If it is possible to fall from grace, how can a Christian have any assurance?
This lesson is best read with an open Bible. Go ahead and get it now, I’ll wait.
We teach that a Christian can fall from grace. Many others teach that it is impossible for Christian to fall away. The statement of faith is usually stated, “We believe…in the Eternal Security of the believer; that it is impossible for one born into the family of God ever to be lost.”
Because we disagree with many of our religious contemporaries, and they wonder how can we have any assurance? Can we even be sure that we are saved?
We may even wonder, “Can God forgive the sins I have committed?”; “Am I doing enough to be saved?”; “If I were to die right now would I go to heaven.” Sometimes our language may not reflect any real assurance of salvation.
Believing that apostasy is possible, how can we overcome such feelings? How can we have assurance today?
- Christians Can Indeed Fall from Grace.
Falling from grace is a possible. Christians are warned against falling from grace.
I Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Even Paul said that he could fall, 9:27 “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, let after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Falling from grace is a real and grave danger. Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harn and holding him up to contempt.”
The Jewish Christians to whom this book (Hebrews) has been written are thinking about going back to Judaism. And the writer warns them not to leave Christ (fall away) for they would not make it back into a right relationship with Him. At least many of them would never repent and come back to Christ.
How many have we known who have left never to come back? Few if any ever return. There is danger is leaving Christ and His church.
Falling from grace is a fact. Galatians 5:4 “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”
This verse reflects not only a possibility, but a reality. It has happened to some! Those that have tried to be justified by the Ten Commandment Law, Paul says have fallen from grace.
Falling from grace leads to destruction. James says “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20.
James (Jesus’ younger brother) was writing to Christians. He said Christians could sin; they could be converted or changed. If that occurred, then one would be saving that sinner who had sinned from death. The sin of leaving Christ and His church is death.
Christians can sin; they can fall away; they can sin in such a way as to be eternally lost. Apostasy is a real possibility. I do not take any pride in this, nor do I wish it to be so. But it is a Biblically stated fact.
But even though we can fall from grace, we can still have the assurance of salvation. Here are some reasons why I am saying this.
- Christians Can Have Assurance.
First, because we can be sure that we were saved.
The way to salvation in the NT is plain. We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8,9) through the blood of Christ (Eph 1:7). To be saved we must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our Lord and be willing to confess our faith in Him (Matthew 10:32-33 or Romans 10:9-10). We must also repent, stop sinning, turn from our sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30). And then we must be baptized to be saved (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galations 3:26 and 27).
Having done that, we can be certain we have been saved. Baptism, following faith and repentance, results in remission of sins (Acts 2:38)…having sins washed away (Acts 22:16)…being saved (I Peter 3:21)…getting into Christ and putting on Christ (Galatians 3:27).
When NT writers addressed Christians, they never showed the slightest doubt that the fact that the people to whom they wrote had been saved.
Read Galatians 3:26, 27. Read Colossians 1:13, 14. Also note: (I Peter 1:3, I Peter 1:22, 23 and I John 3:1).
If NT Christians had that kind of assurance that they had been saved, then we should have the same kind of assurance. If we have obeyed the gospel, we can be sure, without a doubt that we were saved. WE can say: I have been saved. I have been born again. I have become a child of God. I have become a member of the church and a citizen of God’s kingdom.
We can remember a certain day in our lives when we were baptized into Christ to have our sins washed away. Therefore the NT teaching that we are saved when we obey the gospel provides assurance of our salvation.
Second, we can have assurance because we can be sure that we are being saved.
We must admit that, since we believe that a Christian can fall from grace, being absolutely certain that we have been saved sometime in the past does not in itself provide us today with the kind of assurance we need. After all, we could have been saved sometime in the past, but be lost today. How can we be sure we are saved right now? We can have this assurance for two reasons.
We can have assurance because of what God has done to keep us faithful.
