Summary: What happens when a believer falls away from the faith? What really constitutes as salvation? Where do we get the assurance of our salvation from? Are some falsely assured they are saved? This message addresses these questions.
I received a call from a precious sister in Christ a couple months ago that was intended to encourage me. And it did, in some respects. This sister was calling to share with me that she had used my approach to witness to a friend who had by marriage also become a member of our extended family. Two couples had gone out for dinner and were sitting over drinks next to a swimming pool when this sister asked what I often call the Kennedy Question, because it actually comes from James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion program: “If you were to die tonight and meet God at heaven’s gate, and he were to ask you why he should let you in, what would you say?
Now her friend answered with the typical good works kind of answer—that she was depending on having lived a good life.
Now, on the side, this sister admitted to me that the person she was talking to often irritated her because she was one of the most self-centered people she had ever met. More than that, the woman was not evidently a believer—she hadn’t specifically professed to be a believer, and she neither was she was a regular attender of church or a servant of Christ in any respect.
However, upon further inquiry, this lady said that once upon a time she had prayed a sinner’s prayer to accept Christ.
Now, upon hearing this, my precious sister in Christ,announced, “Well, then, God will welcome you into heaven with open arms!”
So, let me ask you your opinion. What’s your verdict? This person was not trusting in Christ but in her own good works for her salvation, and her own good works, according to my sister, were exceedingly self-centered. She didn’t have a church, nor had she given any outward evidence of being a believer other than that she had said a prayer, which apparently she didn’t fully understand or follow. Do you think that God will welcome her to heaven with open arms?
Well, though I was encouraged that she had initiated a conversation with a friend about her salvation, I gently explained that someone who is saved is someone who maintains a trust in Christ death for their sins rather than themselves for salvation, and more than that, has given some evidence of repentance from their sins, showing themselves to be a new creation, as II Corinthians 5:17 indicates. My sister in Christ, to her credit, was teachable, and a few weeks later assured me that she would correct, at some point, giving her friend a false assurance of salvation.
Now I tell this story because it is so typical of beliefs that are common among evangelicals in the American church. It is largely the reason that so many self-professed born-again Christians hold beliefs that are entirely unbiblical on so many basic teachings of the bible and whose lifestyles are no different from their non-Christian neighbor next door.
It is also the reason we are paying so much attention to the first four verses of Hebrews 2:1-4 this morning. I am acutely aware of the fact that we did refer to three of these four verses in our last message, but as verse one exhorts this morning, we will pay much closer attention to even this Scripture this morning.
For what it tells is this—that no mere one-time prayer that is neither understood, believed in a biblical sense or followed through with guarantees salvation. Rather, even people who have followed Christ for years need to beware. Watch out—if anyone permanently falls away from Christ, you demonstrate that you weren’t saved to begin with. Yep, that’s right. This is my view of this very sobering and controversial book of Hebrews. The warning is for those who are apparently true believers that if any of them ever permanently fall away from Christ, it’s evidence that they weren’t saved in the first place, and not that they have lost their salvation.
Now I want you to know that I have employed one of the most important principles of the literal grammatical, historical method of Bible interpretation: If the plainest sense make sense seek no other sense.
Now before I go further, I want to be honest with you. There are some far more eminently qualified and educated scholars who disagree with me. Some of them were my professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, and one of them is one of the most highly respected Jewish biblical scholars in the world, Arnold Fruchtenbaum. And I understand the reason for their concern—the last thing they want to concede is the possibility that a true believer could lose his salvation. Neither do I want to concede this, and I don’t. I simply believe, that as in the case of Judas Iscariot, someone who permanently falls away from Christ is someone who was not a true believer in the first place.