Monday, April 12, 2010

The Other Side, Part II: "Losing Faith"

“Well, I’ve shown us that our security comes through faith in the atoning work of Christ. Now the question to ask is, “If a person stands by their faith, can they fall by their unbelief?” or, the following: “If a person has professed faith in Christ, can they lose faith and commit apostasy (walk away from Christ)?” I will answer this question in my next post.”

These words ended my last post on “The Other Side” (Part I). And the question I will tackle today is, “Can a person who has professed faith walk away from the faith, lose faith in God?” This is the governing question in today’s post.

Before I get started, though, let me comment on something I stated in the last post. The last verses I used came from 1 Peter 1:3,5, where I stated that faith was God’s divine preservation for the believer. Paul echoes this teaching when he discusses the armor of God in Ephesians 6:

“ABOVE ALL, taking the SHIELD OF FAITH with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Eph. 6:16, NKJV).

The shield of faith keeps the believer from being destroyed by the “fiery darts” of Satan. The shield of faith preserves us from destruction, in the same way that a knight’s shield keeps him from being fatally wounded. No wonder Paul said before these words, “Above all”!!

Along with instructions, Paul gives a command: “PUT ON the whole armor of God...” (Eph. 6:1) Paul’s words here, an imperative, tell us that putting on the armor is something WE must do, not God! God will not put the armor on us; we must take the armor He has given and put it on ourselves everyday as we “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).

The question then becomes, if I must “put on” the shield of faith everyday as I fight sin, the world, and Satan, can I “lose faith”? In other words, “Can I put down the shield of faith?” Can I start retreating in the battle against sin and Satan?
First, Romans 11 (we looked at in the last post) tells us that the Gentiles stood in Christ “by faith,” but if they did not “continue in His kindness,” they would be “cut off” (Rom. 11:22). Evidently, faith is not something that a person is “guaranteed” to possess eternally, which is why Paul gives the Gentiles such a stern warning. And then, in verse 23, Paul writes that the Lord could graft the Jews in again---provided they came out of their unbelief.

Romans 11 by itself, then, poses problems for the Doctrine of Eternal Security, as we see that Jews and Gentiles alike can become “engrafted” to Christ by faith but then “cut off” due to unbelief.

But are there any other passages? What about Luke 8?

“But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, RECEIVE THE WORD WITH JOY; and these have no root, WHO BELIEVE FOR A WHILE and in time of temptation FALL AWAY” (Luke 8:13, NKJV).

Jesus is explaining to the disciples the Parable of the Sower He just told, and He is describing each of the four soils He discussed previously in the early verses of Luke 8. In verse 13 He tells them who the seeds on the “rocky” soil represent. These are those who have “no root.” What does this mean? Those who have “no root” means that they are not firmly planted, not firmly secure in their faith; and when temptation comes, they immediately fall away.

Notice though, that Jesus says those of this soil “Believe for a while.” This is the most important phrase of the Parable and its explanation. Theologians and commentary writers alike have spilled so much ink over whether or not those of the rocky soil are saved. However, “they believe.” In addition, look at verse 12:

“Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest THEY SHOULD BELIEVE AND BE SAVED” (Luke 8:12).

“Believe and be saved” shows us that believers are counted as saved in Jesus’ parable. The rocky soil, therefore, counts as those who are saved when they receive the word with joy. However, trials and tribulations come their way, and they “fall away,” becoming those persons of whom Hebrews 6:4-6 discusses. This is why the writer of Hebrews wrote the Jewish congregation: because he feared that, like this rocky soil, they too, would believe for a while and then flee during intense persecution and temptation.

Luke 8, then, explains why John 3:16, in its statement of “whoever believes,” really refers to a CONTINUOUS STATE OF BELIEF (as confirmed by Romans 11:19-22). Finally, there are the words of Paul as he neared the end of his life:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH” (2 Timothy 4:7, NKJV).

Why is there a mention here of “keeping the faith”? Keeping faith is part of Paul’s evaluation for himself, and becomes the confidence by which he knows that he is soon to receive everlasting life (2 Tim. 4:8). Through this we understand that faith really is a shield to protect and preserve us from Satan’s blows. Keeping our faith is really important in order to wage war victoriously and look forward with confidence to life with Christ.

Last but not least, there is the reference to the wilderness generation in Hebrews:

“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed THE GOSPEL WAS PREACHED TO US AS WELL AS TO THEM; but the word which they heard did not profit them, NOT BEING MIXED WITH FAITH in those who heard it” (Hebrews 4:1-2, NKJV).

Who were those who heard the gospel? “all who came out of Egypt” (Heb. 3:16). Why did they not enter “His rest” (Heb. 3:18)? “because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19). We see here, then, that the rest of which the Old Testament discussed was not just the physical territory of Canaan, but also the spiritual territory, “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).

So we see that even the wilderness generation, considered by God to be His People, died in the wilderness because of their own unbelief (Exodus 32:31-35, emphasis on v. 34).

So, back to “John” (the preacher) and his sermon. He asked the question about works “unsaving” a person. The issue, however, is not works, but faith. John has missed the issue altogether. From this post, though, I’ve tackled the question “Can a person lose faith?” The answer is “yes.” Luke 8 shows us that not everyone believes and is saved forever; some only “believe and are saved” for a short time. How unfortunate...


The Seeking Disciple said...

Excellent thoughts on the conditional nature of salvation. I once heard David Wilkerson explain the security of the believer like this: "We are eternally secure if we remain in an eternal Jesus."

Deidre Richardson said...

The Seeking Disciple,

Thanks so much for commenting. I think David Wilkerson is correct. The use of the Greek word "meno," rendered in the English as "remain," is prevalent throughout the Scriptures (for instance, in John 15, as well as 1 John). The question that we should ask ourselves is, why then, does the apostle John tell the early church to "remain in Him," if there was no possibility of apostasy???

Speaking of this, I actually spent about three hours talking with a friend today about Classical Arminian theology and the passages of Scripture that discuss "neglecting salvation" (Hebrews 2:2) and others. She made it clear to me that she and her sister had been discussing what to do with these passages...and they agreed that they no longer believed in unconditional eternal security.

It is so wonderful how the Lord uses these opportunities. This friend of mine is interested in hearing more about Arminian theology, and we plan to have more discussions together. Keep praying for me and the blog, as well as the work I'm trying to do within Baptist life. With the infiltration of Calvinism, it's been hard to change the minds of so many believers about Calvinism and its dangers.