2 Peter #9 2 Peter 2:19-22 (MSG) Can a person once saved fall from grace?
2 Peter #9 2 Peter 2:19-22 (MSG) Can a person once saved fall from grace?
Peter continues his blistering condemnation of the false
teachers. In the process, he answers a
question that has been disputed since the teachings of John Calvin took root
in the traditions of the Church. Can a
person once saved fall from grace?
2 Peter 2:19-22 (MSG)
They promise these newcomers freedom, but they themselves
are slaves of corruption, for if they're addicted to corruption—and they
20 If they've escaped from the slum of sin by experiencing
our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ, and then slid back into that same old life
again, they're worse than if they had never left. 21 Better not to have started
out on the straight road to God than to start out and then turn back,
repudiating the experience and the holy command. 22 They prove the point of the
proverbs, "A dog goes back to its own vomit," and, "A
scrubbed-up pig heads for the mud."
Those who got swept away by the idea that it doesn’t matter
how you live, that you are free from any restraints, preach freedom. You can do what you want and you are still in
God’s good graces. But Peter writes that they are prisoners of their own
corruption. They are caught in their own webs of deceit even as they entice
others to follow their lead. They have become slaves to immorality.
People will say that they are free to do what they want but
are blind to what they have enslaved themselves to. We create habits, attachments, and addictions
to certain behaviors, and those behaviors can take control of our lives. The workaholic, the person who spends hours
on video games, and some folks who get trapped in hoarding are all examples. Can you turn your cell phone off? There are
folks living for social media validation. People can become enslaved to their
own beliefs, shame, guilt, inferiority, and negative thinking. The false teachers are addicted to doing what
they want when they want regardless of the consequences while preaching there
are no spiritual consequences for their actions. They are interested in enriching themselves
by manipulating others. They know what
God requires when it comes to living an exemplary life that Peter wrote of in
his first letter, but they believe they know better. They think they are free but are being
mastered by their pleasures and pursuits.
Previously established is that those who went astray
exercised faith in Christ. They acknowledged their need for a savior, they
believed Jesus was that savior, they made a commitment to be Jesus' disciple,
and they asked God to accept their faith. They came forward at the preacher’s
invitation, they made it to an altar, they prayed the sinner’s prayer and they
were welcomed into the Church family. They became active in the life of the
church and respected. But they eventually come up missing.
John Calvin taught that once a person made this kind of
decision they were saved and nothing could change that. If they fell away
from the faith, it meant that they were not sincere in their request, they were
never real believers. Calvin based his
understanding on the supreme sovereignty of God. For Calvin humanity is totally
depraved, there is nothing that a person can do to save themselves. God chooses who will be saved and who to be
damned. Therefore there is an
unconditional election; salvation is given according to God’s good pleasure. Jesus dies only for the elect, so the
atonement is limited to the ones God chose before the foundations of the
world. God’s grace is irresistible, so
an individual doesn’t have a choice to believe or disbelieve, God’s saving
grace is bestowed and cannot be revoked.
If God has chosen you, and Jesus died for you, and grace is bestowed
upon you then you are saved, God has set you aside, preserved you for all
eternity; hence the phrase “Once Saved
Yet Peter tells us something different. These false teachers were Christians. Verse
20 states that they had escaped the corruption of the world through faith in
Jesus. But then they slide back into the old lifestyle of an ego-directed life.
This is where the term backsliding comes from.
A Christian can backslide, the question is can they backslide so far
that they fall from grace. Peter writes
“They're worse than if they had never left. Verse 21 “Better not to have
started out on the straight road to God than to start out and then turn back,
repudiating the experience and the holy command.”
Now Calvin is an incredible individual. It would be theologically irresponsible to call
him a false teacher. He did not teach that once you got saved that what you do
doesn’t matter, far from it. He was
trying to make sense of His concept of God’s sovereignty and why people who
professed to be Christians could turn their back on their faith. His conclusion
was that they must not ever have been Christ's followers, to begin with.
Of course, there is an opposing opinion, one heralded by John
Wesley. [Wesley picked up where James Arminius a contemporary of Calvin left
off] Wesley of course acknowledged the sovereignty of God but he also balanced
his thought with human free will. So
Wesley taught that yes indeed, no one could save themselves, God’s intervention
was required. But from there he takes a different direction. Whereas Calvin taught that there was no human
condition to be met because God chose who would be saved and who would not,
Wesley taught that you had to choose to be chosen, your salvation was
conditioned on your volitional acceptance of God's invitation (Revelations 22:17). The atonement was for every person, God’s
forgiveness is extended to all humanity (John 3:16). We will read in chapter 3 of 2 Peter that it
is God’s will that everyone enters into a right relationship with Him but since
not everyone has responded to God’s invitation his invitation to be saved, his
grace must be resistible. What a person
freely chooses to enter into they can choose to exit, so Wesley taught that a
person could backslide so far that they chose to reject God altogether.
Wesley described how a person backslides in his sermon “The
Great Privilege of Those That Are Born of God.”
