along in my car through the area of southwest Virginia and east
Tennessee, I was passing the monotonous time involved in a long trip by
listening to the radio. I was somewhat startled by the words of a radio
preacher that hit my ears. He loudly and dogmatically proclaimed, "There
are a lot of people in glory tonight, right now, for this very reason."
reason he went on to say was, "They backslid on the Lord, going back
into sin, and wouldnít repent. So the Lord finally said, ĎIíve had it with
you! Thatís enough!í Then he snuffed out their lives and took them on to
glory [heaven]." (!!!)
Did I hear him right? I couldnít believe what
was being said. Professed religious people, backslidden and in sin, were
taken to heaven because they were backslidden and in sin. Something didnít
sound right here.
If you are familiar with the doctrine of Calvinism,
you will recognize this as one of the explanations of "once in grace, always
in grace" or the perseverance of the saints. It is taught that if a person
is "once saved" he can never fall or become "unsaved." But religious people
do fall and go back into sin. Consequently, when this is pointed out, there
are different explanations forthcoming in trying to explain the situation.
Here are some of them this writer has encountered through the years in
talking with people who hold such views. Needless to say, they are muddled
(1) I have been told that a person cannot fall,
and if he does fall, he was never saved in the first place. (2) But, modifying
this view considerably, I have been told that if he does fall, the Lord
will chastise him and bring him back before he diesóhe will not die in
a fallen condition. (3) But then, going along with the scenario mentioned
in the first paragraph of this article, I have been told that even though
a person falls, he cannot fall from grace. (4) And, attached to this line
of thought, it is said that although he does fall away into sin, his evil
works will be burned and he himself will be saved even though he doesnít
personally repent and never returns to the Lord (notice the first paragraph
Reason Why a
Christian Should Be Successful
Before we address these "explanations," which
we believe are wrong, let us emphasize a point. There is every reason why
a new Christian should make a go of it in living the Christian life. Having
entered into the grace of God, the throne of grace is open to him (Hebrews
4:14-16; 1 John 1:7-10; Romans 5:1,2). He is a new creation in Christ with
the gift of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 3:16).
He has the Word of God of which Paul says that it "is able to build you
up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified"
(Acts 20:32; 2 Timothy 3:16,17). He has fellow Christians to encourage
and help him in living the Christian life (Hebrews 10:23-25; Galatians
6:1,2). But in spite of all of this, there are those who receive the grace
of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 15:2) and draw back unto
perdition (Hebrews 10:35-39).
A PERSON FALL?
Time of Temptation Fall Away"
The parable of the sower used by the Lord in
getting across his teachings stands out very vividly (Luke 8:4-15). The
seed fell in four different places, by the way side, the stony place, among
thorns and on good ground. In each case, possibly aside from the first
one, there was life as the seed germinated. However, in reference to the
stony place, or the rock, he said, "They on the rock are they which, when
they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for
a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13).
So, a person can fall, having once believed.
Heed Lest He Fall"
Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. It is very impressive
in showing the possibility and danger of falling away. Paul illustrates
with the children of Israel in the wilderness journey. Even though they
were "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat
the same spiritual" food, many lusted after evil things and fellóthey became
idolaters, they committed fornication, they murmured and "they were destroyed
of the destroyer." Paul says these are examples and lessons for us. He
concludes by saying, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take
heed lest he fall." (What Paul has said here follows the sobering words
he said about himself in 1 Corinthians 9:27, "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"). All of this is very expressive
and plain, isnít it? A person can fall after becoming a Christian.
Any Man Fall
the Same Example"
Continuing the same illustration of the children
Israel in the wilderness journey, the 3rd and 4th chapters of Hebrews make
interesting reading. The writer warns, "Take heed, brethren, lest there
be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the
living GodÖFor we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning
of our confidence stedfast unto the end." Then he illustrates with
the failure of many Israelites to enter the Promised Land because of "unbelief."
Heaven and being with Christ are parallel with the Promised Land for Christians.
In view of what happened to Israel, the writer says, "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," and summing it up in 4:11, he concludes,
"Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall
after the same example of unbelief." Yes, there is a possibility of falling.
(Also, notice Hebrews 6:6).
Ye Do These
Ye Shall Never Fall"
Read 2 Peter 1:2-11. We are admonished to grow
in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, adding one thing right after another
in our Christian growth. This process is necessary to our spiritual development.
Thus these admonitions are summed up by Peter saying, "Wherefore the rather,
brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for
if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." And, after warnings about
false teachers, 2 Peter 3:17 and 18 sums up the whole epistle, "Ye therefore,
beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being
led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." A person can fall. This cannot
A PERSON FALL FROM GRACE?
View of This Doctrine
Having established the fact that a person can
fall, we are faced with a modified view of this doctrine. The modified
view is not that a person cannot fall, it is that he cannot fall from
grace. He can never be lost regardless. And this view, as we have already
noticed (and will notice), of necessity leads to many other serious and
faulty ramifications if this doctrine is to be maintained.
