By Roland W. Keith
Can one fall from grace? Someone once explained to me that if a person dies unsaved, they never really were in a state of grace or truly saved to begin with. That’s like saying because I’m not currently in the Navy I never was a sailor to begin with. But, in fact I spent many years serving our country in the Navy, just as there are some people who spend many years in faithful service to the Lord with their name written in the book of life only to have it blotted out in the end because they turn their backs on the Lord at some point. Peter wrote, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment… then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment (II Peter 2:4, 9). God knows how to rescue us and secure our salvation. That is true. But the fallen angels’ positions in heaven were secured by God’s might as well; heaven’s armies have never been defeated nor ever shall be. Yet there are angels who have been cast into hell because they turned away from the surety of God to pursue something else.
Jude wrote, “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:5-6). The Israelites were saved, only to perish outside of the land they had been promised because of their unbelief. We must understand, however, that this unbelief spoken of was not atheistic. They believed in God. They were daily witnesses to His might and existence, from their rescue in the land of Egypt to the cloud-by-day and pillar of fire-by-night, and from their daily rations of manna to God’s rumblings on the mountain. Their unbelief was a lack of trust that God would deliver, even though He always had. The angels on the other hand already had a proper place in heaven and chose to give it up in rebellion. Let us learn from these lessons. We always have free will, both before and after our coming to the Lord. Therefore, choosing to follow the Lord is a perpetual choice. We choose to follow every day. Sadly, at some point a person will occasionally decide to walk away from his salvation (II Timothy 4:10).
According to Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, had made shipwreck of their faith (I Timothy 1:18-20). Paul explained that “I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” This indicates that he had a hope that they would return to the Lord, but there was no guarantee. As we all know in a shipwreck while many may be saved, many more may perish. Simon the sorcerer is another man whose salvation was on the brink. Many have claimed that Simon was not saved, but if that was so then Peter’s response to his impertinence is very odd. Peter did not accuse him of falsity or advise him to seek true faith, rather he instructed him to “Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.” Simon was told to repent of his sin, to which he it seems quite sincerely beseeched Peter to “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me” (Acts 18: 9-24).
Perhaps no verses more clearly illustrate the need for us to safeguard our salvation than Galatians 5:4-7. Writing to members of the church Paul warns them: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” We cannot fall away from something we do not possess. These were people under grace in danger of throwing it away by returning to the Law. There are many warnings against falling away or reverting to sin in the Bible for those already in the kingdom (Matthew 13:37-43; I Corinthians 10:1-13). Once such caution was given by Paul when he wrote: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (I Timothy 4:1-2).
Another such caution was given by Peter: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: "The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire”” (II Peter 2:20-22; Hebrews 3:13).
The possibility of falling away is a very real concern, especially for some within the brotherhood. Therefore, we must work to strengthen one another even as we look to our own salvation (Hebrews 10:25; I Corinthians 9:27; II Peter 1:10). There are many causes that can make us lose heart or turn aside— tribulation or persecution (Matthew 13:20-21), disobedience (Hebrews 3:18-19), love of the world (I John 2:15-17), false teachers (Acts 20:29-30), among other things. So, how can we prevent falling away? First, we can do everything that we can to abide in the Lord and His word (John 15:6; 8:51). We can study His word diligently and learn to apply it to our lives (Acts 17:11; II Timothy 2:15), knowing that within the scriptures is the way of our escape (I Corinthians 10:13). When we falter, we can repent and renew our efforts (Revelation 2:5, 16).
We have to word, we have prayer, we have one another to lean upon. But, more than anything else, we must trust the One Who has given us His promises, as the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:1-3). Before departing from them Paul told the Ephesian elders, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). If we remain true to His word and we participate in the blood of Christ then we can put on the armor of God in order to withstand whatever Satan and the world throws at us (I Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 6:10-18). We can continually increase Christian character by following Peter’s admonition: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” II Peter 1:5-10; also I Corinthians 16:13).
Lest we tend to get distracted by the cares of life it is important to recall these words from the Lord: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). The result of falling away is eternal condemnation (Revelation 2:4-5; II Peter 2:20-2). The result of repenting and turning to God and thereafter remaining in His grace is eternal salvation as Jesus proclaimed in His revelation to John, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.