Roy Ingle, “Four Approaches To Losing Our Salvation”

, , Comments Off on Roy Ingle, “Four Approaches To Losing Our Salvation”

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
– John 10:27-30 (NASB)

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
– Hebrews 6:4-6 (NASB)

There is probably no more divisive issue in the Church than the issue of whether a true disciple of Jesus can turn away from Christ, forsake their life of faith, begin to abide in sin, and thus fall from grace and lose their salvation. Among both Arminians and Calvinists there is no consistent agreement over this issue. On both ends of the spectrum you will find those who favor losing your salvation (even over just one act of sin and disobedience) to those on the other extreme who hold that even those who become atheist, so long as they have made some confession of faith at one point in their lives, are eternally secure. Lost in the midst of these sides are those in-between who want to avoid either extreme.

Why Is This Such An Important Issue?

The issue of the security of the believer is important for disciples of Jesus because we live in a sinful, fallen world and none of us can possibly obtain perfection in our mortal flesh (Proverbs 20:9). This by no means justifies sinful living since the Scriptures call us clearly to pursue perfection (Matthew 5:48; 2 Corinthians 7:1) despite the reality that we will fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:7-10). 1 John 1:9 clearly calls for us to confess our sins (notice both the present reality of the word “sins” as well as the future usage of the word) and we have and will sin in this world. I know of no person who has ever walked in absolute perfection except Jesus Christ alone (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22) including you!

Therefore, since we live in a fallen world full of temptation, we fall short and Satan often attacks our salvation by addressing the issue of our assurance. We know that Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (NASB), yet the enemy attacks our salvation by accusing us of living our faith based on our feelings and experience rather than the Word of God (which is a lie). If Satan can cause us to doubt our salvation, to question whether we are loved and accepted by God, then the enemy knows that we will not be effective in the kingdom of God. Our struggle with the flesh leads the devil to cause us to doubt our salvation assurance in hopes as well that we will abandon our faith and turn back to serving him and his lies.

The issue of our salvation must be clear. We must stand firm upon the Word of God for our salvation and not heed the lies of the enemy nor our flesh (Romans 8:1). The Scriptures provide the assurance for our salvation and even the experience of the Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are children of God is based on the inspired Scriptures and not the philosophies of men. Even when we fall down, we should run to Jesus and never give in to the lies of the enemy that we should abandon our faith and turn back to a life of sin (2 Peter 2:20-22). The grace of God is teaching us to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12), but notice that the grace of God is teaching us, and this takes time.

But On The Other Hand

However, before you accuse me of antinomianism, please don’t misunderstand me here. I am not advocating living in sin. Nor am I advocating that we since we do fall short of the glory of God so often that we should abandon all hope and desire for holiness and even the pursuit of perfection. By no means! Paul’s words in Romans 6:1-4 clearly show that those who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death and therefore we should not abide in sin. 1 John 3:6-9 further teaches that those who practice sin do not know Jesus. 1 John 2:3-6 tells us that the evidence of being a disciple of Jesus is obedience unto Him (John 3:36). Jesus said that if we loved Him, we would obey His commandments (John 14:15). The Scriptures teach that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32) and that we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in obedience to the Father (Hebrews 5:8-9). Jesus marked obedience to Himself as clear evidence of our salvation (Matthew 7:21-27).

There are those who deny that obedience of any kind is needed for the Christian. They believe that such a teaching such as discipleship robs the New Testament of salvation by grace. Men such as Zane Hodges, Bob George, Charles Ryrie, Charles Stanley, and Tony Evans all teach that while Jesus’ call to be a disciple is needful, it is not necessary for salvation. They teach that Jesus saves us by grace through faith alone and therefore repentance, discipleship, and holiness are all part of the sanctification process that is lifelong and is different with each person. Sin, according to this view, is not an issue and has been done away with through the cross, and now the only sin that God knows is the sin of unbelief (John 16:8-11). While this group is to be commended for their desire to protect salvation from good works (of which I would agree), they fail to miss the clear New Testament teaching on what the grace of God does in the life of the disciple. The grace of God is not a license to sin (Jude 4 NIV) but is the present power of God at work in our lives through Christ that helps us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) and say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:12 NIV).

Four Views on Apostasy

Within the Church there are four main views on personal apostasy and the disciple of Jesus. I will try to briefly outline each and note books and teachers of the position.

1. Apostasy Is Not Possible– This would be the view held mainly by the above teachers such as Zane Hodges, Charles Stanley, and Bob George (although George is not as clear on this as others are and at times is quite confusing). Essentially this view holds that since salvation is by grace alone through faith alone and not by any works whatsoever (John 3:3-7; 5:24; 20:31; Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7) then it follows that repentance and holiness are separate issues altogether. If we teach repentance, for example, as necessary for eternal life, then we are teaching good works from the flesh which is not possible from corrupt humanity (Romans 3:10-24). Hodges, for instance, points out that the Gospel of John never uses the word repentance even once and yet John’s purpose is to bring the message of salvation (John 1:12-13; 20:31).

