Braden Caldwell Ministries

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Deceptions within Churches Today

Spiritual Gifts

God gives spiritual gifts to all believers. Some gifts are
permanent, edifying gifts to be used throughout the
church age. Other gifts were temporary sign gifts given
to authenticate God’s Word before the New Testament Scriptures were written.

The Spirit of God was promised to manifest itself in the church through certain gifts, enumerated especially in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. These gifts are not designed to supersede, or take the place of the Bible which is sufficient to make us wise unto salvation, any more than the Bible can take the place of the Holy Spirit.

God gives spiritual gifts to all believers. Some gifts of the Holy Spirit are permanent, edifying gifts to be used throughout the church age – knowledge, wisdom, prophecy (authoritative preaching, not foretelling), teaching, exhortation, faith (or prayer), discernment, showing mercy, giving, administration and helps. Other gifts were temporary sign gifts – specific enablements of prophecy (revelation prophecy), miracles, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues – given to certain believers for the purpose of authenticating God’s Word when it was proclaimed in the early church before the New Testament Scriptures were written. Once the Word of God was inscripturated in the Bible, the sign gifts were no longer needed and they ceased.

Nothing in Scripture indicates that the authenticating miracles of the Apostolic age were to be continuous in subsequent ages, the pattern for successive generations of Christians. Nothing in Scripture exhorts believers to seek such miracles or miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has not given any modern-day Christians miraculous gifts anything like the New Testament gift or miracles.

Virtually everything the New Testament says about signs and wonders in the last days is a warning against false teachers who will use miracles to deceive. Contemporary signs and wonders may actually be authenticating a diabolic variety of revelation. We must not automatically assume that everyone who displays signs and wonders has power from God to do so.

Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God for every believer – a gift we receive at the moment when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord – not something we are to seek as a second mark of grace that is evidenced by speaking in tongues. Rather that teaching the experience of the apostles as found in the transitional book of Acts, we are to experience the teaching of the apostles as set forth in the epistles – our guide for Christian experience today.

Most Biblical miracles happened in three relatively brief periods of Bible history, authenticating a few men who were chosen by God to declare a specific revelation to those who witnessed the miracles. Supernatural events did not characterize God’s dealing with His people.

When the New Covenant truth and the New Testament Scripture came all at once in one brief half-century era of revelation, God unleashed authenticating signs of tongues, healing and miracles on His messengers as never before. The miracles, signs and wonders gifts were not common even in those days and were given only to the first-generation apostles – and sometimes to those who were commissioned by them – to authenticate that they were messengers of new revelation. For the developing church, the apostles were the foundation that is now being built upon and which cannot be laid again.

New Testament miracles were immediate, thorough and permanent – never done slowly or incompletely.

The particularly transitional gift of tongues fulfilled its function as a covenant sign showing Christianity was not exclusively for the Jews.

The miracles of the Apostolic era were exceptional, one-time events, involving only a limited number of believers for a specific purpose, always associated with the ministry of the apostles. They were not supposed to be a pattern for the church as a whole and their frequency can be seen decreasing dramatically from the beginning to the end of the Apostolic era.

As miracles did not even reflect the normal experience of Christians in the first century, the only teaching in Acts that can be normative for the church are those that are explicitly confirmed elsewhere in Scripture. When the Old Testament and New Testament were complete, God’s revelation was finished, the age of revelation came to a close and the signs ceased. Scripture is a closed system of truth, complete, sufficient and not to be added to by contemporary prophetic revelation. The New Testament prophetic gift primarily has to do with declaration, not revelation – preaching and proclaiming already revealed truth, not being a source of ongoing revelation.

Scripture identifies that false miracles – extremely believable ones – will be a primary tool of Satan in the end times. Whenever possible Satan tries to counterfeit spiritual gifts and the true working of the Holy Spirit – to cause misunderstandings and misconceptions in order to cause confusion and chaos. It happened at Corinth and is happening today.

Mistaking the acts of Satan for the works of the Holy Spirit, the Corinthians had fallen into error, carnality and counterfeit practices – not able to discern what was of God and what was not. The apostle Paul rebuked them for abusing their spiritual gifts, corrupting the gift of tongues with an ecstatic pagan counterfeit and using tongues to speak to God rather than men.

Similar to what the Scripture describes happening at Corinth, today there are many charismatic Christians who have a zeal for God – but not in accordance with knowledge. The contemporary charismatic movement does not represent a revival of Biblical gifts, but is really a form of pseudo-Christian mysticism – base on experiences, emotion, phenomena, ecstasy and feelings rather than the truth of Scripture. It often places extreme and undue emphasis on the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” as a post-salvation experience and on external evidences such as speaking in tongues.

