“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.
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8–10, NKJV)
The “word of faith” was preached by the apostles. It produces faith in the good and honest heart (Romans 10:17; Luke 8:15). It produces belief in the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and that Jesus is Lord. A verbal confession of one’s faith that Jesus is Lord (Ruler, Master), and that He was raised from the dead, is necessary to be saved. Confessing one’s belief that Jesus is the risen Lord is not the only thing essential to be saved. The command to repent of sins must be obeyed, or we will perish (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30). Water baptism is also commanded to be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:47-48; 1 Peter 3:21). The “word of faith” contains all these essential actions of faith to be saved by grace. The gospel plan of salvation is for the lost to hear the gospel, to believe in Jesus, the resurrected Lord (the Son of God), to confess Jesus as Lord, to repent of your sins, and to be baptized into Christ. God will save you by His grace, when you do the things God wants you to do.
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37–38, NKJV)
In answer to the question posed by the murderers of Jesus (Acts 2:36), Peter did not tell them to “just accept Jesus as your personal Savior, and you will be saved.” (They evidently already believed Jesus to be “both Lord and Christ,” because they are convicted of their sin against Him. You cannot be convicted about something you do not believe.) Peter did not tell them to “pray the sinner’s prayer” to be saved. (Yet, that is what many tell sinners to do about their sins.) Peter did not tell them, “There is nothing you can do to save yourselves. God has done everything.” (But, many tell sinners they are completely passive in their salvation.) Peter did tell them to repent. These believers were not yet saved; they needed to repent, or they would not be saved. Peter also told them to be baptized “for the remission of sins.” Just as one must believe and repent to be saved, one must also be baptized to be saved. Instead of accepting doctrines that deny and oppose this simple passage about how to be saved, why not believe it, obey it, and be saved? When you believe, repent and are baptized, God will remove your sins, just like He did theirs.
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23–26, NKJV)
It is not riches that will keep a person out of heaven, but how one views and uses his wealth. Just before Jesus said these words, a rich young man had turned away from following Him after Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21-22). His love of money prevented him from following Jesus. When we love money and material things more than putting Jesus first and obeying Him, then we will not be saved (1 Tim. 6:10). You had just as soon try to pass a camel through a needle’s eye, as try to get to heaven serving riches. God has and will save rich people (Abraham, for example, Gen. 24:35). Jesus is not saying wealth is evil. But, it is evil to love money more than God. Godliness with contentment is the lesson we must all learn and live, whether we are rich or poor (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12–13, NKJV)
The Gentiles were not in a covenant relationship with God through the Law of Moses. Only Israel was under that law, and were the people of the covenant (Deut. 5:2-3). That is why Paul speaks of the Gentiles as “having no hope and without God in the world” (v. 12). This is an apt description of the spiritual status of all who are lost in sin: Aliens, without God, without hope, and without an inheritance (see Eph. 2:1-3). But, “in Christ Jesus” all that changes. In Christ, one has a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). In Christ, the sinner is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Through faith in Christ Jesus, lost sinners are saved, and become children of God (Gal. 3:26; 4:5-7). The alien sinner comes into a saved relationship with God by putting on Christ, which occurs when the sinner is “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). The blood of Christ – His death for our sins – makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God (Eph. 2:16). It washes away our sins when we are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 22:16). No longer live without God and without hope. By faith, be baptized into Christ and be saved. “Why are you waiting?” (Acts 22:16)
11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11–13, NKJV)
Jesus came to the Jewish people, and they rejected Him as the Messiah. But, their refusal to receive Him did not prevent God from declaring Jesus to be Lord and Christ (Psa. 2:1-7; Acts 2:33-37). Now, everyone who receives Him has been given the right to become a child of God. It is precisely those who “believe in His name” that have the right to be born of God to become His child. Some have this verse 12 all wrong. They think it says, “receive + believe = become.” They use this verse to say you should pray for salvation, but nothing is said of prayer here. The verse actually says, “received Him (believed) = right to become” children of God. If you receive Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God (that is, you believe it), then you have the right to become a child of God. That truth is embedded perfectly into the call of the gospel at the Great Commission: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16). You have the right to become a child of God when you receive (believe) He is the Christ, the Son of God. But, without faith you cannot be saved (Jno. 8:23-24).
12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. (Acts 8:12–13, NKJV)
Was Simon really saved? If not, neither were the Samaritans we read about in this passage. He heard the same preaching they heard. He believed the same word about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ they believed. Were they saved when they believed and were baptized? According to Mark 16:16, yes, for there Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” The Samaritans were saved when they believed and were baptized, and so was Simon. Any attempt to cast doubt upon the credibility of Simon’s conversion throws the same shadow of doubt upon all the Samaritans. There is great assurance and abiding joy that when sinners hear the word of Christ, believe it and are baptized, they are saved (Acts 8:5-8). Take heed to the plan of salvation Jesus preached in Mark 16:16, and that saved the Samaritans and Simon in Acts 8:12-13. Otherwise, you will find yourself fighting against God.