Falling from Grace - Part 1

Scripture: Matthew 24:11-13, 1 Corinthians 9:23, Romans 11:17-22
Once you have given your life to Christ, can you choose to turn away from the Lord? Can a converted person be lost? Christ speaks of those who endure to the end will be saved. This talk covers many Bible verses that discuss the ability we have to choose to turn away from God.
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Do you mean to say that God is an Indian giver? Do you think He'd make you a present of eternal life and then take it away from you again?" These were the words of a devout Christian recently in answer to a statement that had been made in a public religious service. The man had appealed to his hearers to be constantly on guard lest they become careless and eventually turn their backs on Christ and be left out of the kingdom. After the congregation had dispersed, this lady lingered to correct a false impression that she felt the minister had given; and this is what she said to him. She said, "When children are born into my family, they're still my children regardless of what they might do. I couldn't change the fact even if I wanted to. Once they've been born, they can't become unborn again. So it is with those who are born into God's family; they become God's children and there's nothing in the world they can do to change their status. Once a person has been saved, he can't be lost."

Actually there are many other sincere believers who share the opinion expressed by that lady. But is this what the Holy Scriptures teach, friends? Can a converted person be lost? After all, it's not what we think that counts, but what God's Word teaches. What did Christ have to say on this subject? In describing conditions that would prevail before His second coming, Christ said this: "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." Matthew 24: 11-13. Here Christ warns that many shall be deceived by false prophets and that many others will not be able to withstand the iniquity on every hand, but will grow cold. And then He added this, "But He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." To endure is to keep on, to continue, to remain, to last until the very end. The inference is strong that the converse of verse 13 is also true. He who does not endure unto the end, the same shall be lost.

We need to remember that God created us as free moral agents. He endowed us with the power to reason, to love, to hate, and to make decisions. This includes the ability to change one's mind also. Is it not altogether possible that a person could decide that he doesn't wish to continue as a Christian? Could he not choose to turn his back on Christ and collaborate with the devil? Does God force one to remain a Christian against his will? This is the great question. No doubt this deserves our careful and prayerful investigation. Lucifer at one time was an angel in heaven. He was created perfect, but iniquity was found in him and he rebelled against God. All the persuasion of the good angels and God Himself could not deter him; so he was cast out of heaven and has continued to be an enemy of his Creator. Furthermore, he is constantly endeavoring to bring about conditions that will discourage those who are members of God's family. His avowed purpose is to get as many as possible to turn from their Saviour and eventually be destroyed along with him and his angels. There's no question but that a Christian can, by God's grace, be victorious. There's sufficient power available to keep us from falling. But does God take over conversion and usher us safely into His kingdom regardless of our future attitudes and conduct? Let's delve further into this matter, friends, for it deserves our careful consideration.

The apostle Paul said, "I keep under my body, and bring it under subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." 1 Corinthians 9:27. Now certainly Paul was a converted man, yet this reference indicates the possibility that he could be lost. And in the tenth chapter of Hebrews there is counsel to any who might be tempted to waver or draw back. Read carefully verses 23 to 29. The passage begins this way: "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." And after that, admonition is given those who might be tempted to absent themselves from the assembly of the believers. Apparently this is one of the first signs of slipping backward. The author of this epistle, and I think it was Paul, includes himself in the warning. He writes: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 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 hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"

The last few verses of the chapter warn against the casting away of their confidence. Notice this carefully, friends: "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. ... Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." Verses 35 to 39. How could anybody state more clearly the fact that one's eternal salvation is conditional on his remaining steadfast to the very end? Unless there was a possibility that one might cast away his confidence, that he might draw back unto perdition, why would this man of God sound such a warning? In Hebrews 6:4-6 we find another striking statement: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." I think it would be very difficult to describe more fully a person who had been born again but who later rebelled against God and rejected Christ and spurned the Holy Spirit. He has placed himself out of reach by God by his own choice and his own actions. Therefore there is no possibility that such a man can be saved.

In the eleventh chapter of Romans, Paul is discussing the fact that many of the physical seed of Israel rejected God and His Son and were thus cut off. The illustration is used of an olive tree. The branches were the children of Israel. Because of their unbelief they were broken off. You will read that in verses 17-20. Then some wild olive branches were grafted in, representing the Gentile Christians. But note this admonition: "For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." Romans 11:21, 22. That's what Paul had to say about it.

Now let's see if Peter also agreed with these sentiments of Paul. In his second epistle, the first chapter, are listed a number of virtues which should be manifested in the life of every Christian. These are mentioned in verses 5 through 7, but notice that he was writing "to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." Verse 1. And then they had been given "all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." Verse 3. It's very apparent that Peter is addressing these remarks to those who have been converted. But notice the warning he gives, "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." Verses 9 and 10. All of these things indicate that people can fall from grace. They can turn back from following Jesus. They can even become apostates in the truest sense of the word. Then in the third chapter, Peter goes on to say, "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. ... seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness." 2 Peter 3:14, 17. Thus we see that Peter agrees with Paul that Christians need to be constantly on guard lest they be led astray and he indicates the sad fate of those who turn back into sin after they were converted.

Here's one of the very strongest texts in the Bible that proves that a person can turn away from Christ and be lost even after he has made a profession of being saved. This is found in 2 Peter 2:20-22: "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 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 the way of righteousness, than, after they have 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.

Now somebody might ask, "Doesn't the Bible say that he that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life?" That's very true. You find that verse in John 3:16. But, friends, when I truly believe on Jesus and am converted, He gives me eternal life. He places it on deposit for me in the bank of heaven. I can receive it as my very own at Christ's second coming. That is, I will unless I decide not to be a Christian. If I should renounce God and my heavenly Father and become a traitor, He would have to withdraw that reward of eternal life. Here's a little story that might help to illustrate it.

A wealthy man and his wife take a small orphan, Harry, into their home and eventually adopt him as their very own son. They give him every opportunity to obtain a good education and to develop into a successful citizen. In fact, in their will they give him the major part of their estate. In case something might happen to them, they deposit funds in his name with the stipulation that he's to receive several thousand dollars each year while attending college, and upon graduation from college, he's to inherit one million dollars.

But Harry falls into bad company while in high school and gets into trouble. In spite of all the counsel and the pleading of his foster parents, he continues to live a fast, wayward life. His actions, in fact, bring them continual embarrassment. He spends time in jail and finally lands in the penitentiary. When his parents visit him there, he's sarcastic to them and unresponsive. He says, "I want to live my own life. You mind your own business and let me mind mine. I don't want to have any more to do with you at all. Go away. I never want to see you again." Sorrowfully those parents turn back home and talk over the situation. Eventually they decide to change their will. Harry is disinherited. The money intended for him is made available for other purposes and is willed to other people. Of course this same thing could be and has been true in the case of children born into a family. They, too, can be disinherited. So it is with our eternal inheritance which is deposited to our credit when we are adopted into the family of God. Eternal life is part of that legacy. We do receive eternal life, my friends. It is put on deposit for us; but if we choose to turn back and reject it and deny it, we can be disinherited. We can lose eternal life, even though we once accepted it and gave ourselves to Jesus.

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