“I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:27
In the religious world today, there are many who teach that only those who are true believers are the ones who remain faithful to the cross and committed to the end. They believe that people who don’t continue in the ways of Christ, after beginning and first believing, never were genuine about the Christian walk in the first place. Well, that’s not true. A person can believe wholeheartedly and then at some point stray from the truth and fall from grace. I know it because that’s what the Scripture teaches. I also know it because I once strayed from the truth of God, and I know that my faith was genuine – and it still is today. Below are a few Scriptures that attest to the fact that once a person is saved, they are not always saved.
- 1 Timothy 4:1-3 – “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth.” Paul warned Timothy that it was possible for believers to depart from the faith and that some actually would because they would follow the lies of false teachers.
- Galatians 5:4 – “You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace!” The Christians in Galatia needed to be reminded of the purpose of the law, and Paul, through the Holy Spirit, told them that any one of them who were trying to seek justification any other way (for them it was through the law) than by Christ had fallen from grace.
- 2 Timothy 2:17-18 – “Their word will spread like gangrene, among whom are Hymaneus and Philetus. They have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and are overturning the faith of some.” We have an example of two people who were once Christians then went off of the path of truth and taught something different than what was true of God, Christ, and His church. Paul said to the Galatians that “there are some who are troubling you and want to change the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him” (Galatians 1:7-8). Unfortunately, this is still happening today – people are preaching a gospel that is not the true gospel of Christ.
- James 5:19-20 – “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, he should know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.” A person can know, have, and obey the truth, still end up straying from it, and ultimately be on the road to death if they do not turn back to God. Romans 8:12-13 says that if you live according to the flesh, you will die.
- Luke 8:13 – “And the seeds on the rock are those who, when they hear, welcome the word with joy. Having no root, these believe for a while and depart in a time of testing.” Jesus taught that there will be some people who believe at first, but then they depart from the faith when trouble arises because the Word is not rooted in their hearts – not that they never had the Word or never truly believed.
- Ezekiel 18:24 – “When a righteous person turns from his righteousness and practices iniquity, committing the same abominations that the wicked do, will he live? None of the righteous acts he did will be remembered. He will die because of the treachery he has engaged in and the sin he has committed.”
The Scriptures are very clear: once a person is saved, they are not always saved. It’s possible to fall from grace, to stray from the truth, and to depart from the faith – however you want to say it, it’s all the same. I think that’s why Paul admonished to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). He knew that it was possible, that’s why he said brought his body under strict control, so that he wouldn’t disqualify himself from the crown of life that is prepared, by given in to fleshly and worldly desires (1 Cor. 9:27). Peter, who was a prominent and close disciple of Jesus, denied ever knowing the Lord at one point in His life, and he also was godly sorrowful after he realized what he had done. Jesus was aware of what had happened and the duress that he was under at the time, and He loved Peter no less – probably even more. The Lord knew his heart – that he loved him – and that he would repent and give life to His sheep (John 20:15-17).
So, there is hope for the believer who has left the faith and abandoned his or her first Love – Jesus Christ. If you have erred from the truth of the gospel of Christ, you can be restored. If you never obeyed the gospel, then you can. You can walk in the truth of Christ. You can be forgiven of your sins and all the wrong that you have ever done. You can do so if you obey Him and do what He commands: believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God; confess that Jesus is Lord; repent of your sins; be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and you can be saved from an eternal death and live a new life in Christ Jesus (Mark 16:16; Romans 10:9; Acts 2:38).
“This is the declaration of the Lord God. ‘Repent and turn from all your transgressions, so they will not be a stumbling block that causes your punishment. Throw off all the transgressions you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.Why should you die, house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death.’ This is the declaration of the Lord God. “So repent and live!” – Ezekiel 18:30-32