Nowhere in Scripture does it teach that the true gift of tongues is anything other than human languages – and since the modern tongues phenomena is not language, it is not the Biblical gift of tongues, but an aberration similar to the practice of counterfeit tongues at Corinth.

Scripture is utterly silent about a gift like “slaying in the spirit” – a phenomena resembling trances, seizures, subliminal messaging, hypnosis, suspended animation, frenzy, hysteria and mesmerism – akin to the ecstasy of pagan mystery religions. When a person is out of control it is never because of the Holy Spirit – on the contrary, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control. Ecstatic expressions can be produced or counterfeited by psychological, physiological or demonic phenomena.

The only true test of whether a person or movement is from God is not signs and wonders, but teaching that confirms to the Word of God. God would not authenticate bad theology by giving miracle working power to spokesmen who teach heresy in the church today.

We have no mandate to seek or perform miracles, but we do have a mandate to study and obey God’s Word and to live by faith not be sight. The highest expression of God’s power in the world today is not some spectacular and unusual sign or wonder, but the tranquil godliness of a Spirit-controlled life. A true and authentic experience is and internal awareness that involves strong emotion in response to the truth of God’s Word, amplified by the Holy Spirit and applied by Him to us personally.

The Holy Spirit’s role is to empower us as we preach, teach, write, talk, witness, think, serve and live. He leads us into God’s truth and directs us to God’s will for our lives. But He does it through God’s Word, never apart from it. All legitimate experiences depend on the truth of Scripture. Instead of seeking power and miraculous evidences, Christians should seek to know Him.

We have a moral imperative to examine what is proclaimed in Jesus’ name – and to expose and condemn false teaching and unbiblical behaviour. To criticize charismatic doctrine is neither inherently divisive nor unloving and uncaring. The Biblical challenge is not to avoid truth that is controversial – not to sacrifice truth for the sake of a superficial peace – but to challenge all Christians to examine the Scriptures to see whether things are so.

See also: Exodus 4:12; 7:3; 14:21,22,29; Deuteronomy 4:2; 6:22; 13:1-5; 18:20-22; 34:11; 1 Samuel 3:1; 1 Kings 17:21-24; 18:37-40; 2 Kings 1:10-12; 6:6; Nehemiah 9:10; Psalm 19:7-14; 135:9; Proverbs 16:33; Isaiah 1:18; Jeremiah 1:7,9; 37:17; Ezekiel 3:4,10,11; 13:9; Daniel 6:27; Matthew 5:18,19; 7:14-44; 10:1-4; 12:22-31,38,39; 13:1-52; 16:1-4; 18:1-35; 24:24,25; Mark 1:29-34,37,38; 8:11,12; 13:22; 16:17,18; Luke 6:12-16; 11:16,29; 14:41; 16:31; 23:8,9; John 4:48; 10:24,25; 17:17; 20:31; Acts 2;16-22,43; 3:3-11; 5:12-16; 9:1-9,28-42; 14:3; 17:2,3,11; 18:9; 19:6-12; 23:11; 28:1-6,8,23; Romans 1:16; 10:2,17; 12:2-8; 14:9; 15:19; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 9:1; 12:10; 13:8-10; 14:3,29-33; 15:3,4,7,8; 2 Corinthians 5:7; 8:23; 12:8-12; Galatians 1:11; 2:16; 5:22,23,25; Ephesians 2:20; 3:18; 4:15,23,30; 5:18,19; Philippians 1:18; 4:8; Colossians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:19,21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3,7-9; 1 Timothy 1:20; 5:23; 2 Timothy 2:15-17; 3:15-17; 4:20; Hebrews 1:1,2; 2:3,4; 12:18-21; 13:8; 1 Peter 1:13; 2:24; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 2:1; 1 John 4:1; 3 John 9,10; Jude 3,17,20; Revelation 22:18,19

Spiritual Warfare

Salvation brings true deliverance and protection from Satan. The Bible does not instruct us to rebuke, bind or verbally assault demons, but to be allegiant to God,
uphold sound doctrine and turn from sin to Christ –
in Whom we are secure against attacks of demons.

Many of the practices of today’s spiritual warfare movement are in stark contrast to the clear teaching of God’s Word. When the Lord warned the churches, He never instructed them to engage in territorial warfare, to rebuke Satan, to command spirits, to claim victory or to initiate a confrontation with the power of darkness – only God can do that. God allowed Satan to afflict John, Paul and Peter – but none of them sought to command, rebuke or bind Satan.

