Loss of Witness
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Galatians, chapter 5. We want to say a few things to you by way of introduction about the series of studies we are about to begin. Some time ago, there appeared in our local newspaper in an advertisement a list of Scriptures which the sponsors of the advertisement suggested taught beyond all doubt that a person could lose his salvation–taught beyond all doubt that there was no such thing as the security of the believer.

We were asked about those passages of Scripture by quite a few people, and for that reason we thought it might be wise to discuss those passages of Scripture and several more that these people could have listed. We don't know why they didn't list them. Maybe faith was the problem, or maybe they were not familiar with them, but there are at least twenty-five passages of Scripture which would seem to teach that you could fall from grace, which would seem to teach that you can lose your salvation. Notice carefully what I am saying. There are twenty-five passages of Scripture in the Word of God that would seem to teach there is no such thing as the security of the believer, and that it is possible for one to lose his salvation.

What I am about to say may seem a bit shocking to some of you, but I'm saying it because I mean it. If the Bible teaches that you can lose your salvation, then we're not interested in disproving that. If the Bible teaches you can lose your salvation, then we believe you can lose your salvation. If it teaches you are eternally secure, then we believe that you are eternally secure. This much we know, the Bible does not contradict itself so it cannot teach both things. It teaches either one or the other.

If we felt that we had the doctrine of the security of the believer to uphold for fear we would lose our standing if we did not, we could follow a little pig trail through the Bible and look at only those passages of Scripture that announce the security of the believer, and no one would be the wiser unless they took the time to search out the Scriptures. If we believed you could lose your salvation and were interested in teaching only that, then we could follow the little pig trail through the Bible, and there would be ample proof, if we did not examine the Scriptural context, which would indicate that you could lose your salvation. But since we are not interested in upholding one doctrine or the other, only interested in knowing what the Word of God has to say, we try to follow the procedure of rightly dividing the Word of Truth–that is, examining every Scripture in the light of its context and accepting every word at its ordinary, primary, literal meaning without attempting to think that it means something other than it says.

Misinterpretations Of The Doctrine

One other thought I would like to suggest, though it may take several things in order to suggest that thought. We regret that there is in our day and time the controversy about the subject of the security of the believer or the lack of the security of the believer. We are of the opinion, personally, that the reason the controversy rages as it does is that in the minds of many people there is a misinterpretation of the Truth. Nothing grieves the Holy Spirit of God any more than that.

Interpreted As A License To Sin

What do I mean by that? Let me suggest several things. There are people who believe the Bible teaches the security of the believer—notice carefully what I am saying—and because they believe it, they interpret the security of the believer as a license to sin. They misinterpret the teaching of the Word of God in relation to the security of the believer; they interpret it as a license to sin. They become guilty of what Jude refers to as “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4).

Some individuals say, “I believe that once saved, always saved, so I can do anything I want to do.” Any person who says that is horribly ignorant of the truth of God's Word. They certainly have no conception of the grace of God. There are people, let us face it, who either by their action or by their word leave the impression they believe if you're once saved, you are always saved; and you can do anything you want to do and still go to Heaven, the idea being a license to sin. The Bible does not teach any such thing as a license to sin. Let's face that.

I believe that a great many people who are concerned about the doctrine of the security of the believer would willingly accept it if it were taught with the safeguard I have mentioned because I have yet to talk to a person who knows the Word of God who believes you can lose your salvation, who believes that he is ever going to lose his. He never believes he is going to lose his; but he believes it is possible that some people do.

The reason he is concerned about the doctrine of the security of the believer is that he is concerned about careless Christian living. I am concerned about it, too. I think we ought to be concerned about it. I think that the way that people turn the grace of God into licentiousness is a serious thing. I want to say this to you. If you have the right understanding of the security of the believer as it is taught in the Word of God, you will agree with the Apostle Paul that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. You don't play fast and loose with the mercy of God. You'll be far more concerned about the way you live than if you don't believe in the security of the believer.

Danger Of Legalism

There are those who don't believe in the security of the believer who go to the other extreme. Instead of turning the grace of God into licentiousness, they turn the grace of God into legalism. Their full outlook is based upon a close adherence to work and to obedience of the law. The liberty that Christ has given them turns into a tortuous ordeal which results in uncertainty concerning their relationship to God, fear concerning the interest God has in them, and a pitiful lack of assurance concerning the future.

Loss Of Testimony

I have stated this as kindly as I know how to say it, but I believe that people who turn the grace of God into licentiousness have no testimony. I believe that, and I believe that people who turn the grace of God into legalism have no testimony. If I go to a store to buy a certain article, one of the things I want to know other than the price is whether or not it's going to work. If they can't assure me that it's going to work, I don't want it even if they give it to me. We have no need to be concerned about the price of eternal life. It's been paid for. I say this reverently, and I say it with a fear of God: I am not interested in salvation if I don't have any assurance it's going to work. If I may be saved today and may be lost tomorrow, I'm not interested in it. I've got to have something better than that. I've got to know that it works.

Recognizing that the controversy that rages in our midst is probably due to the misinterpretation of this glorious truth, either one extreme or the other, we are going to examine the passages of Scripture that were listed in the paper, plus some others, looking at them in the light of their context.