God does not want us to turn from Him. Therefore, He provides us with everything we need to stay faithful. He has given His children:
A loving father. I John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
An advocate to plead our cause. I John 2:1 “I am writing these thing to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
A Holy Guest. Galatians 4:6 “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Another Holy guest is the Holy Spirit. He has been given to us as a earnest, or guarantee of our inheritance, (Ephesians 1:13, 14), to strengthen us (Eph. 3:16) and to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. (Gal 5:22, 23)
An encouraging fellowship. God has added us to the church (Acts 2:47), a fellowship of believers which exists, at least in part, to help its members remain faithful. During a recent Wednesday night Bible class, one of our members stated that they were upset with their Christian walk, and their ability to live the Christian life. The members of the class felt for this person. They tried to give encouraging words to them. Many sent notes of love and encouragement. We were given an encouraging fellowship to help us remain faithful.
A helpful message. The Bible contains “the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32.
Heavenly servants. Speaking of the angels in Hebrews 1:14 we read, “Are they not all ministering spirits send out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
The privilege of prayer. Listen to Jesus. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7.
Precious promises. God has given us promises to encourage us to remain faithful.
We can have assurance because, when we fall short of God’s requirements (and we all do), God has made provision for our forgiveness.
Our continuing salvation depends, in a sense, on us. We have to be doing the best we can to do the will of God. But does that mean that we are on our own as Christians? No.
The Lord provides for us the kind of help we need to be zealous, to be diligent, to be faithful.
But not only is our assurance based on the provisions God has made to help us stay faithful, it is also based on the fact that God has made provision for our forgiveness when we fall short of doing His will.
Specifically, we have the promise that Jesus’ blood washed away our sins: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7)
We can be sure of our present salvation, not because we are living sinlessly, but because Jesus’ blood is continually cleansing us of our sins!
It is well that we do not have to depend on our sinlessness, on our own obeying God’s law perfectly, on our own righteousness. If we did, none of us would be saved because none of us live without sin! We cannot rely on ourselves. WE must rely on God’s saving grace and Jesus’ blood as we continue to walk in the light.
We can have assurance because we can be sure we will be saved. Even if we believe that we are saved now, we may be unsure about whether we will be saved eternally. We may be reluctant to say, “When I die, I will be saved,” or, “I’m going to heaven. No doubt about it!”
Paul had no doubt of his eternal salvation. Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
Paul did not say that he alone could have assurance; he said that “all wo have loved his appearing” can have the same assurance of eternal salvation.
But how can we be sure of going to heaven? Do we have to live sinless lives before we can be assured of eternal life?
Staying in 2 Timothy, Paul speaks here of a good man, Onesiphorus. “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,…may the Lord grant him to find mercy for the Lord on that Day!” (2 Timothy 1:16, 18)
As good as Onesiphorus was, he would still need mercy on the day of the Lord. So will we all. The good news is that, just as mercy was available to Onesiphorus, it will be available to us on that great day!
After we have done all that we can for Christ, we are still unworthy servants. We still fall short of the mark, but God’s mercy will make up what we lack!
We can sing songs like “Blessed Assurance” and actually have assurance, even though we believe that a Christian can fall from grace. We can be sure that we were saved in the past, we are being saved on a daily basis, and we will be saved in heaven forever!
Illustration: When I was a child my father represented to me strength. Now many of you have met him, and he isn’t the tallest, the strongest man you ever met. But as far as I was concerned he was a tower of strength. As I got older I still saw him as a person of strength. This gives me assurance. Of course, his love and care included discipline. But I knew that there was forgiveness for all my mistakes. In this too, there was assurance. I know that if I would ever stray, dad would have some words for me. But I know that those words and disciple do not mean that I am no longer his son.
If having a good father can do that for a son, how much more will having God as our Father give us assurance? We can believe that our God has our good at heart, that He cares for us, that He is powerful enough to take care of any problem and that in all the changing circumstances of life, He is the unchanging One.
Yes, God is our Father; we are His family! That is assurance.
If you are not a Christian, it is an assurance you can have too, if you will become of Child of God through faith and obedience.