Can a Christian Fall from Grace?

by Lawrence J. Chesnut


part 1


  PREFACE

 

      First of all, the Bible still lies at the foundation of all fruitful knowledge of God. Furthermore, nearly all earnest Christians reverence the Word of God with sincere hearts and find its sacred utterances to be a most helpful means of understanding the truth and planting the seeds of true faith in the heart.

 

This book is not written to give battle, but to give light. If in parts issue is taken with the popular religious ideas of the day it is not through any lack of sympathy or love for the true biblical teaching. I love that teaching and follow it with pious devotion. The tradition which is rejected is a corruption of the original scriptural teaching which has forced itself upon popular Christianity.

It is a glorious view to behold the scope, and completeness of God’s love and plan of redemption for man as revealed throughout the Scriptures.

To see this great arrangement, and action of God for the present and eternal salvation for all mankind mutilated, limited, and destroyed by the pen knife, and theories of religious modernists, and false leaders and teachers of the many heresies of our day is due cause for the biblical truth of this book to wing its way into the hands, minds, and hearts of every one who will pause to read its pages.

It is heartbreaking to know millions are being denied, and robbed of the very essence and purpose of the coming, and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ in this life and in the life to come.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit use the scriptural truth set forth as a means of present and eternal salvation to all is our sincere desire and prayer.

 

MAN CREATED A FREE MORAL AGENT

 

 The question of freedom is vital to theology. No systematic statement of Christian doctrine can be complete that is silent concerning the will. The question of free will has ever been regarded as the utmost importance to correct understanding of the subject of sin and grace. The view taken of the nature of the will is logically determinative of both theology and religion. The fact of freedom of choice is that which gives character to sin and virtue. If men’s wills are determined as the Calvinists say, sin is not to be rebuked, or blamed, and goodness deserves no reward. Under a law of necessity moral character is impossible.

 

Man possesses free will. Through the use of this power he approaches near unto God. The exercise of this faculty is the greatest privilege given to a creature.

The faculty of conscience shows that man is a moral creature. This power reveals that man is a creature of duty, that he is responsible for his deeds, and responsible to someone.

A function of the conscience is to decide whether an act is right or wrong. The decision is made in the light of the knowledge possessed by the individual. All men have an intuition of right which is quite safe, yet conscience, being subject to education, may wrongly decide as to the rightness or wrongness of an act.

It is also a function of conscience to impel its possessor to do what it has decided is right. The intensity of this urging depends upon the moral state of the person whether his conscience be tender or seared.

When the decision is made or deed is done the conscience sits as judge of the doer, either to approve or to condemn. The decisions of conscience are forced upon the owner, who cannot escape. It is useless to argue with one’s conscience.

All men intuitively consider themselves free. It is only in the realm of speculation that free will is denied. In all the practical things of life man acts like he is free and unconsciously shows this belief in the freedom of his will.

The feeling of responsibility concerning our actions is a proof of freedom. Why should a man feel remorse over an act he was powerless to prevent? And on what ground may God reward or punish men for what they are compelled to do and in which they had no choice? The denial of freedom is the denial of moral responsibility.

Freedom is shown in deliberation. Men hesitate before making a choice, wishing to make the right choice. But why deliberate if there is but one choice a man can make? If he is at liberty to do only what he is predestined to do there is no occasion for deliberation, or delay.

Man’s freedom is limited. Choice must be made between available alternatives. The sinner is represented as not free, and such freedom is promised through Christ. The sinner’s lack of freedom is due to the lack of righteous character. “When I would do good, evil is present with me.” This loss of power is the result of sin and is restored in redemption. Adam was not so limited. Adam’s was not a fixed character, Adam’s pure character did not determine his conduct, will does that. It gives an inclination to do right and to please God. It could be lost, and was lost by Adam. Thus redemption is made necessary.

The biblical account of the original testing and fall of man clearly supports that man was created a free moral agent, endowed with the power of choice (Gen. 3:1–6, 17–19). This included power to choose between alternatives, and does not hold that only one course is possible, and that the will is so determined it must choose that course as the Calvinists teach.

The probation of Adam was a period of testing through which he passed. The result of such a test must be the reward for obedience or punishment for disobedience. Probation was necessary because of man’s moral nature. Since man is a creature of free will it was necessary that he be so situated as to give opportunity for the exercise of this freedom. There can be no exercise of freedom without the opportunity of contrary choice. The temptation to disobey permitted to come to him, gave occasion for choice. Under such circumstances man of necessity used his power of free will.

It is the test that proves the character. Strength of character comes through overcoming temptation to do wrong. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.” The true test of love is obedience. That there may be obedience there must be a law to obey, which also implies power to obey.

God endowed Adam with the highest blessing, giving him a disposition to do right. But such goodness could merit no reward, he was created that way. Blessings undeserved can not bring the pleasure of those that are merited. The reward of obedience carries with it a high satisfaction. This pleasure comes only through doing right because of free choice.

The justice of the test was not impossible nor difficult. Man had free access to all other trees of the Garden of Eden, including the tree of life. He had done without this tree heretofore and it was unnecessary to his comfort or pleasure. He was not asked to forfeit anything hitherto enjoyed, or to do anything but merely to refrain from eating of a certain tree. The requirements were very easy to comply with.

He had power to obey. The power of free will was sufficient to meet this demand. Adam was not too weak to obey so simple a requirement. Besides the power of will his natural bent to righteousness would incline him toward obedience. He was told of the penalty. Man was not moving in the dark, for the results of disobedience was foretold. In this God was perfectly fair with man. A test was necessary, and no fairer test could have been made. To blame God for man’s fall is to blame God for making man.

The Bible story of the fall cannot be misunderstood. There is no reason for not accepting the account as literally true. In addition to the Mosaic account the fall is distinctly mentioned by Paul (see Rom. 5; I Tim. 2:13–14). The whole plan of salvation is based on the fact of the fall. If there was no fall there is no redemption. The downward trend of man is proof of a fall. The prevalence of sin cannot be accounted for on any other assumption. The theory that man is naturally good and constantly getting better lacks much of demonstration.

Several steps are noticed in the temptation. It is well to notice these, for many of our temptations come in much the same way. They will show how a man morally pure can be led into sin.

The first approach was to get man to doubting God’s command. The tempter sought to weaken God’s word. “Yea, hath God said?” was the first reply. Eve’s reply was definite yet slightly weakened.

The second attempt was questioning God’s motive. The fact that the mere eating of this fruit did not appeal to reason or moral sensibilities as anything wrong gave occasion for questioning God’s motives. The tempter boldly charged that God had false motives in keeping man from the tree.

Denying God’s Word was the third approach. The tempter now boldly challenges the truthfulness of God’s Word. He asserts that God knows man will not die by disobeying the command but will be better for it. God’s Word to Adam and Eve was “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die”—Gen. 3:3–4.

Having broken down the defense the appeal is not made to ambition and curiosity. Would it not be great to be like a God? As it is stated, “In the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” —Gen. 3:5. Eve yielded and the world knows the result.

The sin was disobedience. There was deliberate violation of a known law with full knowledge of the consequences. The act especially on the part of Adam was done deliberately and with no excuse. Whatever inducement the temptation presented the responsibility for the act must rest with the will. Steps in the fall included, Eve first listened, looked, desired, took, ate, then gave to Adam who also ate. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin” —James 1:15. When the will gave consent to the act sin entered.

The sentence, “Thou shalt surely die” means more than physical death. Spiritual death is the sure result of sin. It is the inevitable consequence of sin. It could not be otherwise.

The common doctrine of Calvinists is that motive determines choice, and that choice is always and must be according to the strongest motive. To state the theory more in detail, it assumes that we do an act because we will to do it, but that we will to do it only in harmony with our strongest motive and that this motive is determined by character and external influences, and that these are ultimately determined by God so that all events will certainly come to pass as he has predestinated. It is held by some supporters that this theory is compatible with real human freedom, that according to it man chooses freely. But what is the nature of the freedom of this theory? It is freedom only in one direction. It is freedom to do an act but not freedom to refrain from doing something else. It is only such freedom as water has to flow in one direction between the banks of a river, or the hands of a clock to move round the dial when unobstructed. It amounts to nothing more than mechanical freedom as far as objectives are concerned. According to it the happening before is absolutely determinative of the consequence. It admits no power of choice between alternatives. It holds that only one course is possible and that the will is so determined it must choose that course.

