Can a Christian Walk Away from God?

Many believe that a Christian can never be lost. But what does the Bible say?
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

It is hard to imagine a doctrine more corrupt than the Calvinistic notion that a child of God can never be eternally lost.

Deniers of Apostasy

Sam Morris, a Baptist preacher of years gone by, authored a tract titled, Do A Christian’s Sins Damn His Soul? Therein he wrote:

We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul.

Then, he added this:

[A]ll the sins [the Christian] may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger.

Utterly amazing!

Ben Bogard served as dean of a Missionary Baptist institute in the 1930s. He was the “bulldog” of Baptist debaters.

In his debate with Freed-Hardeman College president N. B. Hardeman, one of the propositions he debated was this:

The Bible teaches that it is possible for a child of God to apostatize so as to be finally lost.

Professor Hardeman affirmed this declaration. Bogard denied it!

John MacArthur, a popular Calvinist preacher, contends that God’s child cannot fall from grace. MacArthur wrote regarding eternal life: “It is a done deal, not a goal we work toward. Eternal life is a present possession, not a future hope” (163).

Impossibility of Apostasy: A Strange Doctrine

How in the name of biblical common sense can any reasonably educated Bible student subscribe to the position that it is impossible for a Christian to fall away?

This is not intended to purposefully wound any sincere soul who unwittingly has absorbed this theory. It is an expression of amazement at the acceptance of this heresy by so many misguided souls who should know better!

In the sections to follow, we have selected several clear manifestations of divine truth related to this theme.

Parables of the Tares

In the parable of the tares, Jesus warned that the tares (degenerate wheat) would be gathered “out of his kingdom” and burned at the end of the world (Mt. 13:41).

Since Christ’s kingdom is his church (Mt. 16:19), or the family of God (1 Tim. 3:15), it is apparent that these tares represent apostate children of God who yielded to Satan’s influence.

The Vine and Branches

In the allegory of the vine and the branches, the Lord declared that every branch “in me” that does not continue to bear fruit will be taken away (Jn. 15:2). Indeed, Christ warned that if a man “remains not in me” he will be cast forth, and finally burned (v. 6).

Simon, the Sorcerer

When Philip proclaimed the gospel in Samaria, Simon the sorcerer believed the message and was immersed (Acts 8:13). According to Mark 16:16, this response results in salvation.

He did precisely what the other devout Samaritans did, as indicated by the term “also.” It cannot be alleged that he was a mere pretender.

Later, however, he sought to bribe the apostles into granting him the power to impart spiritual gifts. Peter informed him that he was deep in sin and that such a disposition would cause him to “perish” (vv. 21-23).

Thankfully, Simon repented and asked the apostle to pray for him so that this judgment might not come upon him (v. 24).

Causing Weak Brethren to Perish

Under the Mosaic system, certain meats were ceremonially unclean for the Jews. Many Jewish Christians continued to struggle with their conscience long after Christ and declared all meats clean (Mk. 7:18).

Some Gentile Christians also struggled with eating meats. As they had been converted out of idolatry, the idea of eating meats that had been sacrificed to idols in the markets was offensive.

These issues could create a rift of division between brethren. So Paul cautions Christians against eating meat under certain circumstances. Why? Because some weak, uninformed brother might be influenced to involve himself in similar activity and so violate his conscience.

Here’s the point. Even issues we may find trivial involved spiritual danger. Paul emphasizes how dreadful a thing it would be if the weak brother should “perish” (1 Cor. 8:11) or be “destroyed” (cf. Rom. 14:15).

Wood, Hay and Stubble

In 1 Corinthians chapter 3, Paul discusses the work that both he and Apollos had wrought at Corinth.

These men were ministers through whom the Corinthians had come to faith (v. 5). Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase (v. 6). The apostle affirmed that at Corinth he had labored as a wise master builder, carefully building upon the solid foundation of Jesus Christ (vv. 10-11).

What were the “stones” of this spiritual house to which the apostle had contributed? They were Christian people. Later Paul would write: “Are not you my work in the Lord?” (1 Cor. 9:1).

