That is, is this passage saying a believer or former believer could lose salvation by works, or lose salvation by defecting from Christ? Or is it speaking of backsliding, or speaking only to unbelievers, or something else?
ESV - 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.
For follow-up discussion and general commentary on the topic. Comments are sorted chronologically.
You all seem to think of God as a God of confusion. Is he a God of confusion? According to you people I am condemned there is nothing I can do about it because I was saved as a teenager, born again, Jesus loving, Saved, however, in my 20's I got angry at God and walked away. I became a drug addict an immoral woman, murderer of my unborn child a lyer and thief. 8 years ago I redidicated my life Christ
I think the best answer for this question is seek the Lord. If he lives in you he will make the truth known to you...The end
Amen Linda. You were saved from the beginning and Jesus brought you back into the fold. His amazing grace never ceases to amaze me.
My opinion is that this is a confusing matter, and this is where the confusion comes:
If we are 'once saved always saved,' then no matter what we do, even if we backslide, we can come back to the Lord and he will forgive us.
If once saved always saved isn't true, then we can we be cut off from the true vine and burned up like chaff and condemned to hell. What, then, does that mean to anyone that after years of living backsliding and in sin, who now wants to walk with Jesus again? How would that happen if you're already cut off from the vine, you're burned up as chaff and you're condemned to hell? How could you Pick that chaff up off the ground and put it back in its place?
Wouldn't that mean that you don't ever have a chance of going back to the Lord?
Why is this important? Because our abilty go to the Lord and ask him to forgive us, have mercy on us, and allow us to walk with him again, hinges on our faith that he will, however if we are to believe that he cut us off and condemned us to hell then it is over for us, our sin has already sent us to hell.
Wouldn't that mean that God is not really a forgiving God? If he only gives us one chance and then condemned us to hell, where is the forgiveness in that?
Basically, if one doesn't accept Christ's covering for sin, then one is under condemnation. That applies whether one formerly believed in Christ or not. Only those of faith can claim Christ's work on their behalf, so that God looks at Christ's sinlessness vs. our sin.
For the difference between backsliding and rejecting faith, see:
http://ebible.com/answers/14123?ori=167400 (deliberately rejecting faith)
We can't 'sin bad enough' for God to reject us or take back the promises of salvation. Even when we are faithless in our actions, God is faithful. Yet if we turn back to the world and deny Christ, Christ will deny us before His father. Those who endure to the end in faith, not rejecting Christ due to the temptation of the world or to escape persecution, will be saved. (II Tim 2:11-13)
That doesn't mean backsliding is a perfectly safe place to be, though. It's like a boat drifting from its moorings (Heb 2:1) - if not brought back under the control of Christ, the boat may eventually crash and someone reject faith entirely (I Tim 1:19.) Or, to use the vine analogy, if a vine continually refuses to take the offered nutrients of the source it will be unproductive (I Pet 1:3-11) and 'near to being cursed' (Heb 6:7-8.) That can easily lead to ceasing to remain in Christ, and someone who dies without faith will be condemned (Jn 15:5-6)
You seem to be placing some things that happen only at the judgement (such as the chaff being burned up) as happening towards us during our lifetime. This is not the case. Also, backsliding in sin is not the same thing as rejecting faith in Christ.
Everyone who does not believe in Christ is currently under condemnation (Jn 3:18) - but they will not be cast into the Lake of Fire until the judgement (Rev 20:14-15).
"But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless, and its curse is imminent. In the end it will be burned." Heb 6:8
Likewise, those of active faith *hold* salvation and its promises, but will only receive the final end result at the judgement (new spiritual bodies, etc.) Jn 3:16 [The greek grammar is very clear here that active believers actively hold salvation - not one time believers or a merely past salvation.]
Salvation begins at the moment of faith, we hold it as we continue in faith, and finally completed when we die in faith we are raised at the judgement where God fulfills all His promises to believers.
But what of those who deliberately reject Christ and do not continue in faith?
"If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." Jn 15:6
Note that this isn't mere backsliding - although backsliding contains the danger of a hardened heart, but rather ceasing to remain in Christ and hence returning to condemnation. (II Pet 2:20-22)
We have a tendency to look at salvation as some kind of token or item that we hold when in reality YHVH himself is our salvation and Jesus himself is our life. So yeah, if you walk away from that relationship, I would assume it's like leaving any relationship until you apologize and reconcile. I'm still learning.
Thank you, Michael, for your response. That is the best explanation I have ever read on this topic. Most insightful and written in a wonderful, clear, communicative style.
Thank you again.