The Calvinistic theory of predestination is not scripturely true, nor is it in harmony with, or according to God’s standard and plan of the creation of man in the beginning. It destroys his free moral agency, takes from him the power of choice, and makes of him nothing more than a human robot, which amounts to nothing more than mechanical freedom, determined solely by character, and external influences. God gave Adam the power to choose between alternatives, which means he was endowed with power to obey or disobey, to choose the right and live, or to choose the wrong and die. Adam and Eve were created with a freedom of will, and will is the power of the soul by which it is the conscious author of an intentional act. If man is determined in his acts he is not an agent, but only an instrument. Freedom is an indispensable condition of moral agency.

 

SALVATION IS UNIVERSAL

 

     All men may be saved is clearly taught throughout the Bible. Let us begin by reading and carefully considering several scriptures.

 

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned”—Mark 16:15–16.

The gospel message is for all the world, every creature, not for a select few. Salvation is conditional. The man who is saved must believe; the man who is lost is himself to blame.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved”—John 3:16–17.

The world and whosoever show the universal extent of salvation as provided by the love of God. Again salvation is made conditional.

“Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life”—Rom. 5:18.

In this scripture Christ and Adam are compared. No one will deny the universality of sin. The free gift of salvation is likewise for all men.

“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again”—2 Cor. 5:14–15. The universality of spiritual death is again compared with the atonement of Christ. He died for all.

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour: Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time”—1 Tim. 2:3–6.

It is God’s desire that all men be saved. Therefore it can not be that he has chosen to save only a select few or that one soul shall be lost because of God’s decree. Again we are told Christ’s death was for all.

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man”—Heb. 2:9.

“And he (Christ) is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of whole world”—1 John 2:2.

The purpose of Christ’s incarnation was to taste death for every man. These scriptures are so explicit that no possible room is left for a limited atonement. The principal views of the extent of the atonement are (1) Universalism, which teaches that all men shall be saved. (2) Calvinism, or predestination, which holds that God has chosen to save a select few. (3) Arminianism, or the doctrine that salvation is provided for all who will accept it. We will note details of these views.

 

THE CONDITIONS FOR SALVATION

 

          God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the Bible is strictly conditional. Notice carefully the voice of scripture.

 

“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

“And saying, The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel”—Mark 1:14–15.

Jesus preached the conditions of salvation as repentance and faith. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him”—John 3:36.

Eternal life is received through believing on Christ. To fail to believe means death. “Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”—Acts 2:38.

Peter insists on repentance as a condition of salvation. The Act of baptism testified to repentance.

“Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord”—Acts 3:19. Repentance here is associated with conversion and the blotting out of sins.

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent”—Acts 17:30. The command to all men is to repent. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”—Rom. 5:1. Our justification is obtained through faith in Christ.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God”—Eph. 2:8. Salvation is of grace but is appropriated through faith.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”—I John 1:9. Confession of sins is a mark of repentance. Upon confession forgiveness is promised.

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you”—Matt. 6:14. The forgiveness of our sins is conditioned on our forgiving the trespasses of others. From these texts it is seen that the main Bible conditions for salvation are faith and repentance.

It is very necessary that salvation be bestowed on conditions. Man’s moral constitution is such that his salvation must be a matter of personal choice. And choice must be given expression in acts. If it were God’s plan to save man unconditionally he should have so dealt with Adam as to prevent the fall.

We are well aware of the fact that God desires the salvation of all men. The fervency of this desire is shown in what he has sacrificed to save the world. In view of this fact we can not think that God would place unnecessary obstructions in the way of man’s salvation, nor require purposeless conditions of him. We may expect to find conditions of salvation only such as, according to the nature of the case, are essential.

No ceremony can be essential to salvation. God can save without ceremony and does save. No ceremony can be of sufficient importance to be made a necessary condition of the salvation of an immortal soul.

The necessary conditions are such as man must, according to the nature of the case, meet to accept salvation and as will vindicate the holiness of God. For example, how can a man accept salvation who does not believe in it? How can a man accept pardon who denies being guilty? How can a man be saved from sin who will not give up sin? How is God’s holiness to be upheld if he pardons the sinner than allows him to continue in sin? Careful thought will direct us to what are necessary conditions for salvation, and these are the very conditions required in the Bible.

 

THE SPIRITUAL BIRTH

 

           The scripture instructs us to compare spiritual things with spiritual, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual”—1 Cor. 2:12–13.

 

The spiritual birth is something of heavenly origin. The words of Jesus to Nicodemus, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”—John 3:3–5.

It is the act, or fact of coming into spiritual life. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life”—John 5:24.

It is a spiritual resurrection. “And you hath he quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins”—Eph. 2:1. It is a receiving of Christ the Light. “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light (Christ) which lighteth every man that cometh into the world”—John 1:8–9. A change of nature. “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others”—Eph. 2:3. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”—2 Peter 1:4.

A change of state. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who were sometimes far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ”—Eph. 2:13.

It is a change of location. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son”—Col. 1:13. A present spiritual translation from darkness (sin) to his kingdom of light and holiness.

A change of living. “But now being made free from sin, and become servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life”—Rom. 6:22. “The oath (promise) which he sware (made) to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand (power) of our enemies (devil) might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life”—Luke 1:73–75.

A change of service. “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin”—John 8:34. “Ye (sinners) are of your father the devil, and the lust of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there was no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it”—John 8:44. This clearly shows that one who is committing sin is doing service for the devil, and is not a servant of God. A change in condition. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son”—Col. 1:13. Here the born again believer in Christ is pictured as being (not going to be) translated from the kingdom and power of the devil, into the kingdom of God. This is the present inheritance of all believers in Christ.

The spiritual birth is a new creation. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature (new creation) old things are passed away: behold, all things become new”—2 Cor. 5:17. Here the converted, believer in Christ meaning the one who has accepted Christ is shown as a new spiritual creation, with old (meaning sinful) things, and living gone, being replaced by an experience, and life of holiness.

In summing up the scriptural picture of the new birth, it is shown as receiving spiritual life, a spiritual resurrection, and as receiving of Christ the Light. It is a change of nature, desire, state, location, living, service, condition, meaning a completely new creation, in a state of holiness.

 

CAN THE SPIRITUAL BIRTH BE LOST?

 

                Let us use some common sense as well as proper scriptural interpretation. The spiritual birth is the receiving of the Spirit of Christ. So to state it plainly the birth is the Spirit and the Spirit is the birth. Can one lose the Spirit of Christ? If so, he has lost his birth, he has fallen from grace.

 

1. This possibility is taught in Christ’s statements. Note the direct statements of Christ. “Ye (born again believers) are the salt of the earth: but if the salt (Christian) have lost his savour (grace) wherewith shall it be salted (saved)? it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out (destroyed), and to be trodden under foot of men”—Matt. 5:13. The point of comparison between the disciples and salt shows the power of salt (grace) will prevent corruption (backsliding). The intimation that without this power the salt is wholly useless was to excite them to a careful preservation of the sacred power (grace) instructed to them lest they lose this grace out of their hearts. The very fact of Jesus using salt as a comparison was to show that salt to be true salt had to possess this saving and preserving power. But that there is the possibility for salt to lose this power, so it is possible for one who has been saved to lose, or fall from grace. The casting forth is a figure of the spiritual destruction of the backslider.

“Salt is good; but if the salt have lost his savour wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill: but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear”—Luke 15:34–35. “And ye (disciples) shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth (holds fast faith) to the end shall be saved (preserved from destruction)”—Matt. 10:22. This shows that if one fails in time of persecutions he will be lost.

2. It’s possibility is taught in the parables of Christ. The possibility of one who has been saved falling from grace and being eternally lost is taught in the parables of Christ. The parable makes this clear. “And the Lord said, who is that faithful and wise steward (Christian), whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But if that servant (Christian) say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat (become unchristian), the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and become drunken (sinners); The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and an hour when he is not aware, and will cut asunder (cut him off) and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers (lost, fallen ones)”—Luke 12:42–46.

The parable of the vine and the branches (John 15:1–16). Read all, but note carefully, “If a man abide not (continue not) in me (Christ) he is cast forth (cut off) as a branch, and is withered (dead) and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned (destroyed).”

