“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)
Yesterday we learned from this verse that whosoever believes in the Son “has eternal life” precisely because one obeys the Son. One who “does not obey the Son” is under God’s wrath instead of life. There is one more thing worth our consideration here. Many who believe one is saved “by faith alone” also believe in the impossibility of apostasy (“once saved, always saved”). However, if it is true that once the believer has eternal life he will always have life and never lose it – even if he becomes disobedient – then it necessarily follows the disobedient unbeliever can never escape the wrath of God that “remains on him.” To believe “once saved, always saved,” one must (according to this view of John 3:36) also believe “once lost, always lost.” (We are aware Calvinistic theology accepts these conclusions.) However, the gospel does not. It is for all (Mk. 16:15). God desires the salvation of every sinner (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Freewill enables us to choose to hear, believe, and obey the gospel to be saved (Acts 2:21-22, 37-41; 17:30). It also allows us to choose to sin and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Security in Christ is sure when we obey in faith: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11).
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1–3, NKJV)
In sharp contrast to Calvinism’s “perseverance of the saints” doctrine (a.k.a. “once saved, always saved” and the impossibility of apostasy), the Spirit of God explicitly says some Christians would “depart from the faith” (v. 1). One cannot depart from that of which he was never a part. They would depart “the faith” – the gospel revealed by Christ and preached by His apostles (Gal. 1:11-12, 23). Jesus described those who “in time of temptation fall away” (Lk. 8:13). Paul warned those who had “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). He also spoke of “the falling away” to console those who thought Christ was soon to appear (2 Thess. 2:3). Why reject this obvious Bible truth? It has nothing to do with God’s ability to save, and everything to do with our faith. We must hear and follow the word of Jesus to be secure in Him (Jno. 10:27-30; Heb. 5:8-9; Matt. 7:21-23). False doctrines (like once saved, always saved) deceive people of their security when they are in spiritual danger. Error sears consciences to prevent us from believing and receiving the truth (v. 3). You can know whether you have departed from the faith by comparing yourself to the truth. We are secure in Christ when we believe and walk in the faith.
28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:28–29, NKJV)
Moses’ law was clear concerning apostasy. The death penalty was applied under the Sinai law on the basis of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 13:6-10; 19:15). The author presents his case from the lesser to the greater. Transgressing Moses’ law brought sure punishment upon those who rejected it. The Christian (though previously “sanctified,” v. 29) is much worthier of death for rejecting the redemption he received through the blood of the covenant. God’s mercy has been provided through Christ’s sacrifice (Hebrews 10:26) – there is no other source of mercy. The Christian who sins willfully tramples on the Son of God. The blood of Christ, that dedicated the new covenant, is profaned by it. The Spirit of God, who revealed God’s grace to the world, is insulted by it. All this is written to Christians as a deterrent against willfully sinning against God. If you have done so, you can change you’re the will of your heart by repenting and renewing your life of faith (1 John 1:9; Acts 8:20-24). God’s mercy is still available to you in Christ. Rejecting God’s mercy will bring you eternal death. Choosing to live in sin is not worthy that!
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26–27, NKJV)
Those who believe a Christian can never fall from grace and be lost (as Galatians 5:4 says can happen) falter and fall over this passage. The “once saved, always saved” doctrine refuses to believe and accept its clear warning against willful sin. The “we” of verse 26 are Christians who sin willfully. The sin being discussed happens “after we have received the knowledge of the truth” (a figure of speech for one’s salvation by the gospel, 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25). When Christians sin willfully (voluntarily) they should not think they will have another path of redemption. That is flawed thinking. There will not be another sacrifice given for their sins. Christians who sin intentionally can expect a sure judgment of God’s fervent wrath. “The Lord will judge His people” who willfully turn away from Christ (Hebrews 10:30). The impossibility of apostasy (Calvinism’s “perseverance of the saints”) denies the Bible by denying the outcome of a Christian’s willful sin. The issue is not about God’s power to save (the “sacrifice for sins” has been fully made). The issue is about Christians choosing to reject Christ to practice sin. For them, judgment is certain, fiery and full (Hebrews 10:31). So, exercise your faith and do not sin willfully.
Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. (Revelation 3:11, NKJV)
The Christians in Philadelphia are highly commended by the Lord (Revelation 3:7-13). He had confidence they would use the opportunity He had opened for them to persevere and to prevail in their faith despite faithless opponents (Revelation 3:8-10). Christ would come with quick and complete justice upon their enemies. For their part, they were to “hold fast” what they had “firm unto the end” (see Hebrews 3:6). Their steadfastness was necessary in order that “no one may take your crown.” Jesus is crystal clear here. If they did not hold fast it would be possible for someone to take their crown (to prevent their victory). The doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy is absolutely obliterated by this passage. Why hold fast your faith if no one can take your crown? Why anticipate the coming judgment of the Lord against evil as an incentive to remain steadfast in the face of enemies of the faith? The truth is, if Christians abandon holding fast their faith, then they are not victors. They are among those who fall from grace (Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 6:4-6). Let us hold fast to the strength of faith, keep Christ’s word and not deny His name (Revelation 3:8). This is the victory of faith in Christ (1 John 5:4). Be warned. There is no victory in unfaithfulness.
20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:20–21, NKJV)
Without a doubt, this passage warns Christians against falling away from Christ. The ones described here had escaped sin through knowing Christ; they had been untangled from sin’s snare by the power of the Lord (Romans 6:17-18). They had known the way of righteousness and the holy commandment of God, but now they had returned to sin’s filth and were overcome by it (2 Peter 2:22, 20). The Scriptures reveal the way of righteousness as the pathway of life (Proverbs 12:28). Wisdom travels its byways (Proverbs 8:20). Truth is spoke by its travelers (Matthew 21:32). The Lord knows those who walk its path (Psalm 1:6). He also knows those who turn aside to the right or to the left, leaving its holy commands for the unholy, sinful allurements of the world. Protect yourself against sin. Walk the path of righteousness in faith, guided by truth and strengthened with wisdom, and you will have life. If you have turned from its way, repent and return to the Father. He is ready and able to forgive you (1 John 1:8-9).
“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.