Biblical Proof Christians CAN Fall Away (Part 1)
By Steven Lambert
Jesus specifically said that in the case of this second category of hearers He identified and characterized in the Parable of the Sower: “…when affliction and persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mk. 4:17). According to Jesus, the result when they met with adversity after having believed is that ─ “immediately they fall away.” According to the doctrine of a number of Christian denominations today, this just cannot be so. Nevertheless, according to Jesus and God’s Word, it is immutably so.
Before going any further, some readers may note that the King James Version says they were “offended,” rather than that they fell away. However, this Elizabethan English usage does not accurately convey the intention of the original language. In the Greek, that word actually means to cause someone to stumble with the end result of falling. It is always used metaphorically to connote a falling away. Most translations other than the King James Version do indicate a falling away in this passage and others where the same Greek word is used.
There are a number of Christian denominations today who espouse what is commonly known as “the doctrine of eternal security.” Simply stated, this belief purports that once a person has made a verbal confession of Jesus Christ as his Savior, there is virtually no way he can ever lose his salvation or fall away, but that somehow, someway, God guarantees his eventual salvation; hence, that person’s salvation is “eternally secure.”
While I must say such an ideology would be extremely convenient, it is nonetheless quite unscriptural. Many people have used the auspices of this doctrine for license to continue in their sin and licentiousness under this false sense of “eternal security,” by which they are duped into believing they shall escape divine judgment for their deeds.
Now this is not at all to say that salvation for true, obedient believers is not eternally secure. On the contrary, the salvation and redemption that Jesus purchased with His own blood is most sure and forever secure. The obedient believer can be utterly assured of his salvation, and know with total certainty that he has Eternal Life: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13).
God certainly does not want any believer to be in a quandary concerning his salvation and eternal destiny. Yet, at the same time, He has published innumerable warnings and exhortations in His Word concerning the fact that it is quite possible for someone who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to fall away from following Him and consequently lose his salvation.
Scriptures regarding believers falling away of which I have personal knowledge number at nearly one hundred. Space simply will not permit an exhaustive study of them all, but the inevitable, unbiased conclusion is that a believer can indeed fall away from the faith, and that the wrath and eternal judgment of God awaits all those who refuse to repent of their sin and rebellious deeds. All the weight of Divine Writ bears forth the Truth that no one, believer or unbeliever, can elude accountability for his deeds:
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil…but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good…For there is no partiality with God. (Rom. 2:4-11)
“But, God Is Love!”
Inevitably, when you start talking about matters of judgment and believers falling away, proponents of eternal security will begin to cite scriptures concerning God’s love, kindness, mercy, and patience. Of course, all these qualities are an inherent part of God’s nature in boundless measure. Yet, scriptures proclaiming those Divine Attributes can never be used as a counterclaim against the validity of other scriptures concerning Divine Judgment. Scripture never contradicts itself. No passage of Scripture refutes or nullifies another.
What is difficult for the finite, humanistic mind to comprehend is that God’s wrath and eternal judgment are not contradictory to His Divine Nature of Love, but an inherent part of it. Righteous indignation and wrath are an inherent part of the Righteousness of God. They are a part of Divine Love. As the last scripture quoted, Romans 2:4-11, indicates, the rich kindness and forbearance and patience of God is intended to lead people to repentance, not to give license to their continuance in sin. But, those who refuse to repent from their sin because of their “stubbornness and unrepentant heart” are only “storing up wrath” for themselves for “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” And, on that Day of Wrath and Judgment, God will “render to every man according to his deeds.” Those who have done good will inherit Eternal Life. Those whose deeds were evil will inherit wrath and righteous indignation.
“But, We’re Saved by Grace!”
Another counterclaim often levied by proponents of the eternal security doctrine is that we are saved by grace. They misuse such scriptures as, “For by grace you have been saved through faith…not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9) for support of their ideology, and to counter scriptures concerning the judgment of apostate believers.
Of course everyone is saved by grace through faith, but we must never misconstrue the grace of God for license to sin, something which the Apostle Jude warned that “ungodly persons” do:
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)
God’s grace is that “while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). We all were the “ungodly” for whom Christ died, though we in no wise deserved or merited it. That is God’s grace.
God’s grace is not a license to sin. Because God has through Jesus’ shed blood justified us with Himself, does that mean He did it so that we could be permitted to continue in sin? Never! “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” (Rom. 6:15). Or, “Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2).