The foolish virgins is another clear example of the possibility of losing the grace of God out of the soul and being eternally lost. These were all virgins (Christians), all had lamps (light).

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom (Christ). And five of them were wise, and five of them were foolish.… And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; (meaning end of the world) go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil (grace) for our lamps are gone out”—Matt. 25:1–2, 5–8.

It is evident they were once lighted. These persons had at one time hearts illuminated and warmed by the presence and love of Christ. But they had backslidden from the salvation of God, and now they are excluded from heaven, because, through their carelessness, they have let the light in them become darkness, and have not applied in time for a fresh, experience of the salvation of God.

“The door was shut. “ Dreadful and fatal words, no hope remains. Nothing but death, or the coming of Christ can shut the door but death may surprise one in his sins and then despair is his only portion.

3. It is taught in the warning of the epistles. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (from grace, backslide)”—1 Cor. 10:12.

“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity, but toward thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness (holiness); otherwise thou shalt be cut off”—Rom. 11:22.

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions (sins) of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (been saved) they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known (become Christians) the way of righteousness, than, after they had known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire”—2 Peter 2:20–22.

“The pollutions of the world,” meaning sin in general. Things that infect, pollute, and defile. The world is here represented as one large putrid marsh, or corrupt body, sending off its destructiveness everywhere, and in every direction, so none can escape its contagion, and none can be healed of this great curse and epidemic disease of sin but by the mighty power of God. Now through (in) the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It is clear these sinners spoken of here were one time soundly converted. But if, after having been healed (delivered), and so having escaped sin, and get entangled, enfolded, enveloped with them, then the latter end will be worse than the beginning.

The soul that has been converted to God, having had all its powers and faculties redeemed from sin, is now repolluted, is more capable of iniquity than before, and can bear more expressly the image of the devil. Having fallen into deplorable lower condition spiritually, with less hope of ever being recovered, liable to greater punishment, it would have been better for them not to have known this high and holy state of grace.

As applied here in the scripture it is very expressive. The poor sinner having heard the gospel of Christ, was led to loathe and reject sin; and on his application to God for mercy, was washed, or cleansed from his unrighteousness. But he is here represented as taking it up again, what he had before rejected, and defiling himself in that form which he had been cleansed. Here is a sad proof of the possibility of falling from grace, and from the high degree of holiness.

These had escaped from the sin that was in the world. They had experienced true repentance, and cast off their life of sin. They had been washed from their filthiness, through the blood of Christ, yet, after all, they went back, got entangled with their old sins, swallowed down their formerly rejected lusts, and wallowed anew in the mire of corruption. It is no wonder that God should say “The latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” Reason, nature, and divine justice says it ought to be so.

But how dreadful is this state. How dangerous when the person has abandoned himself to his old sins. Yet it is not said that it is impossible for him to return to God, though his case be deplorable, it is not hopeless. The sinner may yet be clean, and the dead spiritually may be resurrected. Because he was one time saved does not assure him eternal salvation. This is based solely on the backsliding one returning, and adhering strictly to God’s conditional plan for redemption.

Salvation does not destroy man’s free moral agency, nor make a machine out of him, but leaves him the power of choice. He can choose evil and fall from grace the same as accept Christ and choose grace.

When Christ enters the soul He is its light, its life, its birth, and resurrection, changing its nature, desire, state, location, condition, living, and service. This high and holy state will be maintained as long as one lives by God’s conditional laws of spiritual life clearly taught throughout the Bible. To rebel against, and become disobedient to Christ and His word will grieve Him, cause His departure from our soul. Since Christ, and His Spirit brings about all that has been stated scripturally concerning the spiritual birth, for Him to depart, means. The spiritual birth is lost, and the soul reverts back to the deplorable, depraved state it was in before being converted. Yes, it is biblically, and experimentally possible to fall from grace.

 Part 2 of 3

 

THE BIBLE PLAINLY DECLARES THAT SOME DID FALL FROM GRACE

 

Some “departed from” the faith. “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. Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron”—1 Tim. 4:1–2.

Some “cast off” the faith. “But the younger widows refuse; for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith”—1 Tim. 5:11–12.

Some “made shipwreck” of faith. “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme”—1 Tim. 1:19–20.

Some “turned aside” unto Satan. “For some are already turned aside after Satan”—1 Tim. 5:15. The agency of the great adversary, the devil is promoting the defection of those who have once entered upon the Christian life is here recognized by the Apostle Paul. The fearful possibility of a fatal and final turning aside by true believers is here clearly implied.

Some had become “cursed children,” forsaking the “right way” and going “astray,” “Having eyes full of adultery that they cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls (unsettled Christians); an heart they have exercised with covetous practices: cursed children: which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray following the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness”—2 Peter 2:14–15. Some had fallen from grace, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel”—Gal. 1:6. These had been saved. They had begun in the Spirit. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”—Gal. 3:3.
They had been bewitched. “O foolish Galatians (Christians) who hath bewitched (fascinated) you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you”—Gal. 3:1.

“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace”—Gal. 5:4.

These scriptures clearly teach that a number of people in the days of the Apostle Paul, accepted Christ and His gospel, were spiritually born again, converted, saved from sin, and error, and lifted to the high state of the redemptive grace of Christ, who later forsook the way of the New Testament gospel, and fell from this lofty plain of holiness of heart and living, reverting back into sin and error. That Bible record gives many such instances.

The issue in this matter is not will a Christian fall from grace, or must he fall from grace, but can he fall from grace? As set forth the scriptures teach this is possible.

 

FALLING FROM GRACE TAUGHT BY EXAMPLE

 

King Saul of Old. He was the first King of Israel, was remarkable for his strength and activity, of gigantic stature, taller by head and shoulders than the rest of the people, in personal appearance “every inch a King.” He was anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel. “And it was so that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him and he prophesied among them”—I Sam. 10:9–10. This makes it clear he was God called, God anointed, with the Spirit of God upon him, enabling him to do the works of God. He disobeyed God, was rejected, and died on his own sword. This great leader and man of God lost God, his glory and power in this life, and heaven in the world beyond.

 

Judas Iscariot by transgression fell from the high plane of redemptive grace. Judas with the other eleven was called and commissioned to preach the New Testament gospel, heal the sick, cast out devils (Matt. 10:1–5; Mark 3:13–19). Judas performed his work with the others. “And he called unto him the twelve, (Judas one of twelve) and began to send them forth by two and two, and gave them power over unclean spirits.… And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them”—Mark 6:7, 12–13; Luke 9:1–2. If Judas had been a devil from the beginning he would not have had the power to perform these works.

 

Christ said that God had “given” Judas to him once. “While I was with them in the world I have kept them in thy name; those that thou gavest me I have kept and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition. That the scripture might be fulfilled”—John 17:12. Peter said that Judas obtained part in the ministry. “For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry”—Acts 1:17. Peter also said that “Judas by transgression fell”—Acts 1:25. Jesus said that Judas was finally lost (John 17:12). Judas only became the son of perdition because of his wilful malice, his neglect, and abuse of the grace and instructions of Christ and was condemned through his own covetousness, faithlessness, treachery, and despair.

 

Demas, “my fellow-laborer” (Philemon 24). He is saved at this time, and a fellow-laborer of Paul. Demas “greets you” (Col. 4:14). Nothing is said about his labors in the work of the Lord now. Demas “hath forsaken me having loved this present world … “—2 Tim. 4:10. If Demas ever recovered himself from the present world we do not know it. Angels, meaning God’s messengers, or preachers, and leaders in the patriarchal age, the world before the flood that disobeyed God, sinned and fell. “And the Angels (minister, messengers, preachers) which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation (patriarchal standards of God) he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day”—Jude 6. God did not permit, allow, sanction, or even tolerate disobedience in any, even among the greatest, and earliest of his messengers and leaders.

 

The Bishop, meaning pastor of the Church at Ephesus fell. “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 candle stick out of his place, except thou repent”—Rev. 2:5.

 

The writer of the book of Hebrews shows the possibility of falling. “Let us (believers) labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief”—Heb. 4:11.

