Saved by Faith
and Falling from Faith
Scripture repeatedly affirms that we are saved by faith rather than meritorious deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9). We must believe in God our creator (Heb. 11:1,3,6) and in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ (John 20:30-31; 1 John 5:1) in order to be saved. We are saved by or through faith, a faith that brings eternal life (John 3:16-18), forgiveness (Acts 10:43), justification (Romans 5:1), and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:14). This theme of salvation by faith is found throughout Scripture, particularly in the New Testament.
While affirming salvation by faith, we must also be aware that without faith people are lost in sin. Jesus declared, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24b). He further stated, “He who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16b). Again, “He who does not believe has been judged already” (John 3:18). From passages such as this, we can see how vital faith is to our salvation. We must have a living, active, obedient faith (belief, trust, reliance) in God through our Lord Jesus Christ to be saved; apart from this fundamental response, one remains lost in his sins.
After one has been forgiven of his sins and given eternal life by faith in Christ, is he assured of being with God eternally? Scripture says that this is Gods design for us. He wants us to have a deep assurance of our relationship with God through Christ. Yet there are some who so emphasize the initial exercise of saving faith, that they say one may later become an unbeliever or even an atheistand still remain saved! Others say that after a person has exercised this initial saving faith, he will inevitably persevere in such faith until the end. There is no possibility that he will lose this saving faith. (However, they do acknowledge that some will fall into grievous sins and live in unrepentance of prolonged periods of time. They affirm that one will not fall away from faith totally.) Are these two views Scriptural?
We are convinced that both of these views are unscriptural. They fail to account for many warnings and statements in the Bible which show that a person who has been saved, forgiven, and justified by faith may later depart from this faith and thereby fail to possess the spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3) which are ours only by an active, obedient faith. Peter writes to certain readers, saying that they can look forward toward “obtaining as the outcome of [their] faith the salvation of [their] souls” (1 Peter 1:9). We must continue to believe, continue to have faith, if we are to receive the “outcome” of our faiththe salvation of our souls. If we allow “an evil, unbelieving heart” to overtake us, we will “fall away from the living God” (cf. Heb. 3:12).
The following passages of Scripture should be examined and studied. They will show that ones faith does not inevitably continue. We must grow in faith, persevere in faith, and continue to exercise saving faith if we are to continue to enjoy the spiritual blessings of Christ now and inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God in the future.
It is possible for one . . .
- To have a faith that fails (Luke 22:32).
- To wander away from the faith (1 Tim. 6:10).
- To go astray from the faith (1 Tim. 6:21.
- To make shipwreck in regard to his faith (1 Tim. 1:19).
- To fall away from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1).
- To deny the faith and be worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8).
- To fail to continue in the faith (Col. 1:23; Acts 14:22; 1 Tim. 2:15).
- To become faithless (2 Tim. 2:13).
- To have upset faith (2 Tim. 2:18).
- To be unsound in the faith (Titus 1:13; cf. 2:2).
- To have dead faith (James 2:17, 26).
- To have useless faith (James 2:20).
- To have faith in vain (1 Cor. 15:2, 14).
- To have an evil, unbelieving heart (Heb. 3:12).
- To believe for a while then fall away (Luke 8:13).
Although God wants us to be assured of our salvation by relying on Him and on His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we can see that we must continue to exercise faith in order to experience all of the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christeternal life, union with God, justification, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and all other gifts from the Lord. We are “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). God can and will protect us from all spiritual enemiesbut He will do this only as we continue to exercise a living, active, obedient, and trustful faith in Him and in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us be those who will rejoice in our present salvation in Christ and look forward to the inheritance laid up for us in heaven as we continue to exercise saving faith in Him!