Falling From Grace

The first passage of Scripture which we will examine is contained in Gallants, chapter 5. Notice, please, verse 1:

Galatians 5:

1Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
5For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Notice, please, in the fourth verse, the last statement:

Galatians 5:

4…ye are fallen from grace.

This passage of Scripture is used by the proponents of Armenianism, for that is the theological term of this particular line of thought. The proponents of Armenianism use this particular verse of Scripture as one of the Scriptures that say you can lose your salvation. They say, for example, that it says in Galatians, chapter 5, verse 4, that you can fall from grace. This particular phrase has become the common term to describe the teaching of Armenianism that you can fall from grace.

Refers To Manner Of Life

There is one class of people who believe once saved, always saved. There is one class of people who believe that you can fall from grace, and this verse of Scripture is used as one of the proof texts that you can fall from grace. Listen carefully to what I am going to say. Whether you can fall from grace or whether you can't, this verse of Scripture does not teach that you can. Whether you can or whether you can't, this verse of Scripture does not teach that you can because it has absolutely nothing to do with the security of the believer or the lack of the security of the believer. It has absolutely nothing to do with salvation. It is a reference to the manner of life or the method of life of the believer. Will you keep that in mind? It has reference only to the method of the life of the believer.

Spiritual Condition Of The Galatian Christians

Every passage of Scripture, we have told you, should be interpreted in the light of its context. If you are familiar with the letter to the Galatians, you will know that it is dealing with the inroads which Judaizing teachers had made upon a little group of people who had been saved out of heathenism. Let's get a picture clear in our minds. The people who made up the churches of the province of Galatia had, at one time, been evil. They knew nothing about the Ten Commandments . They knew nothing about the law of Moses. They knew nothing about circumcision; they had never even heard of it. All they knew was the worship of idols and the worship of demons. They knew nothing about these things that we talk about in relation to the law.

But the Apostle Paul came to the province of Galatia, and he told them that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had died for the sins of the whole world, and that if they would receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, their sins would be forgiven; they would be saved, and they would have a new life in Christ. It was as simple as that, and they followed the procedure that the Thessalonian believers followed. They turned to God from idols to serve the Living God, and they were happy because they had accepted the simple gospel invitation, and they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and led by the Holy Spirit of God.

Influenced By Legalistic Teachers

Then some visiting preachers came along, and these visiting preachers said, “We rejoice that you people have left idolatry. Wonderful thing! We're so glad to see that you have. But I wonder if you know you haven't done enough?” These Galatian believers were just like all sincere Christians. If you are genuinely born again today, you are going to want all that God has for you, and you are going to want to do anything that God wants you to do.

I remember so well when I was saved a good many years ago in a revival meeting in a Methodist church, and I knew absolutely nothing. But I went to the preacher and said, “What else do I need to do? I want to do anything I am supposed to do, and I want all that God has for me.” I didn't know the Word, and I supposed he ought to know. He gave me some advice, which afterward I found out wasn't what it ought to be, but I went ahead and did it. If he had told me to stand out at the street intersection and direct traffic for two hours in the interest of Jesus Christ, I would have done it. It wouldn't have mattered to me what it was. If he said, “Do it,” I would have done it because I thought he ought to know.

That ought to be the heart of every born-again believer, and that ought to be your attitude throughout your whole life. You ought not to ever close your mind to any kind of truth. If someone can show you from the Word of God that a certain thing is true, though you'd never heard of it, and you'd never done it, and you'd never been interested in doing it, you ought to, by the grace of God, say, “Amen, that's for me. Anything God has for me, I want.” That ought to be the attitude of your heart toward whatever may be in the Word.

These Galatian believers were really interested. They said, “Oh, is that right? What is it we haven't done?” These Judaizing preachers said, “I don't believe any of you men have been circumcised, have you?” “Why, no,” they said, “we've never even heard of it. What are you talking about?” So they told them about circumcision, and they got together in little groups and said, “You know, I suppose we ought to be circumcised, every one of us.”

Then they said to these Judaizing teachers, “Well, is there anything else we ought to do? We want to do everything. Is there anything else?” The preacher said, “Yes. What have you done about keeping the Ten Commandments ?” They said, “The Ten Commandments ? What are you talking about? What Ten Commandments ? What are they?” So they told them what the Ten Commandments were, and they said, “You mean we ought to do this?” “Not only these Ten Commandments ,” said the teachers, “but the whole law of Moses.” These Judaizing teachers were not like us today. We emphasize the Ten Commandments ; they emphasized the whole law of Moses, and there is a lot to the law of Moses besides the Ten Commandments . I might digress long enough to say that if you want to keep the Ten Commandments , you'd better read your Bible a bit more carefully and keep all of the law; no point in keeping part of it.

The teachers said, “You've got to keep the law of Moses.” They replied, “We're not familiar with it, but what is it?” So they told them the law of Moses, and they got to thinking about it. They had their little discussion group, and they said, “Well, we ought to do it, I suppose” Then someone said, “Well, you know, Paul was the first preacher we had. We don't remember his saying anything about all of that. Do you suppose maybe there could be some kind of mistake? Why don't we send word to Paul and ask him about this?” So they sent word to the Apostle Paul, and they said to him, “These folk have come in, and they mentioned these things, and we want to do everything that we ought to do. What should we do?”

