Hulen L. Jackson
Our position relative to the question, “Can a saved man fall from the grace of God?” has been, and is today, greatly misunderstood. We believe—because the Bible so teaches—that when a man actually possesses eternal life he cannot, and will not, lose it. The point of difference between us and many of our religious friends is, “When does a person receive everlasting life?” Does he receive it in this life or in the world to come? Jesus says if a man leaves the things of this world for His sake and the Gospel’s sake, he shall receive in this life a hundred fold of all these, and “in the world to come” eternal life (Mark 10:30). Hence Jesus says that eternal life is received in the world—or life—to come.
In what sense then can I receive everlasting life when I believe, as God says? In only one way. As a believer in the Lord, I have the hope of life eternal. In Titus 1:1-2, the apostle Paul says he is a servant of God in hope of eternal life. Paul, the great apostle to the Gentile world did not actually possess eternal life, but as a believer he had the hope of that eternal life.
He also told the Romans that as children of God we are heirs of God and joint with Jesus Christ. Heirs of what? In Titus he has already told us—eternal or everlasting life. Therefore, the Bible teaches that a person does not actually receive everlasting life in this world, but as a disciple of Christ he has the hope or promise of receiving it.
I’ve often been asked, “If a person is a child of God will he not always be a child of God?” I answer, emphatically, “Yes, indeed!” But a son is often disinherited in this life by his father. If a son becomes disobedient, the father often refuses to let him have his inheritance with the rest of the family. Does that mean he is no longer a child of his father? Certainly not!
I was born into my father’s family several years ago and by reason of that birth I am still in that family and shall be as long as life lasts. By reason of my spiritual birth, I am a member of the family of God and shall remain a member of that family regardless of the type of life I may live. Yes, I may become ungodly and therefore be lost in eternity but I’ll be lost as an ungodly child and not as an alien or stranger from the family of God.
When we withdraw from a brother because of his sinful life, are we throwing him out of the church or family of God? Absolutely not! We did not put that man in the church and therefore have no right to take him out of it. Any church that a man can add you to or take you out of is not—and cannot be—the church of the Bible. We simply withdraw fellowship from the ungodly church member as the Bible directs because of his life, but that man is still a child of God and a member of the church.
According to Acts 2, when a person believes the gospel, repents of his sin, and is baptized as God directs, the Father adds him to the church which is God’s family (1 Tim. 3:14-15). At the end of time, in the judgment, those who have not remained faithful to the Lord’s commands will be taken out of His family and placed with the unbelievers. 1 Peter 4:18 tells us that two classes of people will be lost—the sinners and the ungodly. The “ungodly” are those in God’s family who have fallen from His grace and not lived as He commanded. Along with the sinners or unbelievers, they will be cast out in eternity.
Notice the following several verses from 2 Peter:
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness and to godliness brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: [and notice this last part] for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. (2 Pet. 1:4-10).
This one passage alone is sufficient to convince one that a saved man can be lost. Verse four says they have been saved from sin, and verse five says besides this, or in addition to this, there are other things to do. The saved man must add the Christian graces. If he does not do it, he is barren and unfruitful. The Lord says the branch — the Christian—that is unfruitful shall be cut off and cast into outer darkness and destroyed. Why then exhort saved people to “make your calling and election sure” if it is already sure and certain that they will be saved eternally?
The latter part of verse 10 proves conclusively that I can fall from His grace. Why say, “if ye do these things ye shall never fall”, if they cannot fall? What is the purpose of the condition expressed? When the condition has been fulfilled, then the blessing is ours. If we continue to add the things expressed in the above verses, we shall not fall. But if we do not continue to add these graces but rather faint by the wayside and become unfruitful, we shall fall. This conclusion must be accepted. Yes, I can fall and will fall if I do not abide in the teachings of the Lord delivered unto me as His disciple.
But again, a parallel passage to this one is found in Galatians 6:9. Speaking to saved people, Paul said, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” Yes, in due season we shall reap or inherit eternal life, but under the condition that we “faint not.” If we do faint or quit working as God commands, what shall be the result? We shall not in due season reap the harvest—eternal life.
If those Galatians, by fainting in their work for Christ would not inherit eternal salvation, the same must also be true of men today, for the word of God does not change. We obey the gospel and become saved from our past sins and a child of God in His kingdom or church. But we must work and pray as He outlines in the New Testament, or else we will fall from His grace and be lost in the judgment.
If you believe that, as a saved man, you cannot become unsaved, then listen to another passage from Paul’s writings. In 1 Cor. 10, he is discussing with the saved people of Corinth a comparison between them and the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. Several examples are given of the Israelites as God’s children sinning until God took their lives. They were children of God. They sinned and God took their lives. Then in verse 11, Paul states that those things happened unto them for our examples and are written for our admonition.
Then he concludes with verse 12, saying, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” To whom was he speaking? To Christians who were living in sin. To them, Paul says, “take heed how you live or you will fall.” How can anyone read that one verse and still believe that he cannot fall from the grace of God? You cannot misunderstand that statement without some help. It is too simple and plain to be misunderstood. Why not let the Bible speak and then be honest enough with ourselves to accept what it says?