Recently, a well known Evangelical Christian radio host joined the Orthodox Christian Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church, while proclaiming many truths, does not hold as one of its core doctrines the need to be born again. This is because the Orthodox Church (as does the Roman Catholic Church) teaches that you must be belong to the church itself to be saved.
Many years ago, I struggled with the Orthodox Church because there are many very appealing things about the traditions and stability of the institution which is for the most part lacking in Protestantism. However, I knew there was something missing from it and of course the fact that it’s steeped in pagan traditions (icons, etc.) was also problematic. That’s when the Lord reminded me the Messianic faith has all that I was looking for but I was so caught up in “doing ministry” and leading a congregation that I was not seeing the forest for the trees as it were (another article altogether).
The point I want to emphasize is that the belief in denominations that adhere more to Calvinism vs. Aremenianism is that once you’re saved, you’re always saved. In Armenian theology, a person can lose his salvation. Which is the more correct view? While tomes have been written on the subject and is one of the more contentious issues within the faith, I believe the answer lies not so much in the absolute truth of Scripture but rather in what we’re able to see and discern.
I believe God’s word is very clear. Since our salvation is a gift (Eph 2:9) and not of anything that we do ourselves, it’s not something we can lose. The only way we can be saved is believe that Yeshua died for us and His sacrifice was sufficient. If we add anything of our own works to it, it is no longer of faith but of works. Then how do people who walk away who once believed? It is a perplexing question but again, Scripture answers this for us. In Mat 13, Yeshua tells the well-known parable of the sower. In it He tells of 4 different types of soil that the seeds are sown into. There is rocky soil, which the birds eat, shallow soil that the plant shoots up but withers quickly, thorns that choke the plant and fertile soil which produce a great harvest. He tells us that the soils are the different types of hearts the word (the seed) is sown into. The rocky soil is the one who never believes. These are hearts of stone that reject the Gospel message. The fertile soil is one who believes and goes on to produce much fruit for the kingdom. The other 2 though are those who believe but fall away, some because of persecution and others because the world distracts them. In other words, both had an experience with the Holy Spirit but they did not have a firm faith and eventually rejected the Gospel. Did they lose their salvation then? Not at all. It would seem they never had it to begin with. Many people toy with the Gospel and some are even quite fervent for a while. Charles Templeton for example, was the preaching partner of Billy Graham but he eventually denied the Lord as he couldn’t handle the truth of eternal hell. He didn’t have enduring faith. When things don’t work out the way some people expected or they get disappointed with God or they run into some questions they can’t answer, they walk away.
So you might ask, what does all this have to do with Armenianism or the Orthodox Church. The Bible says we cannot truly lose our salvation. Yeshua says in John 10:27-29 “ My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” It is He who hangs on to us and not us to Him. Furthermore, Rom 8:38 says nothing can separate us from His love. But we don’t know who truly belongs to Him or not or even whether we’re one of those who might walk away. From God’s eternal perspective, we’re either His always or never were to begin with. From our earthly and limited human perspective though, it would appear to us that we could lose our salvation.
So what do we do? We must continue as Paul says to renew our minds. By reading our bibles daily, praying and plugging into a healthy congregational community, we can ensure that when the doubts come, we’ll be sufficiently connected to the Lord not to be risk of falling away.