“You can observe the undeniable progress from grace toward
sin. Step by step, sin develops in the
following way: (1) The divine seed of loving, conquering faith remains in the
one that is born of God. ‘He protects
himself,’ and by the grace of God, ‘he cannot sin.’ (2) A temptation arises; it
does not matter whether it is from the world, the flesh, or the devil. (3) The
Spirit of God gives warning that sin is near, and he bids us more strongly to
stay wake and pray. (4) The temptation
causes us somewhat to heed the temptation, and it begins to grow pleasurable to
us. (5) The Holy Spirit is grieved because our faith has weakened and our love
for God is growing cold. (6) The Holy
Spirit reproves us more sharply, say. ‘This is the way; walk in it’ (Isaiah
30:21). (7) We turn away from the disturbing voice of God and listen to the
pleasing voice of the tempter. (8) Evil desire begins in the soul and spreads
until faith and love disappear. Because
the power of the Lord has departed from us, we are then capable of committing
outward sin.” (Kinghorn, Kenneth Cain. John Wesley on Christian Beliefs,
Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2002. pp. 320-321)
Outward sin is what we have identified as willful sin. We know God’s will, we know God’s way, but we
reject it. Now, if this behavior
persists, if one doesn’t repent and turn back to the way of obedience, they
continue to slide back into depravity.
When the power of the Lord departs the slide picks up speed.
A person can backslide so far that they openly reject the faith that brought
them to God in Christ. That’s the key to
understanding how a believer can fall from grace. They choose to reject the faith. It took a
willful decision to enter the faith, it takes a willful decision to leave the
Peter goes on to say that those who reject the faith
22 They prove the point of the proverbs, "A dog goes
back to its own vomit," and, "A scrubbed-up pig heads for the
and vomit illustration is particularly disgusting. Proverbs 26:11 (NIV):
dog returns to its vomit, so a fool
repeats his folly. “What satisfaction
can a dog find in vomit, if before that he could not even digest that food when
it was fresh?” (Powers, Daniel G. 1&2 Peter Jude. Beacon Hill Press, Kansas
City, Mo, 2010. p. 222). Stuck in sin
and death, freed from sin and death, return to sin and death. Peter tells us that this is madness. They were cleansed and made pure and now they
have returned to filth and corruption.
people have seen the light, gotten a taste of heaven, and been part of the work
of the Holy Spirit, once they’ve personally experienced the sheer goodness of
God’s Word and the powers breaking in on us—if then they turn their backs on
it, washing their hands of the whole thing, well, they can’t start over as if
nothing happened. That’s impossible. Why, they’ve re-crucified Jesus! They’ve
repudiated him in public! Parched ground that soaks up the rain and then
produces an abundance of carrots and corn for its gardener gets God’s “Well
done!” But if it produces weeds and thistles, it’s more likely to get cussed
out. Fields like that are burned, not harvested.
imagine that one willful sin disqualifies you from the race. A willful sin that goes unconfessed and not
repented of leads to more willful sins, which lead you further and further from
the path of truth. One must persist in
rebellion. Peter indicates that this is
exactly what happened with these false teachers, they left the true faith and
wandered into error. It is not easy to fall from grace, it takes
determination. God is a jealous God and
he doesn’t let go easily. So much
depends upon what we do, by our actions we either affirm our faith in God or we
last 12 verses have been clearly very uncivil.
They were fighting words. Not the best choice for discussing theological
or doctrinal ideas. Hopefully, if you get
into a discussion you will rely on the Holy Spirit to assist you in being
respectful and congenial as well as strong.
There’s not a lot of love in what Peter wrote. Peter must have seen these false teachers as
a deadly threat to the Church, especially the new believers. Today our culture
is trending towards if we say something is wrong, something is immoral, then
we’re the bad person. Even if you tell the truth in love, with love, you can be
canceled. In a culture where everything goes, to say something should be
stopped makes you intolerant, bigoted, and just plain evil. A dangerous trend that if it persists is
going to lead to incredible persecution.
Remember that it is our job to bless (1 Peter 3:8-12).
has hammered home to us that belief and behavior are connected. What we really believe is demonstrated by the
things that we do. Jesus nailed it when
we taught that you would know the tree by its fruit (Luke 6:43-45). Every
decision you make is a reflection of what you believe. The Apostle James told us that even the
demons believe (James 2:19). “Salvation
is not only dependent upon a profession of faith but also must be lived out in
righteous and virtuous behavior” (Powers p. 223). Belief is to be accompanied
by action that testifies to your belief.
Let’s answer our question.
Can a Christian fall from Grace?
Can the once saved become unsaved?
The case has been made for an affirmative answer. A person choosing to accept God's gracious
invitation to righteousness can reject it also.
Of the many things we could walk away with from this
teaching one of the most important are these words of wisdom: Avoid temptation
and stay as far away as you can from any form of immorality. Allow Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and
Experience under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit to guide you in all that you do.