Imagine this: A good friend from your past calls you out of the blue and tells you he is no longer a Christian…
How do you respond? Shock. Confusion. Worry. Fear.
Then perhaps you begin to think about your own salvation…
Is it at risk? Could that happen to you? Is what he says true?
Natural questions to ask, but what are the answers?
Well, frankly, yes, your salvation is at risk…
Yes, it could happen to you…
And yes, what they say–”I could not believe in God”–is true.
Concerned yet? Don’t be. Let me show you.
Can a Person Abandon Their Faith?
Anybody whose been around Fallen and Flawed for awhile has heard this statement during our 10 questions with an atheist series at some point:
“On such and such date I admitted to myself I could not believe in God.”
In a nutshell, it’s a Christian’s confession he is no longer a Christian.
Or is it?
In other words, can a person abandon genuine faith? The Bible–without equivocation–replies, NO, a genuine Christian can not fall away.
A false convert, on the other hand, can. This is what the Bible has to say:
They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:19
John goes on to call such people “antichrists.”
And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 1 John 4:3
Finally, those who fall away from the faith–the false convert–try to deceive the faithful:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. 1 Timothy 4:1
What is their fate? Sadly, it does not look good for them.
God gives them over to the consequences of their sin. And because of their rebellion and stubborn heart, “God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”
Sobering words. But there’s hope.
A Tip to Help You Understand De-Conversion
To help you understand what’s at work here–the falling away of a so-called saint–let’s talk about the visible and the invisible church.
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was the visible church.
In the New Testament, the visible church contains the warm bodies that inhabit the pews, drink the communion cup and eat the fried chicken in the basement socials.
But in the invisible church you have the redeemed souls of the saints. A church only God can see.
We only see the visible church, so that’s why an unbeliever can inhabit this church under our watchful eye, persuade us that he is a believer by his attendance and then bail on it at some point in his life.
In other words, time will tell.
The Parable of the Sower bears this out: Those not planted on the good soil eventually prove to be non-believers by falling away.
Why? There was no true conversion to begin with.
But what about those of us who experience a true conversion? Should we fear we may one day fall away? The answer is no.
God is in control of our salvation–from the beginning to the end. And it’s the ending that I want to camp on.
You Knew This Was Coming, Didn’t You?
Careful readers know where I’m going. It’s the final letter of the so-called TULIP acronym–Perseverance of the Saints.
Or as some state it, “Preservation of the Saints.”
Now, for the moment, lay aside your hostility to TULIP, because with or without TULIP, the Bible teaches the concept of the preservation of the saints.
The Bible teaches that God constantly watches and cares for his redeemed. In the present and far into the future.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
Want more examples?
And the most compelling case, Romans 8:35-39.
Perseverance: The Logical Lowdown
Now, if you DO buy into the first four letters of TULIP, then preservation of the saints is a natural conclusion for you.
Take a look:
If man cannot contribute to his salvation (Total Depravity)...
If God chooses his redeemed unconditionally (Unconditional Election)...
If Jesus died for the redeemed (Limited Atonement)...
And if God’s saving grace is flawlessly effective (Irresistible Grace)...
Then preservation of the saints must follow.
In other words, if we are not the captain of our salvation, neither are we responsible for it’s duration. Which is a good thing.
Objection: The Bible Encourages Us to Endure
The mark of a true Christian–as opposed to a false one–is endurance. True.
And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Mark 13:13
For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Hebrews 3:14
But remember, we find this strength to endure in God:
…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Phil 2:12-13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
So, the irresistible grace of God both begins and completes our salvation, and while, yes, the Bible encourages us to endure, it is God who’s doing the heavy lifting for us.
The Debate Was Over When…
Really, to argue in defense of the concept of perseverance, you don’t have to go any further than Jesus in John 10:27-29:
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
He said “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Can there be anything clearer than that? God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit gives eternal life–and he sustains that promise. God is the comptroller for the entire enterprise known as salvation.
Would You Want It Any Other Way?
You don’t want your salvation or it’s preservation to rest in your hands.
So take heart, believer. No one can undo what Christ accomplished for the redeemed–for you.
No genuine believer can fall out of his faith. No persuasion will pull him off his perch. No argument will yank his anchor out of the rock of Jesus Christ. And no man can pluck a saint out of the Father’s hand.
And as far as that so-called ex-Christian? Pray for their salvation. Pray for a true conversion. Pray that they would, in the end, commit their entire life–body, spirit and soul–to Jesus Christ.
In the meantime, cheer up, live in peace and serve Jesus with undying adoration as an instrument of his will.