Salvation brings true deliverance and protection from Satan. When Christ reigns in a person’s life, that person is kept by God’s power. Although God sometimes permits Satan to afflict believers externally with adversity, demons cannot inhabit believers. In Christ we are secure against attacks of demons. God’s plan for spiritual warfare has nothing to do with exorcism, incantations, mantras or mysticism. God’s simple battle plan for spiritual warfare is clearly and simply revealed in His Word to all believers – “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” – turn from sin and turn to Christ.

God is not calling us today to verbally assault demons, but to be faithful to Him, keeping the faith, receiving the truth of God’s Word, upholding sound doctrine, living and reflecting the holiness of Christ in our lives.

To defend against the attacks of the devil we are to put on the full armour of God – every single part being essential – each and all summed up in “obedience to God”.

See also: Genesis 3:1-5; Exodus 20:4-6; Judges 7:6-22; 1 Samuel 13:9-14; 16:14; 1 Kings 18:22 – 19:4; 2 Chronicles 20:15; Job 1-2; Psalm 18:2,3; Isaiah 8:19-20; 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-18; Daniel 10:12-21; Matthew 4:1-11; 7:21-23; 12:29; 13:3-8,18-23; 16:19; 20:30; 26:37-41; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 9:57-62; Luke 18:10-14; Luke 22:31,32; John 10:27-29; Acts 5:1-11; Romans 5:1-5; 8:28,29,37-39; 12:1,2; 13:12-14; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 11:32; 16:13,14; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 6:15,16; 10:3-5; 11:13-15; 12:7-10,12; Ephesians 6:11-22; Philippians 1:9,10; Colossians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3-12; Hebrews 2:14,15; 11:1-38; James 1:14,15; 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8,9; 2 Peter 1:3-7; 2 John 8; Jude 8,9; Revelation 2-3; 5:11; 12:4,9,10; 20:1-10

The Elijah Message

Near the end of time there will be a great deception
within the church – including “the doctrines of devils”
or spiritualism brought in by Christian leaders.
Unless they know and heed the warnings, many who
are saved and born-again will be deceived and lost.

God’s last prophetic words to Israel until John the Baptist four centuries later were written in Malachi 4:5,6:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

Closing the Old Testament while pointing to the New, this announcement was both a promise and a warning. Christ made it clear that one phase of Malachi’s prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist. But Malachi’s words require a second application to complete the prophecy. They predict Elijah’s appearance “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”

Plainly, this denotes the period just prior to Christ’s Second Coming.

Elijah lived in Israel during some of the brightest days of its material prosperity. To worldly minds Israel had never been in better circumstances. Life was good. Crops were abundant, wealth was available to the ambitious, and Israel’s borders were large and seemingly secure. But Israel dwelt in the midnight of spiritual apostasy. Baal worship, with all its degrading practices, had virtually replaced the worship of the true God. The majority of Israel’s populace was inclined to give Baal credit for the nation’s prosperity, and enthusiasm for pagan worship was on the rise.

As Elijah saw Israel going deeper and deeper into idolatry, his soul was distressed and his indignation aroused. Viewing this apostasy, Elijah was overwhelmed with sorrow, and longed to see them brought to repentance – before they should go to such lengths in evil-doing as to provoke God to destroy them. Incited by heartbroken love and at the risk of his own life, Elijah strove to awaken Israel from its spiritual sleep. His challenge was bold and daring, taking on four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. But Elijah’s message was simple:

How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him. 1 Kings 18:21

In Elijah’s bold challenge, he prayed that it might not rain until the people came to their senses spiritually. Here Elijah appealed to God on the legal basis of His promise and warning to Israel, uttered through Moses centuries before (emphasis added):

And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. And I will send grass in your field for your livestock that you may eat and be filled. Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you. Deuteronomy 11:13-17

Today, there again is a critical and urgent need for an Elijah message for Christendom, the modern counterpart of ancient Israel. In Canada and the United States today, outright heathen worship is relatively rare. But this does not mean that mean that devil-worship is becoming extinct. The sad fact is that new and more subtle forms of devil-worship are very much alive, even thriving within Christendom today!

Today, multitudes of Christians have a wrong conception of God and His attributes, and are as truly serving a false God as were the worshipers of Baal. Many Christians have even allied themselves with influences that are diametrically opposed to God and His truth. Within Christendom human theories have been exalted and placed where God and His law should be. There is blatant opposition to the plain word of God and idolatrous exaltation of human wisdom above divine revelation.

