Bible-based | Christ-centered | Family-focused | Mission-minded
There is a rather common saying among preachers that goes like this, “It’s easier to get them in the front door than it is to keep them from going out the back door!” What is meant by this is that evangelizing and converting someone is not as difficult as trying to keep them in the church, or help them remain faithful! Essentially, this becomes a major goal for anyone who serves in ministry, trying to strengthen the souls of the brethren so that they don’t fall away. To make things more difficult and confusing, there are countless religious teachers who say it is impossible to fall away. Could that be true? Or, can we fall from God’s grace? How can we know for sure? The only way to answer these questions, including why people leave the church, is with an open Bible. God’s Word is very clear about this subject. If anyone desires to know the truth, then it first requires an honest heart and a humble approach to Bible study. In other words, we should never open the Bible with the purpose of forcing it to confirm something we may already believe. Instead, we must allow God’s word to reveal its knowledge to us. This simply means reading the words that are written, understanding what it says (along with all that is says about a subject), and then just accepting what it says. Simple. According to 1 Peter 4:11 we must speak according to the words of the Bible, which implies not adding to it, changing it, or negating what it says in any way at all.
One time, during a Bible study, I asked the person with whom I was studying to read a particular verse. I then witnessed them reading it aloud from the Bible while changing the words as they spoke them – what came out of their mouth was not the same words that were written on the page! When I asked them to re-read the verse, they repeated the behavior of changing the words! The reason why that happened is because they had been taught by someone else “what that verse is supposed to mean,” or “what the writer really meant to say here,” instead of just reading the words literally and directly from the ink on the paper. It was a very strange experience, but it illustrated to what extent people can be confused about certain Bible doctrines.
With that in mind, let’s look objectively at what the Bible says in Galatians 5:4, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Here, we can see that one who was in a previously saved state of being can wind up in a separated state of being, or an alienated position from God’s saving grace (the context also supports this deduction). In other words, you can go from being saved to being unsaved (no longer saved). Now consider this, how many times does God have to say something for it to be true? Only once, right?! Indeed. Yet, this isn’t the only place the Bible speaks so directly, or implicitly, about how one can walk away from the faith, even after having been saved by obeying the Gospel.
People leave the faith for many reasons, but every reason can be boiled down to having a heart problem. One’s heart simply isn’t right with God. The parable of the soils is a helpful illustration regarding this principle (Matthew 13:1-23). It describes how people can come right up to the foot of the cross, even become a disciple (implied), but then leave the faith. It teaches us how God’s Word affects the heart in four different ways. Every human heart falls into one of those four categories.
This same principle is seen once again in the actions of Simon the sorcerer, (Acts 8:9-25). The apostle Peter says to him, “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you,” (8:21,22). His heart was not right and he needed to repent – those are clear indicators that Simon was no longer in a saved state of being. Just reading what the words say and not adding to or taking away any bias, notice the sequence of events: Simon was saved (8:13), he sinned (8:18-19), was told he was in danger and would perish (8:20-23), all of which Simon recognized and acknowledged (8:24). Simon fell from God’s grace!
The lesson for us is straightforward. A Christian, a saved member of the body of Christ, may choose to leave the church, and decide to no longer be a faithful disciple. In doing so, it removes the gift of salvation and any hope of eternal life in heaven. How very sad! I hope this helped you see that both coming to Christ and leaving Christ are done by choice.