It is true that we are saved by grace through faith. But, once we are saved we should “bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mat. 3:8). Our deeds should give proof of our salvation. As James said, “faith without works (deeds) is dead” (Jas. 2:17). The Amplified Bible translates that passage this way: “So also faith if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power ─ inoperative, dead.” (Italics added by author)
In other words, if we have truly been “saved by grace through faith,” then our lives will be living testimony of that faith. Again, The Amplified Bible says it well:
What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no (good) works (to show for it)? Can (such) faith save (his soul)? (Jas. 2:14, italics added by author)
Of course, the understood answer to that question is that such a “faith” is not the real faith through which one is saved. Such a “faith” that is void of corresponding good works cannot save anyone.
Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” For a person to be “in Christ” means that he has surrendered his life unto the Lord, and has been saved by grace through faith. That person is “a new creature” because “the old things,” the sinful deeds of the carnal nature are passing away through repentance, and are being replaced with the “new things,” the godly deeds and behavior of the Born Again nature.
Are we saved by grace through faith? Of course we are. But, the grace of God is not a license to sin. The substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ does not in any wise extend to justify the sin of those who “go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth” (Heb. 10:26).
No one, professing believer or unbeliever, who continues to practice willful sin will ever enter into Heaven, for:
nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it. (Rev. 21:27)
But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murders and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Rev. 21:8)
Last Days Apostasy
There are multitudes of people today who are in this second category of hearers of the Word of God, who because of insufficient repentance are like “rocky ground.” When adversity arises against them, because they are only “temporary” believers, they fall away. And, adversity of many sorts is exactly what many believers are experiencing today.
In its own way, these last days in which we live are very difficult times, even for Christians. As the Living Bible says it, “in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian” (2 Tim. 3:1). Sin has run its course in perverting the entire Creation of God, from the condition of humanity itself, to the air Man breathes, to the Earth he inhabits. Thus, every element of the world in which we live has been corrupted down to the very foundation. The consequence is the effects of sin ─ adversity and tribulation.
However, the fire of testing is bringing purification to individual true believers and to the collective Body of Christ. The true wheat is being separated from the chaff, the temporary believers are being separated from the eternal believers. Purification is the result when true believers go through adversity, which is the reason God does not eradicate it entirely from their lives. Temporary believers, on the other hand, fall away as a result of afflictions and persecutions. The Lord Himself has testified concerning this, saying, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Is. 48:10).
In the same last days in which God is pouring out His Spirit upon all mankind (Joel 2:28), and multitudes are coming into the Kingdom of God, at the same time, many temporary believers are falling away from the faith. Many of them continue to attend church services, however, masquerading behind a facade of piety while their personal lives and behavior is as apostate as can be. As Jude said of such false brethren: “These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts (worship services) when they feast with you without fear” (Jude 12, italics added by author).
Yet, this last day apostasy has not come upon us unawares. Jesus Himself prophesied it would happen, saying, “And at that time many will fall away” (Mat. 24:10, italics added by author). The Apostle Paul also echoed that prophecy through the same Spirit, and even added some insight as to what and who will motivate people to fall away in these last days: “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:10).
In the past, some theologians have surmised that this last day’s apostasy would occur in some sort of a prevailing “a-religious” climate. However, the Apostle Paul indicated in the passage just quoted that those who would fall away in the last days would do so not because of being “a-religious” or anti-religious, but because they were indeed “paying attention,” only to the wrong spirit. Instead of paying attention to the Holy Spirit, they would be paying attention to deceiving religious spirits of Satan, and to religious doctrines concocted and propagated by demons.
Thus, while church people look for some great, contemporaneous, concerted mass defection from Christianity, multitudes of ultra-religious and pious-appearing church-goers are being surreptitiously led astray from the Truth as they pay attention to the deceitful religious spirits and erroneous doctrines of demons. And, it’s all happening right under the noses of those church people and clergymen.###
This article is extracted from the book of the same title, The Mystery of the Kingdom, written by Dr. Steven Lambert. The book is a virtual “Christianity 101!” It puts the entire “big picture” of the Christian experience and life into proper perspective, as well as answers many common questions regarding God and the Kingdom of God. It truly is MUST-READING for every believer, no matter how long you’ve known the Lord! But new believers will be especially blessed by the many insights into the operation and personal appropriation of the Kingdom unveiled in this powerful yet easy-to-read book.
CLICK HERE to get a copy of the book in print, eBook, or ePub form, or to learn more about the book, see the Table of Contents, sample chapters, and read more excerpts from the book.