When His disciples asked Jesus what the signs would be of the nearness of His return and the end of the world, the first sign He gave them was religious deception:

“Take heed that no one deceives you.” Matthew 24:4

His reply came as a warning. He went on to explain the nature of the deception, repeating this first and most important sign three times:

“For many shall come in My name, saying I am the Christ, and will deceive many…Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many…For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:5,11,24

Obviously, Christ’s warning is not about atheists or rank unbelievers or leaders of some opposing non-Christian religion. There is no deceit involved in such frontal assaults. Christ’s warning is about a deception, which is all the more subtle because it comes from within the church – and in His name! That these are not Satanists or deliberate occultists who are insidiously at work in the church, but “Christian leaders,” is clear from Christ’s description:

“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” Matthew 7:22

These enemies who today oppose Christ in His name are clearly occultists. Just as with the Baal worshipers of Elijah’s time, some power is at work today in Christendom that is not of God. In the above Scripture, Christ is not describing mere trickery, though these modern-day false prophets are not above that. Their signs and wonders are so impressive that even the elect are in danger of being deceived. Moreover, the deceivers are themselves deceived. Tragically, some of today’s leading Christian leaders may be among those who will say, “Lord, Lord, did we not…” and to whom the Lord will reply:

“I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:23

Very clearly, Christ is warning, as do other Scriptures, of a false “signs-and-wonders” movement in the last days. Paul was even more specific:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be…always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith… 2 Timothy 3:1,7-8

Jannes and Jambres were occultists – magicians in Pharaoh’s court. By the power of Satan, they duplicated some of the miracles that God performed through Moses and Aaron. Paul declares that resistance to the truth in the last days will come from those who produce by the power of Satan what seem to be miracles of God and thereby pervert the faith. Paul also makes the following comments:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons 1 Timothy 4:1

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:21

What are “doctrines of demons”? They are very simply spiritualism or other occult-based teachings – as those which are today being propagated in the Charismatic, Spiritual Warfare and “Signs and Wonders” Movements.

Note how Paul says we shouldn’t be surprised that such false preachers are convincing:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

The Bible says many false prophets will arise and will deceive many. And the Bible isn’t describing something small. The false revival will be worldwide. Look at what is referred to as “The Great Apostasy” in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12:

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God… For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness…

Remember that this warning of deception is for those “in” the church, for believers, for those “saved” at that point – this warning is not directed to non-believers. Note “The falling away = the apostasy”. Also note that falling away connotes having been inside, again referring to believers, not non-believers. Satan will counterfeit Christ’s Second Coming – even setting himself up in the earthly temple at Jerusalem. Yet many Evangelists are today propagating the idea that when Christ returns, He will be establishing His kingdom here – on this earth – and ruling out of the rebuilt earthly temple in Jerusalem. In propagating this error, they are actually setting the stage for Satan to enter in and counterfeit Christ! In the above Scripture, remember, “lawlessness” isn’t lawbreaking in itself; it’s living or acting like there was no law, or that God’s law was no longer in effect – i.e. the Fourth Commandment). Also in the above Scripture note the reference to “the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders”. Applying “The Duck Test” (“If it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck and looks like a duck, then it’s a duck”), the current signs and wonders movement fits this Scriptural prophecy perfectly.

The bottom line is that most people who consider themselves to be saved, born-again Christians will be deceived and will be condemned (“…as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the end of time…”) – unless something is done about it! Today, in Christendom, there is a critical and urgent need for a bold Elijah-like message to turn away from false worship that will lead to destruction and to turn back to true worship of the true God that will lead to eternal security.

See also: Deuteronomy 11:13-17; 1 Kings 18:21; Malachi 4:5,6; Matthew 7:22,23; 24:4,5,11,24; 1 Corinthians 10:21; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Ephesians 6:17; Colossians 1:28-29; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 3:1,7,8,6-17; Timothy 4:1-5; 1 John 3:24; 4:1
Danger of Falling from Grace

The Bible repeatedly warns that, as free moral agents,
believers can choose to fall from grace – through persecution, love of the world or false teachings.
However, if we are allegiant to Him and abide in Him,
Christ will keep us safe from falling.

