So here we are again, tackling yet another “biggie” in the Body of Christ. Namely, the question of whether a Christian can truly fall away? Many individuals I truly appreciate have written books on this topic, from BOTH sides of the argument. Men like Calvinist Pastor Charles Stanley, H.A. Ironside, Brethren Pastor & Dispensationalist & on the other side, Carl J.E. Nelson and Ray B. White among others. I even saw this title “Eternal Security, License to Sin!” So there is certainly enough in print out there about the subject, but again let us take a journey though the Scriptures & see what the Bible says & what we can draw from the Word of God. Now, again I want to emphasize that although I will be drawing a conclusion from this study, I am very respectful of those on EACH side of the argument & when I am finished, I refuse as many others, especially on the one side, to call anyone a “heretic” as we are limited in our understanding as long as we live in this body of flesh & bones, which is not a cop out, but must be something as humans, we always remember, especially when we get overly dogmatic! Certainly the following passage is used often in defense of Eternal Security, also btw known by many as “once saved, always saved”.
We read this in:
John 10:27-29 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I have heard these verses used many times in the argument for E.S. (we’ll call it that from here in) and I concur that indeed a Christian cannot be “snatched or taken” out of the Father’s hand upon His finished work in them! So this gives rise to the following thought: can a Christian then “walk away” from Christ, or can a Christian receive Christ into their life & then continue on in a life marked & dominated by sin, yet still be ‘saved?” The Apostle Paul stated this concerning a person who has meet Jesus as Savior, but perhaps not Lord, although they did pray perhaps to ask Christ to come in:
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Further on this the Apostle John states the following:
1John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, (perhaps practice sin?) because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
And the writer of Hebrews emphatically states this:
Heb 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,
So if we piece all these verses together, certainly we have a picture that simply “praying a prayer" or saying one thing & doing another is not sufficient unto salvation! This would tend to gives us a picture that salvation is a “progressive’ (ongoing) work in a person’s life. Made complete by continuing in a life that is pleasing to God & no longer practicing sin, this neat term I once heard applies here: “Christian are not sinless, but they do sin less!”. Meaning we no longer practice sin, but are tripped up by it due to our “Adamic” natures which we came out of the womb with according to the Psalmist in:
Ps 58:3 Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.
But Hebrews 10 does give us a picture undeniably that if a person lives a “double” life, even though they have invited Christ in, or maybe never missed a Sunday service, or like a women in Middlebury, Ct. once told me so many years ago when I was going door to door: “Al, I know I am going to Heaven because I sing in my Church’s choir”, or whatever external thing that seems right on the outside, they are still lost in context to salvation! I heard it put this way: “just because you join the lion’s club, it doesn’t make you a lion!” So one may argue that what I am saying is that we are then ‘earning” our salvation, NO! We can’t earn it as that is already established in Scripture friends. (Eph. 2:8-9 & Titus 3:5-6) But we must “work or walk it out” as the Bible teaches us in:
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
And the Lord Jesus Christ said these very words concerning the faithful members of the Church at Thyatira found in Revelation 2:24-26:
“Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you) 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—
So even in addressing the faithful here, the Lord Jesus tells them to stay true “to the end”.
In Revelation 3, Jesus warns members of the Church at Philadelphia to beware lest they have their crowns taken from them, so we can see that there is a sense of “progression” in salvation, that we simply can’t “sit” on what we have been given. In fact, the parable of the talents is an excellent example of this, what happened to the one servant who “buried” his talent? Yes, he was thrown into that place of weeping & gnashing of teeth. I see a great parallel between that parable & salvation in general. And of course the Apostle James really opens up the window to show us what happens when we get “fat & happy” so to speak with our salvation
And begin to think that “it’s a lock”. Let’s read his words found here in:
James 2:20-26 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.
24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
In fact the question is posed, can a man who says he has faith without works be saved by “that” kind of workless faith? James states this which has an obvious response:
James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
Of course not friends! So in this opening, I think we’ve established that a person certainly cannot simply “pray a prayer” & that’s it, they can go off & live whatever way they want & still be “saved”. We’ve also established that salvation is a “progressive” work that is ongoing. Many would disagree here, especially High Calvinist & that is okay! We further know that our faith MUST, again MUST be accompanied by works in order for it to be valid friends. For how else can God judge us? Just imagine how many people are going to stand before Him & say things like, “but Lord I loved you, I this & I that, etc”. Will not God then direct them to specific instances that would prove there can be no doubt that they spoke the right words with their lips, but by their actions denied Him all along? So these things truly go hand in hand and an over-emphasis on either is wrong! And we must endure to the end, we must remain faithful. This I find most intriguing because if salvation is a “one time” it’s a done deal over with proposition, then why must we “endure” or “walk out or work out” our salvation as the Scriptures teach? Arminian Theologian John Wesley had much to say about this, what is the sense in asking people to endure & continue on unless there is indeed a sense of the importance of walking through this life & being found faithful unto the death, whenever that time my come should the Lord tarry? Next, we’ll get more into the possibility of being able to fall away & whether or not we are indeed “once saved, always saved”.