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Christian Pilgrim

 

Can A Christian Lose His Salvation?



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.

When we come across passages such as this in the Bible, we may get the impression that it seems to be teaching that true believers, if they are not careful in their Christian practice, can lose their salvation.

In the Christian life, for many different reasons, it is so easy to become discouraged and backslide. This is the experience of all of us at some stage in our Christian walk, and at these times it is a real concern to many genuine Christians as to whether they can backslide so much they actually lose their salvation. It really bothers them.

The subject before us is, “Can a Christian Lose His Salvation?” And the answer is that a truly born-again Christian, who has had a new heart put within him by the Lord, and who has become a new creature in Christ, and who truly has the Holy Spirit residing in him, cannot lose his salvation. Once he has been born-again, he cannot be “un-born-again,” he is a new creature in Christ and so is saved to eternal life and cannot be lost.

Indeed we have scriptures to this effect, and these are a great comfort to the true believer in times of trial in his life:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39.

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” John 10:27,28.

I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5.

So, in the light of such promises, how do we explain texts like the one in 2 Peter, which at least appear to suggest that you can be a Christian for a while and then later completely fall away? Maybe you know some people who have seemed to have done this. They may have been your companions in the church maybe for many years, but they gave up, and are now completely back in the world with no interest in Christian things any more.

Of course, we have to explain these passages, which seem to teach that true Christians can fall away, in the light of clearer passages of Scripture. Scripture should always interpret Scripture. There is never a contradiction in the Bible, because it is the word of God. There might appear to be a contradiction, but it can always be explained if we study the Bible hard enough. This is why Bible study is so important.


The Parable of the Sower

The parable of the sower is a story Christ taught about the different types of people who hear the gospel (Matthew 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:4-15). Christ compared types of ground into which seed is sown to the different ways people respond to the gospel. He mentions four types:

The first type of hearer is compared to the seed that fell on the path. People hear, and there is no response, they just walk away. I am sure we know many people like this, but we are not talking about these sort of people here, this is not our subject.

The fourth type of hearer is compared to the seed that fell in good soil. This is where we want to be. If the seed falls in good soil, it grows and produces fruit. This is the true believer, who has truly been born-again, had a new heart put within him by the Lord and has become a new creature in Christ. He does respond to the gospel message, the Lord saves him and, significantly, he produces fruit. What is the fruit that the true Christian produces?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Galatians 5:22,23.

This is all very straight forward so far. At least it's clear where these two types of people stand. But there are two other types of ground, the thorny ground and the stony ground.

The thorny ground hearers hear the word, and respond to it. They have a root in themselves, they are truly born-again. They start to produce fruit at first, but other things soon enter in and they become unfruitful. These things that enter in are the “cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” which choke the word, and stop the fruit production. These are true believers but they become almost indistinguishable from unbelievers. They'll get to heaven, but only as though through the fire. All their worldly works will be burned up and they will suffer loss (1 Corinthians 3:15). This is why there are so many calls in the Bible for us to be diligent , to walk worthy, and so on. Not because we can lose our salvation, but bcause we can become unfruitful.

The stony ground hearers, Christ tells us, represent those who hear the word and receive it with joy. They join the church. They may be in the church for a long time. They may hold high positions in the church. But they have never been born-again. We're told there's no root in them. Therefore they do not produce fruit of any kind. They are the hypocrites in the church. They can be flushed out when tribulation or persecution comes on the church. They'll be off like a shot.

Maybe a muslim army comes into his village and one of them puts a gun to his face and tells him to convert to Islam or die. He will have no problems doing this. But the truly born-again Christian just cannot deny his Lord and would rather die than say a few simple words. Yes, some, in weakness will do it, but they will be so heartbroken with what they have done afterwards. God will forgive them, and the experience will make them stronger to resist the next time something similar happens. But here we see the difference between Christians who only outwardly profess Christianity as their faith - as soon as persecution comes, they are nowhere to be seen - and truly born-again Christians who have had a new heart put within them - these are willing to die for their faith if necessary. Incidentally, this is the reason why God sometimes brings persecution on a church, namely to purge it.