Scripture repeatedly warns believers of the very real danger of falling from grace. If this danger didn’t exist, there would be no need for the many warnings in the Bible. A great deception is the belief of “once saved, always saved” – that once a person is saved in Christ through faith, nothing at all can remove that salvation from such a person. The righteousness that saves us is always in Christ and cannot be touched – but the faith that makes righteousness effective is in us and we can renounce or forsake it. That is why the Scriptures so often admonish believers to hold fast to our faith at all cost.

Satan – whom the Bible says will increase his efforts sevenfold to regain a person who becomes a Christian – uses three primary methods to tempt a believer to fall from grace:

  1. Persecution – physical, mental or social
  2. Love of the world – drawing us back into the world and away from Christ
  3. Perverting the gospel through false teachings – false teachings that can even draw allegiance away from Christ and to Satan.

As long as we are united to Christ by allegiant faith our salvation is secure – and we will never come into condemnation for sin. But even if we have experienced salvation by faith in Christ, this does not mean that our faith itself – or our eternal salvation – is secure. Only those whose faith endures to the end will receive the crown of life.

Unless we allow our faith to grow through Bible study, prayer, fellowship and witnessing, we will be vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. According to Scripture, a believer most certainly can be drawn away and forsake Christ and return to the world. He can fall from grace and be lost. But even then the Saviour still loves that lost sheep and seeks to restore it to the fold.

The power of choice is a wonderful gift from God. Yet there is one choice God never allowed man to exercise. No one can choose whether or not to be born with a sinful nature. We have absolutely no choice about the kind of nature we possess at birth. It is a sinful nature. If unchanged, it will lead to eternal death. But even though we are born with a fallen nature, God gives us a choice about changing that nature. It is a personal, sovereign choice that no one can take away from us. Without doubt it constitutes the most important decision that any person faces during his lifetime. The choice is whether we yield to that sinful nature and die eternally, or receive a new nature through faith in Christ and live eternally.

Much disagreement exists over the kind of choice offered to each one of us. Millions believe that God opens the door for only a once-in-a-lifetime decision and then closes that door forever. It is as though God gives us only one decision about changing over from our doomed condition – that once we decide to be saved we can never choose to be lost again – that when we accept Jesus as our Saviour, it will be the final choice we will ever make about our eternal destiny – that if we change our mind later and repudiate our decision, it will be too late – that no matter how deeply and sincerely we desire to be lost and repent of our repentance, we cannot escape from eternal life – that no amount of bitter rebellion, deliberate blasphemy, or iniquitous living can change that once-for-all decision to be saved – that we will not be allowed any further choice after we accept Jesus as our Saviour. Basically, this is the belief of a large segment of Christians who advocate the doctrine of eternal security.

The truth is that God leaves the door open for us to change our minds at any time. Salvation is not predicated upon only one irrevocable act or choice of the past, but upon a continuous, personal relationship of the believer with Christ. When the decision to break the love-relationship is made by wilful disobedience, the believer ceases to be a true believer and forfeits any assurance of salvation.

Nowhere in the Bible is entrance into God’s kingdom tied to a momentary – or even temporary – faith experience of the past. Salvation is a dynamic, growing relationship with the only One who has eternal life to bestow. It requires continuing contact in order to receive it. As stated in 1 John 5:12, the very life of God can be shared with men but NEVER APART FROM A LIVING UNION WITH CHRIST!

Just as the constant creative energy of God is necessary to sustain the universe and to hold atoms together, so His divine power is constantly needed to maintain spiritual life in the soul. When a person wilfully chooses to separate from God, the contact is broken, and the spiritual life ceases to flow. God will not violate the will of anyone in making that choice either. John 15:1-6 plainly shows that Christians can lose their connection with Jesus and be lost. There Christ explains one of the great mysteries of eternal life. “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.”

The secret of continued life is continued abiding. If a person does not abide in Christ, he withers, dies, and is finally burned up. The relation of a believer to Christ is never a static thing based only on a past experience. It is a current, mutual sharing of a common life which is drawn from Him “who is our life” (Colossians 3:4). When the branch is separated from the vine, the source of life is gone, and only death can result. These words of Jesus are too clear to be misconstrued. Even believing, trusting Christians who are connected to the living vine may choose to separate from the vine. When they do, they die and will be cast into the fire and burned. Nothing can wither and die that has not previously been alive.

Security is eternal only for those whose faith is eternally fixed on Jesus, and whose life is connected to the one who is our life. Obviously, we can choose to be lost no matter how saved we once were. Everything depends on maintaining the divine connection with the true vine.