There are many factors that enter into our
salvation, but overall the New Testament says that we are saved by grace
(Ephesians 2:5,8). Therefore, if a person can fall from grace, that means
he has fallen from that which saves him. He is in an unsaved condition.
In view of this, are there Scriptures that
actually say a person can fall from grace?
Are Fallen from Grace"
Yes. Galatians 5:4 reads in black and white,
"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified
by the law; ye are fallen from grace." Influenced by the proselytizing
Judaizers, the churches in Galatia were trying to mix the law of Moses
with the gospel. In such a muddled approach to God, the indictment of the
apostle Paul comes down heavy upon them, "Ye are fallen from grace."
Yes, a person can fall from grace.
from the Grace of God"
Read the 12th chapter of Hebrews. Let us zero
in on verses 14 and 15. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without
which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail
the grace of GodÖ" This word translated "fail" here means to be late,
inferior; to fall short, be deficient. Interestingly, in Romans 3:23 it
is translated "come short" in the quotation, "For all have sinned, and
come short of the glory of God." In Hebrews 4:1, it is rendered "come short"
again, "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." The KJV has
as an alternate translation of Hebrews 12:15 in the margin of the Bible,
"Looking diligently lest any man fall from the grace of GodÖ"
Yes, a person can fall from grace.
Since one of the comebacks of Calvinistic thinking
people is that the Lord will chastise a sinning Christian and he will always
come back to the Lord, an extended examination of the context of Hebrews
12:15 is in order. It is tied in with the subject of the chastisement of
the children of God. Read the Scripture earlier in this chapter that leads
up to verse 14 and 15. God can and does use things that happen to us to
chastise and purify us. We are told that we are chastised "that we might
be partakers of his holiness" (verse 10). It is after this that
the writer admonishes, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without
which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of
[fall from] the grace of God..." He doesnít say that an erring believer
will always come back to God (many so-called Christians are not brought
to repentance), but he does say that without holiness no man shall
see the Lord. He does say that a person can fall from the grace of God.
to Heaven in Ones Sins
Coupled with the doctrine of "once in grace,
always in grace" (a person canít fall from grace) is the extreme view reflected
the first paragraph of this article as represented by the radio speaker.
My wife and I had the unusual experience a few years ago of being personally
involved with a person holding this extreme view. We rescued this person
from the middle of the highway, who was drunk and waiting for a big truck
to hit him so he could go to heaven (he said). He was supposed to go to
prison, but according to his "theology" thought he could expedite things
and go on to heaven. He thought he was saved and there was no way that
he could be lost. Heaven would be his home.
Reward, Yet Saved
The appeal is made that somehow a personís
evil works will be burned and he will nevertheless go to heaven (like the
radio preacher said). Scripture in the 3rd chapter of 1 Corinthians is
twisted to try to fit into this framework of thought. In verses 13 through
15 we read, "Every manís work shall be made manifest: for the day shall
declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try
every manís work of what sort it is. If any manís work abide which he hath
built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any manís work shall be
burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as
by fire." Yes, it does say there is a trying by "fire" and that if a manís
works are burned, he will not receive a reward, but he will still be saved.
But what does this mean? What is Paul saying here?
Preacherís Works, His Converts
Again we need to read the verses before and
correctly fit everything into context. Paul had been talking about the
various preachers who had visited Corinth and their work there. The Corinthians
were all wrapped up in the personalities of men with a decided party spirit
("I am of PaulÖI am of Apollos," etc.). Paul pictured the preachers as
being Godís builders and tenders of Godís vineyard. In this context he
says that "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own
labour" (verse 8); then, "For we [the preachers] are labourers together
with God: ye [the Corinthians] are Godís husbandry, ye [the Corinthians]
are Godís building" (verse 9). The foundation of Christ had been laid (verse
11). The converts were the material that the preachers were building on
this foundation, which constituted the temple of God. The nature of the
material, or converts, making up the building is spoken of as "gold, silver,
precious stones, wood, hay, stubble" (verse 12). So, the reference to trying
"every manís works of what sort it is" has to do with the preacherís converts.
If the converts proved to be "wood, hay, or stubble," not good material
for the building, the preacher would not receive a reward for what he had
done, but he would himself nevertheless be saved. This is not talking about
evil works of supposed believers in general, but the converts who had supposedly
been added to the church in relation to the one who won them. This is no
support of the extreme Calvinistic view.
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue
in sin, that grace may abound? God forbidÖ" (Romans 6:1,2). It doesnít
work that way. The Lord came to save us from our sins, not in our sins
("And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS:
for he shall save his people from their sins," Matthew 1:21). Remember:
"Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to
the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For
without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers [fornicators], and murderers,
and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" (Revelation 22:14,15).
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things: and I will be his God, and
he shall be my son. But [in contrast with, contrariwise]
the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers
[fornicators], and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have
their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is
the second death" (Revelations 21:7,8). Only the pure in heart shall see
God (Matthew 5:8). Surely what we have examined in this little article
is a "strange doctrine" foreign to the Word of God.