 

It is possible for sanctified people to backslide and fall from grace. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift (saved) and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost (sanctified), And have tasted the good word of God (obedient disciples) and the powers of the world to come (the supernatural), If they shall fall away (apostatize or fall from grace) to renew them again to repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame”—Heb. 6:4–6.

 

This teaches the possibility that one saved and sanctified, can fall from grace. It does not teach, however, that if one is saved and sanctified, and backslides, falls from grace, he cannot be saved again. It is clear that when one falls, or apostatizes, there is the danger his heart will become so hard he will not repent, or to renew him to repentance. Jesus says, “I tell you nay, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”—Luke 13:3. There is no salvation short of repentance. If one comes repenting he can be saved. If his heart is so hard he will not repent, there is no possibility of salvation.
A great number of the Jews fell. “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell (from a state of grace and favor with God) severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou shalt also be cut off”—Rom. 11:22.

 

SCRIPTURAL WARNINGS AGAINST FALLING FROM GRACE

 

A warning against an impossibility would be ridiculous and an insult to God’s intelligence. Note carefully the various warnings sounded in the Bible against falling from grace.

 

About becoming careless in this life. “And take heed to yourselves (you disciples), lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares … watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of God”—Luke 21:34, 36. Our being ready for the judgment day is conditioned by our watching and praying.

 

About being over confident. “But many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness”—1 Cor. 10:5. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”—1 Cor. 10:12.

 

About continuing in God’s goodness, as we have already considered (Rom. 11:22) and about being overcome as we have also noted (2 Peter 2:20–22).

 

Against getting bitterness into the heart. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of (fall from) the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled”—Heb 12:15.
Against the Christian sinning a “sin unto death.” “If any man see his brother (in the Lord) sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not a sin unto death. There is a sin unto death (eternal death) I do not say that he shall pray for it”—1 John 5:16. This shows the possibility of a Christian falling and sinning a sin that is beyond the reach of God’s mercy, or never will be forgiven.

 

Against not being sanctified. “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end”—Heb. 3:14. “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it”—Heb. 4:1. Being ready to meet God is strictly conditional as the scriptures clearly prove.

 

The Bible warns against becoming intemperate. The great man of God, the Apostle Paul, “But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway”—1 Cor. 9:27. This text clearly shows us that particular persons are not in Holy writ represented as elected unconditionally to “eternal life,” but that believers in general are elected to enjoy the Christian privileges on earth, which, if they abuse, those very elect persons will become reprobate. Saint Paul was certainly an elect person, and yet he declares it was possible he himself might become a reprobate. He actually would have become such if he had not thus kept his body under, even though he had been so long an elect person, a Christian, and an apostle.

 

Against becoming devoured. “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour”—I Peter 5:8. This text shows that it is possible for any and all Christians to be overcome by the devil and be destroyed spiritually in this world, and lost in the world to come. The exhortation is strongly given to be watchful and diligent at all times, and in all places.

 

SOME OBJECTIONS CONSIDERED

 

Some say Christ gives eternal life. If we can lose it, it would not be eternal. The Bible teaches that eternal life is strictly conditional. God has created man a free moral agent, with the power of choice for life or death. Man will live his God given allotted time here on earth if he lives by the laws of physical life. This being true, God has given man the right to forfeit physical life if he so desires. This can be done by committing suicide or violating the many rules and laws for safety of this physical body, and life. Man has power to forfeit his physical living any moment he so desires. The laws of spiritual life is likewise conditional which will be considered in detail later.

 

There is a common statement often stated by those who believe in the Calvinistic theory of eternal security. “If once born you cannot be unborn.” This is true physically, but not spiritually. We are exhorted to compare spiritual things with spiritual (1 Cor. 2:13).

 

The consideration of a physical birth is in order here. A physical birth is the bringing forth of life in a physical form, a beginning, or origin in a fleshly body. It is a law of the physical that we are not born to be unborn, this is a physical impossibility, but we are born to die physically. This will happen when the laws for physical life cease to function, or are not in proper operation. Physical death will never happen as long as all the laws for physical life are fully and properly adhered to and functioning.

 

Did you ever hear of anything being born that could not die? Certain conditions enacted will forfeit life spiritually and physically. A dead child belongs no longer to the parents, likewise, a sinning individual belongs no longer to God. He is spiritually dead. When God forgives and saves from sin he gives eternal life, and no man can take it away. “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”

 

“My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand”—John 10:28–29. This reveals what God does in the way of salvation is eternal in nature, and that one cannot take away another’s salvation, but it does not teach that the one possessing it cannot forfeit this spiritual life, or ceases to have the power of choice, and is unable to act at will.
The Bible says, “The soul that sinneth it shall die”—Ezek. 18:4. Man loses spiritual life by sinning which means dying. When a man sins, or dies spiritually he will be blotted out of the book of life. “And the Lord said unto Moses, whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book”—Exodus 32:33. “Behold therefore the goodness and the severity of God: on them which fell severity, but toward thee goodness; if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou shall also be cut off”—Rom. 11:22.

 

This makes it clear that it is possible for the soul to sin after being born again, converted, and saved. It also teaches that it is possible for a believer in Christ to fall from grace, be cut off, and lost forever.
When one disobeys God, he will be blotted from, or have his part, or name taken out of the book of life (Rev. 22:18–19). God’s work makes it clear that “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”—Rev. 20:15.

 

Always keep in mind the spirit of Christ entering the soul is the birth, and the birth is the soul receiving the Spirit of Christ. The continual abiding of Christ in the soul is strictly conditional on the part of man. If man lives by the standard of his word, and the laws of spiritual life He will remain. If one manifests disobedience and sins, Christ is grieved, and will depart from that soul. When Christ departs, his Spirit departs for He is the Spirit. When His spirit departs the birth departs. Bear in mind it is impossible to have spiritual life, when the life-giving Spirit is gone. When this condition exists the soul reverts back to its former state, which means separated from God, lost, and is as though it had never been saved.
Another thought to remember, God or Christ never relinquishes the power of choice, or freedom to act in accordance with His word. To state when he once moved into the soul of man that he was unable to move out would say, when a believer accepted Christ, Christ would forfeit all His rights of the power of choice, and be powerless to act according to His divine plan as revealed in the Scriptures. This means he ceases to be deity, and the all-powerful God, and Savior the Bible speaks so much about. To say that all trespasses, past, present and future are forgiven when one trusts in Christ is gross error.

 

Salvation does not destroy man’s free moral agency, nor make a machine out of him. But leaves him the power of choice. He can choose evil and fall from grace, the same as accept Christ and choose grace.

 

ETERNAL SECURITY

 

This doctrine teaches that if one is saved he will be eternally saved and cannot be lost. Many honest Christians believe this, but it is dangerous in that it is gross error, causes believers to become careless, and backsliders to be eternally lost.

 

1. If the doctrine is true, we must admit the following facts.

 

Man, after he is saved is no longer a free moral agent. That the devil has been a fool, ever since the Garden of Eden, in soliciting believers to backslide. That we Christians are safer than Adam and Eve. God said to Adam and Eve, “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die”—Gen. 3:3–4. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, partook of the forbidden fruit. The results, “So He (God) drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life”—Gen. 3:24. If God would have ever allowed or tolerated sin, it would have been in the beginning. It further means that Christ and New Testament writers are guilty of folly in warning the Christians against falling. That God will condone sin in a Christian while condemning sin in a sinner.

 

2. God’s part of salvation is eternally secure for us.

 

Christ made one eternal atonement for sin. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”—Heb. 5:9.

 

Christ’s death made possible an eternal relationship between God and man. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”—John 3:16.

 

The life imparted by the Spirit is eternal in essence, but not eternal in that it is impossible to forfeit it. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God: that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God”—I John 5:11–13.

 

The Holy Spirit which effects our salvation, is eternal in nature. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”—Heb. 9:14. God had made an “everlasting covenant” with his people “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant”—Heb. 13:20.

 

Christ built a Church that “the gates of hell cannot destroy.” “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”—Matt. 16:18.

 

Note all of this is on God’s side, and has nothing to do with man’s will in the matter.

 

3. Salvation to us is eternal if we cooperate with God’s plan.

 

This little word “if,” meaning on condition. In formal usage, if is used to express conditions. Notice carefully the voice from God’s word. The nature of the original creation reveals that man was created a moral being, with the power of choice, and freedom to act according to his will. One is not a moral being if he cannot fall from grace. First man, Adam, was put on probation, meaning a testing period. God told Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”—Gen. 2:17. This proves that life was given to man on condition of obedience.