Jesus taught the same solemn truth about losing eternal life in the parable of the sower. In explaining the seed which fell among the thorns and the rocks, Jesus said, “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” Luke 8:12, 13.

There are several things to note about this parable. First, only one class will finally be saved – the ones who brought forth much fruit. The groups represented by the wayside and rocks will not be saved. In verse 12, the wayside hearers did not have a chance to “believe and be saved,” but in the next verse the stony ground hearers do “for a while believe.” According to verse 12, it is the kind of “believing” that saves. So the ones who believed for a while were saved for a while, but in time of temptation they fell away. Eventually, of course, they were lost along with all the others, except the fruit-bearers. Here is an unequivocal teaching of our Lord that people can have a saving faith for a while, and yet lose it and be lost.

Security is eternal only for those whose faith is eternally fixed on Jesus. Those who read the record of the Gospels carefully will find repeated authority from Jesus to renounce the doctrine of eternal security. In Luke 12:42-46 Christ described in another parable how a faithful servant could turn into an unfaithful one. After asking, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household . . . ” Jesus answers His own question: “That servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing . . . he will make him ruler over all that he hath.” Then Christ explains how that servant could lose his reward. “But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”

In Scripture there is a perfect example as to how a faithful and wise servant can be punished with the unbelievers. Jesus was talking about a man whom He had seen faithful enough to trust with heavy responsibilities. Undoubtedly, this servant represents those who carefully served the Lord as true believers. But what happened? That very faithful servant departed from the path of faithfulness and reaped eternal ruin and death. Does this not also remind us of the words of Hebrews 10:38,  “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” The servant in the parable, who was a believer, is now punished with the unbelievers. The faithful can draw back to perdition.

Salvation can be forfeited. One more parable of Christ spotlights the fact that continued forgiveness is conditional for the believer. The story is found in Matthew 18:21-35, and revolves around the forgiveness of God. A certain king responded to the pleas of his servant and forgave him a large debt. That servant went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a small amount and showed no mercy, throwing him in prison because he could not pay. When the king heard what had happened, he rescinded his cancellation of the large debt and had his servant thrown to the tormentors till he paid in full.

No one can deny the obvious teaching of this parable. Even though God graciously forgives those who apply for it, that forgiveness is not without conditions for the future. We can lose that forgiveness by being unmerciful to others. This is in harmony with the words of the Lord in Ezekiel 33:13, “When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.” The principle is repeated in verse 18, “When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.”

The secret lies in maintaining the righteous relationship with the Source of salvation. Jesus said, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13. No one will be saved finally who does not hold out against a course of deliberate sin in the power of God. Those who do not endure to the end will have their names blotted out of the book of life. Advocates of eternal security deny it could ever happen, but read the frightening possibility for yourself in Revelation 3:5, “He that overcometh . . . I will not blot out his name out of the book of life.” The implication is clear that those who are not overcomers – who do not endure to the end – will have their names blotted out.

All these verses are really saying the same thing. Wilful sin shatters the relationship by which eternal life is obtained. There is an eternal “if” in every consideration of eternal security (emphasis added in the following). “IF we walk in the light . . . the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7. IF that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.” 1 John 2:24. “IF any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38. “IF a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch.” John 15:6. IF a man keep My saying, he shall never see death.” John 8:51. “IF thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Romans 11:22. IF ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” Peter 1:10. “For we are made partakers of Christ, IF we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” Hebrews 3:14. IF we endure, we shall also reign with him: IF we deny him, he also will deny us.” 2 Timothy 2:12 (RSV). “IF we sin wilfully. . . there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Hebrews 10:26. IF any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15. “Ye are my friends, IF ye do whatsoever I command you.” John 15:14. IF ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” Romans 8:13.

Paul speaks of the possibility of born-again believers suffering damnation because they receive the Lord’s Supper unworthily. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.” 1 Corinthians 11:29. No one can deny that these people were committed Christians partaking of the symbols of their redemption. But Paul says they could fall into damnation and be lost. The same word for “damnation”, the Greek word (krima) is found in 1 Timothy 5:12. “Having damnation (krima) because they have cast off their first faith.” How plain it is that believers can “cast off their first faith” and go into final damnation.

The writer of Hebrews gives scores of specific admonitions against falling away from the faith. Hebrews 10:23 opens up a line of argument against the “once-saved, always-saved” position that no one can refute. The passage begins this way: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.” And after that, admonition is given those who might be tempted to absent themselves from the assembly of the believers. Apparently, this is one of the first signs of slipping backward. The author of this epistle includes himself in the warning. He writes in verses 26 to 29, “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?” The people described here had been sanctified by the truth, but fell away into wilful apostasy.

