once trusted in modern-day scribes and Pharisees to explain portions of scripture that we didn’t have the time to look into ourselves. But God’s Word has revealed the truth to us. Let Him reveal it to you, too.