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This is the fifth message in a series of sermons discussing some of the common misconceptions Christians hold that are not supported by an accurate understanding of the Scripture. This sermon addresses the "myth" that once a person puts faith in Christ for salvation, then they can never "lose" or forfeit their salvation.
Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV) Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him."
Introduction:I’m sure that I am speaking to a number of people here today who have frequently experienced the aggravation of misplacing something and not being able to find it. It might have been something that you had a month ago, a week ago or even before you went to bed last night, but now it is lost and you cannot remember what you did with it or can’t imagine what could have happened to it. Does that describe you? Is there anyone else here besides me that has asked God on numerous occasions to “Please help me find (whatever I lost)?”
Well, we have been doing a series of sermons on Christian myths – that is, misconceptions that people have about faith or the Christian life that are not based upon an accurate understanding of the Bible. Today we are going to talk about the possibility of losing something – more specifically, “losing one’s salvation.”However, when we use that phrase we do not use it in the same sense as we were talking a few minutes ago as though you had your faith (salvation) yesterday but when you got up this morning you couldn’t find it anywhere!
I remember struggling with that sometimes when I was a child or teen. I would go to the altar to pray and ask God to forgive me and I would promise to serve Him. I would be crying and all emotional, but the next morning the emotions were gone and I didn’t “feel” like I was saved. It was like I didn’t feel the same as last night, did anything really happen? It was all part of learning the difference between emotions and faith.When I speak about the possibility of losing my salvation, I am speaking of intentionally forsaking my faith and forfeiting salvation through deliberate choices and deliberately walking away from God.
As we continue in our series about Christian myths, I want to address two myths that are related to the subject of security in Christ. The first myth is this: once I put my faith in Christ for salvation, I can never fall away and be eternally lost no matter what I may do. The second myth is from the other “side of the coin,” is this: I may inadvertently or accidentally lose my faith and be eternally lost.The first view emphasizes security to the point of nullifying all the warnings in the NT that are written to believers. The second view promotes a kind of frantic anxiety about whether I may have done something to offend God today and cause Him to turn His back on me. Neither one of these viewpoints are consistent with the overall teaching of the Bible.
Before we look into the Word, I want to just say that I realize that some of what I say today is contrary to what some other denominations teach and therefore contrary to popular thinking of many Christians. I do not preach this message to be intentionally controversial. I do it to be faithful to the Word of God and to be faithful to the flock God has called me to shepherd. I don’t want to fail my responsibility to proclaim God’s truth.Just this week I read a verse in Lamentations where Jeremiah accuses the prophets of Israel of not faithfully preaching the truth to the people so they could have avoided destruction and captivity. (Lam. 2:14)
So let’s turn our attention to the Word and see what it has to say about our security in Christ.I. Salvation is by grace through faith.
The Bible plainly teaches us that we are saved by the grace of God on the basis of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in our behalf, and the way we obtain this salvation is by faith (believing and trusting) in what Jesus did.We believe that there are conditions that bring us to the point of faith, such as:
- Confession – of our sins; and of Jesus as Lord (1 Jn. 1:9; Rom. 10:9)
- Repentance – changing our minds/thinking (Acts 3:19 – Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out…; 2 Cor. 7:10 – Godly sorrow produces repentance.)
But faith is the “instrument” that brings salvation. We can confess all day and repent all day, and still not be saved or born again.
Eph. 2:8-9 – by grace are you saved through faith; Rom. 5:1 – therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God.
It is the moment that faith takes ahold of the promise of salvation that it is received. (Believing what God said and trusting in Him alone to keep His Word.) The kind of faith I’m talking about is more than just intellectual agreement with certain facts or information. Genuine faith gets from the mind down into the heart and produces a response of commitment and obedience.
When the whole Bible is taken into consideration, salvation is never portrayed as being possible or available apart from faith.
II. Faith is necessary to retain salvation.
Rom. 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
We have access to grace by faith and we stand in grace by faith.
Col. 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now he has reconciled 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blame and without reproof in his sight: 23If ye continue in the faith [belief] grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
1Thes. 3:5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear [wait], I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labor be in vain.
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten [birthed] us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In all of these references, as well as many others, the Scriptures show us that faith is not only required to obtain salvation, but it is also required to retain it. Faith must always be active in order for salvation to be possessed.
III. It is possible to depart from faith & consequently fall from grace.
As long as true faith is exercised, salvation is possessed, so that we can truly say, every “believer” is eternally secure. However, there is no indication in Scripture that once a person believes, he/she will always believe.
(Complete Works of Arminius) …it [is] impossible for believers, as long as they remain believers, to decline from salvation…. On the other hand, if believers fall away from the faith and become unbelievers, it is impossible for them to do otherwise than decline from salvation, that is, provided they still continue unbelievers.
1 Tim. 4:1-2 Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared [cauterized] with a hot iron;
1 Tim. 5:11-12 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax [grow] wanton [irresponsible, immoral] against Christ, they will marry; 12Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.
Heb. 10:38-39 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back [from faith], my soul shall have no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
Gal. 5:1-4 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace.
1 Cor. 9:27 But I keep my body under [control], and bring it into subjection: lest [for fear] that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway [same word as “reprobate” in Rom. 1].
Rev. 3:5 He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Rev. 22:19 And if any man [not just unsaved men] shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
These and many other passages stress the importance of continuing to trust in Christ, not merely a “belief in the mind” but genuine faith in the heart that produces sincere obedience to the words of Christ. It is not enough to exercise faith to initiate salvation, but we must keep on exercising faith in order to persevere in grace.
Having explained the possibility of departing from faith and falling from grace, I want to be very clear in stating that it is not necessary to do so. All of the warnings in Scripture regarding the intention of Satan to turn us away from Christ and destroy our faith are real. They are not fake warnings. There is a real possibility of turning away from the truth and falling from grace. However, the Bible is also very, very clear that God has done everything necessary to keep us true and faithful.
Jude 1:24 (KJV) Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
It may be possible to turn away from faith and fall from grace, but it certainly isn’t necessary. The power of the Holy Spirit that Christ promised would be living within us is fully capable of keeping us true and faithful.
Victory is possible. Faithfulness to Christ is possible. Overcoming the temptations, devices and deception of the Devil is entirely possible through the grace of God.
It is a myth that after knowing Christ, I can turn my back on Him and stubbornly resist the Holy Spirit’s efforts to bring me back, and yet end up in heaven. It is also a myth that God is just looking and waiting for the opportunity to condemn me to eternal judgment if I fall into willful sin.
It is divine mystery that God keeps loving us and drawing us to Himself even though we fail Him so many times and in so many ways.
Our closing hymn emphasizes this abiding promise that Jesus will be there to help us remain faithful if we will only keep trusting Him.
Hymn: Moment By Moment