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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
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    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « Eros Spirituality Vs. Agape Faith by David F. Wells | Main | Materials of Interest Around the Web »

    Can a True Christian Fall from Grace?

    How heartening it is to read clear passages like John 3:16 which says that all who believe in Christ will "not perish but have eternal life." John 6:37-40 teaches that Christ will lose none of those given to Him by the Father but will raise all of them up to eternal life at the last day. Romans 8:28-30 declares, “these He justified; He also glorified” showing that no one who is truly justified by Christ falls through the cracks before full glorification takes place. These and other passages like John 10:26-30 are so clear. However, at least at first glance, some scriptures seem to undermine these precious truths. Because the Bible is the inspired word of God, it is consistent throughout. It never contradicts itself. To see an example of this, here's a question (based on Galatians 5:4) and an answer provided by Dr. James White on his blog at www.aomin.org.

    Question: How do we explain Galatians 5:4 which talks of people falling from grace?

    Answer: Gal 5:4... you have fallen from grace. - This shows that you can receive God's grace and then fall. Quite true: but what kind of grace, and in what context?

    These words are addressed to a particular group, as the context shows:

    Galatians 5: 2-4...

    2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
    3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.
    4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

    So in what way had those seeking to be justified by law "fallen from grace"? The assumption that is usually made is that to fall from grace proves that you once received saving grace; evidently, the same assumption would follow that one who is severed from Christ was once joined to Him savingly.

    Aside from the contradictions such a position creates with the plain assertions of Scripture elsewhere, the fact of the matter is Paul is addressing those who were seeking to add to faith in Christ the single act of obedience encompassed in circumcision--clearly the Judaizers were not saying you did not have to believe in Christ, nor were they importing the entirety of the law of Moses (Paul argues their inconsistency at this point as part of his refutation of them); instead, they were adding a select list of things one had to do in addition to faith to be right before God. Paul has already laid out the stark contrast between the path marked by law-keeping obedience and that marked by grace-inspired faith in Christ. One cannot go down both paths.

    These men were still seeking their justification, unlike true believers who look back upon theirs (Romans 5:1). They had not yet found peace with God by faith in Christ Jesus alone, and Paul says they will never find it going down the path they are going. They have been severed from Christ not in the sense that they had been salvifically united to Him and now He was failing to save them, but that by seeking to be made justified by something other than faith alone, they were severed from the only true source of life in Christ; they have fallen from grace not that they had been salvifically regenerated and justified and sanctified by grace already, and were now destroying that grace by their beliefs, but that they have fallen away or failed of grace (literally) by proceeding down a path grace has never, and will never, mark out, that path of human cooperation and works righteousness that is so much the desire of the unregenerate heart.

    To prove that God's sovereign electing grace can fail to save the elect would require a text far more to the point than one addressing false teachers who are perverting the gospel and thus cutting themselves off from salvation.

    Posted by John Samson on May 9, 2006 01:07 PM

    Comments

    John

    I do not disagree with your view that a Christian cannot fall away from his salvation, but I think Galatians is more complex than you suggest. While we cannot know for sure the salvific state of the Galatians who were ‘falling away’, we do know that Paul compared them with Peter’s similar error previously. Clearly Peter was saved so his table fellowship error, which Paul criticised, was a serious mistake which a believer can make. Maybe Peter was not guilty of legalism (if we reserve ‘legalism’ to mean the attempt to get saved in the first place) but maybe he was guilty of neonomianism, which I take to mean a believer’s wrong attitude to the law, an obeying the law to stay saved. This is clearly as deadly as legalism but fortunately God does not abandon neonomianists to their heresy but, somehow, brings them back. Their falling away is therefore not final, but is akin to the ‘fall from grace’ that any and all of us make when, as believers, we still sin.

    Richard

    It is interesting that people neglect to look to Hebrews 6:4-6, which states,
    "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace."

