Can We Lose the Holy Spirit?
Praise the Lord Brother Dulle. First, I want to commend you on your writings. They are wonderful. I have a question for you. I have been trying to understand a teaching about the Holy Spirit. When a person backslides and leaves the Church Does the Spirit still remain in the person? Example: person Spirit filled in 1920, and leaves God in 1922, does the person still have the Spirit lets say in 1960? I am talking about person who is living a very sinful life all that time between. Thank you for your answer.
Thank you for your email and for your compliments. You have asked quite a difficult question, and one that receives different answers among Oneness Pentecostals. The answer hinges on many other theological positions. A person who understands justification by faith (that we are declared to be right with God on the basis of our faith in Him), and does not believe that we can saved by our good works is less likely to say that one loses the Holy Ghost when they "backslide." They might even define "backsliding" in a much different fashion than one who always stresses "good works" to the point of legalism while neglecting to also stress God's grace in our lives. Some are of the opinion that if one does not go to church for a month that they have backslidden, while others would allow someone to start drinking and smoking crack, and only say that they are "struggling in their faith."
Another theological position that influences the answer to this question is whether or not one is an Arminian (believing one can lose their salvation), or a Calvinist (believing one cannot lose their salvation). Most Pentecostals are Arminian.
I personally tend to view God's grace as very abundant, and that we are not going to be lost because we have various struggles with sin (see my article, Justification by Faith), because as long as we are still in our pre-glorified state, no matter how much we may strive for holiness, we will continue to deal with sin, no matter how small the sin may seem to be. Also, being an Arminian, I do believe that it is possible to lose one's salvation. However, I firmly believe that the Scripture teaches that salvation is forfeited because of a lack of faith, not because of personal struggles with sin. We may be saints, but our sin nature was not eradicated in the new birth. As long as we possess this sin nature, we will still struggle with sin. Ultimately, however, if we truly have faith we will allow God to continually sanctify us, and thus become more and more holy as we are conformed to His image. A lack of faith in Christ will bring just the opposite.
I am against the idea that we can easily lose our salvation. God paid too great a price for us to let us go so easily. Our good works could not earn His grace before we were saved, and neither can they earn us His grace now that we are saved (Romans 4:1-5; 5:1-11). If our good works could not save, and cannot presently save us, then neither can our struggles with the flesh condemn us to hell. If Jesus died for us when were yet enemies of God, how much more will He now work with us as we strive to become like Him (Romans 5:8-11)? Some believe that if one slips up and says a bad word that they have to pray through again in order to be saved. If we are going to be lost it will be because we do not wish to be saved, and desire to please ourselves instead of God. It is anti-biblical to say that if someone is trying to live for God by faith, but still has struggles with certain sins, that they must fear eternal damnation. We may not have eternal security, but we do have a security in Christ. The Scripture says that He will finish the good work that He started in us (Phil 1:6), and that he is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We are kept by God's power to salvation that will be revealed to us at the last day (I Peter 1:5). With our focus on holiness many fail to see God's grace, and come to believe that their salvation depends on how they live. Although we should live right, holiness flows from salvation; it never produces or secures salvation for us (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5). It is our faith in what Christ did for us at Calvary that saves us. With this as an introduction, let me attempt to answer your question.
I will be honest with you and tell you that I would not stake my life on this answer, but it is my tentative position at this time. Paul made a statement that seems to say that once someone is filled with God's Spirit, they will remain so until they become reprobate (fail the test of faith, at which point there is no coming back to God). He said, "Put ourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless, indeed, you are reprobate" (II Corinthians 13:5).
This verse seems to teach that Christ is in us, and will only depart if we become reprobate. Reprobation is not the same as backsliding. Reprobation is the final stage of God's dealing with an individual who is losing faith in Him. When they have resisted Him so much so, and fight against Him and His will, He will give them over to reprobate minds so that they can never be saved. Read the latter half of Romans 1 to see the progression of reprobation. I do not believe that when somebody backslides that they are reprobate.. We have all seen many of these same people come back to God. If they were truly reprobate, they could not come back to God, ever! I do not define "backsliding" as failing to attend church for a few weeks. The person who does so may be struggling in their faith, but to say that they have backslid is going too far.
At what point is one backslidden then? I do not know and indeed cannot know. Only God can know this because only God can see a person's heart and know their personal faith. At what point is one lost? Again, I do not know when a person's sins and lack of faith puts them in the position that if they were to die immediately that they would go to hell.
Based on the above, it is my personal belief that if someone has lived after his own flesh, and not for God for some time (only God knows what amount of time this is), and never gets his relationship with God right, and then dies, I do not believe that he is saved, but neither do I believe that he ever lost the Holy Ghost.
Someone will object and say that the Holy Ghost is what saves us. It is argued that all those filled with God's Spirit must be raptured. I disagree. Receiving the Holy Ghost is not the guarantee of our salvation, anymore than is repenting or being baptized. Only a person who believes that one cannot lose their salvation could truly claim that receiving the Holy Ghost guarantees our future salvation. We are guaranteed salvation insofar as we keep our faith in Christ. I do not believe that when someone backslides that God's Spirit must leave them. God can still indwell someone as He tries to bring them back to Him in a right relationship, until the day they die. Maybe they will never heed, and never will be saved, but that does not mean that God must leave that person. I speculate that God would withdraw His Spirit from them upon their death, but I am just speculating. All I know is that Paul seemed to make it clear that one has Christ's Spirit until they become reprobate. Since the Scripture teaches, and experience shows us that someone may lose faith in God for a time, and not become reprobate, I would have to say that while they are living in sin away from God, they still have God's Spirit.
Part of my answer is based off of my understanding of salvation. I do not see salvation as a one-time event or experience. Salvation is a process. There is a sense in which we can say that we were saved in the past, that we are saved right now, and there is another sense in which we can say that we have not yet been saved because we are not yet with Jesus. According to the Scripture, it is only after one dies that they are judged (Hebrews 9:27). No matter what one's spiritual condition is at any one point in their life, what matters most is how they finish. We must finish this race with our faith in Jesus. It is my belief that there are many backsliders who are still filled with God's Spirit, some of whom will eventually come back because God is continually working with their spirit, and some who will die in unbelief, and ultimately go to hell, and some whom have become reprobate, in which case God has already withdrawn His Spirit from them. I believe this last group is a small minority, however.
In the Scripture, God is portrayed as our Father. Just as a father is patient with His wayward children, God is patient with our struggles and still desires to fellowship with us. It can only be after an undefined length of time of putting up with a child who does not wish to remain a part of the family, and maintain a relationship with his father, that a father will let the child go (to hell). But it is not a matter of God kicking us out of the house, but His allowing us to leave because we do not desire to have a relationship with Him.
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