The simple answer is that we let our faulty human perspectives cloud our clear understanding of Scripture.
We sometimes doubt the security of salvation because of our experiences with others.
I’m sure everyone knows a person who seemed to have a vital walk with the Lord Jesus and then abandoned the faith. We wonder, What about them? They have gone so far from God, we think, that person must be absolutely, positively lost.
Some of us doubt the security of our salvation because we struggle with sin. Our persistent sin may be an addictive behavior, like drugs or alcohol, or persistent sexual sins. We may wonder why we continue striving without seeing transformation in our lives. Without the kind of growing obedience we believe should come with salvation, we may begin to wonder if we’re actually lost.
Still others struggle with difficult passages like Hebrews 6:4-6 or 10:26-27. Despite so many verses that seem to assure us of our salvation, these difficult ones are sticky and can strain our confidence in our security.
Here are some suggestions that have helped me clear my confusion about this issue and given me assurance of salvation. First, we need to interpret our experiences through the lens of Scripture and not the other way around. Although we recognize that the Lord Jesus will never leave us or forsake us, that He holds us securely in His hands, and that nothing will ever separate us from His love, too often we say, “But what about Fred and Gina? They seem to have lost their salvation.” Rather than look to others as our source of proof, let’s always start with what the Bible teaches instead of prioritizing our personal experiences and using them to interpret the Word of God.
Second, we need to interpret unclear passages in light of the clear teaching of Scripture.
When I was a freshman at Moody Bible Institute, I believed in the security of the believer, but I was tortured by Hebrews 6. I remember badgering one of my professors for an explanation and nothing he said would satisfy me. Finally, he taught me this crucial interpretive principle: we need to interpret the unclear verses of the Bible in light of the clear ones. That resolved the issue for me. I know the Bible is harmonious and clearly teaches the perseverance of our Savior.
Third, we must remember that oftentimes passages that seem to refer to the loss of salvation actually refer to the loss of rewards.
For example, when Paul says he disciplines himself so that, after preaching to others, “I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27), he actually refers to being disqualified from receiving a crown (or rewards). Paul is not saying that he could lose his salvation.
Finally, we need to remember that people who seem to abandon the faith may have never known the Lord at all. That’s why 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” It’s why the Lord Jesus will tell some at the final judgment, “I never knew you; depart from Me.” (emphasis added) As for those who really do know the Lord but have wandered, one day they will repent and be restored.