Bible Study Opportunities
Be Careful Not To Fall By Jon W. Quinn
A parent watches eagerly as the baby begins to take his first steps; "Be careful now...don't fall." The way is made clear and helping hands are offered but ultimately there will be falls. I guess falling is a part of learning to walk. But as we get older walking becomes natural. It no longer takes all our concentration and determination to walk across the room. But occasionally, we still fall, usually because we were careless. We stub a toe. We fall over a child's toy left on the floor. We slip on ice. We bump our head on a low branch and find ourselves sitting down dazed and embarrassed. "Help me, I've fallen and I can't get up!" So the warning to "be careful and don't fall" makes a lot of sense. In a world without gravity the warning would not fit. Nor would it fit if we crawled or slithered along the ground like snakes or snails. The warning only makes sense if it is possible to fall. Take it from an expert; it is. Someone much wiser than us has warned us to be careful and not to fall. Jehovah has warned us not to be overconfident about it. Through the Spirit He warned us "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (I CORINTHIANS 10:12). He is talking about a spiritual fall. Now, if things were such that once we were saved we could never fall then this warning (and dozens more like it) would be pointless! But this passage also makes evident something else. Not only is it possible to fall, but it is also possible to take necessary steps of caution so as to insure that we do not fall.
CONTROVERSY: CAN A CHILD OF GOD FALL? "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (GALATIANS 5:4). There are many who contend that once a person is saved that he can never be lost. They say it is impossible to fall. But the Bible even refers to some who had been severed from Christ and had fallen from grace because they had sought to be justified by the Law of Moses. So, where does this doctrine of "once saved, always saved" come from? Why is it so prevalent, especially in the Protestant world? Actually, it is a leftover from religious doctrines that were systemized by a man named John Calvin who lived from 1509 to 1564. The religious system he developed came to be known as Calvinism. It consisted of five main tenets which all relate to one another to make the system "work". The interesting thing is that most denominations have rejected at least some of the tenets of Calvinism; you will find very few diehard Calvinists today who accept the whole mess. But most denominations that have their roots in Calvinism have retained its most appealing tenet: the "perseverance of the saints" which simply means that once you are saved you cannot be lost.
THE CALVINIST SYSTEM IN SUMMARY "But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the precepts of men" (MATTHEW 15:9). The five main tenets are summarized as follows: 1. Total Depravity: That we are all born sinners. Infants are guilty and destined to hell if they are not saved. 2. Unconditional Election: God elected some individuals before the world was created to be saved. The rest He elected to be condemned in hell. There is nothing you can do about it. Tough luck if you are not one of the lucky ones! 3. Limited Atonement: Jesus did not die for the whole world after all! He only died for those individuals God elected. 4. Irresistible Grace: If you are one of the elect and since you are also totally depraved, then God will force you to obey Him against your will by overwhelming you with his Spirit. 5. Perseverance of the Saints: This is the "once saved, always saved" part. If you are unconditionally elected before the world began, and if you have been forced by God against your will to be saved, then of course you cannot be lost! See how it works? Isn't Calvinism fun? Actually, I suppose there are very few pages you could turn to in the Bible that would not contradict at least one of these tenets. It is also easy to see why the first four have been rejected by the most part today; they are horrible travesties of justice and righteousness. But the last one is kind of nice to have around; many opt to keep that one!
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT ONE CAN FALL FROM GRACE AND BE LOST "...Run in such a way that you may win" (I CORINTHIANS 9:24). It is not at all a difficult thing to show from the Scriptures that one can fall from a saved state and be lost. God loves us and wants us to be careful so that it does not happen. He will protect us, guard us, bless us, keep us and forgive us when we fall short if we are willing. But we can reject our faith and thereby reject our protection. It is up to us. God will not force us, but He is able to make us stand if we desire His help. The following are some passages for your consideration. The common thread that ties them all together is the fact that they all recognize the possibility of falling from grace. "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about his calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things you will never stumble" (II PETER 1:10). "Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God" (HEBREWS 3:12). "And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these having no firm root; they believe for a while, and in the time of temptation fall away" (LUKE 8:13). "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned (JOHN 15:6). But again, the warnings are given so we can do something about them. By putting our faith in God's help we will not fall. "We are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the persevering of the soul" (HEBREWS 10:39).Reprinted From the Bradley Banner
Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois November 3, 1991