21 “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” 24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me” (Acts 8:21–24, NKJV).
This clear statement of sin was said to a Christian, Simon, who believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12-13). This passage helps expose and defeat two false doctrines. The first error is denying the necessity of water baptism for salvation (Mark 16:16). Some say Simon was never really saved in an attempt to deny this. But, Acts 8:12-13 says he believed, was baptized, and continued following Philip’s teachings like others in Samaria. If Simon was not saved when he believed and was baptized, neither were the Samaritans. And if they were lost, then the apostles gave the Holy Spirit to those who had not “received the word of God,” which they had (Acts 8:14-17). Yes, Simon was a Christian. It is postulated by those who reject baptism’s necessity for salvation that Christians would have to be baptized when they sin repeatedly. This text denies that. Peter told Simon the Christian to repent, not to be baptized again. The second error exposed is the impossibility of apostasy (a Christian cannot fall away and be lost). But Simon was poisoned and enslaved by sin, needing forgiveness. Simon was lost unless he repented. His plea for Peter’s prayer indicates his repentance and confession of sins (v. 24; 1 John 1:9; James 5:16). Sinners must believe and be baptized to be saved. Christians are forgiven by repentance and prayer. Otherwise, the sinner and saint remain lost in sin.
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified (2 Corinthians 13:5, NKJV).
Self-examination is not easy nor always pleasant. But Christians must do so to confirm our faith and assure our hope in Christ. The doctrine that a Christian cannot fall from God’s grace and be lost is patently false (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 2:1-3; 3:12-14; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). In today’s text, the exhortation warns of being disqualified (“unapproved, rejected,” castaway, reprobate, G96). Paul himself was not immune to the possibility of being disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27). He uses two words in today’s text to urge us to avoid being rejected by the Lord. To prevent such spiritual disaster, we must (1) Examine ourselves. We must expend effort to test and scrutinize ourselves, to explore our conduct and our heart’s motives, attitudes, and aspirations that prompt our actions. The standard we examine ourselves against is “the faith,” the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:11, 23; Jude 3). Do the heart and behavior align with the word of Christ? (2) Test ourselves. This word means to discern whether we are approved. Vine says it means “to prove with a view to approving” (Vine, II:22). We must discern whether our assessment shows “that Jesus Christ is in” us. If it does, then good. Keep it up. If it shows we are deficient, repent and practice righteousness (2 Cor. 12:20-21; Rev. 2:5). Christians use the gospel to examine (inspect) and test (approve) ourselves. By conforming to it, we know (recognize) ourselves and are accepted by Christ.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4–6, NKJV)
Verse 6 gives the reason for the impossibility of renewal to repentance if Christians fall away. When fallen Christians continue to practice their sins, they forfeit the power to renew their faith. It is impossible to be renewed spiritually while continuing to sin. They are crucifying the Son of God by their willful transgressions, openly shaming Him by their return to and continuance in sin (Heb. 10:26-31). Indulging in sin instead of resisting it hardens hearts that were once enlightened, enlivened, and edified by God’s word and its promised hope. Therefore, we are warned not to let sin have a place in our hearts and lives (Heb. 3:12-13). Yes, Christians can fall away and be lost (2 Pet. 2:20-22; Gal. 5:4). And yes, fallen saints can be restored to Christ, but only by strictly putting away the sins that have prevented their repentant return to the Lord. Willful sin must cease for divine mercy to take its place (Lk. 15:17-24).
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one. (John 10:27–30, NKJV)
This passage is easily understood and gives great assurance to the followers of Jesus. People have distorted this teaching of Christ to assure souls that they can never so sin as to be lost once saved from sin. This passage does not teach this error. A brief review of the text shows Jesus comforts the faithful but does not secure sinners. First, see what Christ’s sheep do: They hear His voice and follow Him. Next, see what Jesus does: He knows them and gives them eternal life. Now, who “shall never perish” and not be snatched from Christ’s hand or the Father’s hand? It is the sheep who hear and follow Jesus (v. 27). What if the sheep stops following the shepherd? Christ sheep are exposed to life-threatening dangers when they leave the sheepfold of safety, wander on the hillside of sin, and forage in the thicket of evil. When Christians stop listening to Jesus and refuse to follow Him, their souls are in jeopardy! Christians who return to sin bring on their eternal demise, not an eternal reward (2 Pet. 2:20-22). This truth does not diminish the power of the Father and Son to save. It acknowledges what Scripture confirms: Christians can fall away (Gal. 5:4; Lk. 8:13). God protects sheep who hear Him and follow Him. So, hear the word of Jesus and follow Him every day.
12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:12–14, NKJV)
This remarkable miracle of healing the lame man at the pool called Bethesda is a marvelous illustration of God’s merciful healing of our souls from sin (Jno. 5:1-9). What followed also illustrates our obligation once God saves us from our past sins. Just as Jesus told the man to “sin no more,” Christians cannot “continue in sin that grace may abound” (Jno. 5:14; Rom. 6:1-2). Just as the lame man’s healing should prompt him to live differently, our salvation from sin compels us to cease practicing sin. We have “died to sin,” being freed from the clutches of its slavery by the blood of Christ (Rom. 6:3-11). Saved in Christ, we are “servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). Jesus warned the man that returning to sin would bring a worse outcome upon him. That is also true of Christians who sin (read 2 Pet. 2:20-22). The teaching that Christians cannot sin and be lost is false. Jesus healed the man, yet a far worse thing would occur if he practiced sin (Matt. 5:29-30). Even so, Christ has saved us. But if we turn back to sin, we will be lost. That outcome will be on us, not on Jesus (2 Cor. 5:10).
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:35–39, NKJV)
This passage presents a substantial problem for those who believe the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. Christians are urged to have endurance to “receive the promise.” Without a faith that endures, they would cast away their confidence and “draw back to perdition” (destruction). This is a far cry from comforting souls in sin that they cannot lose their salvation. This passage also confounds those who trust in the “faith only” doctrine. It points out the promise of life is not received until after “you have done the will of God.” Faith that saves the soul endures by continuing to do the will of God. Faith endures the struggles of suffering that come with following Jesus (Heb. 10:32-34). Enduring faith gives life (v. 37), it pleases God (v. 38), and it saves the soul (v. 39). “Indeed we count them blessed who endure” (Jas. 5:11).
21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21–22, NKJV)
The gospel makes disciples. And, disciples need strengthening to “continue in the faith” (Col. 2:6-7). The reason for exhortation to continue in the faith is given in verse 22 – there are many tribulations through which disciples must pass to “enter the kingdom of God.” Would someone please explain why strengthening the souls of the disciples for these tribulations is necessary if their entrance into heaven is already settled? In other words, if the eternal inheritance of Christians cannot be jeopardized, then why exhort them to continue in the faith? Why the need for strength in the face of tribulations, if entrance into the eternal kingdom can never be endangered? The truth is we can become weak. It is possible for Christians to turn back to sin and no longer continue “in the faith” (2 Pet. 2:20-22; Gal. 5:7). Let us hear and heed the Spirit’s exhortation to “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). You will face pressures as a disciple of Christ. Be brave, be strong. Your entrance into the eternal kingdom is certain as you “continue in the faith.”
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.