Once saved always saved?
Baptist Churches, Presbyterian Churches, Reformed Churches, and many other Protestant Churches teach that a true believer can by no means fall away from grace, that is to say, he can by no means lose his salvation and go to perdition.
The Southern Baptist Convention. The fifth article of the Confession of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention says: ‘…. All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation’
Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. The seventeenth chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith says: ‘I. They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved. II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof. III. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves’.
As far as this point is concerned, the above mentioned Confessions of Faith are substantially based on the teaching of John Calvin, the well-known reformer, who said: …. but not one of those whom Christ has once ingrafted into his body will he ever permit to perish, for in securing their salvation, he will perform what he has promised; that is, exert a divine power greater than all’ (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Third book, chapter XXII, 7) and: ‘Moreover, it cannot be doubted, that since Christ prays for all the elect, he asks the same thing for them as he asked for Peter, viz., that their faith fail not, (Luke 22: 32.) Hence we infer, that there is no danger of their falling away, since the Son of God, who asks that their piety may prove constant, never meets with a refusal. What then did our Savior intend to teach us by this prayer, but just to confide, that whenever we are his our eternal salvation is secure?’ (Ibid., Third book, chapter XXIV, 6).
Those who hold this belief quote several passages of the Scripture to support it. Here are some of these passages: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29); “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:37-40); “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39); “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6); “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30)
Now, all the above mentioned Bible verses are true and I firmly believe in them. However, there are other Bible verses that make it clear that we who have been saved will be saved if we hold the faith in Christ steadfast to the end, and some others which admit that a believer can draw back to perdition. Therefore those who teach ‘once saved always saved’ are wrong, for by so doing they deny what the Scripture admits, that is to say, they deny the fact that if, and I repeat myself, ‘if’, a believer draws back he will go to perdition, and thus they deny that throughout the history of the Church some believing men and women have denied the Lord and gone to perdition. By teaching such a doctrine they deceive believers for they make them believe that after all no matter what sin they may commit they will eventually be saved, because no matter how serious their sins might be the Lord will cause them to return to Him, that is to say, the Lord will give them repentance. Such a thing is not true for the following reasons; first of all, because the Scripture does not teach that one who wanders from the faith and truth will certainly be granted repentance so that he may know the truth; secondly, because there is a sin which leads to death. How do these believers explain those cases of believers who have denied the Lord then? In this way: they affirm that those people had not really believed and thus they were unbelieving people even though for a certain period of time they professed to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. And how do they interpret those verses which admit that a believer can deny the Lord and go to perdition? In this way: they say that those passages suppose a certain thing for the sake of discussion, therefore those passages can’t refer to something which can really happen.
Now, I will confute this heresy by speaking of the sin which leads to death; and by expounding all those Scriptures which affirm in various ways that we will be saved if we stand firm in the faith till the end and that if we draw back the Lord will deny us. And at the end of my confutation I will reply to the main objections raised by those who hold this false doctrine.
The sin unto death, of which it is impossible to repent
The apostle John wrote: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death” (1 John 5:16-17).
Brethren, all wrongdoing is sin and we know that “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4), as John says. Now, the Scripture says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), therefore, if a son of God commits a sin the transgression of the law will repay him with death, that’s why if a believer sins, after he has sinned, he feels disturbed and unhappy and feels a pain that pierces him like an arrow inside him, because the wages of sin is death. But the apostle wrote: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death” (1 John 5:16), which means that if we see a brother commit a sin which does not lead to death, we must pray God so that he might be made alive; yes, because God gives life to those who commit a sin that does not lead to death and repent of it, confessing and forsaking it. However, there is a sin of which a believer cannot repent, because it is impossible for those who commit this sin to be brought back to repentance and thus it is useless to pray for them, as it is written: “I do not say that he shall pray for it” (1 John 5:17). In other words, for those brothers who have committed this sin leading to death there is no possibility that they may repent and receive life from God. What is the destiny awaiting these people? They will be condemned to the second death (that is, the lake which burns with fire and brimstone), because this kind of sin leads those who commit it to the second death.
What is the sin unto death? It consists in forsaking the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ on the part of a mature believer, that is to say, in denying the Lord. I say this on the basis of what is written in the epistle to the Hebrews. For it is written: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:4-8).
As you can see, the Scripture says about these people who may fall away (and if they fall away it is impossible for them to be brought back to repentance) that they were once enlightened, they have tasted the heavenly gift, they have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, they have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come. There is no doubt that the author of this epistle is speaking of Christians, of true Christians regenerated by the Word of God and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, that is, of children of God.
Brethren, those who, after they hear the Gospel of grace, approach God recognizing that they are sinners and need to be saved have been enlightened by God who is light; and when they believe with their heart in our Lord Jesus Christ obtaining the remission of their sins and eternal life they taste the heavenly gift, which is Jesus Christ, for Paul says: “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23) and John says about the Son of God: “This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). Afterward, when they are baptized with the Holy Spirit they become partakers of the Holy Spirit because they are filled with the Holy Spirit (however, this does not mean that they did not have the Holy Spirit before, for every man receives a measure of the Spirit when he believes in the Lord).