 

Life is promised on conditions we come to God and forsake sin. “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, and call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and he will abundantly pardon”—Isa. 55:6–7

 

If we repent. “I tell you, nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”—Luke 13:3. If we confess. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”—I John 1:9. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth, and forsaketh them shall have mercy”—Prov. 28:13. Man must pray. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”—Rom. 10:13. Believe, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”—Acts 16:31.

 

If we continue. “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God; on the which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off”—Rom. 11:22. “And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind, by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.

 

“In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, and unblameable, and unreproveable in his sight.

 

“If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister”—Col. 1:21–23.

 

If it remains. “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father”—I John 2:24.

 

If we abide in him. “Abide in me, and I in you as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

 

“I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.

 

“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned”—John 15:4–6. Jesus places strong emphasis on continued spiritual life, and relationship with him is conditioned on our abiding in him. This means we have power to forsake him and be lost if we so desire. If we follow. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”—John 10:27. “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be; if any man serve me, him will my Father honour”—John 12:26. Note how Jesus stresses the condition “if.” Not compulsory, but voluntarily.

 

If we abound. “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”—2 Peter 1:8. If we hold fast. “But Christ as a Son over his own house; whose house are we (Christians) if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end”—Heb. 3:6. “Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown”—Rev. 3:11. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death”—John 8:51.

 

Note carefully; all of these “ifs” teach that if we do not meet these conditions we forfeit the divine life in us. This union to be eternal must be alive and continuing and not a mere once-for-all affair that we can presume upon.

 

BACKSLIDING

 

To backslide means to fall from grace, to apostatize, or lose the life of the spirit out of the heart after one has been converted. There are two main schools of thought on this subject.

 

1. The Calvinists teach one cannot backslide and be finally lost, once he has been saved.

 

2. The Arminians teach that one may be saved and afterwards forfeit this divine life by yielding to temptation, and unless he is restored, will be eternally lost.

 

1. The Scriptures Teach the Possibility of Backsliding.

 

This possibility is taught by the direct statements of Christ (Matt. 5:13, 10:21–22), and by the parables of Christ (Luke 12:41–46; Matt. 25:1–12; with John 15:1–16). It is also taught in the warning of the Epistles (I Cor. 10:10–12; Rom. 11:22; with 2 Peter 2:20–22).

 

The scriptures on the direct statements of Christ, the parables of Christ, and the warnings of the epistles have been considered, and given in detail in a former part of this book, hence it would be superfluous to use space here for repetition.

 

2. Some Reasons Why People Backslide.

 

Their conversion is too shallow to begin with. “Those by the wayside are those that hear; then cometh the Devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved”—Luke 8:13.

 

They do not watch and pray like the disciples in the garden. “And when He arose up from prayer, and was come to His disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation”—Luke 22:45–46. Some start drifting and following afar off, like Peter, the account given in Luke 22:54–60. Some will not go on to perfection, or entire sanctification, hence are found backsliding, and dying in the wilderness of sin, because of lack of obedience to, and belief in God, and his word (Heb. 3:16–19, with Heb. 4:1–6).

 

There are some who refuse to walk in the light. “Then Jesus said unto them, yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them”—John 12:35–36.

 

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”—John 8:12. Others turn aside to the world. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God”—James 4:4.

 

3. Conditions of the Backslider.

 

Filled with his own ways. “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways, and a good man shall be satisfied with himself”—Prov. 14:14.

 

Miserable and unhappy. “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee; know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts”—Jer. 2:19.

 

“Then Judas which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the Chief Priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood, And they said, what is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself”—Matt. 27:3–5.

 

A backslider is worse off than before he was saved. This truth is given in 2 Peter 2:20–22, which has been considered in detail previously in this book.

 

4. The Destiny of the Backslider.

 

He will be chastened in this life. “And that servant, which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: And to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more”—Luke 12:47–48.

 

He will be eternally lost. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God”—Ps. 9:17, with Matt. 24:45–51. Note carefully the attitude and ways of this unfaithful and unwise servant, and the ending and result of his life.

 

A “sorer” punishment than physical death awaits the backslider, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, and unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace?”—Heb. 10:28–29.

 

God loves and will restore the backslider if he will return, confess, repent, pray and believe, “Go and proclaim these words toward the North, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep my anger forever.… Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God”—Jer. 3:12, 22.

 Part 3 of 3

WILL THE BACKSLIDER EVENTUALLY COME BACK?

The issue here is not “can” or “may” he come back, but “must” and “will” he always come back before he dies? The Bible is the only answer. In the scriptures the statement is made, “That in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established”—Matt. 18:16. In answer to this question three Biblical examples will be considered.

1. One who fell and did comeback.

In Matt. 26:69–75 the record is given where Peter the apostle began following the Lord afar off, lost his experience of salvation, and was found warming by the enemy’s fire, in a backslidden condition.
He lied and swore to show others that he had backslidden. The crowing of the cock, and the look of Jesus convicted him. He went out and wept bitterly, and was reclaimed, and restored by the Lord.

2. One who fell and we do not know how he ended his life.

This one’s name was Demas. Demas “my fellow-laborer” (Philemon 24). He is saved at this time. Demas “greets you” (Col. 4:14). Nothing is said about his labor now. Demas, “hath forsaken me having loved this present world.”—2 Tim. 4:10. If Demas ever recovered himself from this world no record is found supporting it.

3. One who fell and we know did not come back.

Judas with the other eleven was called and commissioned to preach, heal the sick and to cast out devils (Matt. 10:1–5; Mark 3:13–19). Judas performed his work with the others (Mark 6:7, 12–13; Luke 9:1–6). If Judas had been a devil from the beginning, he would not have had the power to perform these works.
Christ said that God had “given” Judas to him once (John 17:12). This proves that he was one time saved. Peter said that Judas obtained “part in the ministry” (Acts 1:17). Peter also said that Judas by transgression fell (Acts 1:24–25). Jesus said that Judas was finally lost (John 17:12).

4. Steps that led to his downfall.

He murmured and found fault. “Then saith one of his disciples Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was therein”—John 12:4–6.

He trifled with the idea of selling out. “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, what will you give me, and I will deliver him (Christ) unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him”—Matt. 26:14–16.

The decision was finally made, “And after the sop (not before) Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly”—John 13:27. This proves the devil was not in the heart prior to this time, but only preparing him so he could enter. The specific time of the devil entering is stated here.
The open act of betrayal was committed. “And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve came and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders and people.
“Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him”—Matt. 26:47–50.

Note the awful consequences reaped. “Now this man (Judas) purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out”—Acts 1:18.
This makes it clear that one can be saved, mightily used of God, trifle with the devil, become ensnared by his power, and finally be lost for all eternity. John the beloved expresses a timely message (I John 2:1–2). “My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate (to speak in favor of) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

“And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
This teaches that a Christian is not to sin, but if he is overtaken, backslides, and goes back into sin, he has the privilege of returning as Peter did, bitterly repenting and being restored to a biblical experience of salvation. The Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”—2 Peter 3:9. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”—Rev. 22:17. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”—Rom. 10:13.

Dear sinner and backslider, God loves you, and wants you to return to him and receive his provision to save you and restore your soul to the high plain of joyful and holy living.

PREDESTINATION

No scriptural salvation, or preservation is complete that omits a consideration of the question of predestination. Some of the questions already discussed in this book logically lead to the question of predestination.

1. The Calvinistic Theory.

Calvinistic predestinarianism has held a large place in protestant theology in the past, and has been a matter of extended controversy. The discussion of it has decreased in recent years, partly because of modifications in the views of Calvinists, yet the Calvinistic system remains substantially unchanged, and represents the belief of multitudes of professors of Christianity.

A clear distinction should be made between the scripture doctrine of predestination and that theory of predestination held by Calvinists. The following is the first notable five points that differentiate Calvinism from scriptural teaching. The Scriptures teach: (1) Conditionality of salvation, (2) universality of the atonement, (3) moral freedom, (4) resistibility of grace, and, (5) possibility of final apostasy.

