Many of our religious friends believe once a man is saved, he can never sin or fall in such a way as to lose his salvation. This is known as the impossibility of apostasy, or more commonly, “once saved, always saved.”
A verse often cited in defense of this doctrine is John 10:28, where Jesus said of his sheep, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” To understand the Bible properly, a verse must be read in its context, that is, by reading the verses before and/or after the one cited. In this case, we need to read verse 27, which says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” We see two conditions given to receive eternal life and never perish: 1) hearing the voice of Jesus; and 2) following Jesus. John 10:28 is not an unconditional promise!
Going back into the Old Testament, we always find conditions placed upon the reception of God’s promises (e.g. Num 21:4-9; Deut 30:1-20). This is true even among the heathen nations (Isaiah 19). Therefore, we must not allow verses to be torn from their context to teach anything contrary to the will of God.
The Bible clearly teaches the reality and possibility of apostasy. Jesus said, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22). Conversely, it makes sense to say, “he who does not endure to the end will not be saved.” To “endure” is to persevere. The meaning is obvious; Jesus is commanding faithfulness in order to receive salvation. Note the command is given to the twelve apostles, including Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus and subsequently committed suicide. Oftentimes, when one ceases to live the “Christian” life, it is said “He never was saved in the first place.” Will they apply this “reasoning” to Judas? If so, Jesus personally chose and sent out a man who was never saved to preach the kingdom of heaven (Matt 10:7). He also empowered this same lost man with the ability to “heal the sick, cleanse lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons” (Matt 10:8). Who is willing to believe this? The only alternative is to contend that Judas’ sin didn’t cause him to be lost. Therefore we ask, “Can a man betray Jesus, commit suicide, and still be saved?” Again, who is will defend this? Finally, in John 17, Jesus said: “Those whom you gave Me I have kept, and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (v 12). The twelve were given to Jesus and all were kept but one, and he is described as being lost. How can something be “lost” if it was never possessed to begin with?
Paul wrote, ‘Christ is become of no effect unto you who attempt to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace.’ (Gal 5:4). This was written to the church (1:1-2). How can one misunderstand this? If one is saved by grace (Eph 2:5, 8), and one falls from that grace, does it not follow that one is no longer saved? If not, why not?
Many other texts teach the possibility of apostasy (2 Pet 2:20-22; Heb 3:12; 10:38-39, etc). When one reads these, he can come to no other conclusion. Let’s strive to always accept what the Bible says in spite of what we may believe or have been taught by others.