He then cautions teachers that they must take heed how they build. Devout attention must be given to sound instruction, for if one’s work abides (i.e., his converts remain faithful—with the quality of gold, silver and costly stones), they would enjoy a satisfying reward (cf. Lk. 16:9).

On the other hand, if a man’s work does not abide, but rather is burned (i.e., destroyed because of its wood, hay, and stubble character), the teacher will suffer loss (the satisfaction of seeing his labor come to fruition [cf. Gal. 4:11]). Nonetheless, his personal salvation would not be jeopardized due to his student’s failure.

Paul was keenly aware that some of his spiritual children might be lost!

Peter Stood Condemned

Peter violated his own knowledge by refusing to eat with Gentile Christians. Paul rebuked him to his face because he “stood condemned” (Gal. 2:11, ASV). “The condemnation is not the verdict of the bystanders [as often claimed], but the verdict of the act itself” (Lightfoot, 111).

Had the apostle died in that state of condemnation, what would have been his fate as one who “walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel” (v. 14)?

Severed from Christ

Paul warned the children of God at Galatia (Gal. 3:26-27) that if they continued to defect to the Mosaic regime, seeking justification through that system, Christ would “profit them nothing” (5:2).

Indeed, he warned, “you are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you are fallen away from grace” (v. 4).

An Evil Heart of Unbelief

The book of Hebrews contains many warnings to Christians to not forsake the faith in view of the eternal cost of such a decision.

For instance, if the Hebrew saints yielded to the corrupt Judaizers and reverted to Mosaic law, it would be evidence of the fact that they had drifted away from their salvation. In view of such, how could they escape the wrath of God? (Heb. 2:1-3).

The recipients of Hebrews were admonished not to develop an evil heart of unbelief in falling away from God (Heb. 3:12). If they did, they would be unable to enter the rest that God had prepared (Heb. 3:13ff).

The writer spoke of those who were once enlightened, who had tasted of the heavenly gift, who were made partakers of the Holy Spirit and then fell away. It would be impossible to renew them unto repentance as long as they continued to crucify (present participle) the Lord (Heb. 6:4-6). By illustration he then shows their end would be destruction (Heb. 6:8).

Inspiration affirms that if these Hebrews returned to a life of willful, persistent (present participle) sin (thus expecting a new Messiah), they would be sorely disappointed. In fact, they would have no other expectation than that of fearful judgment and a “fierceness of fire” that shall devour the adversaries (Heb. 10:26-27).

Denying the Master

Peter spoke of those who deny the Master who bought them, thus bringing upon themselves swift destruction (2 Pet. 2:1; cf. Jude 4-5).


Though the saints in Ephesus had been saved by grace (Eph. 2:8) as they obeyed God’s plan of salvation (Acts 19:1-5; Eph. 5:26), they later weakened. The Lord said they had “fallen.” He warned that if they did not repent “before it is too late” (Robertson, 299) and practice their original works, he would come in judgment and remove their “candlestick” out of its place (Rev. 2:5).

Since the candlestick was simply a figure of speech for their identity as a church (1:20), Christ was threatening to disown them. The implication could not be clearer. (Note: Robertson was a Baptist scholar.)


How could the sacred record be any more lucid on the possibility of apostasy and the judgment to be visited upon those who abandon their Creator? It is a mystery beyond reasonable comprehension! In conclusion, note:

  • Judas was one of the original twelve apostles. There is no evidence that he was corrupt at that time. He was even empowered with ability to perform miracles (Mt. 10:4, 8).
  • At a certain point, however, Satan entered into the weak apostle (Lk. 22:3-6; cf. Jn. 13:2, 27).
    *Ultimately Judas committed suicide (Mt. 27:3ff) and was named a “son of perdition” (Jn. 17:12).
  • His action was one of “iniquity” (Acts 1:18), and he hanged himself. Luke declares that he “fell away” and “went to his own place” (Acts 1:25).

For further study, see Judas: From Apostle to Apostate.

  • Hardeman-Bogard Debate. 1938. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co..
  • Lightfoot, J.B. 1957. The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • MacArthur, John, Jr. 1996. The Love of God. Dallas: Word Publishing.
  • Robertson, A. T. 1931. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman.