“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4, NKJV)
Can a Christian be lost in sin after being saved in Christ? Calvinism says, “No.” Reportedly, so did Billy Graham: “Returning home with a friend that night, Mr. Graham said, he thought: “Now I’ve gotten saved. Now whatever I do can’t unsave me. Even if I killed somebody, I can’t ever be unsaved now” (nytimes.com, Feb. 21, 2018). But, the apostle Paul told Christians, “Yes.” He said an attempt to be justified by law-keeping (the law of Moses, Galatians 2:21, 3-7) would cause them to be “estranged from Christ” and “fallen from grace.” That’s clear enough. The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” gives false comfort because it does not conform to the Scriptures. Jesus warned of those who would joyfully “believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). Christians are told to “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). And so, we are urged to “exhort one another daily…lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11). A Christian who does not repent and pray God’s forgiveness for sins committed, will not be saved (Acts 8:18-24; 1 John 1:9). The Scriptures must inform and sustain our faith.
By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand. (1 Peter 5:12, NKJV)
Peter’s first epistle identifies and testifies of the true grace of God in which Christians stand. We take it as axiomatic, that since there is “the true grace of God,” there is also false grace that is not of God. False teachers, by their false gospels, turn people away from the true grace of Christ (Galatians 1:6-9). For instance, the doctrine of irresistible grace offers false grace, since it is evident the grace of God can indeed be resisted through unbelief (Acts 7:51). The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (the impossibility of apostasy) offers false grace, since Scripture says Christians can fall from grace (Galatians 5:4). The doctrine of unity in moral and doctrinal diversity (ecumenism) offers false grace, by allowing one to continue in his sin, while assuring him of grace despite his sins (Romans 6:1-2; 2 John 9-11). On the other hand, the true grace of God provides salvation to all people through the gospel (Titus 2:11-12). It teaches us that, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” The “word of His grace” has power to save (Acts 20:32). But, only when we access God’s grace through an obedient faith in Christ (read Romans 5:1-2; 6:17-18).
But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. (Ezekiel 18:24, NKJV)
We are tempted to think of our lives like scales, and as long as the good outweighs the bad, we are okay. But, God will not judge us based on whether we have more good than bad, or vice versa. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). Today’s verse assures us that if we turn away from righteousness and commit iniquity (lawlessness against God), our righteous deeds will not be remembered. We will experience the punishment of death because of our unfaithfulness. The guilt of our sin brings eternal death (Rom. 6:23). This is another verse that teaches the possibility of apostasy. If it is true that once you are saved you can never be lost, then this verse is meaningless and God’s word is false. John said, “everyone who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jno. 3:7). But if we commit sin, we commit lawlessness (1 Jno. 3:4). We cannot live in sin and be counted righteous. Let us heed Ezekiel’s warning and not turn away from righteousness, but instead, pursue it (2 Tim. 2:22).
3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:3–4, NKJV)
Binding any portion of the Old Testament Law of Moses upon Christians is totally incompatible with the gospel of Christ. The Law of Moses was only given to the nation of Israel; it was never a universal law given to all nations (Deut. 5:1-3). Paul was addresses a false doctrine being advanced by some Jewish Christians, which compelled Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved (Acts 15:1ff). This teaching perverted the gospel being preached by the apostles (Gal. 1:6-9). The result of believing and advancing this false doctrine was that Christians were severed from Christ; they were “fallen from grace.” This clear statement by the apostle Paul shows that it is possible for Christians to lose their salvation. This happens, not because Christ does not have the power to save the Christian, but because the Christian chooses to believe and follow error instead of truth. Sin will not be rewarded with heaven. The belief that Christians cannot fall away and be lost is a false, deceptive doctrine.
But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. (Jude 5, NKJV)
Christians need to be continually reminded of the truth we have known (2 Pet. 1:12). Being reminded of the truth we once knew” is a prevention against falling away. Yes indeed, God’s people can fall away. Among God’s people Israel, those who “did not believe” were “destroyed” in the wilderness (Heb. 3:7-11). Although God had saved them out of Egyptian bondage, when they “rebelled,” “sinned,” “did not obey,” they not enter the land of promise due to their “unbelief” (Heb. 3:16-19). Jude uses Israel’s apostasy to warn faithful brethren of false teachers (Jude 3-4, 8). You see, it matters to God what Christians believe and the teachings we accept. False teaching produces false faith. Although we have been saved from the bondage of sin, if we do not faithfully continue in “the faith,” then we become like the wilderness Israelites. And like them, we will be destroyed because of our unbelief.