Summary: Many believers are disturbed by the thought that there may be Christians who could be lost. We need the comfort of Christ Who offers "eternal life" so that we need never fear such an end.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
My dad and I were seated at the kitchen table. I was enjoying one of his infrequent visits; he didn’t often leave home, even to visit his sons. The believer’s security in Christ was the subject of our somewhat animated discussion. At one point, as if to cut off further discussion, Dad said, “Son, if I believed like you, I’d go and take my fill of sin.”
“Dad,” I responded, “that is the point precisely. I’ve had my fill of sin.”
“But if you don’t hold on, you can be lost again,” he insisted.
I gently probed, “How were you saved?”
“Why, by believing Jesus,” was his immediate response.
“Then, what makes you think that you must now depend upon your own effort to remain saved. If Christ saved you when you believed His promise, what makes you think you must now do something in order to remain saved?” was my rejoinder.
Further exploration demonstrated that my dad was convinced that it was theoretically possible that a believer might cease believing. Should that happen, he was convinced that a Christian could be forever lost and condemned to hell.
Tragically, my dad was not alone in his assessment that “Christians” could theoretically be in hell. Numerous “evangelical” denominations teach that one who believes can be lost and condemned to spend eternity separated from the love of God. Great numbers of believers live in fear that they may have committed a sin so heinous that they can no longer be loved by God. What is actually at stake is nothing less than the comforting doctrine of security in Christ Jesus. Of necessity, anything I may say in this message will be abbreviated due to time constraints. I would, however, encourage you to examine this issue more carefully in your own studies.
THE QUESTION — Can a Christian be condemned? Can a believer in Christ the Master be lost? Having trusted Christ, having been born from above and into the Family of God, can a child of God be disowned by the Father? Can salvation be rescinded?
Numerous passages seem to indicate that a saved person can be lost. However, careful reading should clarify the issue for sincere seekers of truth. For instance, the parable of the wedding feast [see MATTHEW 22:1-14] concludes with a man without wedding garments being cast into outer darkness. However, the fact that he had no wedding garments indicated that he sought to enter through his own inherent “right” to be present rather than by invitation.
As He initiated the Olivet Discourse, Jesus spoke of the conditions for those who believe during the Tribulation period [see MATTHEW 24:3-14]. He made one statement that isolated from the context could possibly indicate that one who is saved could be lost. Jesus said, “The one who endures to the end will be saved” [MATTHEW 24:13]. Bear in mind, however, that the Master is pointing out the conditions during the Tribulation. Moreover, He will draw that discussion to a conclusion by explaining that conduct will reveal the heart—especially during those trying times. Those who do not believe will attempt to avoid living as those expecting the return of the King; those who do believe will not consider their lives precious as they honour their divine heritage through living righteous and holy lives in the midst of rampant wickedness.
Those who hold to the possibility that a believer may be unsaved appeal to other passages which appear problematic. For instance, HEBREWS 6:4-6 reads as follows. “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 harm and holding him up to contempt.”