Three "Falling Away" Passages

Anyway, it is hypocrites that are in mind when we come across passages which appear at first glance to teach that a believer can lose his salvation. No, a true believer cannot lose salvation, but a hypocrite, who has never been born-again, and therefore has never had salvation in the first place, can appear to be a good church member for a while but he will eventually fall away from his profession, unless of course he is truly converted and becomes a true believer in his heart.

Let us look at the three main passages which teach a falling away, and from these we can learn how far it is possible to go in outward religion without having a new heart:

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.

Here, we see that the people concerned have “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” and they have “known the way of righteousness.” They have head-knowledge, but not heart-knowledge. They know their Bibles very well. They can pick up the way people speak in the church and copy it. But all this is just outward with no heart change. Like a pig who has had a bath. It now looks nice and clean on the outside, and it is difficult to tell the difference between it and the true believer who has been truly cleansed from the heart. But eventually, by nature, if left to itself, it will always go back to the mud and get dirty again.


But what about this passage in Hebrews 6:

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.” Hebrews 6:4-6.

These people have “tasted the heavenly gift,” were “made partakers of the Holy Ghost,” and have “tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,” surely these are true believers? No, they fall away. We are told in v.9 that none of these things accompany salvation:

But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” Hebrews 6:9.

Of course it is fruit that accompanies salvation, which none of these people have, because they do not have a new heart. They have just “tasted” such things, and not embraced them fully. We cannot think that we can simply “give God a try.” Many people think that they can start going to church just to give it a try to see if it works, but inevitably, they give up in the end, and afterwards they boast to their friends, “Well, I gave God a try once, but it didn't work, I didn't get anything out of it, so I've given up now.” God is not going to bother with any of us if all we are going to do is give him “a try.”

Actually, this passage says a very solemn thing about these people. It says that such people who have “tasted” these things, if they subsequently fall away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. The least we can say is that they become hardened against the gospel, and, humanly speaking at least, it is a lot more difficult to reach them after their experience.

But what about having been “made partakers of the Holy Ghost”? Surely this refers to true believers?

Well, Christ said:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23.

This passage teaches us that it is possible to prophesy, cast out devils and do many wonderful works in Christ's name, but still not be a true believer. All twelve disciples were sent out and given power to do all sorts of miracles, and this twelve included Judas Iscariot, who was never a true believer:

"And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease." Matthew 10:1.

The fact that we can do these things (or at least think we can) is not evidence of a new heart.


The third passage we need to look at is in Hebrews 10:

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?” Hebrews 10:26-29.

These people had “received the knowledge of the truth,” which of course refers to only head-knowledge, and not a change in the heart. But what about their being “sanctified” by “the blood of the covenant”?

The word “sanctified” means to be “set apart.” All truly born-again Christians are “set apart” in a special way, and indeed the more they grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the more they are continually being “set apart” from the world throughout their Christian life:

Christ said:

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17.

But the people mentioned in this passage in Hebrews are sanctified in a different way, they are set apart as Christians only outwardly. In a similar way, we have a passage in 1 Corinthians where only one person in a family is a believer, but the whole family is considered to be “set apart” at least in some outward way:

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” 1 Corinthians 7:14.

Here, an unbelieving husband is said to be “sanctified” and the children are said to be “holy,” but of course this does not mean that any of them are truly born-again because it clearly states that the husband is still an unbeliever. This must only refer to an outward separation.

In any case, in Hebrews 10:39 we are again told that these things being spoken of do not relate to true believers:

But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition [which is the subject of the previous verses]; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:39.


So we see in all three of these passages which at first appear to suggest that a Christian can lose his salvation, we find that they do not refer to true Christians at all. They are all only talking about hypocrites, who profess the true religion outwardly, but have never had a heart change. In the end, all of these will fall away, unless the Lord intervenes, gives them a new heart and saves them.


Objection

There is one major objection that many people have to the truth that once we have been truly saved, we cannot be lost. They will say that if we are saved and can never be lost, that means that we can sin all we like, and God will not mind, we will still get to heaven. Where is righteousness in that?