The words “they have tasted the good word of God” mean that they have fed on “the pure milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:2 – NKJV) as well as solid food, which “belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14 – NKJV). The words “they have tasted the powers of the world to come” means that they have received some gifts of the Holy Spirit through which believers taste the powers of the world to come. Now, if these persons, who have experienced all these things, reject the Lord and draw back (they are again entangled in the pollutions of the world and overcome), deciding not to follow the Lord any longer and to renounce the Christ (they even don’t want to hear people speaking about Christ any longer), they commit the sin unto death, and we don’t have to pray for them because it is impossible to renew them again to repentance because they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says that the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God, but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and cursed and its end is to be burned; in the same way, if a believer abides in the Lord, the Lord abides in him, he bears much fruit to the glory of God and God blesses him; but if he ceases to abide in the Lord, the Lord will cease to abide in him and he will bear only thorns and briers, and thus he will become a man disapproved concerning the faith, an accursed child, who will be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone where he will burn and be tormented forever.
Why did the author of this epistle admonish so severely those believing Jews? Because they were enduring a great persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ and they were tempted, in the midst of that persecution, to draw back; and so the writer of the epistle, knowing the sufferings they had to endure for the Gospel’s sake, exhorted them to hold their confidence in Christ steadfast to the end and warned them against drawing back and renouncing the grace to offer again those sin offerings whose blood could not take away sins, because if they drew back they would condemn themselves to the everlasting perdition, they would deserve such a punishment because in so doing they would trample the Son of God underfoot and count the blood of the covenant by which they had been sanctified a common thing and they would insult the Spirit of grace. Here is what the writer of that epistle wrote about the end awaiting those who draw back and about the punishment they deserve to receive from the living God: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-31). These words are addressed to all of us who have believed as well, because the writer himself, who was a believer, included himself among those who could draw back to perdition saying: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth … ” (Hebrews 10:26) – we who are children of God have received the knowledge of the truth -, and because we are those people who were sanctified by the blood of the covenant (that is, the blood of Jesus Christ). Therefore, brethren, if those who have known the truth which is in Christ Jesus sin wilfully, that is, sin unto death, they commit a sin that will never be forgiven them (because it is a sin that will pay the transgressors back with the everlasting death) and they will go to perdition because they will lose the good hope (the hope of salvation) they have; only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God is left. They will deserve to be punished much more severely than those who broke the law of Moses and were put to death, because they have trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of Christ with which they were sprinkled a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace, that is, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts and by whom we cry out: “Abba, Father!” (with regard to this last thing, remember that Jesus said: “But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” [Mark 3:29 – NKJV]).
At this point I want to make it clear that both the expression ‘if they shall fall away’ (Hebrews 6:6) and the expression ‘if we sin wilfully’ (Hebrews 10:26) refer to the sin which leads to death and not to any sin, otherwise that would mean that it would be impossible for a believer to repent of any sin he has committed and he would be hopeless for he will surely be condemned to the everlasting fire. And that’s not true at all because the Scripture teaches in various ways that with the Lord is abundant redemption because if we sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous who is the propitiation for our sins (cf. 1 John 2:1-2). That’s why John says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 – NKJV).
Sins of which it is possible to repent
Now, I am going to show you from the Scriptures that not all the sins which a believer may commit are unto death, for he can repent of every sin which is not unto death and be forgiven. I find it necessary to write these things because I want you to understand very well the difference which exists between a sin which is not unto death and the sin which leads to death, with regard to the possibility of repentance and forgiveness.
● Paul wrote to the Galatians: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). It is evident, therefore, that since a believer who commits ‘a fault’ can be restored, for him it is still possible to repent and be forgiven by the Lord. However, it is also evident that from these faults which a believer may commit is excluded the sin unto death because it is impossible for those who commit this particular sin to be restored, in that it is impossible for them to be brought back to repentance. In other words it is impossible for them to rise again from such a fall. Therefore when we read in the book of Proverbs: “A righteous man may fall seven times and rise again” (Proverbs 24:16 – NKJV), among the falls is not the fall which is the sin unto death, because a righteous man can’t rise again from such a fall.
● Jesus said: “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). Therefore, a brother who commits a sin which is not unto death can repent and be forgiven. Would Jesus have told us to rebuke someone for a sin of which he can’t repent? Certainly not. It is evident therefore that in this case also, the fact that a believer can repent and be forgiven shows that not all sins are unto death and that among the sins a brother may commit and for which we must rebuke him hoping that he will repent and ask for our pardon, is not the sin which leads to death because for those who have committed the sin unto death it is impossible to repent and thus it is useless to rebuke them and to pray for them.
