“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.
25 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. (Ezekiel 18:25–26, NKJV)
When pointing out the Bible teaches it is possible for a Christian to fall away from Christ and be lost, we hear the same objection that was made by Israel in the days of Ezekiel: “That’s not fair!” (See yesterday’s Sword Tips #1078 on Ezekiel 18:24, as well as Gal. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:1-3.) Nevertheless, God rebuts and rejects that objection for what it is, an inversion of the truth of the matter (cf. Isa. 5:20). God said it is unfair to conclude that a person can be rewarded, even though he “turns away from his righteousness” and “commits iniquity” (v. 26). It is a slanderous and appalling insult against God and His justice to propose that one can do evil and the outcome be good (Rom. 3:8). “The soul who sins, shall die” is given as a warning that sin – whether committed by God’s people or by God’s enemies – will receive a just and impartial punishment (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Rom. 2:6-11). Be careful not to attribute any unfairness to the Lord God. Instead, let us humbly conform our faith and our lives to His word, because “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9).
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).
15 Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; Do not plunder his resting place; 16 For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.” (Proverbs 24:15–16, NKJV)
When a righteous person falls into sin or calamity, the wicked person is tempted to take advantage of the situation; to enrich himself at the expense of the fallen. Yet, the righteous will not remain overwhelmed by the moment of transgression or trial; the righteous rise in confessional repentance to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Jno. 1:9-2:1; Phil. 3:14). Therefore, do not seize upon the trials of another as if it is your advantage. It is certain that such wickedness will not stand (v. 16). But, the Lord renews the righteous because they trust Him. If you should find yourself overwhelmed by sin or by a burdensome trial, do not lose heart. The Lord forgives sin and strengthens His people to endure present sufferings. Thank God today for His compassion and for the guidance of His word, which renews our faith and strengthens us to move onward to the dawn of eternity.
1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1–2, NKJV)
The grace of God in which we stand is also the grace in which we must “be strong” (Rom. 5:1-2). This necessarily implies it is possible not to be strong in grace – not because God’s grace is weakened, but by failing to live by faith according to the word of God. Indeed, we can even “fall from grace” by failing to follow God’s word (as some Christians of Galatia did, Gal. 5:4). In order to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” we must faithfully hear, follow and teach “the word of His grace” which came to us from the apostles (Acts 20:32). Timothy had heard God’s word from Paul; now, he was to teach it to other faithful men (v. 2). We must continue this work of entrusting God’s word to others through by faithfully teaching it. To do so firmly establishes us in the grace of God. Without God’s word one cannot be strong in grace. Any claims to grace without truth is nothing more than an elusive illusion. But, when we abide in truth, His grace is deep and strong (Jno. 8:31-32).
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. 7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Galatians 5:6-9, ESV)
Faith works through love. The inspired apostle Paul affirms what many today will not admit; faith works, and a working faith counts for something in God’s sight. God-approved faith is active. “Faith working through love” in verse 6 is synonymous with “obeying the truth” in verse 7. Jesus does not persuade Christians to think they can stop having an obedient faith and still be crowned victorious in the last day. The runner who stops running does not win the race. The Christian who stops obeying the truth will not receive an imperishable crown (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Be cautious and do not fall from the grace you have in Christ (Gal. 5:4). Be obedient in your faith to love the Savior and do His will. Otherwise, the leaven of sinful neglect and complacency will damage and destroy your faith and rob you of your reward.