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To know God, be born again, and to fall from grace is such a horrible thought. Can a Christian lose their salvation? What would cause that if it were possible? Would there be a way to return to God?
These are some very good questions, but the answers are often the subject of debate and even anger. After all, we are talking about life and death. We are even talking about more than that. We are talking about the resurrection and the second death as well!
Some hold a “once saved always saved” doctrine to be true, while others say “once saved always saved” is false. There are a lot of doctrines on eternal security. But, what does the Bible REALLY say about it? Can you lose your salvation?
As we cover this subject I would like to ask you to keep calm and level headed. There will, no doubt, be many reading this who will become furious, while others will feel vindicated in their beliefs. But the goal isn’t to vindicate or infuriate anyone. It is simply to open the Bible and accept EVERY scripture as it is written, and in its proper context.
If you remember in unit 3:4a we spoke of the difference between the reality and the promise of salvation. Until we step into that promised land (a city whose builder and maker is God) we do not yet have the reality. We only have the promise.
So, before we begin to answer those questions we need to understand that it isn’t OUR salvation in the first place. We do not own it and we can not control it. It belongs to Jesus. He is the one who makes the choice to save us or not. Thank God that He is not willing that any should perish!
8 Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.
So as of right now, we have the promise of salvation, and we wait with hope to receive the reality of it. But the promise is as good as the reality when it is God making the promise!
Still, God has made promises in the past that were not unconditional.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; 27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: 28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.
1 Samuel 12:14-15
14 If ye will fear the Lord, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the Lord your God: 15 But if ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you, as it was against your fathers.
11 If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures. 12 But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge.
That word “if” is a very powerful word. It means the promise is conditional. It means you will receive the promise IF you meet the requirements. Otherwise, you will not receive it.
Now, … does God use this word “if” anywhere in scripture when it talks about salvation? Yes, He does.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
1 Corinthians 15:2
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
1 Timothy 2:15
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
The word “if” is used when the Bible speaks of salvation. That tells us that salvation is not unconditional. It DOES have conditions. We listed these conditions in unit 3:2 and explained why even a free gift still requires something from you. But, just to repeat the conditions they are: believe, repent, confess, baptism, and endure unto the end (continue in the faith).
So we see that receiving the gift of salvation is conditional. It is based on meeting those 5 requirements. We will explain what it means to be baptized and confess in a future unit. But what happens if a person meets those requirements and then falls away? What if a person who believed, repented, confessed, and was baptized does not endure unto the end?
The Bible is actually quite clear on this. The word “if” may not be used directly, but it is implied through context when speaking of being saved IF you continue unto the end.
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
Besides these scriptures, there are also other scriptures that show more directly that it possible for a Christian to not receive salvation.
The following scriptures speak of these people who would follow Jesus as believers, yet they would not endure unto the end. Thus they “fall from grace” and no longer meet the 5 requirements for salvation. That means they will not be saved.
1 Timothy 4:1-2
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
This is a very simple verse that many still like to claim is not speaking of Christians. But I must ask you this question: Can you depart from a place that you have never been? This passage speaks of those who were once IN THE FAITH that will DEPART FROM the faith.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
So yes, it is possible for a Christian to end up falling from grace, and no longer qualify for salvation. But how can that happen? What could make a Christian fall from grace? Is it sin? Does God not give forgiveness when a Christian sins too many times?
Let me calm some of your fears very quickly. There is no amount of sin that a person can commit that would keep them from obtaining salvation! If Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, in order to forgive our sins, then why would He reject us once we come to Him for the forgiveness of those sins?!
I heard someone say once, “I could never be good enough to gain salvation and I can never be bad enough to lose it either.” This is a true saying!
So remain calm as we continue on.
It is true that our sins separate us from God. But if we have been given the promise of salvation then our sins are wiped out! So no, sin by itself is not what will separate a Christian from God any longer. There is a bridge between us covering the gap of sin. Jesus made a way where there was no way!
You may be asking yourself, “Then what can cause a person to not receive salvation after they have become a Christian?” The answer is found in those 5 conditions that must be met. If one is not met then the promise is of no effect, since the condition of the promise hasn’t been met.
Now, where in those conditions are the words “do not sin” listed? Those words are not there. That means do not sin is NOT a condition of salvation. Even enduring unto the end and repentance does not mean you will never fall to the flesh, as we have also covered in unit 3:4c. Committing a sin, in itself, is simply not a reason that a Christian will lose salvation.
With that said, we need to talk about what sin CAN do to us. There is something called the “deceitfulness of sin” listed in Hebrews 3:13. You see, it isn’t the sin itself that causes a person to lose salvation. It is the result of sin that can possibly cause it.
13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
This is why sin is so dangerous. It isn’t because sin itself can cause you to depart from the faith. It is because sin can harden your heart. It is the hardened heart that leads to unbelief, turning from God, rejecting Jesus, diving further into sin, and eventually ending up in hell.
Compare the effects of a hardened heart with the conditions of salvation.
Not to be saved: Unbelief, turning from God, rejecting Jesus, diving further into sin, and eventually ending in hell.
To be saved: Believe, repent (turn to God), confess Jesus, be baptized (dead to sin), and eventually end up in heaven.
This is a lesson taught in the book of Exodus. Pharaoh hardened his heart against God. At first, he had a choice to obey God or not. He said no, and his heart was hardened a little. God sent the first plague. It’s like God was giving a child a spanking.
The desired result of spanking a child is that they would learn and no longer disobey. But Pharaoh had another choice to obey or not, and instead of learning, he hardened his heart even more. This went on 10 times! Each time Pharaoh had a choice and did not have to harden his heart.
But each time he did it meant his heart was a little more cold toward God. Eventually, this hard heart was so set against God that Pharaoh had his army pursue the Hebrews. He even chased them through the parted waters and towards the pillar of fire, that he could not deny was God. The result was death.
He lost his chance at life little by little with each time he disobeyed God, without learning from his mistake. That is what the deceitfulness of sin listed in Hebrews 3:13 is all about. It wasn’t the first, second, or even third sin that brought about the death of his entire army. It wasn’t the sin at all that caused that. It was the deceitfulness of sin.
A little sin here doesn’t seem too bad. But that is what is deceptive. Sure, it won’t kill you. But it will cause you to harden your heart against God. Eventually, you begin thinking “I would rather commit this sin and ask forgiveness tomorrow.” But you are not promised tomorrow, are you?
It gets even worse. You eventually become so hard hearted that disobedience to God is no big deal to you. You may even start to hate God for spanking you, or for even suggesting you are doing wrong. That hard heart may lead you to reject God altogether. And THAT is how a “Christian” ends up in hell. It isn’t by one, two, three, or any number of sins. It is by letting sin turn your heart hard. Each choice to fight temptation or not is a choice to harden your heart just a little bit or not.
This is because you have not only allowed your flesh to sin, but your very soul (your heart) is slowly turning against God. The soul that sins shall surely die. Not from the bite of sin itself, but from the poison it leaves behind.
So yes, a Christian CAN lose their salvation. But not because of any sin that they committed as long as they are still continuing in the faith. Just because a Christian may sin in the flesh it does not mean they have turned from the faith. Still, the process of sin is a slow hardening of the heart with every choice.
When the heart is completely hardened the person rejects the faith, and then a Christian has fallen from grace. How much sin does it take? There is no set number and no number that God will not forgive. Because even if your heart begins to grow cold it may not have turned into ice just yet. And even if it has, just turn to Jesus and that hard icy heart will melt.
In the next unit, we are going to address the possibility of a return to God for a Christian that leaves the faith.
June 12, 2016 at 1:21 pm | | 2 comments