"Is There Such a Thing as a Former Christian?"
Updated: Feb 7, 2022
Can you be a Christian one day and a former Christian the next? It’s a good question to answer for a few reasons. First off, one of Satan's choice weapons is to create doubt in our minds regarding our standing before God. In addition, how should we view people who formerly professed themselves to be Christians but no longer do? If we can choose to be a Christian at one point, and then choose not to be a Christian at another, such insecurity about our salvation seems valid.
It is eternally tragic and presently destabilizing when leaders in evangelicalism turn their back on Christianity. There's been a lot of it over the past few years. How should we think this through Scripturally?
1. True salvation can never be lost because salvation is all of God. God takes credit for salvation from beginning to end. (Heb. 12:2) Before there was time, or a material world, God the Father sovereignly chose us to be Christians (Eph. 1:4) He predestinated us to be adopted as His children too. (Eph 1:5) That means that both creation and salvation are all of God.(Genesis 1:1; 2 Cor. 5:18) God is Creator and God is Savior. It would make as much sense for a born again Christian to become unborn as it would for creation to become uncreated. And you and I had as much to do with our salvation as we had with our creation. God the Father chose and predestinated us. God the Son actively lived 33 righteous years for us, died as our substitute, rose for our justification, ascended so we could have the gift of Holy Spirit, sat down in His session at the right hand of the Father in order to intercede for us, and He will come back a second time and perfectly glorify us. Holy Spirit indwells us, fills us, comforts us, convicts us, reminds us, illumines us, teaches us, changes us and seals us until we are fully glorified. “All this is of God.” (2 Cor. 5:18) God will complete what He started. (Phil. 1:6) No one can pluck us out of His Hands. (John 10:28) Nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:31-39) Our salvation is not secure because of our sincerity, our well-worded prayers, our baptism, our good behavior, or our anything. Our salvation is secure because it is all, and only, of God. It’s not our “grip” on God that’s saves us. It’s God’s eternal grip on us. He will hold us fast.
Our salvation is not secure because of our sincerity, our well-worded prayers, our baptism, our good behavior, or our anything. Our salvation is secure because it is all, and only, of God. It’s not our “grip” on God that’s saves us. It’s God’s eternal grip on us. He will hold us fast.
2. It is possible to possess gifts that are spiritually edifying to others without being a true Christian. I remember attending conferences where he was a speaker, listening to his sermons, and reading his books. Some of his books I read twice because they were so spiritually beneficial. I am referring to Josh Harris. He no longer considers himself a Christian. Did the Lord bless Josh’s teaching to my life? Could someone who considers himself a former Christian be used of the Spirit to edify a believer? I think so. Personally, I received a spiritual gift from his ministry in early 2010. Towards the end of the greatest sermon ever preached Jesus taught that there will be people at the great judgment who will argue with the Lord about how they performed exorcisms and other miraculous acts. But even those spectacular gifts were not the fruits of true salvation. Jesus says, "depart from me, I never knew you." (Matthew 7:21-23)
..simply being used of the Lord to minister spiritually, even spectacularly, doesn’t mean a person has saving faith.
In the parables Jesus also taught that some will look like they are growing spiritually but their faith is spurious. (Matt. 13:1-23) To be sure, I can't know anyone's heart. I certainly don't know Josh's. But my point is that simply being used of the Lord to minister spiritually, even spectacularly, doesn’t mean a person has saving faith.
3. Spiritual experiences and benefits don’t ensure salvation. Hebrews 6 describes an individual that cannot be brought back to repentance. This person has become an apostate. Apostasy is a decision to turn away from the Lord, the gospel and the faith. An apostate is a person who once professed to be a Christian but who has now irreversibly abandoned and renounced Christianity. The apostate is someone who once looked, sounded and acted like a true Christian but was not. The author of Hebrews describes four blessings that seem to be evidence of a believer, but come up short. (1) They were "enlightened." This means that they were exposed to the clear teaching of God's Word. Secondly, they (2) "tasted of the heavenly gift." This may mean that they repeatedly participated in the Lord's Table, or more generally enjoyed the benefits of God's community, the Church. In addition, (3) they have "shared in the Holy Spirit and tasted of the powers of the age to come." This means that they have shared in some fashion with the general work the Spirit is doing in a congregation and even witnessed the powerful miracles of the Spirit through the gospel. Finally, (3) "They have tasted the goodness of the Word of God." Sunday after Sunday, they sat under (or taught/preached) the teaching of the Word. But even with all these blessings, "it is impossible in the case of those (who seemed like Christians) and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance."
An apostate is a person who once professed to be a Christian but who has now irreversibly abandoned and renounced Christianity.
4. If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you can never be lost. When the frightened Philippian jailer asked Paul what he must do to be saved, with the utmost clarity, Paul said, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31). The Lord Jesus with equal clearness said to Nicodemus, "for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16). Don't let Satan or those who tragically become apostates, create doubt in your soul about your enteral security. All those who believe in Jesus are eternally saved and can never be lost. You are eternally secure. Once you're saved, you're always saved. You will persevere, Saint. You cannot lose your salvation. God will preserve you.
Someone who once professed to be a Christian may become an apostate. But a genuine believer cannot become an apostate. Those who apostasize make clear that they were never genuine Christians. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1Jn 2:19).
There is no such thing as a former Christian.