So far in our study we have considered numerous scriptures which teach that a child of God most certainly can fall from grace and be lost. Before we conclude our study, I'd like for us to consider a few more passages from the Bible.
This is Jesus' powerful parable of the vine and the branches. Jesus tells us in verse 1 that He is the vine, and his Father is the husbandman (Greek georgos, "a husbandman, tiller of the soil, a vine dresser"). The vine has two types of branches as part of it: Those that bear fruit, and those that do not bear fruit (verse 2). The Father plays an active role in the fates of these two types of branches. Those that do not bear fruit are taken away (take away, Greek airo, "to move from its place; to take off or away what is attached to anything; to remove"), and those that bear fruit He purgeth (Greek kathairo, "to cleanse, of filth impurity, etc"). Jesus tells us how we are made clean: Through the word that He has spoken (verse 3). Just as the branches of a vine cannot bear fruit of themselves, the fruitful branches in Jesus bear fruit because they abide in Him (verses 4-5). If a branch (a man) does not abide in Jesus, he is cast off and is withered. Their fate will be to be gathered together and burned, just as unfruitful branches of a vine are cast off, gathered together, and burned (verse 6).
In this passage we learn that it is entirely possible for one who is a child of God to be eternally lost. Jesus isn't speaking of some branches that are in Him and others which are not. All of the branches in this parable are part of the vine, and Jesus is that vine! Those who have never been obedient to His commandments are not in Him and therefore are not part of the vine. However, those who have been obedient are not necessarily fruitful. Many branches are unfruitful. These unfruitful branches are not retained as part of the vine. The husbandman (God, the Father in this parable) cuts them off from the vine. When they are cut off, they become withered and will be gathered together and burned. The Father cleanses those that are fruitful, so that they may bear more fruit. Jesus tells us how the fruitful branches are cleansed: By His word! The fruitful branches remain true to the word of Jesus, are cleansed by the Father, and produce even more fruit.
In this parable we see with absolute certainty the possibility that one who was obedient to Jesus' commandments can fall away and be lost! Each one must determine whether they have been obedient to the word of Jesus, by which they enter into Him, become part of the vine, and through it bear fruit. Once becoming a fruitful branch we must then remain faithful to Jesus' word, by which we are cleansed and able to bear even more fruit for Him.
This is a passage that should cause much trouble for anyone teaching the impossibility of a child of God falling from grace. Listen to Paul's words: "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." In my studies the two explanations most frequently used by those teaching the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" are these:
Grace in this verse refers to a "present experience" of grace, and not the saving grace taught by Paul in Ephesians 2:8. In other words, one might experience present-day consequences as a result of sin while alive on this earth, but will not suffer any eternal consequences.
The falling from grace is limited to those who attempt to be justified by law, but no other circumstance will lead to such a consequence. This usually goes hand-in-hand with teaching that we are not subject to any law whatsoever today.
I'm sure there are additional explanations used by people who wish to continue teaching "once saved, always saved" that are unknown to me. However, the difficulty persists for anyone teaching such doctrine: Paul clearly states that one who is a child of God may lose the grace they need to be saved. As we learned in our study of grace, Paul is not speaking of a present-day experience of grace. He is speaking of the grace we need to be saved. Since we may fall from grace, children of God must be vigilant to maintain their standing in the grace of God.
Here Paul says, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Hupopiazo is translated "keep under", and means "to beat black and blue, to smite so as to cause bruises and livid spots; a. like a boxer one buffets his body, handle it roughly, discipline by hardships." Doulagogeo is translated "subjection" and means "to make a slave and to treat as a slave i.e. with severity, subject to stern and rigid discipline." The word translated "castaway" is adokimos and means "not standing the test, not approved." Paul uses adokimos in Titus 1:16 (translated "reprobate"; verse 15 included for context): "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:27 that he beats his body until it is black and blue (metaphorically, of course), makes it a slave to his will and treats it with severity (subjecting it to stern and rigid discipline), because he may well fail to stand approved before God should he allow his flesh to escape from the enslavement of his will and indulge in the lusts which dwell within it. This is the apostle Paul speaking!! If he was concerned about standing before God a reprobate, who today should not also tremble with fear at the possibility of falling from God's grace and spending eternity in torment? Each and every child of God must be constantly on guard against the temptations sent our way by the force of sin, whose master is Satan. If we allow our lusts to conceive and bring forth the act of sin, we will stand before God as reprobates and will suffer the full severity of His wrath should we die in such a state!
Paul uses adokimos 3 times in the 13th chapter of 2 Corinthians. Please consider verses 5-7: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates." Paul asks them the question, "Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" Paul uses the same Greek word to describe their state should they examine themselves and find that Jesus Christ is not in them as he does to describe his state should he fail to keep his body under subjection! Now, how many religious people today claim that one can be saved without having Christ dwell in them? None that I know of. The "sinner's prayer" so often uttered makes a request of God that Jesus would "come into" the heart of the one praying and grant them salvation (or some similar petition). But Paul teaches that his condition should he allow his physical lust to escape from its servitude is no different than that of one who doesn't have Christ in them! Therefore, one who continues to conform to his former lusts does not have Christ in them and therefore cannot be saved! Such a one was saved in the past, but is no longer saved. What does this tell us? They've fallen from grace and will be lost for eternity should they refuse to repent!
These are only a few of the many passages in the New Testament warning us of the possibility of falling from grace and being eternally lost. I've only included these 3 at this time, since all we need is a single verse showing us that we can fall from grace to confirm the truth of this doctrine. I plan to add others as I continue to work on this study. Please look for the "new" flag posted next to this study on my website.