The counter tenets of the Calvinistic system are: (1) Predestination, (2) limited atonement, (3) moral necessity, (4) irresistibility of saving grace, and, (5) the absolute final perseverance of believers.

Each of these two groups of doctrines is self-consistent. To hold any one of the five points logically requires the holding of all others in that group. If the doctrine of particular predestination were true in the sense that only a part of the race were ordained to salvation then it would be unreasonable, as true Calvinists hold that atonement should be made for that portion which God has decided not to save. Moral freedom would be excluded in favor of moral inability, as there could be no power to choose what does not exist. The irresistibility of saving grace would follow, for none can resist the purposes of the sovereign will of God. And if God had unconditionally predestinated one to be saved in heaven, he will necessarily cause him, not only to be converted, but to continue faithful to the end.

Of these five points we have already discussed the questions of the conditionality of salvation, the extent of the atonement, and free will. Now we will give special consideration to the theories of predestination and final perseverance.

No higher authority on the Calvinistic theory of predestination can be cited than the Westminster Confession of Faith. It has been revised at different times, but it is still substantially unchanged on the point of predestination.

It reads “By the decree of God for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. These men and angels, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it can not be either increased or diminished. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them or any other thing in the creature, as conditions and causes moving him thereto, and all to the praise of his glorious grace. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means there unto. Wherefore, they who are elected being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ; are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only. “The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own good will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and ordain to dishonor, and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.”

Predestination as here described has its basis in the Calvinistic doctrine of divine decrees. According to this doctrine all events are the results of decrees of God from eternity. Decrees concerning the destiny of men and angels are called predestination. The doctrines of decrees is stated in the Westminster Creed as follows. “God from all eternity did by the most holy counsel of his own will freely and unchangeably ordain whatever comes to pass.” Disproof of the doctrine of particular predestination will furnish sufficient refutation of the objectional aspects of the doctrine of divine decrees. Predestination is used of the divine predetermination of the destinies of men, both good and evil. Those ordained to salvation are said to be the elect. Those ordained to be lost are said to be reprobates.

2. The Elect

In the Calvinistic sense of the term, election means that choice by God of particular persons to enjoy everlasting blessedness, which choice is made by him. “Without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them or anything in the creature, as conditions or causes moving him thereto.” Election in the Calvinistic view is wholly in God’s sovereign will, and in no sense is it determined by the will or character of those elected. The question which here confronts us for answer is, is Calvinist election identical with the election described in the Scriptures? Or what is the teaching of the Scriptures?

The scriptures mention three kinds of election. The first is the election of individuals to perform some particular service. Isaac and Jacob were chosen of God instead of Ishmael and Esau to be the ancestry of Christ. Cyrus was chosen to build the temple, and the twelve apostles were elected by Jesus to fill that high office in his church. But no such election insured them against missing everlasting blessedness. “Judas by transgression fell”—Acts 1:25. And Paul recognized the possibility of his becoming a “castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27). Election in this sense has no more to do with one’s being unconditionally chosen to final salvation than does one’s being called to the gospel ministry today. Neither can it be shown that such election was irrespective of one’s character and qualifications for the performance of such work.

The second kind of election referred to in the Bible is that of nations or groups of persons to exalt religious privileges. A notable example of this is Israel, which was elected to be the bearer of true religion and recipient of revelation prior to the advent of Christ. But the election of this nation, as a nation, did not result in an unconditional election of final salvation of the individual composing it.
If this sort of election included the final blessedness of each individual, then rebellious persons like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, idolaters such as Ahab and Athaliar, and the betrayer and the crucifiers of our Lord will certainly all be saved.

Christians especially are called the “elect.” As a class they are elected of God to salvation and future blessedness. As the Jews were once God’s chosen people, so now he has elected that all those who believe shall be his people. This is the great truth taught in Rom. 9:24, 30. Whoever chooses to become a believer, becomes one of the elect. Election of believers, as a class, to salvation through Christ does not imply that particular individuals are unconditionally and infallibly predestinated to it nor that those who become members have their salvation secured against the possibility of apostasy. Neither does the conditional election here described exclude, or imply the necessary reprobation of those who fail of election through unbelief.

A third kind of election is that of individuals to divine sonship, and future blessedness on the ground of divine foresight of their disposition freely to choose salvation. In the true biblical view of personal election men are not unconditionally chosen in order to faith, obedience, and holiness, but because of divine foresight of faith and obedience. This conditional predestination is the only kind that is compatible with the definite scriptural teaching of the conditionality of salvation, which has already been considered. Also it cannot be shown that any text of scripture teaches other than a conditional election of individuals. Jesus said, “I have chosen (elected) you out of the world”—John 15:19. But such choosing was by his changing their hearts, which according to other texts, is conditional upon their forsaking the world.
Paul said, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”—2 Thess. 2:13. The belief of truth is not the result of the choosing, but the choosing is through foresight of that belief. Peter also writes to his brethren in Christ that they are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”—2 Peter 1:2. In this text election is said to be according to the divine foreknowledge, but that the election consists in having the work of salvation effected in their hearts. None are ever said to be of the elect who are not saved.

A text which is especially depended upon by Calvinists for support of their doctrine of election reads as follows, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: of whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified”—Rom 8:29–30.

In interpreting this 29th verse it is to be read forward and not backward as the Calvinistic interpretation would require. No unconditional predestination is the ground of God’s foreknowledge of particular persons to be saved. The predestination mentioned in this text is because of the divine foreknowledge. Foreknow, means simply knowing before hand. To foreknow as here used is to know beforehand that particular persons referred to will freely accept the salvation of Christ when it is offered to them. With this sense of “foreknow” what follows is clear.

God foresaw that some would freely choose to love and serve him. Therefore he predetermined and made provisions accordingly that they should be “conformed to the image of his Son,” through regeneration by the Spirit. But it was not enough that he should foreknow that some persons would choose to love and obey him nor yet that he should predetermine to save them. “Them he also called” through the preaching of the gospel. These heeded the call of the gospel and consequently were “justified” or pardoned. Lastly, those thus justified are “glorified” with God’s presence now and the blessing of heaven hereafter. No support whatever is given to Calvinistic election by this text. It is only when one’s mind is previously filled with the Calvinistic view that he can suppose that theory is supported by this text.

Another text much relied on by predestinarians reads: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”—Eph. 1:4–5.

For different reasons this text fails to support Calvinistic election. First there is no proof that the divine election and predestination to adoption is unconditional on the part of those elected. It cannot be shown that the divine election of these before the foundation of the world was not on the ground of divine foresight of faith and love on their part. Such must be the nature of any personal election to salvation in the light of the common scripture teaching of the conditionality of salvation. Again it cannot be shown that this passage teaches a personal election. The context shows clearly that it affirms not a personal, but a collective election to the privileges of the gospel.

Here the word is used to point out God’s fixed purpose of predetermination to bestow on the Gentiles the blessing of the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ, which adoption had been before granted to the Jewish people. And the apostle points out that all this was foredetermined by God; that the Jews had no right to complain, for God had formed this purpose before he had given the law, or called his people out of Egypt; and that, therefore, the conduct of God in calling the Gentiles now, bringing them into his Church, and conferring on them the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit was only carrying out and fulfilling his original plan and that the Jews were taken to be his peculiar people, not because they had any goodness or merit in themselves, so the Gentiles were called, not for any merit they had, but according to the good pleasure of his will; that is according to his eternal plan, showing mercy and conferring privileges in this new creation as he had done in the original creation, so now in redeeming man, and sending the glad tidings of salvation both to the Jews and the Gentiles, he acted on the same principles, deriving all the reasons of his conduct from his own infinite goodness. Predestination here is a destination to sonship in the image of Christ. Election is the preference for the conditioned person. Predestination is the specific direction of people to their blessed destiny. It (predestination) is the divinely established connection between the conditioned person, and his final salvation, never being affirmed of the wicked.

Proof has already been given of the conditionality of salvation, the universality of the atonement, and the power of alternative choice.

With the disproof of the unconditional election of a part of mankind to final blessedness, no place remains for the unconditional reprobation of the remaining portion to future punishment. So the scripture says to all “whosoever will may come,” and whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shaft be saved.” These leave no room for unconditional predestination.

