Shipwreck or Salvation
The debate surrounding whether Christians can cut themselves off from the Lord through passive indifference or deliberate apostasy stems from different theological views about salvation altogether. Does the death of Christ save everyone? Does it automatically save anyone? Is it a provision that makes the salvation of all people possible? Was it meant for certain preselected people only? What is faith? Is it a free will choice? Is it irresistibly conferred on certain individuals? What does it mean to be a follower of Christ? Is salvation completed at conversion? Is it the beginning of an inheritance that God reserves for those who abide in Christ? What is the new birth? People in this debate do not necessarily start at the same place when it comes to answering these questions and others, so it stands to reason that they have different answers for whether an unalterable and unconditional salvation occurs because of a one-time moment with God, or if a continued faith is necessary following conversion. There are godly people on both sides of this debate, but after years of studying and considering this issue, I believe that the Bible teaches conditional security. I believe that there are two extreme views on this topic. One stance is that any time and every time a person sins, he instantly becomes lost. The other opinion is that once a person is “saved” he can never become lost again, no matter what. Of course, people on both sides will say the Bible is on their side.
The follower of Christ does not need to fear “losing” his salvation, for the Lord will never forsake his followers. No man can pluck us out of his hand. But Christians are warned numerous times about the need to abide in Christ, to continue in the faith, and to not depart from the living God. Salvation is instantaneous, when a person submits to Christ as Lord, but a person can shipwreck his faith and become a partaker of the wrath that comes on the children of disobedience. As Paul told the Christians in Ephesus: "Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things (see previous verse) cometh the wrath of God on the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them." The follower of Christ is safe and secure, even now, but to keep himself safe and secure he must remain in the Vine. If it is impossible for us to sever ourselves from the Vine, then why the Lord's warning in John 15? If a Christian forsakes the Lord, it would have been better for him to have never known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and departed from it.
Michael Saia describes, in my opinion, the biblical and balanced view of this issue.
“The only way we can lose our salvation is to deliberately choose to turn our backs on God, making our own selfish gratification the main goal in our lives. Though any sin will cause a strain in our relationship with God, we are not lost every time we choose to be proud, or to lie, or to become angry. Only a deliberate change in our ultimate intention in life can break our covenant relationship with God. This is similar to a marriage relationship. A husband and wife are not divorced every time one of them sins against the other. The sin may put a strain on their relationship, but until one decides to end the whole relationship, they are still married. We who know the Lord Jesus do not need to constantly fear losing our salvation. The opposite of unconditional eternal security is not insecurity, but conditional security. That is, as long as we love God and are willing to submit to his will, we do not need to wonder whether or not we have eternal life. We are protected by the power of God through faith. So as long as we trust God, he will keep us by his power. If we want to endure to the end, there is nothing that can stop us, because God will give us all the power we need to persevere. All we have to do is trust him.” (Michael Saia – Understanding the Cross, pg. 171)