TO MY FRIENDS WHO THINK THEY CAN LOSE SALVATION, although they know it is a gift from God (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9): Did the prophet Samuel preach a wrong concept of God, teaching that the Lord will NOT forsake his people?
When he reasoned with the Israelites about their insistence upon having a king in order to be like all their neighbor nations (I Samuel 12:7-25), Samuel told them that God was going to grant their desire (v.13) although it was evil (v.19). Yet, he told them not to fear despite the wickedness they had done (v.20), challenging them to “turn not aside from following the Lord” (although he reminded them that they had both “forgat” and “forsaken” the Lord). (v. 9,10)
Significantly, Samuel summarized his reasoning (v7) by saying “FOR THE LORD WILL NOT FORSAKE HIS PEOPLE FOR HIS GREAT NAME’S SAKE: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people.” (v.22) He promised to pray for them to not turn aside (v.23). He ends with the reminder that if they continue to “do wickedly” they will be “consumed” (v.25).
John explains that when a “brother” (a believer who is saved) sins a “sin unto death” prayers for him will go unanswered because he has crossed a deadline. Even though it is right to pray believing God will grant what we ask, there are cases in which the prayer will be denied. In such cases, the “brother” will die an untimely death (I John 5:11-16). This does not mean that he has lost the gift of Eternal Life which God gives on the basis of His Grace (favor which is not based upon merit of the one receiving it). It does mean that he has lost his opportunity to serve the Lord in this life and gain eternal reward with which to show his gratitude for undeserved salvation, which he will lay at Jesus’ feet.
King Saul, the King so greatly desired by Israel, and who when personally converted, was “turned into another man” (I Sam 10:6) by the Holy Spirit, eventually chose a sinful path of jealousy and murder, consulting with a witch, and eventually dying an untimely death. Saul is perhaps the ultimate illustration of the carnal believer (I Corinthians 3:1-4) contrasted with the natural man (I Cor 2:14) and the spiritual man (I Cor 3:1). Many examples of those who sinned the sin unto death are found in scripture.
The contrast to Saul’s carnality is also presented repeatedly in the Bible. David is the most obvious contrast. He too, was a believer. He too, committed sins worthy of death. But, when challenged by the prophet Nathan, David repented wholeheartedly. David’s is one of the most detailed of biographies in Scripture. It is a story of many sins and many repentances. All the heroes of faith were flawed persons who sinned, but who chose heart repentance (as contrasted with false repentance -see II Cor 7:9-11). God, who looks on the heart, knows the difference. Notice that Paul tells us that there is a “salvation not to be repented of” (II Cor 7:10).
SALVATION IS PERSONAL
This is not to say that every individual Israelite during Samuel’s era was truly a believer. Salvation, throughout human history, has always been a personal matter. We are easily deceived. Tares look a lot like wheat (Matthew 13:30,40). It is difficult for us to determine whether or not another person is truly saved. That is why we must learn to pray for one another as Samuel did. Our wayward Christian friends need to repent and return to faithfully following the Lord in obedience, submitting to the correction of our loving Heavenly Father.
GOD IS FAITHFUL
The Lord’s faithfulness to His unfaithful people remains in place “for His great name’s sake.” (I Sam 12:22) David reminds us of this truth in Psalm 23:3, “he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” It is not for the sake of my eternal salvation, but for HIS NAME’S SAKE. His name is at stake. Jesus taught us that before we pray for forgiveness or deliverance, we should pray “Hallowed be thy name” (Matt 6:9).
HIS NAME’S SAKE
When we wholeheartedly desire to hallow His name, our attitude toward sin changes. Realizing that His name is on the line, and that he has chosen that we should bear his name, we honor His sinlessness (holiness) by acknowledging that His viewpoint about sin is accurate. When we embrace His outlook about it, He empowers us to be delivered from it, or perhaps to not be led into temptation at all (Matt 6:13). His name is on the credit card. He has guaranteed payment in full of our sin debt. He says, “him that cometh to me I will in now wise cast out.” (John 6:37) The only requirement is “believe” wholeheartedly, which implies repentance.
If your works cannot pay your sin debt, how can they avail to keep you from sin or keep you saved? If human righteousness is equal to “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6), how can it deliver you from evil? Peter proudly proclaimed his loyalty, but human righteousness failed him and he denied Christ. But he did not lose his salvation, even though he quit the ministry and returned to fishing, taking six other disciples with him. Only the Lord Himself could restore Peter to the path of righteousness, which He did for HIS NAME’S SAKE.
Maybe that was what David realized when he prayed, “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness.” (Psalm 4:1) He saw the inadequacy of his own righteousness and opted for God’s. In his distress, he longed for mercy, because like us, he was inclined toward shame and vanity. He understood that only the Lord could “set apart him that is godly for himself.” (v.3) My own efforts to become set apart from sin are useless. Both salvation and spirituality are gifts of grace, received by faith alone.
If you ever were saved, your only righteousness is HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Only Christ’s work on the cross, and his continued work through your life by the power of the Holy Spirit, are truly righteous. All other ground is sinking sand.