    We need look no further than this for clear answers to this question. I am not a legalist, I am free in Christ. However, I am not free to sin as I please. Rather to praise and live freely from my sin which I regrettably continue to commit. I will not glorify sin or "throw" my salvation out as an excuse to sin.

    Hi Chris,

    The Hebrews 6 passage has been addressed on this blog a number of times. Here are some words on this from Vincent Cheung who was responding to someone who said that they still tended to read passages like this as an Arminian:

    "... there are a number of commentaries that adequately address Hebrews 6. It is good to read and review them. After that, the struggle is not in attaining exegetical precision with the passage, but it is in the part of you that still tends to read it as an Arminian — as a self-centered rebel — when there is no warrant for it.

    Consider the example of John 3:16. It says that whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life, which both Calvinism and Arminianism affirm, but it does not say who will believe or why they will believe. Thus the verse affirms only salvation by faith, and has no relevance to the disagreement between Calvinism and Arminianism until you bring other biblical passages into the discussion. However, many people want to read it as Arminians, and so they think that Arminianism is what it proves. They take the words "whoever believes" to mean something so different as, "Every man has free will, and anyone can by his free will believe in Christ apart from God's foreordination and direct control." I might as well deduce the entire Alice in Wonderland when someone says "Good morning" or "Have a nice day."

    Likewise, Hebrews 6 says that whoever satisfies the listed conditions and then withdraws from the faith cannot repent again. Since this is what it says, then this is what it means. Now, we can argue about whether these conditions completely define a believer. We could argue from the example of Judas, who exercised the very powers of the world to come, but Jesus knew from the beginning that he was "a devil." He was never truly converted. However, even this discussion is unnecessary, since it is irrelevant to the main point of the passage. Even if it describes a believer, does a believer actually withdraw? Does it ever happen? The passage does not say. The only mention of this topic points toward the other direction: "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case — things that accompany salvation" (v. 9). The writer was convinced that at least the original readers would not suffer the fate that he describes. What is it then? The passage cannot be used to support Arminianism, since even the relevance is absent.

    I could say, "If God dies, then the earth will also disappear," or something to that effect. The statement is certainly true. But will it ever happen? Is it even possible? It would be pure lunacy to infer from the statement, "Therefore, it is possible for God to die." The statement does not address the topic at all. Now, we could argue that the words "if God dies" contain a categorical error, rendering the phrase meaningless, but other than that, the statement makes an important point, that God is the sustainer of all things, and that all things continuously depend on him. This is what it implies, and one cannot read more into it unless he does so by force."

    You made a mistake on John 3:16 King James Bible Says should not perish not will not parish or can not perish.There are conditions upon conditions in Gods word.Please check it out

    Chris, I was not quoting the KJV, but interpreting the original Greek which makes it clear that it is impossible for a believing one to perish. The word "should" in English is not a particularly good translation in this particular verse as used in the KJV as in English the word "should" can contain the idea that something ought to happen but that it may not necessarily happen. This is NOT what the original text means in any way at all.

    This is all confirmed by modern translations such as the NASB which says "shall not perish", the NET as "will not perish", and the NIV as "shall not perish".

    God's love for the world is seen by the giving of His Son so that all the believing ones will not perish but instead will have eternal life.

    IF a christion lives a sinful life like lying cheating in marrige is he still going to Gods kingdom?

    John 6:39 - And this is the will of him who sent me, that I SHALL NOT lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

    John 8:12 - I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will NEVER walk in darkness, but WILL HAVE the light of life.

    God's will will always be done, b/c its God's will. And it will certainly be done through Jesus b/c Jesus is God. If it is God's will for Jesus to lose no one that has been given to him than that is that.

    Generally for me anything that makes God bigger is correct. What kind of God would God be if he could gain our hearts and we could still choose something else? God is God, he is perfect no one can take a true believer, one who believes with his heart and his actions and not just with his mouth, from God.

    It's like the argument of whether we choose God first or He chooses us first. God opening our eyes so that we can see the truth and choose life over death is so obvious to me. God's salvation for us becomes that much greater and God's glory that much greater.

