By George W. DeHoff
Man is created in the image of God. He became a sinner by going astray from him. Adam and Eve were created pure, holy and innocent. They were God's children by creation but being in the image of God, they had the power of choice. They chose to do wrong. The devil had told them "Ye shall not surely die" (Genesis 3:4) but God has said "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20). Adam and Eve were separated from God because of their sin. Man is a free moral agent before and after conversion – he is capable of choosing to follow Christ and thus become a Christian. In the same way, he is capable of choosing to reject our Blessed Lord by refusing to be faithful to him.
God loves his children and wants them to be saved. Throughout the Bible – more than 2,000 times God has warned his children against unfaithfulness, falling away, drifting away and sometimes outright rejection of their Heavenly Father. If it were impossible for him to fall away, then all of these warnings would be meaningless. They are given because God loves us and wants us to go to heaven.
Biblical examples of those who became children of God and then turned back and were lost are abundant. "God spared not the angels that sinned but cast them down to hell" (2 Peter 2:4). Christians are told "Make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). Paul said, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). The beloved apostle Paul buffeted his body to bring it into subjection lest that after he had preached to others he himself should be a castaway (1 Corinthians 9:27). Our Lord has told us, "If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death" (John 8:51). If we live after the flesh, we shall die but if we mortify the deeds of the flesh, we shall live (Romans 8:13).
Every Christian has an obligation to abide in, remain in and continue in the teaching of Christ (1 John 2:24) in order that he may serve God now and go to heaven at the end of the journey. It is this faithfulness which God's people seek to encourage.
GOD'S EXAMPLE – ISRAEL
The Israelites were God's children during the Old Testament period. "Ye are the children of the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 14:1). They were an holy people unto the Lord. Notice from 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 the many things God said about them: (1) They were baptized into Moses. (2) They ate spiritual food. (3) They drank spiritual drink. (4) They were overthrown in the wilderness. (5) They lusted after evil things. (6) They were idolaters. (7) They committed fornication. (8) They fell – 23,000 in one day.
(9) They tempted Christ. (10) They murmured. Some were even killed in the very act of fornication (Numbers 25:8). God said that those who are guilty of these works of the flesh cannot be saved (Galatians 5:19-21).
It is often said that if one is once a child of God, he is always a child of God. It is possible for a child to be disinherited. God said he would disinherit his disobedient children. "I will smite them with pestilence, and disinherit them" (Numbers 14:12). God is longsuffering and gives his children opportunity to repent but he will by no means clear the guilty (Numbers 14:18).
What happened to Israel is an example for us today. We are God's children. He has reserved for us a home in heaven but he will disinherit us if we prove unfaithful. If we forget God we will be cast into hell. "My people have forgotten me days without number" (Jeremiah 2:32). "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (Psalm 9:7).
THE BOOK OF LIFE
When we become Christians, God writes our names in the Lamb's Book of Life. "Whose names are in the book of life" (Philippians 3:13). Our names may be written in prominent places but none can compare with having them written in heaven. But God will blot out of that book those who will not do right. "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Exodus 32:33). Those whose names are not written in the book of life will be lost. "And whosoever was not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15). How important it is that we have our names written in this book by becoming Christians and, then, how very important that we live in such a way that God will not blot our names out!
God teaches through His Bible that Christians have eternal life. This everlasting life is in Christ (John 6:40). The Bible is written to cause us to believe and thus have "life through his name" (John 20:31). Those who will not come to Christ will not have eternal life (John 5:40).
Christians receive eternal life in the world to come. While here we are "In hope of eternal life" (Titus 1:2). Eternal life is promised to Christians (1 John 2:25). We receive this life after the good fight of faith has ended (1 Timothy 6:12). Jesus said this reward is in the world to come (Mark 10:29-30). Our resurrection from the dead is "unto the resurrection of life" (John 5:28-29). After the judgment day, the righteous go away into life eternal (Matthew 25:46).
How wonderful to know that while we live here we are sowing the seed of the kingdom day by day and that at the end of the journey, we receive life everlasting (Galatians 6:8).
Here on earth all things are fragile – we break them, lose them or they wear out. But at the end of the journey, when the battles have all been fought and the final victory is won, we receive a crown of life that fadeth not away.
KEEP THE FAITH
It is possible for children of God to believe the truth, become Christians and later (1) Depart from the faith, (2) Heed seducing spirits, (3) Take up with doctrines of devils, (4) Speak lies in hypocrisy and (5) Have their consciences seared (1 Timothy 4:1-2). It is said concerning some that they have damnation because they have cast off their first faith (1 Timothy 5:12) and of others that their faith was overthrown (2 Timothy 2:18). Some made shipwreck of faith (1 Timothy 1:19) and others believed for awhile and then fell away (Luke 8:13).
The Lord cast his own servant into outer darkness (Matthew 25:14) and took away from the vine those who would not bear fruit (John 15). Notice these were in the vine – in Christ who is the vine – and were later taken away by the Lord himself. They were cast into the fire.
God's grace never fails but it is possible for us to fall from grace (Galatians 5:4). If we could be saved in that condition, we would be saved without the grace of God!
If a brother sins, he does not need to be baptized again – he is already God's child. He needs to repent and pray (Acts 8:22). By walking in the light as given in God's Word, we have fellowship with other Christians and the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:11). This daily cleansing comes to those who faithfully serve the Lord. Those who will not serve him, who reject his faith and turn from his grace, will be finally lost.
Our great task is to remain faithful to our Blessed Lord and to teach others to love and serve him.
Who was the first to teach man that he could not lose his salvation? (Genesis 3:4).
Discuss our freedom to make choices and the possibility of turning away from Christ.
Name some Bible examples of children of God who fell away and were punished.
Would a loving God actually disinherit a rebellious child? (See Numbers 14:12).
What would be the consequence if a Christian's name was blotted out of God's book of life? (Exodus 32:33).
If God's grace never fails, how could a Christian ever be lost?