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Vol.  10  No. 6 June 2008  Page 17
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Ernest Underwood

A Moment of Reflection

Falling from Grace

By Ernest S. Underwood

    Do the Scriptures teach that once a person is saved he then cannot be lost? There are several religious organizations that teach this doctrine. It is known by several different designations: “Once saved, always saved”; “Once in grace, always in grace” or “The impossibility of apostasy.” Read what a preacher of a prominent denomination wrote several years ago:

We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul! The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul. …All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger. …The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul. (Sam Morris)

    Most folks that I know who hold to the doctrine under discussion will not go to the extreme that Mr. Sam Morris has gone. However, if one holds a position, he must be ready to accept the consequences of that position, and Mr. Morris’ statement is the true consequence of the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy. What do the Scriptures say? Do they address the subject at all? The answer is ‘Yes.”

    There are many passages that deal with the subject; however, we will confine our study to only two. Others will be cited on request. In Hebrews 6:4-6 we read: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” Please notice the words and phrases that I have bolded. They had been enlightened. Paul, in Colossians 1:13, told the brethren there that they had been “delivered out of the power of darkness…” They had “tasted the heavenly gift.” The heavenly gift is salvation (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9)—“it is the gift of God…” They had become partakers of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:38, Peter told the audience to “repent and be baptized… for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” They had tasted (partaken) the good Word of God. Peter stated, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 22-23). “…if they fall away…impossible…to renew.” The “if” always implies the possibility of an action. Notice that they “fall away.” There is a difference in falling and falling away. One may fall while on board a ship, pick himself up and go on about his doings. However, if he falls away, he is in the ocean and lost. The use of the word “renew” also has importance. Each of us gets renewal notices for magazines. This tells us that we need to renew what we already have. These people of whom the writer speaks had once been in a state of repentance, a condition of salvation, but because they had fallen away, it was impossible to renew them to that state.

    In 2 Peter 2:20-21 we read, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.” Be sure and read the entire context of this statement. These people had escaped the pollutions of the world, were again entangled, making their last state worse than their first. They had fallen from grace.

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