By Jady W. Copeland
On one occasion during Jesus’ personal ministry after some “hard” sayings, “many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more” (Jn. 6:66). For lack of faith, now as then, disciples have the same experience. “Walking” with Christ is a figure of speech meaning agreement. The same author said, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he walked” (1 Jn. 2:6). When one is baptized into Christ, he is to walk a new life (Rom. 6:4). The Ephesians once “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).
When a company begins to lose its employees in large numbers, they want to know why! They want to know what is causing the exodus and try to remove the causes before it is too late. The Lord’s church has always had too large a “fallout” but how much have we done to evaluate the situation, and tried to get it stopped? In this and following articles, we want to ask these questions. Can one fall away? What are the symptoms of falling away from the faith? What are the causes? What is the prevention for such falling? What can be done to bring them back? What must the fallen do to be saved?
Can One Fall Away From The Faith?
Some answer “no.” The age-old question of the security of the believer or “falling from grace” will continue to be debated, but for our purposes we simply point out a few passages that answer this question in the affirmative. If one cannot lose his faith, why are there so many warnings? Peter tells us to be sober and be watchful for Satan is always ready to devour (1 Pet. 5:8,9). The first thirteen verses of 1 Corinthians 10 remains a death blow to those who say one cannot fall away from the faith. Paul gives the example of the Israelites in the wilderness who fell away because of unbelief and died
in the wilderness. Then he says, “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” He then proceeds to name four more sins of which the Israelites were guilty, and tells the Corinthians they should not do them. Now the Corinthians had been addressed as “saints” and therefore had been “walking” with God. Were they, or were they not in danger of falling away? But he even goes farther and says, “Wherefore let him that thinketh
he standeth take heed lest he fall” (v. 12). But the warning does not stop there. Verse 13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.” Now this would make no sense at all if one could not fall away from the faith. The great question remains, “Can one lose his faith?” Paul has answered. These were in the faith, but they lost their faith. Can they be saved in their unfaithfulness?
The Tragedy Of Falling Away
Can one who has had the loving fellowship of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit think of anything worse than losing that fellowship? Yet this is what happens when one turns back and “walks with Him no more.” Peter records, “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, And his ears unto their supplication: But the face of the Lord is upon them that do evil” (1 Pet. 3:12). A.T. Robertson says on this verse, “. . is not for their good, epi here approaching ‘against’ in idea” (Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol. 6, p. 113). When Simon sinned Peter said unto him, “For I see that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:23). Can anyone imagine Simon enjoying the fellowship of God while in “the bond of iniquity”? Jesus said, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away” (Jn. 15:2). Death means “separation” and eternal death is eternal separation. It is sin that separates and when a child of God cuts himself off from the fellowship of God by his evil doings he is also cutting himself off from the eternal fellowship with God – if he does not repent.
Not only does the Christian lose his fellowship with God when he walks no more with Him, but he loses fellowship with brethren. He is robbing himself of the association of the best people on earth. It is with these brethren that he is encouraged to live a godly life. There is an old story of the preacher who called on a couple who had quit assembling with the saints. It was in the days where the fireplace was the means of heating, and the preacher took the poker and pulled a red-hot coal out on the hearth. In a few minutes of course, it was black. The man said, “Preacher, I get the point; I’ll be there Sunday.” When a Christian robs himself of the fellowship of God, the source of his strength, and the fellowship of his brethren, where he gets encouragement of those of like faith, he robs himself of two of the greatest privileges promised to the child of God.
When one “walks with him no more” he also loses his potential for doing good. Our strength comes from God (1 Pet. 5:10). Habakkuk says, “The Lord God is my strength and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk on my high places” (Hab. 3:19). Jeremiah calls the Lord his “strength and my fortress” (Jer. 16:19). Paul said, “I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). When one quits the Lord, the Lord will not promise to give him strength to fight the battles of life. When one cuts off his strength, he cuts off his potential for doing good.
Symptoms Of Failing
Actions comes from the heart, so when one begins to lose his faith, it is a “heart” problem. However, others can usually see only the actions or symptoms of one’s lack of faith. When Simon sinned Peter said, “Thy heart is not right” (Acts 8:21). One is tempted when he is drawn away by his lusts. Just as a headache may be a symptom of a deeper problem, so the things brethren can see in one who is falling are tell-tale signs of what is in the heart. Each Christian must examine his heart to see if he is in danger. Often we can detect ourselves that something is wrong, even before others can notice it. We continue to worship, but our “heart is not in it.” We continue to give, but “grudgingly,” and we know that. We may even talk occasionally to our neighbor about the Lord, but the old fire is not in our speech as it once was. We do not convince our neighbor that we are sincere. Now we know the “fire is gone” and the “heart is not in it” and the giving is not out of a great desire for the cause of Christ, but as yet the brethren may not be able to see it. But we know the heart. If anyone knows the heart we do (1 Cor. 2:11). Then is the time to examine ourselves, study more and spend more time in prayer.
But then our actions begin to show. We miss the Sunday evening opportunity of worship, as well as the mid-week opportunity of service. We don’t read the Bible as we did, and we don’t spend as much time in prayer. We seldom visit the sick or the shut-ins and we even excuse ourselves from giving on the Lord’s day. Soon, we remember that we haven’t spoken to anyone about the Lord in months, and we haven’t even noticed that Brother Faithful himself misses occasionally. We know that many of our brethren have quit, but we haven’t the interest we once had to talk to them about their carelessness. We are completely content with our spiritual progress (which isn’t much and we don’t care) and prayers at the services even become so routine we scarcely know what is said. The Bible (when we do read it) seems very dry, and we begin to find fault with about everything the preacher says. Our job has suddenly become more important than the Lord’s work and we never invite anyone into our homes for a visit with some of the saints. We haven’t been to a gospel meeting in months (we didn’t even attend our own much) and even the Lord’s supper seems meaningless. We are disturbed when the meetings interfere with our social or business appointments and even we get offended when the preacher talks about unfaithfulness. Yes, these are symptoms of “heart disease” and if it isn’t soon corrected, we become apostate. “Take heed, lest ye fall.” We must realize from whence we came, and “do the first works.”
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 3, pp. 70-71
February 5, 1987