How Satan Makes Fools of Men

  By Gary Ray Branscome


Let he who has my word speak my word faithfully. Jeremiah 23:28

            Our salvation is totally the work of God! And, the fact that we are not only saved by grace, but kept by grace, is an important part of the Gospel. Just as our works cannot save us, they cannot keep us saved. On the contrary, as it is written, we “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1Peter 1:5). And, because we are kept by the power of God, we do not have to live in constant fear of losing our salvation. That precious truth should be of great comfort to every one of us. Nevertheless, there are some pastors and churches that seek to motivate their members by fear, the fear of losing salvation.

          A good friend of mine told me that, even though he grew up in a church that taught salvation by grace he never had real assurance of salvation because he was in constant fear of losing it. Moreover, he is not alone! There are many who share the same experience. They believe that Christ died for their sins, but are miserable because they are in constant fear of losing their salvation. And, when people with that fear finally gain the peace that comes from knowing that God has not only saved them by His grace but keeps them by His grace, they often try to exaggerate that truth by claiming that once a person is saved he can live in sin and still be saved. The problem is that the Bible says no such thing (Hebrews 10:26). On the contrary, the Bible plainly tells us that, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and they are opposed to each other: so that you cannot do the things that you would (Galatians 5:17). In other words, a person who is truly saved will not want to live in sin. They will want to do what is right. And, they will be sorry when they fall short.


Therefore, in order to illustrate the importance of faithfully speaking God’s Word, without exaggeration, let us consider two teachings that lead to totally opposite conclusions, even though many think that they are saying the same thing.


1- God will keep us from losing our salvation (1Peter 1:5).

2- We cannot lose our salvation.

          When someone who believes that God will keep him from losing salvation is challenged by the question: “Do you believe that you can live in sin and still be saved?” the Biblical answer is, “Those who are “kept by the power of God are not going to live in sin” (1Peter 1:5). On the contrary, because the Spirit lusts against the flesh a person who is truly saved will not want to live in sin (Galatians 5:17). And, if they do something that is wrong they will be grieved by that fact, and will seek God’s forgiveness.

          In contrast, when those who believe that they cannot lose salvation are challenged by the question: “Do you believe that you can live in sin and still be saved?” they often say, “Yes, once a person is saved they cannot lose salvation no matter what they do”. And, that answer contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. As it is written, “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).


How One Error Leads To Another


          To their credit, those who believe that someone can live in sin and still be saved rarely live in sin. On the contrary, because they usually have a tender conscience before God they know that it would be wrong for someone to live in sin. Therefore, they try to find some way to keep people from carrying that mistaken belief to its logical conclusions. As a result, they usually also tell people that even though they can live in sin and still be saved they will not be happy unless they “obey”. In fact, they often warn them that God will chasten them, and may cause them to experience many sorrows and possibly even an early death if they do not “obey”.

          However, do you see what has happened? In attempting to defend the fact that God not only saves us by His grace but keeps us by His grace, they make our standing with God depend on our works [i.e. “obedience”], and, that the very opposite of grace. In fact, that contradicts what the Bible says about justification by faith (Galatians 3:6). Out of one side of their mouth they profess to believe that their sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ. Out of the other side of their mouth they claim that God will still punish those sins if they do not “obey”. And, God’s Word places that doctrine under a curse (Galatians 1:6-9).

I even heard one Baptist preacher say that he thought some “saved” people were so bad that they would have to be punished in heaven, and that is nothing more than a warmed over version of the old purgatory heresy; a heresy that other Baptists rightly condemn. However, what I am trying to draw attention to is how that Satan can use any departure from what the Bible says, even if that departure seems small to us, to lead us away from God’s Word.


Going From Bad to Worse


          Our culture has become so perverse that churches now have to deal with people who claim to believe in Christ, people who claim to believe that once they have been saved they can live in sin and still be saved, yet are so perverse that they have no intention of giving up their sin. Such people even try to defend willful sin by arguing that there is no difference between sins, as if there was no difference between anger and murder, lust and homosexual acts or rape, and that is satanic. The difference is not in the sin but in the hardness of the heart. Those who harden their heart against God’s Law and use the gospel as an excuse to do evil are trampling “the Son of God underfoot” and treating the blood that He shed on the cross “as an unholy thing,” (Hebrews 10:29). Therefore, let all who think that they can use the goodness of God as an excuse to sin be warned:


If we sin willfully or deliberately after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins remains, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire that will devour the enemies of God. Anyone who despised Moses’ law died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses: How much more severely, do you think a man deserves to be punished, who has trampled the Son of God under foot, treated the blood of the covenant, by which he was sanctified, as an unholy thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, Vengeance belongs to me, I will repay, says the Lord. And again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31).


I am now writing you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler; do not even eat with such a man.… expel that wicked man from your congregation. (1Corinthians 5:11 and 13).


          The purpose of the Law is to bring us to repentance. And, true repentance, involves a sorrow “for sin” that will lead us to detest sin and turn our “backs” on sin. (Ezekiel 14:6, Psalm 51:17, Proverbs 8:13). At the same time repentance is incomplete without faith in Christ (Heb. 11:6). The Law shows us our need for the forgiveness Christ won for us, the Gospel assures us of that forgiveness, and faith receives that forgiveness (Rom. 5:1-2).

[Note: Since faith in Christ involves trusting in Him for forgiveness, it is impossible for those who are not sorry for their sin and do not think that they need forgiveness to have faith in Christ.]




          The fact that we do not have to live in fear of losing salvation is a great comfort to all who believe. However, Satan attacks that doctrine by leading men to exaggerate what the Bible says, and then carry their own exaggeration to unscriptural extremes. Attacking from one direction Satan uses the ignorance of men to place them back under the law by making them think that God’s favor depends upon their own obedience. Attacking from another direction he then hardens the unrepentant in their sin by leading them to believe that they can live in sin and still be saved. In order to avoid these errors we need to stick strictly to what the Bible says.