"Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)

Can God’s Grace Fail the True Christian?

by Stuart DiNenno

“You say that true born again Christians cannot fall away from the faith because they are kept by the power of God unto salvation and that only false Christians will go astray because they do not possess the grace of God that is necessary to save them. Yet in Galatians 5:4, Paul says to Christians that some of them have fallen from grace because of their error. If your view is correct, then (1) how is it possible, if they were true Christians, that they could have fallen from God’s grace and; (2) how is it possible, if they were false Christians, that they could have fallen from God’s grace if they never possessed it?”

We cannot interpret every statement in the Bible absolutely and woodenly. Paul said to some of the Galatians (“whosoever among you”) that they had fallen from grace because they were buying into the false teaching of the judaizers, i.e., it is necessary for Christians to follow the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. But Paul was not saying, “You are damned; it’s all over for you,” as if they had completely fallen away from the faith forever. As John Calvin says:

“They were not so grossly mistaken as to believe that by the observance of the law alone they were justified, but attempted to mix Christ with the law. In any other point of view, Paul’s threatenings would have utterly failed to produce alarm. “What are you doing? You deprive yourselves of every advantage from Christ, and treat his grace as if it were of no value whatever.””

Paul was warning the Galatian Christians that if they did not repent of their error, they would be denying the gospel, and so they had better turn from it immediately. No doubt, God’s elect among them did heed the warning and repent of the error or were prevented from ever falling into it.

Warnings in the Bible against apostasy are written about false Christians who can fall away, for true Christians who cannot fall away. This statement naturally brings forth the question: Why caution true Christians against falling away, if it is not possible for them to fall away? The answer is that the warnings are one of the means by which God preserves His elect. God causes all of the elect, without exception, to heed biblical warnings and so be kept from going astray. This is one of the means that God uses to infallibly keep any of the sheep from being lost.

We must understand the truth that God not only ordains the salvation of His elect, but He also ordains the means by which the elect are saved and preserved, and one of those means is that He infallibly makes sure that the sheep both receive the warnings contained in Scripture and that they heed the warnings in Scripture, so that none of them fall away.

Our salvation lies entirely in the power of God. True, it is through our own faith that we are saved, but that faith is not something we naturally possess, it is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8) and it is gift that not all men are given (2 Thessalonians 3:2). It is God who directs the steps of man (Proverbs 16:9, Jeremiah 10:23); it is God who opens the heart of His elect to receive the truth (Acts 16:14); it is God who works all things to the good for His elect (Romans 8:28); and it is God who keeps His elect in the way of salvation (1 Peter 1:5). The elect both will hear the true voice of Christ and will follow it (John 10:27), and it is not possible that any man can lead them astray to their damnation (John 10:28). Jesus Christ is called both “the author” of our faith and “the finisher” of it (Hebrews 12:2), because true faith both originates in the power of God and we persevere in it only because we are upheld by God. John Gill expounds upon this truth:

“”The author and finisher of faith.” He [Christ] is the author or efficient cause of it; all men are by nature without it; it is not in the power of man to believe of himself; it is a work of omnipotence; it is an instance of the exceeding greatness of the power of God; and it is the operation of Christ, by his Spirit; and the increase of it is from him (Luke 17:5). And he is the finisher of it; he gives himself, and the blessings of his grace, to his people, to maintain and strengthen it; he prays for it, that it fail not; he carries on the work of faith, and will perform it with power; and brings to, and gives that which is the end of it, eternal life, or the salvation of the soul.”

While many who profess Christ, and who are within the institutional church, can and do fall away at some point (Luke 8:13; John 6:66), and many who believe themselves to be true Christians, and who persist in believing so to the end of their lives, will find on the Day of Judgment that they were only deceiving themselves all along (Matthew 7:22-23), it is not possible for those who are truly God’s elect to fail to embrace genuine Christianity or to fall away from it. Christ’s sheep will not fail to heed the voice of Christ (John 10:16); He both keeps them and loses none of them (John 17:12), and because they have been ordained to eternal life by God they will not fail to believe the gospel (Acts 13:48) and He will infallibly preserve them by His power unto salvation (1 Peter 1:5). God’s grace cannot fail the true Christian.

The truths of God’s election and preservation of His saints ought to make us sing out: “Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalm 106:1) and turn us away from glorying in ourselves, “That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31)

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