Hebrews 10:35-39 warn against the casting away of their confidence: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. . . . Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” This Scripture clearly states the fact that our eternal salvation is conditional on our remaining steadfast to the very end. Unless there were a possibility that we might cast away our confidence, that we might draw back unto perdition, there would be no reason for the writer of Hebrews to sound such a warning as he did.

In Hebrews 6:4-6 we find another striking statement. “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.” It would be very difficult to describe more fully a person who had been born again but who later rebelled against God and rejected Christ and spurned the Holy Spirit. He has placed himself out of God’s reach by his own actions. Therefore, there is no possibility that such a man can be saved as long as he continues to crucify Christ by his disobedience.

In the eleventh chapter of Romans, Paul is discussing the fact that many of the physical seed of Israel rejected God’s Son and were thus cut off. The illustration is used of an olive tree. The branches were the children of Israel, but because of their unbelief, they were broken off, as in verses 17 to 20. Then, some wild olive branches were grafted in, which represents the Gentile Christians. Note this admonition in verses 21 and 22: “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.” Any security for those branches depended entirely upon their connection with the tree. The security was conditional.

Peter agrees with the sentiments of Paul. In 2 Peter 1:1-7 are listed a number of virtues which should be manifested in the life of every Christian. Here he is writing to “them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Then they had been given “all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” It is very apparent that Peter is addressing these remarks to those who have been converted. But Peter gives this warning in verses 9 and 10: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” Surely this indicates that Christians can fall from grace. They can turn back from following Jesus. They can even become apostates in the truest sense of the word. Then in 2 Peter 3:14,17, Peter goes on to say, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless…Seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” So we see that Peter does agree with Paul that Christians need to be on guard constantly lest they be led astray, and he indicates the sad fate of those who turn back into sin after they are converted.

One of the strongest texts in the Bible that proves a person can turn away from Christ and be lost even after he has made a profession of being saved is 2 Peter 2:20-22: “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.” The lesson here is obvious. The proverb is painfully plain. They had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. They had been converted. They had joined Christ on His side. They had turned their lives over to Him, but they remembered the world and the “wallow” of sin. Like the Israelites coming out of Egypt, they remembered the “flesh pots,” the “leeks and onions.” They remembered the pleasures of sin; so, leaving Christ they went back into the world like the hog returns to its wallow in the mire. Certainly no Christian should imitate the habits of a hog, but Peter’s proverb shows that it is possible.

The Bible is not silent on the danger of falling from grace. In 1 Timothy 4:1, Scripture says: “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.” This departing from the faith will happen “in the latter times”. The latter times are the times in which we are living and the times immediately before us.

On this point “the Spirit speaketh expressly.” That means the Spirit speaks plainly, clearly – so clearly it is impossible to misunderstand. Yet some would depart from the faith. So it is possible to leave the faith. Some do it. They have been in the faith, they have worshiped with the brethren, they have attended church and prayer meeting. They have been actively promoting the gospel, they have given of their means, they have been pastors, officers of the church, and leading laymen; nevertheless, they leave the faith. They are not steadfast and faithful. In the last days come perilous times, with persecutions and serious difficulties, and some do not stand. They are tempted by the things of the world and are seduced by spirits of devils. Sad to say, they give up their allegiance to the Man of the cross. They were on Christ’s side, but now they side with His enemy.

However, if we do want unconditional security, we can have it. It is in Christ, on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis. When we take Christ and stay by, we will persevere. There is, and can be, no failure on Christ’s part. He will not fail – He is faithful. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.” Psalm 55:22. He will stand by us as long as we stand by Him. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6. And John wrote of the Lord, “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11, 12.

Many non-Christians think they have security. They will tell you they believe God will admit them to heaven. They will say, “I am as good as people in the church,” or “I feel I will be saved without going to church.” But the truth is, no man is saved on the basis of his feelings. He may be sincere, but his sincerity will not save him. He may be honest, truthful, moral, and a first class citizen, but that won’t save him. He may be liberal, a supporter of the church and a giver to the needy, but neither will that save him. No man is saved by his works, good as they may be. Christ is the Saviour, not our gifts, not our works. He offers us salvation as a free gift. It is in Christ, and when we receive Christ, we have salvation. “He that hath the Son, hath life.” 1 John 5:12. But if we don’t have the Son, we don’t have life, and we cannot have eternal security until we have and keep Christ the Son.

“Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy FIRST LOVE. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Revelation 2:4, 5.

For the Christian to leave his first love, is to backslide, to fall away, to leave the Lord and His service, and to go over to the service of sin, Satan and the world. The Lord calls upon all such to repent and do their first works (the fruits of love), or else – else what? “I will take thy candlestick out of his place.” This is an ultimatum from the Lord. If the sinner responds, repents, returns to his first love, and does his first works, all is well and good – he will be saved. But it is his to choose. If he does not do this, his light is removed, goes out, and the backslider is lost.

One text has probably been quoted more than any other to support the doctrine of eternal security. In John 10:28, 29, Jesus said, “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.” What a tremendous promise this should be for every trusting child of God! At first glance, it does seem to guarantee some sort of immunity against spiritual loss, but we have not read the entire text. Verse 27 is an integral part of the thought, and it lays down a specific condition for the fulfillment of the promise in verses 28 and 29. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life.” It is only God’s true followers who nestle safely in His protecting hand. He gives eternal life only to the faithful sheep who hear and follow Him. It is this hearing and following which provides immunity against being plucked away by the devil or his agents. The protection is from enemies without who seek to carry off the sheep, but not from unfaithfulness of the sheep who might choose not to follow any longer. No one can pluck them out of the Father’s hand, but they may choose to jump out at any time. God never even hints that He will interfere with the freedom of choice of His followers. Christians can choose to be lost just as surely as sinners can choose to be saved.

There is no reason or purpose for Scriptures to have hundreds of warnings against apostasy if it were impossible to experience it. There would be no reason or purpose for the Spirit to have led Paul, Peter, and all the others to pen such solemn threats and admonitions against eternal loss if they were in no danger of suffering it. If it is true that the once-saved are eternally secure, surely the devil would know it. Therefore, he would never waste any time on believers, knowing how impossible it would be to cause them to be lost. Yet, we all know by experience that Satan works even harder to pull away the saints from following Christ.

We have to conclude that salvation does not consist of a single, irrevocable commitment, whether past or present. Being saved is the experience of living Christ’s own life by divine imputation and impartation. It is never a reality except in continual, dynamic relationship with Jesus, the source of eternal life.

Being saved must be spoken of in all three tenses of time in order to be completely biblical. It has happened, it is happening, and it will happen. One can properly speak of salvation in three tenses – past, present, and future. A converted person has been saved from the penalty of sin (justification). He is being saved from the power of sin (sanctification). He shall be saved from the presence of sin when Christ comes (glorification). All three of these tenses are used in the Bible in connection with being saved.

In Romans 8:24 is the expression, “We are saved by hope.” The Revised Standard Version correctly renders the phrase in 1 Corinthians 1:18 as “To us who are being saved.” Then Acts 15:11 states, “that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.”

As Christians we must confess our faith in Christ, we must remain steadfast to Him, we must bring forth the fruits of obedience; that is our part in holding on to Christ. He will never let us go. The only way we can separate ourselves from Him is to cut ourselves off deliberately and disconnect ourselves from Him, but we have the power to do that. We are still free moral agents. Our will has not been removed merely because we have become Christians.

At any point in our Christian life we can decide to turn back, to choose the things of the world rather than the things of God and heaven. We are saved only through faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). However, we show our faith by our works. It is a manifestation of our love for Him. Keeping God’s commandments and doing right are merely the result of His Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart. These are the fruits of the Spirit. We do these things, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved, and as long as we love the Lord with all our heart, we are going to be obedient to Him.

See also: Psalm 55:22; Ezekiel 33:13,18; Matthew 10:22; 12:43-45; 13:22; 18:21-35; 24:13; 25:1-12; Mark 13:13; Luke 8:12.13; 12:42-46; 21:34,36; John 6:37; 8:51; 10:27-29; 14:6; 15:1-6,14; Acts 20:24; Romans 8:13,24,38,39; 11:17-22; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 11:29; 15:58; Galatians 1:6,7; 3:1-3; 4:9; 5:4-6; 6:9; Ephesians 1:13,14; Colossians 3:4; 1 Timothy 4:1; 5:12; 6:12; 2 Timothy 3:12; 4:10; Hebrews 3:6,14; 4:14; 6:4-6; 10:23-29,35-39; James 1:12; 5:19,20; 1 Peter 5:8,9; 2 Peter 1:1-10; 2:20-22; 3:14,17; 1 John 1:7; 2:15,24; 5:11,12; Revelation 2:4,5; 3:5; 7:13,14

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