|Photo by Liftam 2008|
Saturday, August 15, 2015
Can You Walk Away from the Faith?
As we saw last week, God’s freely given gift of salvation and eternal life, once received, changes us forever. Born-again believers who have placed their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) cannot return to eternal death, any more than a butterfly can go back to being a caterpillar or than a child can return to the egg and sperm from whence he came.
How then can we explain those who say they are saved but then appear to walk away from the faith, as brought up by a dear reader of this blog in her comments on the post, “Who Needs the Law?” If a person trusts Christ but then chooses to walk away from the faith, can they lose their salvation, as some Scripture verses appear to suggest at first glance?
One of these verses is 1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
The verse refers to false teachers preaching heresy, perverting the truth of the Gospel and telling lies to delude others without even feeling guilty, because their conscience is seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2).
For example, they preach salvation by works, saying that to be saved, it is necessary not to marry and to follow strict dietary laws, implying wrongly that we are saved not by God’s grace, but by our own self-righteousness in keeping the law (1 Timothy 4:3).
Or, the product of false belief may be a reprobate mind that rebels against God’s authority, not only wanting to sin, but taking pride in it (Romans 1:28).
Even though a born-again believer in Christ has the Holy Spirit within (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13), and hence the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), he still has the sin nature of Adam (Romans 5:12). He may fall prey to these lies, particularly if he neglects Bible study, prayer, and worship. He may have quenched and grieved the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30) within him so many times that he no longer hears His warning against false teaching and against sin.
In this case, some souls who appear to have accepted Christ, to have been born again (John 3:3-8), and even show evidence of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17) suddenly “walk away” from the faith. In the movie Signs, a faithful preacher and man of God “loses” his faith when his wife dies in a car accident.
No doubt we all know of real life examples where someone we thought was a born-again Christian becomes a Jehovah’s Witness, Muslim, or Mormon and even tries to convert Christian friends to these religions. If they were born again into God’s family, have they now lost the salvation that God gave them (Ephesians 2:4-9) and that only God can keep (John 10:28-29) for them? Have they lost the gift He promised them of “eternal” life? Would not that negate almighty God’s total, complete and perfect power?
The apostle Paul said it is possible for a believer to “deny the faith” by not providing for his family, making him worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). Does that mean that a Christian father who can no longer earn money because he loses his job or becomes disabled is no longer saved? What about the Christian father who makes bad business decisions motivated by greed, or who falls prey to a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction that consumes his earnings?
And Paul added that young widows who were once faithful in serving Christ may “cast off their first faith,” turning to idleness, gossip, and worldly ways, resulting in their “damnation,” meaning not eternal damnation, or loss of salvation, but rather reproach (1 Timothy 5:11-15). The analogy would be to a student getting a demerit on his record, but not getting expelled from school.
Sadly, many who are saved do not live as if they were saved, and sometimes we refer to these as “backslidden” (Jeremiah 2:19; 5:6; 8:5). Yet when the nation of Israel was backsliding, God asked her to return to Him, for He would be merciful and no longer angry, and He would love, heal and provide for her (Jeremiah 3:12,22; Hosea 4:16;14:4)
If a son walks away from his father; disrespects him, his faith, and his heritage; and squanders his inheritance, as in the parable of the prodigal son, he is still his father’s child, and nothing can change that fact. When the prodigal came to his senses, his father welcomed him back with loving arms, ran to meet him, and celebrated his return (Luke 15:11-32).
But what if the prodigal had died while he was still in the pig pen? Would that have made him any less the son of his father? In modern times, sadly we hear all too often of a son rebelling against his father, running away, stealing from the family and even murdering his own father. But can all these evil wrongs change the biological fact that the two are inexorably united as flesh and blood?
Once we are saved, we are God’s children (Romans 8:16-21). Just as a father cannot do away with the fact that his son is biologically his, so Our Father does not expel us from His family even if we walk away from Him. Once we are saved by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), we become His child forever. Similarly, He did not disown His chosen people Israel even when they were repeatedly unfaithful and served false gods.
A loving father would not simply ignore his disobedient or runaway child, but would do all within his power to restore their relationship. Similarly, God will never abandon His rebellious child, but will remain faithful and true as He guides him back to loving fellowship using all measures at His disposal, as we shall see next week!
© 2015 Laurie Collett