by Rod Rutherford
To the church in Smyrna, the Lord wrote: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a
crown of life" (Revelation 2:1 Ob). The saints in Smyrna were going to suffer persecution
because of their faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord admonished them to be faithful "unto death,"
that is, they were to remain faithful even if it meant dying for the Cause of Christ. Such
faithfulness is what the Lord requires of all His saints today.
The Lord has never promised that following him will always be easy. The Christian life may be
"a bed of roses" but we should remember that roses not only have beauty and fragrance but
also thorns. Paul and Barnabas taught the first century Christians "that we must through much
tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). There is nothing in the Scriptures which
indicates it will be otherwise for faithful Christians in any age. Christians are not isolated by
God from all the vicissitudes of life which are the common lot of all mankind. Sickness,
loneliness, financial reverses, the infirmities of age and death affect Christians as it does
non-Christians. Satan, our evil and powerful adversary, will tempt us and try to cause us to fall
(I Peter 5:8).
A CHRISTIAN CAN FALL
Calvinists teach the doctrine of the "perseverance of the saints." This means that once one is
saved, he cannot fall from grace. Although this doctrine is widely believed by many among the
denominations, the Bible does not teach it! In fact, the Bible abounds with warnings that the
child of God can be tempted, sin, fall away, and be lost eternally. Adam and Eve fell from their
standing with God when they sinned. They forfeited their right to eat of the tree of life (Genesis
3). David, the "man after God's own heart," sinned when he committed adultery with Bathsheba
and murdered her husband Uriah. Had he not repented, he would have been eternally lost (II
Samuel 12 and 13). Solomon fell from his good standing with God when he was led astray by
his foreign wives and served idols (I Chronicles 28:9; I Kings 11:1-13). Judas, an apostle of
Jesus Christ, fell from his privileged position when he betrayed the Saviour for a few paltry
pieces of silver (Luke 22:1-6; Acts 1:15-18). Ananias and Sapphira, members of the church of
Christ in Jerusalem, fell when they lied to the Holy Spirit and perished in their sin (Acts 5:1-11).
Simon the Sorcerer sinned when he sought to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit with money. He was
"in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." He was told to "repent and pray" in order to
be forgiven and restored to God's grace (Acts 8:12-24). Paul spoke of Hymenaeus and
Alexander who had made shipwreck of the faith (I Timothy 1:19, 20). Examples could be further
multiplied from the Word of God showing that saints can sin and fall from the grace of God and
be eternally lost. It therefore behooves the child of God to heed the warning which Paul penned
to the Corinthian Christians: "Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he
fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).
A CHILD OF GOD NEED NOT FALL
Even though a child of God is subject to sin and can thereby fall from grace and be lost, he
need not fall. God has made abundant provision to help his children overcome sin and remain
faithful. First, he has given us his assurance that we will not be tempted above our ability to
overcome it: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to men: but God is
faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation
also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13).
Second, if saints succumb to sin as they sometimes will, they have access to the blood of
Christ which will keep on cleansing their sins. This cleansing is not automatic like the
windshield wipers of a car, but is conditional. The Apostle John said, "If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I
John 1:9). This confession implies repentance on our part (Acts 8:22).
Third, Christians have a "great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of
God." He is "not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but
was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Because of this, saints have the
privilege of coming "boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to
help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
WHAT CAN WE DO?
What can we do to remain faithful? If one desires to go to heaven above all else, he will be able
to go. God wants all men to be saved (I Timothy 2:4). He has given his Son as a sacrifice to
make it possible. Nothing can sever the child of God from God's love (Romans 8:31-39). But
there is an initiative which must be taken upon the part of Christians.
Christians must "take time to be holy." It has been said "if one is too busy to serve God, he is
too busy!" Christians must not become so caught up in the affairs of this world that they have
no time for spiritual matters. Time needs to be spent with God daily in the reading and studying
of his Holy Word. If Christians will "search the Scriptures daily," they will not be led astray by
false teachers (Acts 17:11). If Christians will "meditate on God's Word day and night," they will
not be led in the way of the ungodly, the sinners, or the scornful (Psalm 1). If saints will "hide
God's word in their hearts" they will not sin (Psalm 119:11; Matthew 4:1-11). A daily period of
uninterrupted Bible study is a must if one is to remain faithful to the Lord.
Prayer will also keep one close to the Lord. It is not without significance that all the great men
of God whose records are inscribed in sacred Scripture were men of prayer. Elijah, David, and
the Apostle Paul head the list of these prayerful persons (James 5:17,18; Daniel 6:10,11; II
Thessalonians 1:3; 3:1). Our Lord himself left us an example of earnest petition to the Throne
of the universe (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12,13; John 17:1-18:2; Luke 22:39-46).
Regular attendance at all assemblies of the saints is essential if Christians are to remain true
to the Lord. The Divine admonition "not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together" was
written to Hebrew Christians who were in danger of apostasy (Hebrews 10:25). I have never
known a saint to fall away who did not first become irregular in attendance of the study and
worship periods of the church.
Finally, if Bible reading, prayerful, worshipping children of God will give themselves to "good
works" they can be secure in their salvation. Idle hands are indeed "the Devil's workshop" but if
one is busy with the Master's business, he is not likely to go astray (Titus 2:14; Ephesians
Christians have Christ, the hope of glory, living in them (Colossians 1:27). They have a living
hope of an inheritance in heaven (I Peter 1:3-5). To live the Christian life is the greatest
blessing one can have in this life but for Christians "the best is yet to be."
Why would anyone throw it away by foolishly forsaking the faith?