Essay / Theology

Eno Snaisehpe (Ephesians One Backwards)

What would it take to lose your salvation?

Sometimes I think the fact that we can pose that question in such a short sentence, with so few words, is part of the problem of talking about the question well. The brevity of the formulation (“Lose your salvation? Yes or no.”) lends itself to taking the question less seriously than it deserves. The five syllables of “lose your salvation” don’t have enough gravity or complexity to prepare our minds for what the Bible teaches.

A mental discipline I’ve imposed on my own thinking, and which I sometimes inflict on students, is to replace the phrase “lose your salvation” with the thought project, “run Ephesians 1 backwards.” Instead of asking, “can you lose your salvation,” ask, “if Ephesians 1 is true of you, how could it reverse its momentum and come untrue of you?”

By Ephesians 1, I mean specifically the one long Greek sentence that is verses 3-14, which explores the “complete spiritual blessing” with which God has blessed us in Christ. As far as I can tell, for it to run in reverse would require something like this:

The guarantee on our inheritance has been voided and its possession will now be forfeited; God has removed his seal, the Holy Spirit, from us. We no longer believe the word of truth, so it is no longer the gospel of our salvation. We have been un-predestined, have lost the inheritance, and are back outside of Christ. The mystery of God’s will for the summing up of all things in Christ in the fullness of time has gone opaque and become irrelevant. An unlavishing of grace has taken place. We do not have redemption through the blood of God’s beloved Son, so our trespasses are not forgiven. We are unadopted, have stepped out of our predestination to that goal, so we will never stand holy and blameless before God in love. We have been unchosen from before the foundation of the world. No longer being in Christ, we are no longer recipients of every spiritual blessing in him. And perhaps God’s glorious grace, and his wisdom in salvation, will still be praised, but not by looking at us. Avert your eyes.

This is the mental vision in the back of my mind when I discuss the topic of losing salvation. It transmits some sense of the scope and complexity involved, and rules out in advance a number of facile blunders.

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