On Sunday after the sermon on John 13, which if you remember dealt both with the example and command to love sacrificially and the dialog with Peter about forgiveness, I received a text question that I did not see until after the benediction. Here’s the question:
“If someone denounces their faith, are they still a child of God and going to heaven?”
That’s a great and hard question. If you’ve lived in and around church circles long enough, you likely know somebody who has not only walked away but has slammed the door. Had I thought about it, I could have proactively addressed this issue within John 13. Two betrayals are prophesied by Jesus, Peter’s and Judas’. There was certainly a difference in the amount of material harm done, but the truth is found in Christ’s statement in 13:10-11. Peter was already clean (“justified” in Pauline parlance), Judas was not. In 2023 Peter is in paradise, Judas is awaiting judgment.
So, here’s the rub. I can say absolutely, unequivocally and with zero hesitation that when a person puts his or her faith in Jesus he or she is justified, freely, forever. He/she is sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption, etc.. Those two things alone can’t be undone by an act of our will. The Father, the owner of all that is, declares us righteous and then sends the Holy Spirit to reside in us as a guarantee of our future redemption. If someone is saved, they are always saved, that is the clear teaching of Scripture.
What I can’t say is who has believed. Only Jesus knew that Judas was a false brother. I don’t believe I’m currently in fellowship with any false believers but sometimes they show themselves; and sometimes real believers mess up like Peter did and knew it right away or like Hymenaeus and Alexander did whom Paul turned over to Satan so they could learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:20).
Personally, having experienced the grace of God I can no more imagine denouncing Him than I can imagine cutting off my right arm. I can’t even comprehend how often one would have to quench the Holy Spirit to get to the place of denial. So I know this is an extremely gut wrenching question. People often ask what I believe about “so and so” who is making a mockery of God. What I feel is that they were likely never saved. What I know is that Hymenaeus and Alexander are going to be in heaven and what I hope is that said person will fall in faith and love with Jesus and walk in the newness of life!
We see through the glass dimly. People can fool us. But God can’t be fooled. He knows the heart of every man. Keep praying for the wanderers and keep our eyes on the cross.