● John said: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10). Therefore, these words assure us that we can confess our sins to the Lord and the Lord will surely forgive us immediately, for we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for our sins. Therefore, since we can still confess these sins of ours to the Lord to be forgiven, that means that these sins are not unto death because we can’t repent of the sin which is unto death and thus we can’t confess it to the Lord. Once again, therefore, the Scripture makes it clear that not all sins are unto death. If all sins were unto death we would be hopeless, brethren, and the Scripture would be nullified because we could not even confess our sins to God to obtain their remission; we could not say to God: “Forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12 – NKJV), which would mean that God has deceived us. But God did not deceive us, for He is called Faithful and True and if He said through His Son that when we pray to God we must say, ‘Forgive us our debts’ that means that He promised to cleanse us from all the sins we may commit during our life on condition that we confess them to Him; obviously among these sins is not the sin unto death. In this case also we notice the justice of God manifested, if God had said that all sins are unto death it would have been a great injustice on the part of God because that would have meant that we would have been hopeless, in that we could not have been forgiven by God for any sin we would commit. No forgiveness, no repentance, what an unjust God we would have had! And who could have lived a sinless life? No one of us, consequently that would have meant that we would have been condemned to the everlasting fire for the first sin we would commit!!
● James says: “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). From the words of James, therefore, we deduce that if a brother wanders from the truth he can be converted, thus he still can repent. Therefore, we cannot say that if a brother wanders from the truth, giving heed to some strange doctrines, he has committed the sin unto death and thus he cannot repent any longer, for James says that he can be turned from the error of his way and his sins can be forgiven. The point I would like to underline is this: it is possible to renew again to repentance a brother who has wandered from the truth, but it is not possible to do the same thing toward a brother who has committed the sin unto death. Paul also teaches that a brother who has wandered from the truth can be renewed again to repentance, for after saying to Timothy that Hymenaeus and Philetus are among those who have wandered away from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, he says to him: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 – NKJV). As you can see, Paul says that the servant of the Lord must gently correct those who oppose the truth (they oppose the truth because they have wandered from the truth) because God may grant them repentance and allow them to escape from the trap of the devil into which they have fallen. The same thing cannot happen if a believer commits the sin unto death because – as we saw before – it is impossible for them to be brought back to repentance.
● Jesus Christ said to the angel of the Church in Thyatira: “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:20-23). In the Church of Thyatira there was a woman named Jezebel who taught and seduced the servants of Jesus Christ to commit adultery with her and to eat things sacrificed to idols (that is, two things which are condemned by the law and thus are sins). Then the Lord revealed to the angel of that church that He had given Jezebel time to repent but she did not want to repent and consequently He would punish her by casting her into a sickbed and killing her children with death; the Lord told the angel of that Church that His servants also would be punished severely if they did not repent of their evil deeds. It is clear that if Jezebel and those servants of Jesus, who had been deceived by her into doing those evil deeds, had committed the sin unto death the Lord would not have given them time to repent because we know that it is impossible for those who sin unto death to be brought back to repentance. So in this case also, even though those persons had committed some sins, it was possible for them to be brought back to repentance and be forgiven.
The above mentioned words that Jesus spoke to the angel of the church in Thyatira, which admit that even those who fornicate and commit adultery can repent and be forgiven, refute another false doctrine which is taught in some Pentecostal churches according to which fornication and adultery are sins unto death and those who commit them are guilty of eternal sins; for it is evident, I would say very evident, that since the Lord gave Jezebel and His servants time to repent this means that He did not declare them to be hopeless, He did not think that those people could no longer repent and be forgiven. In the sight of God it was still possible for them to be brought to repentance. And if according to God those who commit these sins can repent of their sins, why should we say the contrary?
● Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envying, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed” (2 Corinthians 12:20-21). In the Church of Corinth there were some believers who had practiced uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness, which are all works of the flesh, and Paul was afraid that when he would come again to the Corinthians he would have to punish and judge those who had not repented of their sins. However, it was not because they had committed the sin unto death and thus it was impossible for them to be brought back to repentance that they had not repented of those sins, but simply because they themselves had not been willing to repent. In this case also, we see how the Lord gives a believer who sins time to repent, but if he doesn’t repent of his sins the Lord will punish him according to his works. I say it again, to those believers who commit the sin unto death is not given time to repent for it is impossible for them to repent of this sin.
Further Biblical evidences in support of the possibility of losing salvation
I have showed from the Scripture that there is a sin which leads to death, therefore if a believer commits this sin he will go to perdition because he has crucified again for himself the Son of God and put him to an open shame, and he has insulted the Spirit of grace by whom he was sanctified. However, I have showed also that not all sins are unto death, because it is possible for a believer to repent of all the other sins and be forgiven. Therefore my position is as follows: if a believer remains joined to the Lord during all his life, believing in Him and keeping His commandments till the end, he will surely be saved and nothing and nobody will be able to separate him from the love of Christ. Even though he makes many mistakes (is there anyone among us who can say that he doesn’t make mistakes?) he will finally be saved because he has kept his faith and has fought the good fight till the end. However, if at a certain point of his life he casts away his faith in the Lord and thus ceases to keep his commandments (the two things go together because a person who casts away the faith in the Lord does not keep the Lord’s commandments any longer) by committing the sin which leads to death, he will by no means be saved. In other words, he will be condemned, even though he once believed in the Lord. The Bible verses I have mentioned above, which are written in the epistle to the Hebrews, teach this very clearly. However, there are other passages of the Scriptures which affirm the same thing. Now I am going to quote them and comment upon them briefly.
● Jesus Christ said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:1-6).
Jesus Christ is the vine and we who are His disciples are the branches and He commands us to abide in Him in order to bear fruit to the glory of God. What does it mean to abide in Him? To abide in Him means to keep God’s commandments, for it is written: “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him” (1 John 3:24 – NKJV). Which commandments? John says: “This is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23 – NKJV). Therefore, if we continue to believe in the Son of God and to love one another till the end, we will continue to bear fruits of righteousness till the end, we will keep ourselves attached to the vine and we will inherit eternal life. However, what will happen if we cease keeping His commandments? We will cease bearing fruit and thus God will throw us into the fire. For Jesus said that those branches which don’t bear fruit, for they don’t abide in the vine, are thrown into the fire and they are burned (cf. John 15:6). Therefore let us take heed to ourselves and let us abide in the Lord till the end, otherwise one day we will be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone!
● Paul wrote to Timothy: “This is a faithful saying … If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:11,12 – NKJV). These words make it clear that if we who have believed in the Lord deny the Lord and His words in this generation the Lord also will deny us. This statement made by Paul (note that Paul included himself, as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews who says: “If we sin wilfully ….” [Hebrews 10:26 – NKJV]) is in agreement with the following words that the Lord Jesus said to His disciples: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33), “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). Therefore, it is a very serious thing to be ashamed of the Lord and His words in this world. Paul knew this very well, that’s why he said to Timothy: “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord ….” (2 Timothy 1:8). Beloved, let us not be ashamed of the Lord and He will not be ashamed of us.
● Paul said to the saints in Rome the following things regarding the fact that we were grafted into a cultivated olive tree: “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (Romans 11:21-22).
We know that the natural branches which were broken off are the unbelieving Jews, as it is written: “Because of unbelief they were broken off” (Romans 11:20 – NKJV), so they don’t enjoy the blessings of Christ (His salvation, His peace, His gifts) because of their unbelief. On the contrary, we who are believing Gentiles were grafted into a cultivated olive tree because of our faith and by this faith we stand. All this leads us to understand the severity of God toward those Jews who don’t believe in His Son Jesus Christ, and also His goodness toward us believing Gentiles. However, God will continue to show His goodness toward us (by causing us to abide in the cultivated olive tree) on condition that we hold firmly the confidence we had at first. Without faith it is impossible to abide in the cultivated olive tree, so those who cast away their confidence are cut off and consequently they can’t enter the rest of God, which God prepared for those who believe. As the Israelites who rebelled against God in the wilderness could not enter the rest of God because of their unbelief, so those who once believed and then threw away their confidence will not be able to enter the Paradise of God. The Scripture says that “we who have believed do enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:3 – NKJV), but it teaches also that those who draw back can’t enter that rest.
At this point, someone may say: ‘All the passages you have quoted are passages which just suppose that a believer may draw back, but they don’t indicate that there are some believers who actually after some time draw back to perdition!’ In other words, ‘These passages are a severe admonishment, but nobody actually draws back!’ You are greatly mistaken in saying this because the Scripture says that there are some believers who deny the Lord and go to perdition. For instance the author of the epistle to the Hebrews says: “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39 – NKJV). Know this, therefore, that not only is there the possibility of losing one’s salvation, but also there are some believers who cast away their salvation and go to perdition. I would like to ask you the following question: ‘Don’t you think that if at that time there had been no believers who had drawn back to perdition, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews would not have spoken of ‘those who draw back to perdition’? For instance, if I say: ‘We are not of those who set their mind on earthly things, but of those who set their mind on things above’ what do I mean? Do not I mean that whereas on the one hand there are people who set their mind on earthly things on the other hand there are people who set their mind on things above, and we are among the latter? Therefore, if the author of the epistle to the Hebrews did not include himself among those who drew back to perdition but among those who believed to the saving of the soul, that means that in his days there were some believers who drew back to perdition as well as some believers who stood firm in the faith till the end to the saving of the soul. Things are very clear, aren’t they? On the other hand, we should not be surprised to read in that passage that there are some believers who draw back to perdition, because what they do is nothing but the fulfilment of some words spoken by the Lord Jesus when He told the parable of the sower. For, in speaking about the different kinds of places on which the good seed fell, He said: “Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth” (Matthew 13:5 – NKJV) and when He explained the meaning of these words He said: “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. The Italian Bible Riveduta Version reads ‘si traggono indietro’ that is, ‘they draw back’ instead of ‘they fall away’). As you can see, those who receive the word on stony places are those who hear the Word and they immediately receive it with joy believing in it, however they don’t stand firm in the faith till the end because when persecution arises because of the word they draw back or fall away. The Scripture clearly affirms that they draw back. Is it not written: “If he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him” (Hebrews 10:38 – NIV)? Therefore, those who draw back cease to please God because they cease believing in God. How could these people, who cease believing in God, still please God, when it is written that “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6 – NKJV)? Now, let me ask you this question: ‘Did they really believe once?’ Of course they did. If Jesus said: ‘They believe for a while’ this means that they had believed, and if they had believed they, too, had accepted the Gospel of the grace of God and had been saved. Do you want to give another meaning to the words of Jesus? If that seed which fell on stony places sprang up that means that there was a beginning, don’t you think so? And furthermore, if those people had not really believed why did Jesus speak of tribulation and persecution because of the word? And again, if those people had not really began to walk on the way which leads to heaven why did Jesus say that they fall away or draw back? How can a person draw back, if he is still on the way which leads to destruction and refuses to take the road which leads to heaven and which is pointed out by the Gospel of God? Therefore, those who draw back to perdition are those who believe for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word (in which they once believed) they deny the Lord, that is to say, they commit the sin unto death, and therefore they will go to perdition, they will be cast into the everlasting fire. They have denied the Lord, and the Lord will deny them. They were ashamed of the Lord, and the Lord will be ashamed of them. Among those who fall away are also those who depart from the faith (or abandon the faith), as it is written: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils [demons]; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1-5). As you can see, the fact that the Scripture says that these people will depart from the faith shows that they were once in the faith, because you can’t depart from a house where you have never lived, you can’t depart from a road you have never taken. On the other hand, this is confirmed by the fact that before saying that some will depart from the faith Paul says that Jesus “was believed on in the world” (1 Timothy 3:16 – NIV). As you can see, Paul says that the Son of God was believed on in the world, that is to say, a part of the world believed on Him. However, a few moments later he says that some of those who believed in the Son of God will depart from the faith. Therefore we conclude that those who depart from the faith were once true believers.
The fact that there are some people who once believed and afterward draw back to perdition is confirmed also by what Peter wrote in his second epistle about the false teachers, who are among the people of God. Listen carefully to his words: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartarus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:1-22). As you can see, Peter says about these persons the following things: they denied the Lord who bought them, they forsook the right way and went astray, they once had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they knew the way of righteousness but one day they turned from the holy commandment delivered to them. Now, I ask you: ‘Are not these expressions clear enough?’ Of course, they are, I would say they are very clear, for one can’t deny the Lord who bought him if he did not accept Him, one can’t forsake the right way if he did not walk in it, and one can’t escape the pollutions of the world without believing in the Lord, and one can’t know the way of righteousness without believing in the Lord. However, let me comment briefly on the above mentioned characteristics of false teachers.
They denied the Lord who bought them; therefore they also were among those to whom Peter wrote: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” (1 Peter 1:18-21). Note that those who have been redeemed by the Lord with His precious blood are persons who believe in God. This is confirmed by Paul who wrote to the believers in Corinth: “For you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20 – NKJV). Therefore, the false teachers also once believed because they had been bought by the Lord with His precious blood.
They forsook the right way and went astray. Which is the right way? Is it not the way about which the prophet Isaiah said: “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:8-10)? Note how the redeemed walk in this way, therefore it is the way in which those who were bought by the Lord walk.
They had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Christ but then they were again entangled in them. The Scripture says that through the exceedingly great and precious promises of the Lord we became “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4 – NKJV) and for this reason we must add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love; therefore these false teachers also, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever, were once sons of God by their faith in Christ.
They knew the way of righteousness and then they turned from the holy commandment delivered to them. The way of righteousness is the way in which John the Baptist also walked, who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. For Jesus said about John to the Jews: “John came to you in the way of righteousness” (Matthew 21:32 – NKJV). Therefore, these false teachers also believed in the Christ of God, then they turned from the holy commandment according to which we must believe on the name of the Son of God (cf. 1 John. 3:23).
What shall we say about the example of Judas Iscariot? Is it not a clear example of a believer who forsook the Lord and went to perdition? For on the night Jesus was betrayed, He said to the Father: “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). Therefore, Judas also had been among those whom God had given to His Son, but one day he betrayed the Master and went to perdition so that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
Therefore, in the light of all these Scriptures, we must reject all those arguments which tend to make the saints believe that those who deny the Lord, that is to say, who draw back, actually did not believe. On the other hand, the way of thinking of these brothers (those who hold the doctrine called ‘once saved always saved) induces us to think that after all we can’t be sure that those who say that they believe have really believed in the Lord. For who says to me that they will stand firm in the faith till the end? For if a brother tells me that he has believed, he rejoices for he was saved, he suffers because of the Gospel, and then one day he denies the Lord, this would mean that actually he did not believe!! If things were so, we could not know whether one who professes to be a Christian is a true believer or not, and we should be very careful when we speak of a believer because if we say that he is a true believer and then one day he denies the Lord we will be considered believers who are not able to know a true believer. No, those who believe the doctrine ‘once saved always saved’ are wrong. I agree with them when they affirm that there are false brothers among the people of God, that is to say, people who claim that they believed but actually did not believe; however, we are able to know them very easily, it is sufficient to ask them if they are sure to be saved, if they are sure they have been forgiven, etc. thus it is evident that if these people forsake the assembling of ourselves together and join a cult, we can say about them that actually they had never believed in the Lord; but not always this is the case because there are some true believers who forsake the assembling of ourselves together and deny the Lord who bought them. The argument of those who teach ‘once saved always saved’ is a subterfuge they use to support their false doctrine.
What should we say then about all those Israelites who came out of Egypt but did not enter the promised land because of their unbelief? Should we say that they had never come out of Egypt or that they had never believed in God nor in His servant Moses? Is it not written that those who heard and rebelled against God were all those Moses led out of Egypt? And is it not written that after God divided the Red Sea “the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31 – NKJV)? Therefore the Israelites had believed, but afterwards they gave place to unbelief and rebelled against God who swore that they would never enter the promised land and their carcasses would fall in the wilderness. And their example of unbelief is taken by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews to warn us not to cast away our faith. Listen to what the Scripture says: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:12-19; 4:1-11). Therefore, if God warns us not to draw back, through the bad example of the Israelites, this means that there is a certain analogy between the unbelief of the Israelites and a possible unbelief of a believer in Jesus Christ, don’t you think so? Why then, if the Israelites had not believed in God nor in His servant Moses, would God tell us not to follow the same example of disobedience but to have faith till the end? Such a warning would make no sense if a true believer could not draw back to perdition!!! Judge for yourselves what I say. And what shall I say about the wife of Lot, whom we must remember for Jesus said: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32 – NKJV)? Did she believe the angels of God? Was she saved from the destruction of Sodom? As far as I know she, too, believed the angels and was saved. But after she went out of Sodom she disobeyed the Lord for she looked behind and she became a pillar of salt. Therefore the wife of Lot also is an example of disobedience we must not follow.
Replies to some objections
All those who teach that a believer can by no means fall away from grace, when they have to explain some of the passages I have mentioned above, affirm several absurdities. I am going to examine what they affirm in the light of the Scriptures to show you that they are wrong.
Some say that the expressions, ‘if they fall away” (Hebrews 6:6 – NKJV) and, ‘If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth” (Hebrews 10:26 – NKJV) don’t mean that such a thing can happen or has ever happened. For instance, Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon titled ‘Final Perseverance’ says ‘But some one says, “What is falling away?” Well, there never has been a case of it yet, and therefore I cannot describe it from observation; but I will tell you what I suppose it is’, and when he explains why the writer put that ‘if’ in Hebrews 6:6 he says: ‘If Christians can fall away, and cease to be Christians, they cannot be renewed again to repentance. “But,” says one, “You say they cannot fall away.” What is the use of putting this “if” in, like a bugbear to frighten children, or like a ghost that can have no existence? My learned friend, “Who art thou that repliest against God?” If God has put it in, he has put it in for wise reasons and for excellent purposes. Let me show you why. First, O Christian, it is put in to keep thee from falling away. …..’ and secondly ‘It is to excite our gratitude’. With regard to Hebrews 6:4-6, however, it must be said that Spurgeon, unlike almost all Calvinistic preachers, admitted that those people spoken of in Hebrews 6:4-6 were Christians, that is to say, true believers.
Let me tell you something. Why should we believe that such a thing cannot happen? Why should we affirm that the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, by saying that if Christians fall away it is impossible for them to be brought back to repentance, just formulated a hypothesis but he did not speak of something which can actually happen or that has ever happened? Then, if we say such a thing about the ‘if’’ of Hebrews 6:6, it follows that we should say the same thing about the other ‘ifs’ which we read in the Scriptures. Let us look at some of them. Paul says to the Corinthians: “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry (1 Corinthians 7:36 – NASB) What does Paul mean by these words? Does he mean that such a thing cannot happen or has never happened? It doesn’t seem to me that Paul meant such a thing, for there are men who think that if they don’t allow their daughters to marry they will behave improperly toward them and therefore they permit them to get married. And what shall we say about the following words of James: “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20)? Shall we say that such a thing cannot happen or that has never happened? As far as I know, there are some Christians who wandered from the truth for a while and then someone converted them. And what shall we say about the following words of John: “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:16 – NKJV)? Should we say that such a thing cannot happen or that has never happened? How could we affirm such a thing when we have seen several brothers sinning a sin which does not lead to death? And I could mention many more ‘ifs’ written in the New Testament to show you that the expression ‘if they fall away’ means not only that such a thing may happen but also that sometimes it has happened. We know several cases of children of God who have fallen away.
