Can someone be saved, yet remain immature, lazy & eventually lose that salvation and return to their sinful ways?
I really thought when we were young that my husband became a Christian, and he really seemed to try….even now sometimes I find him reading his Bible, etc. Yet after having been married to him for decades, I’ve seen so much of his pattern of behavior that I no longer doubt that he is narcisstic and abusive. I think back to the early days and I wonder if he ever was really saved or not. He seemed to be. If I had to pick a time when things began to change I’d have to say it was after we had a couple of babies. Since then it’s been a roller coaster. Is it possible for someone to be saved, yet remain immature, lazy, and eventually lose that salvation and return to their sinful ways?
— a paraphrase of the question our reader ‘Breathe Again’ asked here.
It is a common question. Here are two excellent sermons which speak to it:
Doing the Impossible – Hebrews 6:4-12. Ps Liam Goligher
Working out our Salvation – 2 Peter 3:1-11; Romans 6. Ps Jeff Crippen
I (Barb Roberts) have listened to both sermons more than once. I encourage you, dear reader, to do the same if you have the time.
On the post where Breathe Again asked her question, I replied to her as follows:
I do not think it is possible for a person to be effectually saved (regenerate/ born again) and then lose their salvation. Both Jeff and I subscribe to the Baptist Confession of Faith (which is quite similar to the Westminster Confession of Faith). In those Confessions the term ‘effectual calling’ is use quite specifically — you can read about that in the Baptist Confession chapter 10 “Of Effectual Calling”. In paragraph 4 of chapter 10 it says:
Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men that receive not the Christian religion be saved; be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess.
So people like Breath Again’s husband (my first husband was another example) are “called by the ministry of the Word, and have some common operations of the Spirit” so for a while it may appear that they are saved.
In my husband’s case, he heard the Word preached, he responded to an altar call and said the sinner’s prayer and in the next days, weeks and months he had quite a few experiences of the Spirit speaking to him in dreams and in his waking mind. He told me that he had a dream in which Matthew 18:3 was highlighted — “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” In prayer one evening he received an image which showed how he had treated me in the marriage before then: he was a big tree overshadowing me the little plant and his shadow prevented me from getting enough light.
And in the early weeks he loved reading the Bible, he was drawn to the Word and wanted to keep reading it… which is one of the marks of conversion.
But it all fell away. Bit by bit, gradually, he became more and more emotionally and verbally abusive to me. Many months after he had been supposedly ‘born again’— but was by that time regularly swearing at me and raging at me and manipulating me to feel guilty for anything and everything — he was at work one day and he heard God’s voice telling him that he was treating me very badly and God told him “When you go home you must apologise to Barbara and ask her forgiveness and ask her how she wants you to treat her.”
He came home that evening, aplogized, asked how I wanted him to treat me. I told him, “Don’t swear around the house. And treat me with respect.” …. Needless to say, his abuse of me moderated for a little while, but it crept back up to where it was before and eventually escalated even higher…
I now look back on that and I think he was NEVER saved. He had ‘some common operations of the Spirit’ but he was never saved. The Spirit was calling him, pricking his conscience, pointing him to the need to humble himself… and he in his own sin resisted the Spirit. I marvelled at how God gave him so many opportunities. It was clear that God was urging him to change. And my husband was declining to follow God’s urgings.
Simon the Sorcerer is another example of a person who appeared to be saved initially but was not saved… and it became apparent when his besetting sin of covetousness was spotlighted (Acts 8:9-25).
And Song of Joy responded:
Jesus’ parable of the sower comes to mind…some people really do seem to receive the Word with “joy” and change for awhile…but then fall away when their old nature figures out it is *not getting any worldly advantage* from the “conversion” and wants to reassert itself (they want to avoid having cares, responsibilities, challenges and go back to their pursuit of materialism and domination).
Matthew 13:20-21 (NASB)
The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
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