    Matthew 11:25

    John 6:44 - No one can come to me UNLESS THE FATHER who sent me DRAWS HIM.

    If God did not allow us to see truth we would never choose it. Who would choose the life of a Christian...no one unless somehow they knew God's way was better, how can we know without someone opening our hearts and minds to it? We cannot.

    God initiates our salvation not only with Jesus's death but also by opening our eyes to the truth of our shallow lives without Christ.


    I mean really how much more clear can it be?

    So are you telling us that if a person confessing to be a Christian and saved by our Lord Jesus, ignores their responsibility to live Godly lives as a testimony to Him. That they will still go to heaven?
    I’m sure you are aware what Paul wrote to Believers “Christians” in 1 Cor 6:9;
    Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.
    He is addressing people that are cheating on their spouses, living in Fornication, and the “So-called” Saved Homosexuals. The Word is for Believers not unbelievers. So is he simply judging and Condemning the infidel? I think not!!! If Christ came back while we willfully live in Sin, this passage tells us NO ONE that is in these types of sin will enter in. The Word tells me and all Christians that a willfully wicked "Christian" would be included in that group and suffer the fate of the unsaved. After all even when we are Christians we have the "Free Will" to sin and sin cannot stand before or be anywhere around our God. And we know the Holy Spirit cannot live in an unclean vessel, therefore, the Spirit would Have to depart from a willful sinner until such a time they repented and sought after Jesus once again. Remember
    “NARROW” IS THE WAY. How you are telling it… Just accept Jesus once and go on sinning YOU ARE SAVED so it doesn’t matter how you live. In Essence the absolute opposite you are saying "WIDE IS THE WAY???" The WORD says different.

    TO follow up. It is my Beliefe that We are willfully accept salvation. And we can willfully reject it by our actions and ignoring the Word.

    Tim,

    If you were addressing your comments to me, let me respond by saying "No, that is not what I am saying at all." You have misunderstood me completely. A genuine Christian is one who will show forth the fact by his actions, because the one redeemed is also indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who goes to work on sanctification in the believer's life. But the actions (works) play no part in the justification for salvation is "not of works lest any man should boast" (Eph 2:8, 9). Holiness is the fruit not the root of our salvation.

    Shalom,

    Could you please be so kind as to explain Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21 and Luke 8:6, 13 in relation to your suggested theology on ‘Eternal Security’?

    Likewise, with respect to St. John 6:67, did Jesus require His twelve disciples to exercise their individual ‘free will(s)’ and make a choice regarding their continued discipleship?

    Your response to my concern will be most appreciated.

    Thanks,
    barney

    It is clear that this argument will never end. The question should be, can you wilfully change your mind to stop following Christ, I’m certain you can, does this mean you were not really saved at one stage, certainly not. It all has to do with your hearts condition, what comes first in your life, your faith in Christ or your desire to sin. Paul said he did many things he did not want to do, his heart condition is made known by this, he wanted to follow Christ. To make things simpler, I would rather serve Christ wholeheartedly and think I may not make it to heaven if I sin wilfully than to serve Him half-heartedly and be turned away because I thought there is nothing to worry about.

    Left to ourselves, all of us are prone to wonder, but that is not the big picture - the fact is Christ is a perfect Savior and He loses none of His true sheep (John 6, John 10) and those who do walk away, never were truly His (as 1 John 2:19 makes extremely clear). "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."

    If a Christian falls from grace, can they be saved again? I have OCD with thoughts so sometimes I get confused. I know people can only enter heaven through Jesus, but sometimes I panic and get scared that I’m not producing enough good fruit and stuff like that. Or being repentant enough for my sins. What if a Christian knows/believes Jesus is the only way to enter heaven but start relying on good works to help also? Can they be forgiven for doing that? If they stop relying/adding on good works to save them and fully trust Jesus to save them?

