Can Faith Be Lost?
Salvation is obtained by faith, but is it sustained by faith? And can believers stop believing?
Date: 9/9/2005 2:11:54 PM ( 18 y ) ... viewed 2237 times
This is an important issue regarding previous blog entries on ES/OSAS, since if it can be shown that faith can be lost, then either there is NOSAS or FG (Free Grace) is the correct view (see earlier articles). Conversely, if faith cannot be lost, then both FG and NOSAS are wrong. Let's look at some passages and use the correct priniciples of exegesis to answer this question.
The Bible tells of a "weak faith" (Rom. 14), a "vain faith" (1 Cor. 15:1-19), a "shipwrecked faith" (1 Tim. 1:18-20) and even a "dead (or useless, empty) faith" (James 2). The "vain faith" was misplaced faith, i.e. not saving faith, whereas the other types are of faith in the right Object but that faith has not matured or produced fruit and has become useless.
We've already looked at passages such as 2 Peter 2 which describe people who infiltrated the church but were never themselves saved, evidenced by the fact that they had only changed in outward appearance and had not been regenerated. But what of the "shipwrecked faith" of 1 Timothy 1? The context indicates that these people (1) had real, saving faith but (2) that faith had become useless. That they are still believers is shown in verse 20, because you don't "teach people a lesson" if they are lost. Lessons and discipline are for legitimate children:
7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Paul used the phrase "hand over to Satan" for those whose faith had been shipwrecked, who were guilty of blasphemy (1 Tim. 1:20). This could mean anything from just being expelled from the church (1 Cor. 5:5) to physical suffering and even premature death (1 Cor. 11:30, Acts 5). So here we see that a shipwrecked faith, even to the point of blasphemy, can happen to real believers and result in not only suffering or early physical death but also loss of the rewards that could have been theirs at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12, 2 Cor. 5:10).
In a footnote to an article by Bob Deffinbaugh, Th.M., of bible.org ( http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=2354 ), mention is made of the concept of a "moment of faith", aka "point in time" faith:
144 It is the same Greek verb in both verses. When describing the faith of those who believed in Jesus, John uses the aorist tense, focusing upon the moment of faith. When describing our Lord’s refusal to “commit” Himself to these “believers,” John uses the imperfect tense. John was informing us that this was Jesus’ course of action, something that He practiced consistently, in case after case, situation after situation.
Is this describing continuing faith versus lost faith (per FG theology)? No, it describes initial saving faith and that this faith would in some people remain infantile and shallow, being based more on emotion or impression than understanding and conviction. It is a real faith in Jesus as Savior, but because it was arrived at through experience/emotion it is likely to shrink at the first sign of challenge.
Here, I think, is the crux of the disagreement between those who believe faith cannot be lost and those who believe it can. The Bible teaches that it is God who guards and guarantees our inheritance, and that faith, however infantile or mature, remains forever by the sustaining power of God. Many either fail to grow or later become confused by false teachers, but they never stop believing that salvation is only in the Jesus who is God in the flesh, who sacrificed his life to pay for our sins, and who rose again and will return for us. Some will later be taught to add works to this, or begin doubting some things, but the basic saving belief in Jesus that existed at a point in time can never be changed.
I do not believe there is any Biblical support for the hypothetical "born-again unbeliever", whether from the perspective of FG (you believed but stopped) or Calvinism (you are somewhere between regenerated and saved).
John said "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (1 John 2:19). Anecdotal evidence can be convincing, but I must conclude from what the Bible says that those who claim to have truly accepted Christ as Savior and then renounced it later, were never really saved at all, and that those who were truly saved but never grew or got sidetracked are still saved nonetheless.
I would challenge anyone who believes that a person can truly be saved and then lose that faith, to show me BIBLICAL support for your position. This does NOT include anecdotal evidence ("I knew someone who really was saved and then renounced Jesus"), and I would require also Biblical rebuttals to verses such as 1 John 2:19.
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