ABSOLUTE FINAL PERSEVERANCE

There are three distinct schools of thought with reference to Calvary and its relation to man.
The Universalists teach God is “too good” to send anyone to hell, and Christ paid the penalty for all. “Therefore,” they say, “we will ultimately be saved regardless of what we do or do not do about the matter.”

The Calvinists teach redemption for the “elect” only who are foreordained to it. According to this teaching some are born to be saved, and some born to be lost. The Calvinist theory would of necessity demand the following: Grace is selective, and discriminate on God’s part to man. The atonement is limited, and not to “Whosoever will.” Grace once begun, is irresistible to the human will. Grace is eternal once obtained. The will is powerless once it is regenerated. And that sin is inescapable while we are in the flesh. This Calvinistic theory is a complete contradiction to simple and plain teachings of the Bible, God’s holy, divine inspired Word.

The Scriptures teach in substance that the atonement is unlimited in its appropriations. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”—John 3:16. Christ’s death was full and sufficient to settle the sin question. “The oath (promise) which he sware to our Father Abraham that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies (devil) might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life”—Luke 1:73–75.

The obtaining, and retaining of the grace of God is conditioned on our part. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name”—John 1:12. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin”—1 John 1:7. We are saved by an act of faith, and are kept by an attitude of faith.

The teaching of infallibility of grace by the elect as advocated by Calvinistic theology contradicts the plain teachings of the Word of God. Its declarations as stated in John 15:1–6. Its exhortations as given in 2 Peter 2:20–22. And its warnings as taught by Paul in 1 Cor. 10:12.

It ignores plain cases given in the Bible of some who fell. Note carefully these examples. Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1), patriarchal ministers, or messengers (2 Peter 2:4, and Jude 6), Judas, (John 17:12; Acts 1:16–17, 25), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–10), Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:19–20), Demas (2 Tim. 4:10), and the Galatians (Gal. 1:6; 3:1–3; 4:9; 5:4). Most of these have been considered in detail earlier in this book, so repetition is unnecessary. To state as the Calvinist, “In view of the original purpose and continuous operation of God, all who are united to Christ by faith will infallibly continue in a state of grace and will finally attain to everlasting life,” would be grossly erroneous and unscriptural. This doctrine that all who are once converted will certainly be finally saved in heaven is a logically necessary part of the predestinarianism system. This doctrine of infallibility of grace, once saved, always saved, as believed and taught by the Calvinist is injurious to the backslider. It causes him to profess over apostasy, to reproach the true Bible Church, and will cause him to miss heaven in the end. It is so inconsistent and unscriptural to advocate, as Calvinism does, that God condones sin in a Christian, while condemning it in a sinner. The Bible teaches that God’s grace is not given to cover us in our sinning, but to recover (deliver) us from our sinning (Matt. 1:21).

With the biblical proof that Christ died for all, that salvation is possible to all, that all have the power freely to accept it or reject it, it logically follows that perseverances in holiness, like entrance to it, is optional with the individual. If apostasy is not possible to Christians, then all those many texts that warn against it are misleading. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God”—Heb 12:15. “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things ye shall never fall”—2 Peter 1:10. If these texts mean anything they teach that Christians may apostatize.

THE DOCTRINE OF INDIVIDUAL PREDESTINATION DEFINED

That God does predestine certain things is fully admitted. For example, He has predestined that all mankind will be judged at the end of the age. This is entirely within the appropriate exercise of his sovereign deity. It is the teaching that he has on his own will determined the outcome of that judgment to which we object.

Reasons why God could not of his own will determine man’s destiny. It would make God partial which is not true. “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is accepted of him”—Acts 10:34–35.

It makes him evil. If God in his own will could make some men do right so they would go to heaven, he would be evil for not making all men do right. It would make God responsible for all sins committed. Paul states it like this on this point. “For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged a sinner?”—Rom. 3:7. In like manner it would relieve man of any responsibility for sins. Predestination denies that man has freedom of will. Note the voice of scripture. “See I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil”—Deut. 30:15. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”—John 3:16–19.

Scripture that refutes the doctrine of individual predestination. The provisions for salvation is applicable to everyone. Notice carefully how plainly, and completely these texts refute the doctrine of a limited atonement which is part of the doctrine of individual predestination. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man”—Heb. 2:9. “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead”—2 Cor. 5:14. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time”—1 Tim. 2:5–6. “Therefore as by the offense of one (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation: even so by the righteousness of one (Christ) the free gift came upon all men to justification of life”—Rom. 5:18. “And he (Christ) is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world”—1 John 2:2.

The call to salvation is universal. This would be hypocrisy on the part of God if only certain ones could be saved. “And the Spirit and the bride say come. And let him that heareth say come, And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will let him take the water of life (salvation) freely”—Rev. 22:17. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me”—John 12:32. These are the words of Jesus. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men”—Titus 2:11. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”—Matt. 11:28. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink”—John 7:37. These scriptures make it clear that the atonement is not limited, and that the call to salvation is universal, and to all.

God is actively and openly desirous of saving all men. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”—2 Peter 3:9. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”—John 3:16. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief”—1 Tim. 1:15. “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe”—1 Tim. 4:10. “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth”—1 Tim. 2:4. This teaching makes it clear that God is desirous of saving all men.

Salvation is predicated on man’s response to the call of God, not on God’s predetermining who were to be saved, and who were not to be saved. Note the scriptures in John 3:16–19, as already given. “And he (Christ) said unto them, go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned”—Mark 16:15–16. “And ye will not come to me, that ye might be saved”—John 5:40. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”—Rom. 1:16. “And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thy house”—Acts 16:31.

The explanation of those texts that speak of predestination will be in order here. Predestination is to a way of life rather than determining who would accept that way of life. Read carefully Eph. 1:3–14, with special attention to verse 4. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love”—Eph. 1:4. With “for we are his workmanship; created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”—Eph. 2:10.

The selection of a person or a group for a specific task or purpose is within the limits of God’s sovereignty without injustice to anyone or infringement on their freedom of will. Examples: The Jews and Paul. In spite of the selection of Judah as God’s specially chosen people in the Old Testament, the Jews as a whole are lost. Paul admitted that he could be. “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway”—1 Cor. 9:27. Through his foreknowledge, God did predestine certain acts to be done. This did not infringe on personal freedom, nor did God select the ones who were to perform the acts. “Him (Christ) being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain”—Acts 2:23. God through his foreknowledge revealed certain things that would come to pass. Never, did he select the one or ones to perform the deed, or designate and force any individual to act contrary to the will of the individual. His pre-revelation does not mean he foreordained certain ones to perform certain things independent of their will or choice.

Various texts use the term “elect” or “election.” These passages refer to those who are truly saved at any given time. They do not refer to an act of God whereby certain persons are elected to be saved. If this were true, an unsaved person who was marked for future salvation would be a part of the elect even while he was yet living for the devil. The election is not an absolute and irrevocable condition is shown by 2 Peter 1:5–10, and verses 9 and 10 particularly. “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

“Wherefore the rather brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall”—2 Peter 1:9–10.

There are many evils to the doctrine of individual predestination. Some will be mentioned. It tends to promote fatalism. What is to be will be. It destroys the missionary spirit by causing people to feel and ask why should we worry about others if God has already determined who are to be saved. If the persons who are to be saved have been determined by a sovereign decree of God, nothing we can do or nothing we fail to do can alter it. So why work to spread the gospel and salvation to mankind?

This theory makes God rather than man responsible for sin. Thus man finds an excuse for his sins. It causes some to reject Christ through the assumption that they were not elected to be saved. It denies the major theme and purpose of the scripture, the salvation of all mankind in this world, and in the world beyond this life.

May the God of heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit bless this truth to the present and eternal good of all is our prayer.

Yours in Him,
Lawrence J. Chestnut B.Th. D.D.

Can a Child of God Fall from Grace?

POSSIBILITY AND PROBABILITY OF APOSTASY

Keith G. Ball

Our subject of discussion is apostasy. It is our purpose to ascertain whether or not the scriptures teach that a child of God can live and behave in such a way as to forfeit the eternal home in heaven that awaits him. Webster defines apostasy as: "an abandoning of what one has believed in, as a faith, cause, principle, etc." Although the word apostasy is not found in most English translations of the scripture, the word apostasia is used in  2 Thessalonians 2:3 and has been translated as "falling way" in the KJV. Thayer’s defines the word as "a falling way, defection, apostasy" (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, 14th printing, June 1974, p. 67). Other forms and variations of the word are used and have been translated as "depart", "departing", "turn away" and "fall" or "fell away."

