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Falling from Grace - Part 2

Scripture: 2 Peter 2:20-22, 2 Timothy 4:8, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53
Is it possible for a person to choose to turn away from Christ after he becomes a Christian, or does he surrender his will at that time and put himself on a track that must lead inevitably right into the kingdom of heaven? What does the Bible say about falling from grace?
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We've been studying for a couple days now about the Christian and his will. We've been talking about falling from grace. Is it possible for a person to choose to turn away from Christ after he becomes a Christian, or does he surrender his will at that time and put himself on a track that must lead inevitably right on into the kingdom of God? This is the great question that many, many people are puzzled over and we've been trying to find what God's Word has to say about it. Can we fall from grace? Can we turn back and collaborate with Satan even after we become a Christian? After we've made our decision to follow Him all the way?

In our last broadcast we talked a great deal about what Paul wrote on the subject and I'd like to begin today by giving something of Peter's epistle. In 2 Peter 2:20-22, he writes this way: "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." There it is, so very, very clear. It tells us that a person who has received the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and who has escaped the pollutions of the world may become entangled therein and be overcome and go right back into a worse state of things than before his conversion.

But someone might say, "Doesn't the Bible say that he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life"? Yes, it does in John 3:16. But when I truly believe on Jesus and am converted, He gives me eternal life and places it on deposit for me in the bank of heaven, and I'll 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 as my heavenly Father and become a traitor, He would have to withdraw the reward of eternal life.

A wealthy man and his wife take a small orphan, Harry, into their home and eventually adopt him as their own son. They give him every opportunity to obtain a good education and to develop into a successful and desirable citizen. In fact, in their will they give him the major portion of their estate. In case something might happen to them, they deposit funds in his name with the stipulation that he will receive two thousand dollars each year while attending college and that upon his graduation from college, he will inherit one million dollars. But Harry falls into bad company while he's in high school and gets into trouble. In spite of all counsel and the pleading of his foster parents, he continues to live a fast, wayward life. His actions bring them continual embarrassment. He spends time in jail and finally ends up in the penitentiary. When his parents visit him there he's sarcastic and unresponsive. "I want to live my own life," he says. "You mind your own business and let me mind mine. I don't want to have any more to do with you. Go away. I never want to see you again." Sorrowfully they return 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 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're adopted into God's family. Eternal life is part of that legacy. It is just as sure as the bank of heaven, but if we disown our heavenly Father and bring reproach upon His name and reject the pleadings of the Holy Spirit, He will be forced to disinherit us. In any case, we will not come into actual possession of eternal life until the second coming of Christ. Jesus himself stated that those who follow Him will be rewarded a "hundredfold now in this time ... and in the world to come eternal life." Mark 10:30. In harmony with this promise, Paul expected to receive his reward at the return of Jesus. He said, "... there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:8. Now please note that Paul said the crown was laid up for him which would be given him at that day, and that day, he said, was on the day of His appearing. A part of his reward would be the gift of eternal life, and this would be conferred in connection with Christ's second coming.

Notice these words of 1 Corinthians 15:51-53. These verses say in part that at the last trump "we shall all be changed ... and this mortal must put on immortality." Now we're subject to death. At Christ's coming, we'll be given immortality. We'll no longer be subject to death or corruption. That is when we will obtain possession of the gift of eternal life which has been ours by promise and which really belongs to us right now. It was deposited to our credit the moment we accepted Christ as our personal Saviour. It will be ours as long as we endure, as long as we continue to believe, as long as we demonstrate by our actions that we still love Jesus Christ.

Again, the question might come: "Is it not true that Jesus said, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand'?" John 10:27, 28. Yes, this is very true. No man can pluck Christ's sheep out of His hand. Those who continue to love Him and follow Him and keep His commandments could not be plucked away even by the devil himself. But they could at any time decide they did not want to follow Him any more. They could step off the straight and narrow path into the broad road and thus, by their own choice, sever their relationship with Jesus. For this reason we're warned time and time again to watch, to keep awake, to pray, and to ask for divine aid. And as long as we sincerely desire that help, it will be forthcoming.

