Can a Christian 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.
“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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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,
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.
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).
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).