Anyone who thinks this way does not have, or at least does not understand the concept of the new heart properly. If we have been truly born-again, the very idea of sinning as much as we want is horrifying to us. God has put a new heart within us. We no longer chase after the desires of the old heart. With the new heart, we now hate sin, and we love righteousness. We no longer have an inclination to “want” to sin all we like. People who have never experienced the new birth, cannot understand this because all they have experience of is the old heart which is quite happy to sin all the time. With the new heart, sin is now distasteful to us. A true believer still falls into sin, because they have still got the old heart within them, but every time this happens, they hate themselves for doing so. They mourn over themselves, sin always bothers them, which it did not do before their conversion.


We therefore see the absolute importance of making sure we have a new heart, and are truly one of the Lord's people. Without a new heart, we cannot be saved. One day this world is going to be judged. God:

now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts 17:30,31.

We are all sinners by nature and need to escape from the wrath to come. If we do nothing, we are condemned already for our sin:

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 3:18.

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36.


The Bible teaches:

Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3.

But without faith it is impossible to please him” Hebrews 11:6.

So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:8.


To receive salvation from our sins at all, we need a new heart. The Bible describes this in various ways:

Ye must be born again.” John 3:7.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” Ephesians 1:13.


A False Gospel

The importance of the new birth cannot be overemphasised. I now desperately need to mention a false gospel which has appeared in the modern church, especially in the West, which by-passes the idea of the new birth completely, and it is very, very important to say something about this.

The preachers of this false gospel would start by saying that we need to “decide to follow Christ.” This sounds quite good to start with, but what they mean by this is not that we need to repent of our sins, cry to God for mercy, embrace Jesus Christ as the only one who can save us from our sins and receive a new heart from God. That would be the true gospel, but they do not mean anything like that.

When they say we need to “decide to follow Christ,” all they mean is that we should decide to follow the teachings of Christ, just as people follow the teachings of any other great leader like Mohammed, or Buddha or Confucius. No repentance, no new birth, no heart change, nothing. Just follow His teachings.

Once we have made that initial decision, they would say, now just believe that all your sins, past, present and future have been dealt with on the cross by Christ, and now do not think about sin any more. Think positive thoughts about yourself. Have a sense of self-worth, self-acceptance, self-esteem, self-confidence. And that is it. From now on, in every decision you make, think to yourself, “What would Jesus do?” Then do it.

This is nothing else but modern, humanistic philosophy in religious clothing. It is exactly the opposite of true Christianity, which teaches meekness, humility and self-abasement. The most mature believers in the Bible, far from having a sense of their own self-esteem, and self-confidence, had a great sense of their own sinfulness:

Paul:
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24.

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 Timothy 1:15.

David:
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5.

Job:
Behold, I am vile” Job 40:4.

I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:6.

This modern false gospel does not allow us to think about sin any more. If we take this false gospel in, it makes it much harder (humanly speaking) to come to a knowledge of the true gospel, because we are taught to not see our sin.


In contrast with this false gospel, look at how the gospel is presented in the Bible:

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17.

Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38.

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” Acts 3:19.

Repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Acts 26:20.

Repentance is the main theme. And it is completely missing in the modern false gospel because, following humanistic philosophy, it encourages people to have a good view of themselves, and never to think themselves as sinners in need of repentance.

We do not need a moral teacher to teach us how we are to behave, although Christ is that. We need a Saviour to save us from our sins, because no matter how hard we try to follow Christ's teachings using our own natural abilities, WE CANNOT DO IT. We just cannot do it. We need to understand our inability and our need of a Saviour before we can see the salvation that there is in Christ.


Conclusion

Renounce your self-confidence, recognise your inability, repent of your sins, cry to the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sins, acknowledge that you cannot save yourselves, ask for the gifts of repentance and faith, ask for a new heart to be put within you. Then, and only then can you begin to produce fruit.

And, if you are a true Christian, realize this: the millionth time you fail, and sin against the Lord, yes, it will grieve you, and you will hate yourself completely for it, but you have the most wonderful comfort in the fact that you can never be lost:

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” John 10:28.