Another subterfuge used by ‘Calvinistic preachers and writers’ to support the doctrine ‘once saved always saved’ is this: they affirm that these warnings are for those who have never been born again, that is, sinners. Matthew Henry, for instance, says the following things about those who may fall away (chapter 6 of Hebrews): ‘Now hence observe, [1.] These great things are spoken here of those who may fall away; yet it is not here said of them that they were truly converted, or that they were justified; there is more in true saving grace than in all that is here said of apostates. [2.] This therefore is no proof of the final apostasy of true saints. These indeed may fall frequently and foully, but yet they will not totally nor finally from God; the purpose and the power of God, the purchase and the prayer of Christ, the promise of the gospel, the everlasting covenant that God has made with them, ordered in all things and sure, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the immortal seed of the word, these are their security. But the tree that has not these roots will not stand.’ As you can see, the writer to the Hebrews is not speaking of people who were truly converted. A similar thing he says about those who may sin wilfully after they have received the knowledge of the truth (chapter 10 of Hebrews); here are his words: ‘The sin here mentioned is a total and final apostasy, when men with a full and fixed will and resolution despise and reject Christ, the only Saviour,–despise and resist the Spirit, the only sanctifier,–and despise and renounce the gospel, the only way of salvation, and the words of eternal life; and all this after they have known, owned, and professed, the Christian religion, and continue to do so obstinately and maliciously. This is the great transgression: the apostle seems to refer to the law concerning presumptuous sinners, Num. xv. 30, 31. They were to be cut off. 2. From the dreadful doom of such apostates. (1.) There remains no more sacrifice for such sins, no other Christ to come to save such sinners; they sin against the last resort and remedy. There were some sins under the law for which no sacrifices were provided; but yet if those who committed them did truly repent, though they might not escape temporal death, they might escape eternal destruction; for Christ would come, and make atonement. But now those under the gospel who will not accept of Christ, that they may be saved by him, have no other refuge left them. (2.) There remains for them only a certain fearful looking for of judgment, v. 27’. Therefore, according to Matthew Henry, the author of that epistle is speaking of sinners in both places, he is not speaking of true believers because true believers can’t fall away nor sin wilfully.
I have already showed from the Scripture that these passages refer to believers and not to unbelievers. However, let me say something else about this argument of theirs because it is one of their ‘warhorses’, however it is a losing and not a winning warhorse because they interpret the Scripture wrongly. Now, how can they affirm that those who have tasted the heavenly gift are not sons of God? Then, when the apostle Peter in his first epistle says: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:1-3 – NKJV) who did he refer to? Did he refer to believers or unbelievers since he says ‘if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious‘? You will say to me: ‘To believers, because he says also that they have believed in God (cf. 1 Peter 1:21), and that they are like newborn babes’. Well said, therefore they are believers who tasted the goodness of the Lord; how did they taste it? By receiving the remission of sins because Paul says to the saints in Ephesus: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). Why then in those passages to the Hebrews the fact that those people tasted the heavenly gift does not mean that they obtained eternal life, when we know that the gift of God, in Christ Jesus, is eternal life? Perhaps you will say that it is not written that they ate the heavenly gift but that they have tasted the heavenly gift! Let me tell you that this is a sophism for I have already demonstrated that those believers to whom Peter wrote had tasted the goodness of the Lord. However, I cannot understand how unbelievers can taste the heavenly gift; as far as I know if one has tasted the heavenly gift he is saved, while if one has not yet tasted the heavenly gift is still lost. Therefore, the fact that the writer says that they have tasted the heavenly gift indicates that they have tasted the gift of eternal life just as each one of us. Have we not tasted the heavenly gift? As for me, I have tasted it. Furthermore, how can one affirm that these people are not true believers when the Scripture says that they have become partakers of the Holy Spirit? Listen, in the New Testament there are some passages which state that some people have become partakers of someone or something. For instance, Peter says: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Peter 1:3-7). What does it mean to have become partakers of the divine nature? Does it not mean that now in Christ we are partakers of the nature of God, in that we became or were made sons of God? Another example: the author of the epistle to the Hebrews says: “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Hebrews 3:14 – NKJV); what does it mean to have become partakers of Christ? Does it not mean that through faith we allowed Christ to come to us and to make His home with us (cf. Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 3:17) and that our members became members of Christ, as it is written: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!” (1 Corinthians 6:15 – NKJV)? Therefore, when we read in the epistle to the Hebrews that these people have become partakers of the Holy Spirit that means that they have received the Holy Spirit and thus they are sons of God because the Spirit bears witness with their spirit that they are sons of God, as it is written: “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself (Himself] beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:15-17), and thus their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is absurd to affirm that some people who have never been regenerated can become partakers of the Holy Spirit: to affirm such a thing means to openly contradict the Scripture and also not to know one’s language.
Let us come now to the words written in the tenth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews; we can’t affirm that those to whom the writer refer are people who have never been converted or have never been regenerated because first of all the writer says “if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth” which means that he is speaking of a sin which can be committed after one has known the truth. Does an unregenerate person know the truth? No, he doesn’t. If the answer were ‘yes’ that would mean that a person can be lost and at the same time know God. Now, if Jesus Christ is the truth, and to know the truth is to know Jesus Christ, how can we say that an unregenerate person knows the truth? As far as I know, one cannot know Christ unless he is born again. One may have heard of Christ, he may have heard of the truth, but to know Christ and to know the truth is a different thing. In order to know Christ, that is, the truth, a man must be born again, because if anyone is in Christ, that is, in the truth, he is a new creation, he is no longer the same person. Therefore, those who have received the knowledge of the truth have truly believed and are truly saved. For instance, when Paul says that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4 – NKJV), he associates salvation with the knowledge of the truth, thus when one is saved he knows the truth. And again when he says that some forbid to marry and command to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving “by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:3 – NKJV), he associates faith with the knowledge of the truth. This confirms what I said before. I would like to say something also about the passage which says that he who sins wilfully after he has received the knowledge of the truth “counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing” (Hebrews 10:29 – NKJV). Now, inasmuch as it is written that if this person commits this kind of sin (that is, the sin unto death) he counts the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, that means that he was once sanctified by the blood of Christ, because the blood of the covenant is the blood of Christ, for on the night He was betrayed Jesus said to His disciples: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28 – NKJV). And if he was sanctified by that blood, that means that he was saved. Why do I say this? Because Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), and the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:10-17). As you can see, when one was sanctified he was made new in Christ, he was made perfect in regard to the conscience, for by faith in the blood of Christ he was sanctified by that precious blood. Therefore the Bible verse ‘if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth’ refers to people who have truly believed.
Brothers, the Word of God does not deceive us; it does not encourage us to think that even if we neglect such a great salvation God will finally have mercy on us, for it says: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Hebrews 2:1-3) and again: “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Hebrews 12:25).
The Scripture exhorts us to see that no one misses the grace of God and that no one is “godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son” (Hebrews 12:16 – NIV), and “when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears” (Hebrews 12:17 – NIV). As you know, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a stew of lentils. Under the Old Testament the birthright allowed the firstborn to inherit a double portion of all that his father had, therefore the birthright was an important thing. However, what did Esau do? He despised his birthright selling it to Jacob for a stew of lentils. The Scripture is right in saying that “a man will do wrong for a piece of bread” Proverbs 28:21 – NIV), for Jacob gave Esau “bread and stew of lentils” (Genesis 25:34 – NKJV) for his birthright, therefore Esau did wrong for a piece of bread.
Brothers, let us not despise the right to be called children of God in order to return to the pleasures of sin which the devil offers to us continually through this wicked world (he wants to make us believe that it is worth turning one’s back to the Lord and neglecting such a great salvation for the things of this world), because if we despise it we will become godless like Esau and we will by no means inherit the kingdom of God nor the blessing of God, because we will be cast into the unquenchable fire, that is, into the fire which awaits all the wicked, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (cf. Matthew 25:30). To cast away the most precious thing we have which was bought by the Son of God with His blood, that is to say, the eternal salvation, is a foolish act and those believers who have cast it away are reaping the awful consequences of their foolish decision, for they are weeping and gnashing their teeth in Hades, they are without water in that horrible place of torment and no one can wipe away their tears nor alleviate their torment. Their tears can be compared to the tears of Esau when he sought to inherit the blessing; those tears were not tears of repentance and did not move Isaac nor did they induce Isaac to bless Esau. So in like manner those who have despised the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and have counted the blood of Christ by which they were once washed a common thing, are in the fire of Hades where they weep for pain and they will by no means obtain mercy and inherit eternal salvation.
Therefore, brothers, let us stand firm in the faith, let us not draw back when our faith is tested, knowing that we have in heaven a city which has been prepared by God, who is the architect and builder of this city. It is the hope of the saints, but in order to enter that city made of gold, whose gates are pearls, and in the midst of which is the river of the water of life, which is clear as crystal, we must stand firm in the faith and keep the works of Christ to the end. Yes, to the end and not just for a while, then on that day our eyes will behold the beauty of the King of glory; then we will enter the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and we will sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of heaven. Beloved, it is worth suffering for the Lord on earth. So, knowing that one day we will taste and see the glory of God, we say to you: ‘Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, let us fight zealously for the cause of the Gospel, let us not turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but let us look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2 – NKJV). A great joy also was set before us, so let us also despise the shame that we may inherit that joy and hear the Lord say to us: ‘Enter into the joy of your Lord, you faithful servants of the Lord’. To God who called us to His Kingdom and to His glory, be the glory forever. Amen.