Did Saul Backslide and Become Lost? Was King Saul Converted?
Alfred Henry Burton
A correspondent sent me a clipping from the Salvation Army's publication, "War Cry," which said: "Saul was truly converted ( 1 Sam. 10:6-9); yet he backslid (1 Sam. 15:11), and God withdrew from him His favour (v. 23)." Now whatever we may think of the work and methods of the Salvation Army, no one would look to them for clear exposition of Scripture, or sound interpretations of the truth. But they are not the only ones who teach that a truly converted person may after all be lost. It is a very common doctrine, but very far indeed from the truth of the gospel.
The case of Saul (1 Sam. 10:6) has often perplexed anxious souls. But no one can rightly argue from this verse that Saul was a converted man; nor from 1 Sam. 15:23, that after conversion God withdrew from him His favour.
The Spirit came upon him as a prophet; but this in no wise proves that he was converted. At conversion a man is born of the Spirit, and then indwelt by the Spirit. But God may use a wicked man like Balaam as His mouthpiece (Numb. 24:2); and Saul was thus used, not only at the beginning of his career, but even after God had rejected him as king ( 1 Sam. 19:23). We read of many who will say in a coming day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you," etc. Matt. 7:22, 23. Mark, it does not say, "I knew you once," but, "I never knew you."
One clear verse of Scripture is better than all man's reasonings: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand." John 10:28.
Many years ago when the blessed emancipating truth of the gospel was recovered by God's grace for the present generation, a dear and pious saint of God was groaning out his misery, still under the bondage of the law, and ignorant of the liberty of grace. He had been saying that God had withdrawn the shining of His countenance from him. The one who had been the chief instrument in God's hands of this recovery of truth replied, "God never withdraws the shining of His countenance from a true believer, for all believers are in Christ, and God cannot withdraw the light of His countenance from Christ." "Ah," replied the other, "but I turn my back upon Him." "Then," came the quick rejoinder, "God will shine upon your back." Yes, He has made us accepted in His beloved Son (Eph. 1:6), and believers stand always in His favor (Rom. 5:2).
The doctrine of "falling away" denies the Word of God, dishonors the work of Christ, and destroys the true character of the gospel.
But it remains ever true that the believer is called upon to walk consistently with the grace that has so richly blessed him. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him." Col. 2:6.