Freed From The Law

I've paraphrased for you the first four chapters of the book of Galatians, and in chapter 5 of the book of Galatians, verse 1, in answer to their question, Paul said:

Galatians 5:

1Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

“You've been freed from the bondage of idolatry. Christ has set you free from the bondage of sin. Christ has set you free from the bondage of the condemnation of evil. Don't be entangled again with another yoke of bondage. That's my advice to you,” he said. “If you've been made free, don't become a slave again.” Do you see what he's saying?

There are some people who are slaves to sin, and there are some people who are slaves to the law, and one bondage is as serious as another. Notice verse 2. Paul said:

Galatians 5:

2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

“If you go ahead with the rite of circumcision like these people are asking you to do, Christ will be of no avail to you. The work of Christ is absolutely pointless if you have to be circumcised as they suggest to you.” Notice verse 3:

Galatians 5:

3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

What Paul is saying is this: “If you're going to take part of it, you have to take all of it. If you go ahead and be circumcised, then immediately you obligate yourself to do the whole law.” Do you realize what he's saying? If you say that you need anything but Jesus Christ the Savior, then Jesus Christ is absolutely of no avail to you. If you look for even one little effort to save yourself, then you've got to take the full responsibility of saving yourself. I want that to sink in because that's a tremendous thing.

There are people who will say, “Yes, I believe that Jesus Christ saves. I believe that, but I believe you've got to do the best you can.” Of course, we do need to understand one another, and I do believe that much of our misunderstanding is due to the fact that we don't always understand what we're getting at.

If you mean that because you are saved God expects you to be a new creature in Christ Jesus, you are exactly right. A born-again person is different. But if you mean that you have to add to your salvation by the way you live, and that you'll be lost if you don't add to it, then you are doing exactly what they warned against here. You are taking what Christ has done plus what you are able to do, and you're resting in that, and the Word of God says that once you do that, Christ steps out of the picture, so to speak. I'm speaking figuratively now. Christ says, “All right, if you are going to save yourself, save yourself.”

I do not believe that there is a person in the world who wants to take the responsibility of saving himself. I suppose any number of us would be willing to help save ourselves, but no one wants to take the complete responsibility of saving himself. The Lord Jesus Christ says, “Either I save you all by myself without any of your help whatsoever, or you take over the responsibility.” That's what Paul is talking about here.

Paul says, in verse 3, “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” That does not only mean every one of the Ten Commandments ; that means everything related to the law of Moses. If you are going to live by the law, you've got to do the whole thing. Notice verse 4:

Galatians 5:

4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; …

Christ has lost His effectiveness if you think you are justified by the law. And then comes the statement that we are looking at. He said:

Galatians 5:

4…ye are fallen from grace.

If you look at the word fallen in the original text, you will find that, literally, it means “you have lost your hold on grace.” It is not that you have lost your hold on Christ; you've lost your hold on grace. It is not that you've lost your hold on salvation; you've lost your hold on grace. You're not living by grace any more; you're living by the law. You've lost the vision; you've lost your hold on it, and you're going to have a life that is so cold and so legalistic and so burdensome that you won't be able to convince anyone else that there is anything to it.

Exchanging Grace For Law

I close with this illustration because I think it will help you to understand what happens when we lose our hold on grace. There was an individual who found the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal Savior, and he was a rather wild liver , if we may use that term. Before he found Christ as his Savior, there wasn't anything that he didn't do. But when he was born again, his life was completely changed; everything was different. One of his friends met him one day, and he said, “You know, I feel really sorry for you. You passed up a good time. Before you got religion, you drank and ran around with the women; you just did everything.” There was a long list of things. He said, “And I feel so sorry for you; you can't do those things any more.”

That is the opinion that most people have concerning our salvation because we are so legalistic, we leave them the impression that you have to cut all the good things, from the standpoint of the world, and that is why most of them don't want to get it until they are ready to die. But you know what this man said? This man who had been born again said to his friend who was yet unsaved, “Oh, but you're wrong. I dance every time I want to dance. I get drunk every time I want to get drunk. I run around with women every time I feel like it.” The other man said, “You do? Why, it's not so bad, is it? I didn't know it was like that.” The Christian said, “Well, of course, I'm not finished yet. I do that every time I want to and every time I feel like it, but I don't ever want to. I've been born again; there's been a change; there's been a new nature.”

Which leads me to say, Dear One, that I believe too many of us are trying to make the old nature do what only the new nature can do. If you're trying to make the old nature do it, you've got to have a law; you've got to have a whip; you've got to force it. But if you receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior and are born again and let the new nature take over, you'll find that you don't need any whips to force you to do what's right.

This passage of Scripture then which says, “…ye are fallen from grace,” is not talking about the loss of your salvation. It is talking about exchanging one manner of life for another. You are exchanging a manner of life called grace for a manner of life called law . Believe me, it's a poor exchange.


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