Perhaps this illustration can help. John Smith is fishing several miles out in the ocean. His boat capsizes and sinks to the bottom. He's unable to swim to safety. Just then another fishing boat comes along but it's loaded so that it would be impossible for them to take on another passenger. Because they want to rescue the doomed man, however, they throw him a rope. "Here, take this rope," they say. "We'll tow you to shore." As he takes the rope, this man says, "Thank God, I'm saved." And he is saved, as long as he holds onto the rope. Salvation is his, but he has a part to play in it. If he should at any time release his grasp on the rope and refuse to take it again, he would be lost. So it is with a person who has been rescued from sin. He remains saved as long as he holds on to the hand of Christ. If he should decide to release that hand and clasp the hand of the devil, he would be lost. His salvation depends on his decision and his action.

Actually, one can properly speak of salvation in the three tenses, past, present, and future. He can say, "I have been saved" when he takes the rope; "I am being saved" as he's being towed to shore; and "I shall be saved" when he has his feet planted firmly on the shore. A converted person has been saved from the penalty of sin. We call that justification. He is being saved from the power of sin, and we call that sanctification. He shall be saved from the presence of sin when Christ comes, and that will be glorification. All three of these tenses are used in the Bible in connection with being saved.

Notice in Romans 8:24 the expression, "we are saved by hope." Weymouth is a more accurate translation. It says, "we have been saved", past tense. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible correctly renders a part of 1 Corinthians 1:18 this way: "to us who are being saved." And then in Acts 15:11 it states, "... that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved." So you see past, present, and future. When an individual accepts Christ as his personal Saviour, he immediately experiences the joy of salvation. As he repents, makes restitution where necessary and confesses his sins, God forgives him. His sins are cast into the depths of the sea, symbolized by baptism. He's covered with the robe of Christ's righteousness. In God's sight, he is as though he had never sinned. And even though a person is caught off guard at times and commits sin, he is not rejected by his Lord. The Holy Spirit reminds him of his shortcomings, he is sorry, he makes confession, he's forgiven, and he is still a child of God. If he should turn his back on God, reject the pleadings of the Holy Spirit, and presumptuously continue to live a life of sin, he would surely be lost. This we have found to be abundantly clear in the Scriptures.

Now let's make sure that no one gets the wrong impression from our illustration of the man being rescued from drowning. Does the fact that he must cling to the rope to be saved, mean that we can earn our salvation by our own works? Absolutely not, a thousand times No! Remember that he was being towed by a power other than his own. He was merely cooperating with that power. He was holding onto the rope. He had to do that in order to be pulled to safety. As Christians we must confess our faith in Christ, we must remain steadfast to Him, we must bring forth the fruits of obedience, that's our part in holding onto Christ. He will never let us go. The only way we can separate ourselves from Him is to cut ourselves off deliberately and disconnect ourselves from Him, but we have the power to do that. We're still free, moral agents. Our will has not been removed merely because we've become Christians. At any point in our Christian life we can decide to turn back and to choose the things of the world rather than the things of God and the things of heaven. We are saved only through faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. "... there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12. However, we show our faith by our works, as a manifestation of our love for Him. Keeping God's commandments and right-doing are merely the result of His Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart. These are the fruits of the Spirit. They help to demonstrate our love for Him. They're the things we do, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved. As long as we are loving the Lord with all our heart, we're going to be obedient to Him; there's no question about that. We will not let go of the rope. We'll continue to cling to Christ as our only hope.

The belief that a person who's been born again cannot possibly be lost, is a dangerous doctrine. It has a tendency to lead to over-confidence. A Christian could just say, "I'm not going to be lost. There's no possibility of my being left out of heaven now that I've given my heart to God, so it doesn't really matter a great deal what my works are and what my life is like." And then there's that question where somebody said, "When you're born into a family, you're the child of that family and you can't be unborn. After you've been born into a family, you remain a child of those parents." Friends, that is very true, but even though a child may not become unborn, that child can die. And when people die spiritually, when they die to their relationship to Jesus Christ by turning their faith away from Christ and by going back into the world of sin, they disqualify themselves immediately , right then, of being a child of God.

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