Questions and Answers

Q: My question is about losing your salvation.
Can a person really be saved...and live a true Christian life for many, many years, leading others to Christ.... then turn against Christian beliefs and God later in life because they are so consumed with hate of another person or race? Does this happen often? I think of Judas and how he turned on Jesus and betrayed him. Were they ever really saved (I sure thought so). I just don't understand.

Answer: These are questions which seem to weigh heavy upon the minds of many. Most know of someone who falls within this category. The place to begin is the foundational truth of salvation. How is one saved? In the Q and A section of the “Thoughts to Ponder” website, this question has been answered under the heading “Once saved always saved”. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with these biblical truths. Without repeating the answer here, suffice it to say, God gives us eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. A repentant sinner is sealed with the Holy Spirit and is forever forgiven. God’s salvation is by grace through faith. We are saved and kept by His power. We can never lose our salvation!

With that being said there is the very real possibility of a person being deceived and base their salvation on an erroneous truth. Someone may be led to trust their church membership, baptism, confirmation through some ritualistic process, or the changing of their behavior as the foundation of their “salvation”. If salvation is founded upon anything except, or in addition to, repentant faith in Jesus Christ, then God’s salvation has not been appropriated. The Bible provides examples of the very real probability of this happening. Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares found in Matthew 13:26-30, 36-43, expounds this truth. Jesus warned of this when He stated “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven”, Matthew 7:21. The example of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day provides another example of being “religious” as not being enough. Judas is a prime example of this. As far as the other disciples could tell, he was just like them. He was numbered among Jesus’ disciples, involved in ministry, witnessed miracles, and he even did good throughout their travels. Yet, he later betrayed Jesus for monetary gain. Jesus identified Judas as a devil from the beginning, John 6:64, 70-71. Judas never possessed the gift of salvation. Even the early church was troubled by this very concern. John addresses this in his first epistle, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 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 they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us”, 1 John 2:18-19. Those who depart and stay departed never belonged. However, we cannot know the heart of an individual like God can. All we know about the person is what we see. So we should rest upon the truths of Scripture instead of the outward manifestations and actions of others which seem to contradict biblical truths.

So, the question remains, can a person be saved, live a Christian life for years, serve in ministry, only to later compromise himself and turn to a life seemingly devoid of God? If so, how can this happen? There are numerous Scripture passages, but Ephesians 4 provides tremendous insight to the possibilities of someone reverting back to the old life style and succumbing to the evils and influence of a godless life. This chapter also submits to us preventative measures to keep this from happening. Without it becoming an exhaustive exposition of the chapter, there will be some key truths pointed out. Verse one identifies the audience as those who have received salvation in Christ. Verses 2-13 offer encouragement and admonition to mature in the faith and Christ-like life. Do this by utilizing the encouragement of one another and the pastors and teachers God has given to the church for the purpose of equipping the saints for the ministry, edifying the body of Christ, and spiritual maturity. The remainder of the chapter paints the picture of the life of a maturing child of God. He is to “put off the old man”, “be renewed in the mind”, “put on the new man”, stop lying, don’t allow anger to control actions, do not allow the devil control, and discontinue slanderous and evil speaking. Each of these admonitions carries with it the implication of the Christian doing the opposite. The chapter ends, v. 30, with the command for the Christian not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption.” This verse teaches the security of the believer and implies the possibility of sin grieving the Holy Spirit. The last two verses provide insight of how this sin is committed by the Christian. When bitterness, wrath, anger, quarreling, maliciously evil and slanderous speech, unkindness, and unforgiveness, prevail in a person’s life, then the Spirit is grieved. These are all unchristlike characteristics. This lifestyle evolves when a Christian neglects their relationship with the Lord through prayer, ministry, and appropriating the truths of Scripture.

Two biblical examples of godly men exemplifying ungodly characteristics are King David in the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament. There was a season in David’s life when he committed adultery, attempted to cover up his sin, lied, and eventually committed murder. It is recorded that Peter exhibited cowardly traits, lied, cursed, and openly denied he even knew Jesus Christ. There would not be many who would describe either of these men as godly or Christ-like men during these seasons within their lives. However, throughout this season, God faithfully placed reminders in their lives of His love for them and called them to return to Him. They eventually repentantly returned to the Lord and continued to serve the Lord.

What if they do not repent and return to God? The heavenly Father knows how to take care of His own. Hebrews 12 reveals the loving chastening, or discipline, hand of God active in the lives of His disobedient and wayward children. If they persist in their disobedience, the Lord says there is a “sin unto death”, 1 John 5:16. A rebellious child of God may cross the line of God and experience a premature departure from this life. Only God knows where the line is to be crossed.

What do those who care about the wayward do? The answer is found in Galatians 6:1-10. We are to pray for, encourage, admonish through the Scriptures, and love the person. This is to be done prayerfully, tenderly, and in the power and love of God. One needs to humbly remember and realize it could very easily be them that falls prey to the tempters snares.

We know not the heart, but we know the God who does! Prayerfully seek His wisdom and direction to lovingly help the wayward find their way; either back to an intimate relationship with the Lord or to salvation in Christ. Don’t give up on the person! Don’t give up on the Lord!