So how do they interpret passages that speak on apostasy such as Hebrews 6:4-6 or 10:26-32 or 2 Peter 2:20-22 and many others? The most common interpretation is that the various warning passages are not written to true Christians but to those who were not truly saved but were close to being Christians. [Editorial note: This position might typically hold that repentance is necessary for salvation, but that repentance simply means “a change of mind” and refers to the sinner changing their mind from unbelief in Jesus to faith in Jesus, and that once this is done, salvation can never be lost even if the person changes his mind again from faith to unbelief.]

2. Apostasy Is Hypothetical and Only Warnings– Moderate Calvinists on the issue of the security of the believer such as John MacArthur or James White teach that true Christians are called to pursue holiness and that while Christians no doubt will at times fall into even serious sins, nonetheless there is no danger of personal apostasy. The warning passages are hypothetical in that they are not teaching that one can lose their salvation but are calls to perseverance. If the believer fails to persevere, they do not lose their salvation but either were never saved to begin with (Matthew 7:21-23) or God will discipline them back into the truth (Hebrews 12:4-11). Most Calvinists, I believe, fall into this category. They don’t believe that one can lose their salvation, and while they advocate eternal security, they do teach that believers should persevere in holiness. All warning passages are essentially calling us to perseverance and not about actual falling from grace (Galatians 5:1-4).

3. Apostasy Is Biblical And Reversible– This would be the teaching as found in books such as Robert Shank’s Life In The Son or Daniel Corner’s The Believer’s Conditional Security. This has been the most common teaching among Arminians. This view holds the warning passages are not there simply to be hypothetical but are actual warnings to believers (Romans 11:20-22; 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:21; Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:6-19; 4:1-16; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; Jude 3-4). Nothing in the texts, other than reading one’s preconceived theology into them, can mean anything other than that God is warning actual disciples from turning from the faith. However, this view often struggles through Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:19-39 with whether someone who falls from grace can return.

Does one lose their salvation and is it possible to regain it again and again? Daniel Corner, for example, asks the question: When does one become an adulterer? Must they commit sexual immorality three times, ten times, or just once to be called an adulterer? How many times must one lie to be called a liar? How many times must one steal to be called a thief? He points to Revelation 21:8 and says that such people will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:16-21). The only ones who will inherit eternal life are those who persevere in faith until the very end (Revelation 3:5).

4. Apostasy Is Biblical and Not Reversible– The final view is that held by reformation Arminians and seems to be the view held by James Arminius based on his writings. At the Synod of Dort, the Remostrants gave no clear statement on apostasy, but from the works of Arminius and then the early Arminians, we are safe to assume that they believed apostasy was possible but they debated whether it was permanent or reversible through repentance.

I believe this is by far the strongest biblical argument. I believe that the warning passages are in fact biblically there as true warnings to disciples to not abandon the faith. Apostasy is not a fantasy but a reality. However, like Judas Iscariot, apostasy is final. I do believe a true believer can turn from the faith and fall from grace through willful sin that professes unbelief (James 4:17). Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4) and sin manifests that we do not acknowledge God’s righteous law and obey Him. Sin is more than “missing the mark” but it is affront against a holy and just God who demands righteousness that we can only obtain in Christ (Romans 10:4).

What about when we sin? I believe that the Spirit of God brings conviction upon our hearts in our conscience (John 16:8; Romans 2:15 ESV). People often ask about blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-29) and the sin unto death in 1 John 5:16-17, but as long as the Spirit is leading us to ask questions about this issue (to me) it shows that we truly want to be righteous (Matthew 5:6). The Spirit disciplines us (Hebrews 12:4-11) in order that we might share in God’s holiness. When we sin we must confess our sins (1 John 1:9) lest they turn our hearts away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12-13) and we trample under foot the Son of God (Hebrews 10:26-32).

When a person does commit apostasy is known only to the Lord. While we can examine the fruits of someone’s life to see whether they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), ultimately God alone is the final judge (2 Timothy 2:19). However, apostasy is permanent (Hebrews 6:4-6) and like Judas, we betray Christ unto death.

This view is best seen in the books by Dale Moody, Apostasy, and Robert Picirilli’s Grace, Faith, Free Will. The reformed Arminian view is that, like Arminius, salvation from beginning to end is by faith and that continued faith secures our eternal salvation. We are secure in Christ and apostasy is when one completely forsakes Christ (Galatians 5:1-4) and is handed over to Satan (1 Timothy 1:19-20).


I hope that I have accurately summarized the various positions on apostasy. No matter which view we hold to, we must be careful to base that view on the Bible and not on our denominational teachings nor on that which is most comfortable for us to believe for peace. The Bible alone must provide the clear teachings for our faith (1 Timothy 4:16). We must guard against holding to any doctrine that we simply hold to out of the traditions of men (Mark 7:1-13). As of now there are over 35,000 denominations world-wide, and all would claim to hold to their own truths, but we must run from the errors of men and trust firmly in the Bible alone for our faith and practices.

[Link to original post and comments at Roy Ingle’s website]