1Jn 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (KJV)
1Jn 4:1 Dear friends, don’t believe all people who say that they have the Spirit. Instead, test them. See whether the spirit they have is from God, because there are many false prophets in the world. (GW, God’s Word translation)
How are we to test the truth of those who claim to speak for God? The answer is plainly stated in the Bible at Isaiah 8:20,
Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
The expression “to the law and to the testimony” is a direct reference to the Bible itself. If anyone makes claims about what the Bible teaches, or about spiritual things, we are to test them and confirm what they say by the Bible.
We see an example of this when the Bereans checked the teaching of the Apostle Paul with the Scripture in Acts 17:11,
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
I read an interesting statement from Dr. John MacArthur on Facebook yesterday:
“We have no more chance of losing our salvation than Christ does of losing His deity because we are in Him.”
This is perfectly true so long as we are truly “in Him.” I express the same truth in a different way: “I believe in the absolute eternal security of the believer, not the unbeliever.”
I suspect that Dr. John MacArthur and I are not in agreement about the answer to the question, “Can a saved person ever be lost?” My understanding of Scripture is that it is possible to stop believing, because Jesus Himself said so in Luke 8:13,
Luke 8:13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
There are some, Jesus said, who believe “for a while.” Did such persons believe? They certainly did, for Jesus said so. Did such persons “believe for a while”? They certainly did, for Jesus said so. Since they believed for a while, did they stop believing? It is certain that they did stop believing, for Jesus said so. For me, that settles the question.
To believe otherwise is to contradict Jesus Himself. To believe otherwise is to deny the possibility of apostasy. Yet the warnings in the Bible against apostasy are frequent and plain. You cannot properly believe one doctrine (“Once saved, always saved”) when it directly contradicts another doctrine of the Bible and be correct about both.
This is a complex subject, and there are many who firmly hold to either side of the question. In my Bible reference book, The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury, I have carefully assembled the evidence which supports each side of this issue.
From Luke 8:13,
for a while. Luk 22:31-32, +*Deut 29:18; Deut 30:17, Psa 106:12, +*Hos 4:10; Hos 6:4, +*Joh 2:23, 24, 25; *Joh 6:66; **Joh 8:30, 31, 32; Joh 12:42, 43; Joh 15:2; Joh 15:6, Act 8:13-23, 1Co 13:2; +*1Co 15:2, **Gal 1:6; +*Gal 4:11; *Gal 5:7, +**Col 1:23, +*1Th 3:5, +*1Ti 1:19, *2Ti 2:18; *2Ti 2:19, *Heb 10:39, Jas 2:26, **2Pe 2:20; **2Pe 2:22, **1Jn 2:19, %*Rev 2:26.
22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
King James Version
From Matthew 24:13,
shall be saved. or, delivered. This verse has absolutely no bearing on the absolute eternal security of the salvation possessed now by every individual believer in Christ (**Joh 10:28; **Joh 10:29, **Rom 8:30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, Eph 1:13; **Eph 4:30, **2Ti 1:12; *2Ti 2:19, **1Jn 5:13, *Jud 1:24), for it is in the context of prophecy respecting the final deliverance of Jews at the end of the great tribulation (+*Zec 13:9), who are delivered upon their final repentance (Isa 11:11 note) and turning to God out of desperate straits when seemingly all hope is gone, by the “deliverer out of Zion” (+*Rom 11:26). *Job 17:9, **Psa 37:24; **Psa 37:28; *Psa 138:8, +*Pro 4:18, Jer 32:40, Zec 13:8, 9, Luk 12:32; Luk 22:32, **Joh 5:24; *Joh 6:39; *Joh 6:51; Joh 11:26; Joh 14:19; *Joh 17:12; *Joh 17:24, *Rom 8:38; *Rom 8:39, *Php 1:6, **1Th 1:10, **2Ti 1:12; **2Ti 4:18, **Heb 7:25; Heb 9:28 note. *Heb 10:14, *1Jn 2:17.
Does the Bible contradict itself? Anyone who thinks that it does is not reading the Bible carefully enough.
So which doctrine does the Bible teach–absolute eternal security or the possibility of falling away? It actually teaches both. If you truly believe in Christ as your Savior and have been born again (John 3:7), so long as you continue to believe in Christ and continue to obey Him, you are saved.
If you once believed in Him but have since drifted away from Him and are now living in disobedience to His word in the Bible, you need to repent and confess your sin to Jesus and ask for and receive His forgiveness then live in obedience to His Word.
The Bible emphasizes the importance of continuing belief and obedience (Colossians 1:23), not a one-time act of faith to be saved.