To better understand the nature of what we commonly refer to as “salvation” (when we mean “new birth”, or “being born again”), I suggest we look at the entirety of what it entails.
Normally when we use the word salvation loosely in that sense, we refer to it as a “thing” rather than a transformative series of events changed 1) the essence of who we are, and 2) the covenant basis of how God relates to us.
To give you an example – we commonly use expressions like “losing salvation” to refer to the concept of a born-again believer the returning to his or her previous, unsaved, state of being. If we view a salvation as a thing, then we are justified to refer to that concept as “losing salvation”. An implication of this, then, is that salvation is a “thing” that we “found” (since we can “lose” it). Sort of like finding a penny – we find it, pick it up, put it in the pocket, the pocket has a hole, so we lose it.
Salvation (again, really we are talking about a born-again experience specifically), however, is not a thing that you hold on to and which is separate from you, but a series of events that
- transform our being (new creation)
- substantially change the way God relates to us from then on (new covenant)
To briefly sum up the transformational part – through Christ in me and the Holy Spirit given to me, I became a partaker of divine nature. We are now one with Christ – sort of like sugar mixed into a cup of coffee, you no longer can separate the two. The old me has died and doesn’t exist anymore. He was crucified with Christ. I have received a new spirit, I have received eternal life, I have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Jesus, and so forth.
For the new covenant part, here are just some of the facts: I have been declared just before the eyes of justice: the law that stood against me was also nailed to the cross. Therefore, there’s now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. In fact, one of the clauses of the new covenant per Heb 8, Heb 10, etc: “their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more”.
With all that said, I would like to reframe the concept of “losing salvation”. What we commonly refer to as “obtaining salvation / getting saved” refers to a complex series of transformations that happened to our being (most of them had to happen in a certain order as you will see shortly), and to a change in the covenant basis for our relationship with God. The nature of changes is irreducible. In science, the same notion is referred to as “irreducible complexity”, meaning you can’t reduce the complexity of a phenomenon (here, it’s salvation experience) into a mere sum of its constituent parts, and operate on them individually. In jurisprudence, the same concept is knows as “inseverability clause”, meaning that you can’t reduce a contract to a mere collection of line items, and enforce some but not others. It has to be either all, or none at all.
See, you can’t be in Christ and be condemned at the same time (that would make Christ condemned), you can’t be disavowed by God and still be in Christ (it would make Christ disavowed by God), you can’t be condemned and still be sealed with the Holy Spirit (then you would take the Holy Spirit to the place of condemnation along with you), etc. It has to be either all of the above, or none at all.
With this in mind, since getting saved (specifically meaning “born again” in this case) is 1) a transformation of your being, and 2) a covenant change, getting unsaved should involve an exact reverse transformation where:
- the Holy Spirit is unsealed from you,
- the Holy Spirit’s guarantee of redemption is voided,
- the surety of the New Covenant – the person of Jesus – lapses,
- the new spirit man no longer has eternal life but dies,
- eternal and everlasting life gets reduced to temporary life,
- your old spirit is brought back and is placed back into you in place of the now-gone new spirit of Christ,
- you lose your place in and are amputated from the body of Christ,
- having been made perfect forever becomes either made “perfect for a while”, or “imperfect after all”,
- Holy Spirit gets revoked from you,
- you get disavowed by God as his son,
- you get re-translated from the kingdom of Jesus into the kingdom of darkness,
- you lose your justification (which was based on Jesus having paid for all your sins),
- the law that was nailed to the cross get un-nailed from it and becomes operative again,
- you become un-justified and condemned,
and so forth -I might add to this list later. (The way I am presenting this list, without any Scripture / verse references assumes that you are fluent in the New Covenant theology, and specifically in Pauline writings.)
And don’t forget – it also takes a covenant change where God does remember my sins and transgressions again.