Can a Christian fall from grace?

Question: : Can a New Testament Christian fall from grace? What about Simon in Acts 8? What about 2 Peter 2:20-22? What about Gal. 5:4? What about Rom. 8:12-13? I also read in one of your previously answered questions that you said “believing” would allow you to receive the Holy Spirit. Notice if you will that Samaria had recieved the word of God, but they did not receive the Holy Spirit.

Answer: No, neither a New Testament Christian nor an Old Testament believer can fall from grace, if by that you mean they can lose their salvation. Peter describes Simon in Acts 8:20-23 as in danger of perishing, having no part or share in his ministry, having a heart that is not right before God, in need of repentance of his wickedness and of forgiveness from the Lord, and as full of bitterness and captive to sin. The most reasonable understanding of this situation is that Simon’s “faith” (v.13) was more an intellectual faith than a whole-hearted trusting in the Lord leading to salvation.

Peter talks about false teachers in 2 Peter 2:20 who, having escaped the corruption of the world, become entangled in it again and are worse off than at the beginning. This does not indicate that they were saved but only that they benefited from the teaching of the gospel and cleaned up their lives temporarily. It is akin to Jesus’ story of the man who cleans out the demon in his life only to get seven more worse than it come back in later. Many people have had a positive influence from the gospel without being inwardly born again through it.
Galatians 5:4 addresses those in the Galatian churches who have chosen to pursue a righteousness based in the law instead of grace. They have been swayed by the false teachers who came in after Paul left. Paul warns them that they are fallen away from the grace approach to salvation and have alienated themselves from Christ. If they persist in this approach they demonstrate that they were never saved to begin with. If they are genuinely saved Paul is confident (v.10) that they will respond to his warning and come back to the truth.

Romans 8:12-14 teaches this very truth. Those who genuinely have the Spirit of Christ (and if you don’t have the Spirit you don’t have Christ, but if you do it means you have been saved) are led by the Spirit and are sons of God. The Spirit goes to work in the true believer. He doesn’t leave the believer to struggle on his own. He enables him to put to death the misdeeds of the body.

If you look at an isolated experience like the Samaritans’ reception of the Spirit, you will inevitably draw wrong conclusions. If you look at the overall pattern of what is going on in the account of Acts you will notice that four distinct people groups experience a reception of the Spirit: Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, and some disciples of John the Baptist who had missed the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection in Israel. Though there is a time delay in a few of these instances, the anticipation of Paul is that you receive the Holy Spirit when you believe (Acts 19:2). The Samaritans have to wait a short time until the apostles can come up and oversee their reception of the Spirit to prevent a schism in the church. Cornelius and his household receive the Holy Spirit the moment they embrace the gospel (even before they are water baptized). Faith in Christ is the only condition for receiving the Holy Spirit.

Randall Johnson

 

 

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One thought on “Can a Christian fall from grace?

  1. Pingback: Confidence in Our Rescue (Theology for Living from Philippians) « A Thimble-full of Theology for Daily Living

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