One of the most common themes that Christians I have encountered struggle with is that of their salvation. Specifically, the issue of whether or not it can become lost again. There are various answers to this. Each theological system will argue that its point of view is internally consistent. That the reasons for their positions are valid even when the conclusions are difficult to understand. My goal is not to enter some extended argument against any particular system.
Why do Some Question their Salvation?
For me, I am not interested in getting into those debates. We all must study Scripture for ourselves and seek the counsel of trusted mentors. We all have to decide which theological traditions and what they argue make the most sense to us. What I want to do, what I am more interested in looking at the implications the Gospel offers to us in regard to the subject of salvation. More specifically, what is the Gospel’s effectiveness in saving a lost soul?
Many times, conversations about salvation revolve around whether or not a person believed the correct version of the Gospel on the one hand; or whether a person is growing sufficiently in spiritual matters on the other. Yes, these are generalizations and even over-simplifications. But, if we listen to what people are asking and how they are asking about it, we will find these are far more common points of origin. Many people do not have sophisticated views about doctrine in general, or salvation specifically. Most Christians are simply holding onto the part of the Gospel they understand. Even if it is only one or two aspects of it.
Thinking more deeply about Salvation
A greater reality is that because of the many facets of the Gospel, people struggle to see how they all work together. This is part of the reason for this series of reflections. Maybe, if we look at these varied realities of the Gospel in smaller portions, we can better appreciate the whole.
Today’s focus shifts the emphasis of salvation away from the recipient to the giver of the Gospel. The great promise of the Gospel is that God is at work. That God has prepared and provided a means of salvation. And, if we take God at his word, we can experience the fullness of what the Gospel points to.
The effectiveness of the Gospel does not depend on my ability. The effectiveness of the Gospel does not require my effort. The effectiveness of the Gospel rests solely, completely, entirely, and unquestionably in the hands of God.
What that means is that regardless of what goes wrong on our side of the relationship God will uphold his end of the promise. God cannot fail in saving us. God will not fail in keeping us.
The Gospel is a testament to God’s Character
If God’s power to save and to keep us saved rested on our ability, consistency, and strength, there would be no hope for salvation. But our salvation does not rest on anything we bring to the situation.
There is nothing that can keep us from receiving and being the beneficiaries of God’s grace once we have believed. Our vacillating nature was a part of the eternal calculus God did in drafting the Gospel message. God knew that we would struggle with holding on to his promises. God knew, from the foundations of the world, that faith would not come easily to so many. that’s why the Gospel is simple and clear. So that we could accept it even when we struggled to hold on to it.
But, God does not rely on our faithfulness to save us. God has declared that salvation is an eternal promise. Not a conditional one. And by virtue of the eternal nature of the Gospel, we can know that the Gospel will accomplish the mission for which it was created.
Yes, we can have a discussion about what it means that some believe and some will deny. We can consider what it means that some people never fully embrace the life of faith. We can even have our doubts about whether or not a person was ever really saved. But in the end, the question of the Gospel’s effectiveness is about God’s side of the salvation issue.
Too often people look at the people who don’t seem to be living up to what we think they should be and then turn and blame God for failing. This is not only a disingenuous form of argumentation, but it also betrays a self-righteous spirit within the person arguing in such a way.
Allow me to put this as simply as I can:
The Gospel is effective because God is God. That’s it. And if he says that the Gospel leads to eternal life, then I will take God at his word.