A CONCERN THAT IS EXPRESSED TO ME more than any other when I’m counselling my fellow disciples is something like, “I’m worried that I may not really be saved after all”, which is another way of saying that they think they may have lost their salvation. Firstly, if you were not “saved” you would not be worried about it. Unsaved folks do not run around fretting that they may not be saved! Those who are concerned that they may not really be saved after all could be struggling in their spiritual lives, but that is not the same as apostatizing. Secondly, it is impossible to lose your salvation if the process of metanoia (which I have written about extensively elsewhere) and being a new creation have been initiated in your life. This can be proven from numerous places in Scripture. Here are some authoritative words of Christ.
“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one”.John 10:27-30
That is pretty conclusive. Now couple it with this:
“Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of those He has given Me, but raise them up at the last day”.John 6:37-39
To this end, Paul said to the disciples in Ephesus, “you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the pledge of our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14). So our inheritance is guaranteed. Similarly, to the disciples in Philippi, he expressed his absolute confidence “that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
It is very clear from these texts that God does not save you only to spit you out again into apostasy but that He will keep you in His hand through His Spirit and never desert you. There are those who baulk at this idea and claim that it is possible to be saved and then apostatize. But all the examples of those who seem to fall away in Scripture — e.g. Judas Iscariot, Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:20-21 — refer to fake disciples who were never truly saved in the first place. As John puts it:
“They went out from us, but they did not belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But their departure made it clear that none of them belonged to us”.1 John 2:19
One can be part of the Christian community — going to church once or twice a week in your Sunday best with a fat leather annotated Bible under your arm, saying all the right things, using all the right clichés, reading the Bible, making sure you’re seen to pray fervently in a prayer meeting, etc. — yet really just be going through the motions unconsciously. For none of these things are proof of salvation. The parable of the wheat and the zizania (tares) makes it abundantly clear that fake disciples of Christ will abound in the Ekklesia throughout this age and may only be discernible at the time of the harvest at the end of the age (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43). I have a horrible feeling that most of those who profess to be Christians in the world will be shown to be zizania rather than wheat when things become really difficult as the end of this age approaches and especially when the Antichrist is revealed. For it will take real faith to withstand that onslaught.
If I want to examine myself or be impressed with someone’s spirituality, I look for true humility (not the same as modesty), a refusal to take oneself too seriously, the ability to stand firm despite all suffering and persecution (whether for one’s faith or just through the circumstances of life), a sense of quiet trust in God, a certain beauty about the soul so that one likes to spend time with that person, a gradual growth in wisdom and grace. If authority is exercised by a truly spiritual person, it is done so on the basis of wisdom and divine devotion rather than enforcement, for a saved soul knows the difference between authority and authoritarianism. A spiritual soul also exercises his or her God-given individuality to the full, yet never strays into ego-centred individualism.
Another objection to the idea that a genuinely transformed soul cannot apostatize is that thinking in such a way could lead to possible antinomianism, i.e. saying to oneself, “Well, if my salvation is certain then I can just behave however I want, no matter how badly that is, and I cannot possibly lose it”. This is ridiculous as no true disciple would ever go down that road even for an instant. For s/he would know that repeated deliberate bad behaviour is a sign of an unsaved soul. Honestly, only an unsaved soul could conceive such a notion as to think that their certain salvation gives them liberty to behave badly and get away with it! The saved soul has a profound love for cleanliness of comportment and purity of life. Being able to get away with bad behaviour is completely alien to the saved soul. So this accusation has no basis in fact but is yet further proof of how superficial salvation is perceived by so many.
The reason why people think it is possible for a disciple of Christ to apostatize is because they have a very low view of what it is to be wedded to Christ, of what it means to be His disciple. This has come about partly through the fact that so many ministries today project the relationship to Christ as centring on a “feel-good factor”. It’s all about feeling great with Jesus, being happy-clappy. Then when you don’t feel so great or happy-clappy, you think that God has deserted you. This is all a hideous twisting of truth. In the genuine spiritual life, everything unnecessary falls apart and is discarded, which can be a painful process leading to many dark nights of the soul, for you are rightly being stripped bare. God is not here to provide you with an abundance of material wealth and perfect health, as is taught by so many today.
In the genuine spiritual life, you have to be broken in order to be made whole — a concept which is alien to so many of todays “Christians”. In Matthew 7:13-14, Christ said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it”. Those words sum up what is demanded if one is to be a serious disciple of Christ and follower of His Light. The deep spiritual life is not attractive to the superficial dilettante, for such a person knows that there would be the need for total dedication and comparatively few people are serious enough about personal change and genuine spiritual revelation. The Greek word translated in the text above as “difficult” is τεθλιμμενη, tethlimmeni, which is literally ‘crushed’ or ‘compressed’, ‘hemmed in’. It is from the root of this word that we get the English word ‘afflicted’. The idea behind the Greek word is that of being pressed-in on all sides. The gate to the spiritual pathway is narrow and, once through it, the way itself is a crushing experience. Anyone who has walked this way can bear witness to that. It is definitely not a bed of roses — though there are flowers strewn along the way as divinely-appointed ‘sweeteners’.
In the genuine spiritual life, you have to say goodbye to your old self, going through a narrow gate and onto an afflicted pathway to all the fullness of life. Yet, there is nothing miserable about all this, for inner joy (not to be confused with superficial “happy-clappy”) infuses your being because you know that you have escaped the road to ruin and — knowing this world is just a test-bed — you are cut out for the real spiritual abundance in the aeon to come.
One of the principal underlying themes in the Book of Revelation is that of “overcoming”. There are wonderful promises to those who overcome all obstacles to the end (Book of Revelation 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21; 15:2; 21:7). This echoes a saying of Christ, “the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Such perseverance is a sign of being a genuine disciple of Christ. Fake disciples will not persevere and overcome when the going gets rough. They will fall away — not from the faith but from all their pretence of it! They will stop playing at being a Christian and show their true colours.
So, if you are worried you have lost or are losing your faith, you have not and are not, because if you had lost it you wouldn’t be worried about it in the least. You may be struggling spiritually, but that is normal and is not a sign of apostasy. If it is any consolation, the struggling subsides somewhat the more one grows in one’s faith. So strive for that growth. To be a new creation in a corrupt world is always going to be somewhat of a struggle, for one no longer fits or belongs here. But, fortunately, life is short. One will not have to struggle for eternity but only while in this three-dimensionality. For the genuine disciple, it’s well worth the struggle!
© 2022, Alan Morrison / The Diakrisis Project. All Rights Reserved. [The copyright on my works is merely to protect them from any wanton plagiarism which could result in undesirable changes (as has actually happened!). Readers are free to reproduce my work, so long as it is in the same format and with the exact same content and its origin is acknowledged]