    In all this discussion what are we really asking ourselfs. Time and time again the Holy Bible has made it clear that eternity in Heaven is a gift from God, through repentance of our sin. That we want God to be our Lordshipand rule over us. That our desire is to obedient because we believe His Word true. We know God is the only True King and Savior. He knows all from the very first breath He spoke, to the end of life. God said He knows us by the hairs on our head. Each one individually. He knows our hearts inside and out. He knew us before our creation to our death. With this being said, God knows who will call Him Lord and who will never know Him. Knowing God is all knowing, then it is ludacris to say a christiam can fall out of God's Grace. Lets look at what we are really saying or talking about here again. God gave us freewill to choose in everything we do. When saved God puts us in His Book of Life, and seals us in blood. Never to be cast into Hell. It is impossible to know God an truly fall away from His Grace. Now there are those who only seek Gods love, and hope God will allow them into Heaven. These people are sinnersonly trying to fool themselves, God knows who they are. To fall from Gods Grrace would mean God never truly knows our hearts, that He knows nothing of us. Its to say God made a mistake in giving us Salvation. In return would call Him a fowlable God. Doesn't that go against all we know about God and in return call the Word (Holy Bible) a lie. Think about it...We are all given freewill to choose. We can die sinners, or we can receive God as Christians. So lets talk about Christians and sin. When we became saved God wiped our old sin life away and gave us the Holy Spirit to reside within us. The Holy Spirit keeps us on track and warns us if we should seek to disobey. We still can make the choice to sin and do as we please, by going outside of the Holy Spirits warnings. Did we fall from Grace? No. Look at being a Christian as a small baby. We continue to develope and grow in the Lord each day, some faster than others. God disciplines us for this sin in forms of health, wealth, and division in family. We never lost His grace though. Sinners have no moral compass and indulge recklessly in sin. There judgement is already there and they are destined to Hell unless they seek God. The Word of God never conflicts itself. Many times example are goven of Gods promise that if you repent with your heart, receive His gift of Salvation, then your name is sealed in His kingdom never to be cast to Hell. Be clear what you read, who God is talking too, and the context it is used in...God Bless

    I thought everyone knew there is a way to fall from grace, and only one way. You have to be married to her and roll out of bed and into the floor. Then you acn honestly say you fell from grace.

    What do we say then to the book of revelations? chapter 3 v 14-19 to be precise? Christ tells the church in Laodicea that he will spew them out of his mouth because they are neither hot nor cold? IF it truly is impossible to loose your salvation, then why is it that this church was commanded to be hot or cold? either with christ or the world? not halfhearted? also paul in his letter to the corinthians speaks of disciplining his body, so he does not become a cast away, he also says to take heed so you don't fall. IF you can't fall, why would you need to check yourself?.....Even apostle paul one of the greatest men of the faith, had to keep his body under subjection, how much more us.
    in regards to the book of Hebrews 6v4-6, let us be careful in our interpretation of the word of God, for it is in this word we have life. It is impossible to bring those people who 'reject God' back to repentance. So therefore, those who reject Christ, will not be saved, whether or not they had previously been saved. But the book of 1John tells us that anyone who sins, we have an advocate who pleads our case, if we confess our sins, Christ is faithful and just, he will forgive us and take us back, if we chose to accept him again.

    I hope this is a blessing to some. At the end of it all these arguments will not save us only Christ will/can/has. Let us continually rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the truth of the word, and watch that our hearts are right, because God knows the state of our hearts and at the end of time will judge us accordingly.

    Blessings

    Hi Grace,

    I believe you need to show far more care in handling the text of Scripture. The passages you quote have all been dealt with on this site, including the main one, Revelation 3:14-22, found here:

    http://www.reformationtheology.com/2013/04/i_will_vomit_you_out_of_my_mou.php

    CRYING WOLF
    Is God just "crying wolf" when He warns Christians of falling away or mentions those who have departed from the faith?

    Is God just "crying wolf"? Not at all. These are real warnings to real people. Amongst the corporate gathering of the Church (those who profess faith in Christ) there are the genuine sheep as well as false brothers and sisters. The warnings will be heeded by those who are truly His and are MEANS by which He keeps His own in the way of Christ.

    Those who leave the professing Church never were true disciples of Christ as 1 John 2:19 makes clear.



    My Christmas desperation: I am so spiritually sick, I think that I committed the unforgivable sin. When I read Galatians 5 it seems to say you can be severed from Christ or fallen from Grace. Galatians is talking about not putting faith in the law and faith in Jesus to be saved, but that is what I did. And in fact I did it after knowing I shouldn't. Specifically I knew that I should not put faith in my works, but I thought I needed to do something in addition to having faith in Jesus. I struggled with the decision, (I didn't want to add to faith in Jesus alone, but on the other hand thought I had to do this thing to be saved. I knew that I shouldn't add to faith in Jesus alone, but at the same time thought I needed to do something besides just believing in Jesus. So because I had knowledge of the truth and believed I shouldn't add to Jesus, but did anyways, am I severed from Christ? I now want to trust in Jesus alone and not this extra thing I did, but is it too late? I am so upset that I did an extra work to be saved when I knew I should put faith in Jesus alone. I guess I was confused, part of me though I shouldn't add to faith in Jesus alone, but another part of me thought I needed to do this extra thing to be saved. I did it "just in case". I now feel like I knew better and still sinned. Did I "fall away". Did I become severed from Christ? I really need help with this.

    Just perusing the board and saw the comments and questions by Haley and Dean.

    I think if either Luther or Calvin could read those comments they would be sad to know that some 500 years after the Reformation, true believers are living in such fear and yet we all do this to ourselves.

    I've suffered from such fears and worries and all honest believers can admit to similar thoughts.

    All I can offer to Dean and Haley is that for peace of mind, stop looking to your own performance and look to Christ alone and His work on the cross.

    You are bought by Him and in Christ you are His redeemed.

    It's an unhealthy focus on "free will" in the arminian churches and an equally unhealthy facination with legalism, particularly the pietistic influences, in the Reformed and Lutheran churches that's creating such angst.

    Yes as the apostles said we should examine ourselves. Look for the fruit for assurance but only to Christ for salvation.

    Haley expressed fears about a lack of fruit and repentance. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul and later Luther warned belivers about. You can't be good enough, ever.

    Don't try to achieve a standard that can't be met. It's already been met by Christ so rest in The Savior's finished work.

    If you're practicing sin and you're not troubled about it, then concern is called for but only after you've brought your sin to to the cross in confession and repentance.

    Dean, ask yourself -Who's convicting you about what you did?

    Only The Holy Spirit would convict and teach you that what you did was wrong.

    You might kick yourself, satan might torment you about it, but first you had to know that it was wrong -and that conviction came from God, not you or the devil.

    If you're being convicted and instructed by God then you're His child and you're forever redeemed.

    Luther said it best when someone asked him how they could know they are truly redeemed.

    Luther's answer was "say your prayers" ! Truly hope this helps.

    In Christ, In Trinity, In Love

    Mac

    After reading the comments I still believe that one can fall from grace. Even after one wholeheartedly accepts Jesus (in the process receives salvation), there's a great deal of possibility that one could "drift" away from Him by committing sin and not heeding the spirit that resides in you to ask forgiveness (what with the backsliders?). Isn't SIN separates one from God? Do God seem to "tolerate" christian sinners? Does He still take with Him in heaven those who commit apostasy? Because "they once accepted Him as their saviour"? yes there is no question about His sovereign will to save who He wants to save, but the question if one could fall from grace, the answer is pretty much YES! Only those who remain steadfast until the "END" (either his second coming or your death) will be the one's entering His kingdom.

    Good children, I to have suffered from these doubts. I also know I am saved. The GOD of creation and love already knows we are human and will make these mistakes of belief. He knows his sheep. If you are lost He will find you. You are His (end of story) He paid for your transgressions and purchased you with his life upon that cross. Such love, once accepted, will NEVER fail. Though on the surface it may seem that you could change your mind my faith states the opposite. GOD'S plans don't fail.

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