The question is: "Is it possible for a child of God to fall from grace and if it is, what are the probabilities of such happening to you/me?" There is a great need for this study because of the assaults upon the word of God that have taken place. During the 16th century, John Calvin, a leader of the Swiss Reformation Movement, presented his ideology in a work entitled, "Institutes of the Christian Religion." Calvin’s beliefs can best be illustrated by the mnemonic tool, TULIP.

 
 

T=Total depravity or total inability, i.e., Man is totally unable to save himself.

 

U=Unconditional election--God’s electing purpose was not conditioned by anything in man.

 

L=Limited atonement--Christ’s atoning death was sufficient to save all men, but efficient only for the elect.

 

I=Irresistible Grace--the gift of faith, sovereignty given by God’s Holy Spirit, cannot be resisted by the elect.

 

P=Perseverance of the Saints--Those who are regenerated and justified will persevere in the faith, i.e., cannot fall from grace and be lost.

 

Today the errors of Calvinism exist in various forms among a variety of religious groups. It is extremely important that the Lord’s church maintain its purity and guard against all forms of this most dangerous doctrine.

I. A DANGEROUS ERROR EXPOSED

Calvinism’s perseverance of the saints is also known as "once saved always saved" or "security of believers." It is important that the reader know that Calvin’s doctrine of perseverance of the saints grew out of the erroneous view of predestination. Proponents of Calvinism believe that God foreordained and predestined some men and angels to eternal life and others to eternal damnation and that there is nothing that either can do that would affect God’s choice. This error grew out of another error, original sin. In the fifth century, Augustine was very vocal about the human nature of man, stating that all men are depraved because of Adam’s sin and that "no one believes unless He wills" meaning that only those elected by God are preserved and predestined for heaven and the grace of God cannot be resisted. Thus one can see that these errors are linked and related in such a way that the one grows out of the other. In regard to perseverance of the saints, Loraine Boettner, one of the leading proponents of Calvinism writes in his book entitled, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination,

"This doctrine does not stand alone but is a necessary part of the Calvinistic system of theology. The doctrines of Election and Efficacious Grace logically imply the certain salvation of those who receive these blessings. If God has chosen men absolutely and unconditionally to eternal life, and if His Spirit effectively applies to them the benefits of redemption, the inescapable conclusion is that these persons shall be saved." (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1980 p. 182.)

It should make one shudder to consider that, by this false doctrine of election and predestination, God is being blamed for the condemnation of all souls that have not been "chosen" by Him. According to this doctrine they have no hope and there is nothing they can do to be saved because they are not chosen and among the elect. If man does not have the power to choose or resist then the doctrine of once saved always saved has to be true. The fact is, man has a choice. The person who "heareth and doeth" is a person who has made a choice to conform to God’s way. Jesus likens him to the man who built his house upon the rock (Matthew 7:24, 25). Likewise the power of choice remains in man to decide not to do as Jesus says. Jesus likens him to the man who built his house upon the sand (Matthew 7:26, 27). Israel had to make a choice; God or idols (Joshua 24:15). The truth is that God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). God wants the vilest of sinners to be saved. The most wretched and detestable, the dregs of this world, are loved by God and he wishes that they would come into the soul-cleansing blood of Jesus.  "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:8, 9).

II. POSSIBILITY--YES

It is an unchangeable truth that a child of God can live and behave in such a way that they forfeit and lose their eternal home in heaven. To deny such is to have a flagrant disregard for the scriptures for the scriptures address this subject in a most clear and simple way.

On more than one occasion Moses interceded for the stubborn people of Israel when God was ready to "blot" their name out of His book. In the Revelation letter our Lord says that for those who overcome he will not blot their name out of the book of life (Revelation 3:5). It seems rather obvious that those whose names have been blotted out are individuals who, at one point in time, have been in a harmonious relationship with God but have since fallen from His grace.

It likely was painful for the Apostle Paul to speak of a "departure" from the "faith" that would come as described in  1 Timothy 4:1. Here we have the word apospesontai, kindred to apostasia, which can be translated apostasy. The "faith" from which these individuals would depart was the "one faith" of  Ephesians 4:5. These individuals would abandon truth, Christ and His church!

Likewise, the Hebrews writer addressed those who had "tasted the heavenly gift" (Hebrews 6:4). They had become Christians and had enjoyed the "peace that passeth understanding" but then they would "fall away" (Hebrews 6:6). Vincent says the word "tasted" is to "have consciously partaken of" (Marvin R. Vincent,  Word Studies in the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, 1887, Vol. IV, p. 445). The advocates of Calvinism say of such individuals who fall away that "they were not really Christians to start with." This is absurd because the scriptures clearly identify these individuals as "once enlightened," i.e., Christians (Hebrews 6:4).

James describes that it is possible for "brethren" to "err from the truth" (James 5:19, 20). Shortly after the gospel came to Samaria, a man by the name of Simon believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13). A short time later, when Paul and John came to Samaria, Simon coveted a gift that only the apostles had. Peter told him to "repent" because his heart was not right in God’s sight and his soul was in jeopardy (Acts 8:21, 22). It is apparent from this account that Peter perceived that had Simon not repented and had he died in such a state, this man who had been saved would have been lost. Simon had a heart problem much like the Hebrews writer describes in  Hebrews 3:12,  "Take heed brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the Living God." Notice that they were called "brethren" indicating that they were faithful Christians as he was writing. Furthermore, he tells them that, because of an evil heart, they could depart from God.

Can a Christian slip into apostasy and fall from God’s grace? We can answer, according to the scriptures, with an unequivocal, yes!

 

III. PROBABILITY--YOU DECIDE

If you have become a Christian, have been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift, the most important thing you can do for your soul is to guard against apostasy. Could this not be part of what Paul is speaking about when we are told to  "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12)? One of the most arrogant and foolish things a Christian can say or think is, "I will never leave the Lord." Had Peter not been so arrogant and had he realized that it was possible, he would have taken the steps to guard against his departure. However, such steps were not taken and he proceeded to deny our Lord not once but three times (Matthew 26:69-75). We do know that the Lord does not desire any to be lost (1 Timothy 2:4;  2 Peter 3:9). Unfortunately, the numbers of those who will be saved will be significantly smaller when compared to the number of those who will be lost. Jesus describes it as "few" verses "many" (Matthew 7:13, 14).

One way that the Christian guards against apostasy is to do as Paul did and "buffet" (ASV) or "discipline" (NKJV) the body and bring it into subjection (1 Corinthians 9:27). In other words, the Christian exercises restraint and self control by not allowing the temptation of the flesh to overcome him. One guards against apostasy by a continuing and abiding respect for the authority of the scriptures. Indeed the scriptures are all sufficient and the Christian needs look nowhere else for guidance and authority (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

Let us guard against apostasy by realizing that we can "drift away" from the word of God.  "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them." (Hebrews 2:1 ASV). Marvin Vincent, in his Word Studies presents this thought in regard to the word "drift," "Lapse from truth and goodness is more the result of inattention than of design. Drifting is a mark of death: giving heed, of life. The log drifts with the tide: the ship breasts the adverse waves, because some one is giving earnest heed." (Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 393.)

It no doubt was a sobering thought for Christians in the first century to ponder the words of the Apostle Paul in regard to apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1). The same could be said of the elders at Ephesus when Paul told them that some of them would come to speak perverse things and draw away some of the disciples (Acts 20:29, 30). These Christians should have asked themselves "Is it I who will depart"? Today we should ask ourselves the same. Further we should ask, "Have I already departed?" It is extremely important that the Bride of Christ and each member of the body maintain purity so that the church will be without "spot or wrinkle" and that it be "holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27).

Let us also give regard to the instructions found in  2 Peter 1:10. Let us note that Peter says we must put forth an effort to make our "calling and election sure." Furthermore he says "if ye do these things ye shall never fall." The "things" to which Peter refers are the Christian virtues listed in verses 5-7. In these virtues we must continue to grow. Then, by the grace of God, we will enjoy an abundant entrance into the  "everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11).