Could Old Testament believers be lost?
Perhaps rephrasing the question will help in answering it. Were Old Testament saints saved by works, by mutual contract or covenant, or by grace? If their salvation was by grace, through the value of the Savior’s death (and is there another way? Acts 4:12; Hebrews 9:22) then how could it be lost or be merely an intermittent relationship with God? The natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). The carnal mind is at enmity with God and those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7, 8). Therefore, to have understood truth from God, walked with God in fellowship or pleased God, believers in a past age must have become spiritually alive. How could they (or any saved person) revert to a condition of spiritual death? David’s clear statement in Psalm 32:1 indicates the assurance he had of forgiveness and of an unchanging position before God that included no imputation of guilt by heaven’s court (Romans 4:6, 7).
Doesn’t teaching eternal security give license to sin?
Part of the reason for John’s first epistle is to refute the false notion that since believers know God spiritually, they can freely sin physically. John shows that life from God cannot be characterized by sin. “Whoever has been begotten of God does not practice sin, because His seed abides in him” (1 John 3:9, JND). Divine life imparted at salvation precludes a life of sin. Paul asked. “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1)? He shows that our new standing in Christ (6:1-14), our new service, not to sin but to righteousness (6:15-23), and our new supply of power by the indwelling Spirit (8:1-16) preclude a Christian from living under the power of sin.
How can a saved person believe in “falling away?”
This is possible only because of wrong teaching.
Those who propagate the “falling away” doctrine are wrong about many things. They believe one will lose his salvation when he sins. Wrong! This implies that the work of Christ is insufficient. They teach that to believe in eternal security means one can live a wicked, immoral life and still get to heaven. Wrong! “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein” Romans 6:2? Christ’s death FOR us was also our death TO sin. A person who is saved abhors sin and has no desire to continue in it.
Few who hold this doctrine are saved because this basically means salvation is by works. Some among them recognized they were unable to merit salvation. God revealed to them salvation through the finished work of Christ. They believed and were saved. The wrong teachings they hear hinder them from appreciating the wonderful truth that salvation is eternal. Let us pray that God will reveal this to them also.
Some passages in Hebrews seem to indicate that believers can fall away. Please explain these passages.
Three passages typically raise this issue in the “warning passages” in Hebrews: 3:14 (with verse 6); 6:4-6; 10:26-27.
- “For we are made (“have become,” Young’s Literal Translation) partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (3:14). This is logically the same as saying that those who had not become partakers of Christ would not remain faithful to Him. What had happened in the past determined their future. Those who had been saved would demonstrate their salvation, by continuing steadfastly. Those Hebrews who at first claimed to accept Jesus as Messiah, but turned away from Him, were not actually partakers with Christ; they had never been saved.
- “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;” (6:4-6). Their involvement with the Spirit, the Word of God, and the miracles of the Messianic age (“powers of the world to come”) links them with those who say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works” (Matthew 7:22)? The Lord’s answer, “I never knew you” (verse 23), shows they were never saved. Sadly, although enlightened, these Hebrews also were never saved, but fell away, never to be brought to the place of repentance they once claimed.
- “For if we sin willfully 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…” (10:26, 27). These are the “enlightened,” having clear understanding of the truth about Christ. Turning from Him and returning to Judaism was sinning “willfully.” Since Christ offered the “one sacrifice for sins” (verse 12), they were without a sacrifice for sins. In light of the prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:26; Matthew 22:7; 24:2), to return to Judaism meant facing the fiery indignation which took place in 70 A.D. What tragedy awaited in those who thus spurned Christ, despised the privileges into which the blood of the new covenant brought them, and insulted the Spirit of grace!
Throughout the “warning passages,” it is valuable to note the use of “we” for all the Hebrews who claimed a relationship with Christ, “you” for those whose fruits showed they were genuine believers, and “they” for the individuals who turned away, thus showing that they were never saved.