Q. Can you give me a little history about the Doctrine of losing salvation? When did it first appear in the church and who brought it out into the open? Thanks.
A. Conditional salvation was popularized by the followers of Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch pastor and theologian in the late 16th and early 17th centuries who rejected the Calvinist views he had grown up with. It’s a complicated issue, but simply put Calvinists believe that God determines who will be saved, not man, and that being sovereign His decision is irreversible. Once saved always saved. It’s also called predestination or election.
Arminius put forth the idea that the choice to be saved is man’s, not God’s, and is based on faith. But if he loses the faith to believe, he can lose his salvation. Since man can choose, he can also un-choose. Some call it agency or choice.
Calvinists and Arminians share an advocacy of reformed theology differing primarily in this area. (Most of the main line denominations were built on the foundation of reformed theology.) Today, the debate over which view is correct continues mostly among evangelicals, some of whom have expanded Arminian doctrine to also include post-salvation sinfulness as a way to lose one’s salvation.
Sadly, many involved in this debate fail to consider advancements in our understanding of the nature of time, which make each view correct in what it asserts and incorrect in what it denies. (Calvinists assert eternal security and deny man’s choice. Arminians assert choice but deny security.) We now know that time is a physical property affecting only physical beings. God being a Spirit is not confined to time. Neither Calvin nor Arminius understood this.
The key passage on this issue is Romans 8:29-30 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
God, being outside of time, sees the end from the beginning. Before He created Adam he knew everyone who was going to choose Him (He foreknew) and so He made a place for them in His Kingdom (He predestined). Somewhere in the life span of each person who will choose Him, He creates the circumstances for them to make their choice (He calls). When they respond, as He knows they will, He allows the blood of Jesus to wash them clean (He justifies) and at the appointed time He will grant them glorified bodies and welcome them to their place in His Kingdom reserved for them from the foundation of the world. (He glorifies)
Did they make a free choice? Yes. Did He already know what their choice would be? Yes. Once you put God outside of time, there’s no conflict between choice and predestination. And as Romans 8 makes clear, there’s no fall out in this process. Everyone who is foreknown completes the cycle and ends up glorified.
That’s because God’s relation to time also handles the post-salvation sin issue. Hebrews 10:12 says that Jesus was sacrificed once for all time. That means that His one act of sacrifice for sin covers all of man’s sins for all of time. That’s why the writer could continue by saying in verse 14 that by one sacrifice he has made us perfect for ever.
There’s no such thing as a Christian who doesn’t continue to sin. But every sin that you ever have or ever will commit is covered by the blood of Jesus. From your first moment of belief you were saved, and God sealed His Holy Spirit within you as a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance (Ephes. 1:13-14).