Conditional preservation of the saints
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The conditional preservation of the saints, or commonly conditional security, is the Arminian belief that believers are kept safe by God in their saving relationship with Him upon the condition of a persevering faith in Christ. Arminians find the Scriptures describing both the initial act of faith in Christ, "whereby the relationship is effected, and the persevering faith in Him whereby the relationship is sustained." The relationship of "the believer to Christ is never a static relationship existing as the irrevocable consequence of a past decision, act, or experience." Rather, it is a living union "proceeding upon a living faith in a living Savior." This living union is captured in this simple command by Christ, "Remain in me, and I in you" (John 15:4).
According to Arminians, biblical saving faith expresses itself in love and obedience to God (Galatians 5:6; Hebrews 5:8–9). In the Arminian Confession of 1621, the Remonstrants (or Arminian leaders) affirmed that true or living faith operates through love, and that God chooses to give salvation and eternal life through His Son, "and to finally glorify all those and only those truly believing in his name, or obeying his gospel, and persevering in faith and obedience until death ... "
Arminians believe that "It is abundantly evident from the Scriptures that the believer is secure." Furthermore, believers have assurance in knowing there is no external power or circumstance that can separate them from the love of God they enjoy in union with Christ (Romans 8:35–39; John 10:27–29). Nevertheless, Arminians see numerous warnings in Scripture directed to genuine believers about the possibility of falling away in unbelief and thereby becoming severed from their saving union with God through Christ. Arminians hold that if a believer becomes an unbeliever (commits apostasy), they necessarily cease to partake of the promises of salvation and eternal life made to believers who continue in faith and remain united to Christ.
Therefore, Arminians seek to follow the biblical writers in warning believers about the real dangers of committing apostasy. A sure and biblical way to avoid apostasy is to admonish believers to mature spiritually in their relationship with God in union with Christ and through power of the Spirit. Maturity takes place as Christ-followers keep on meeting with fellow believers for mutual encouragement and strength; exhorting each to love God and others; to be growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; and to persevere in faith in prayerful dependence upon God through various trials and temptations.
- 1 Historical background
- 2 Apostasy: definition and dangers
- 3 Biblical support
- 3.1 Conditional security in the Old Testament
- 3.2 Conditional security in the teachings of Jesus
- 3.3 Conditional security in the book of Acts
- 3.4 Conditional security in the writings of the apostle Paul
- 3.5 Conditional security in the book of Hebrews
- 3.6 Conditional security in the book of James
- 3.7 Conditional security in the books of 2 Peter and Jude
- 3.8 Conditional security in the epistles of John
- 3.9 Conditional security in the book of Revelation
- 3.10 New Testament Greek in support of conditional security
- 3.11 Scriptures that appear to contradict conditional security
- 4 Agreements and disagreements with opposing views
- 5 Denominations that affirm the possibility of apostasy
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Free Will Baptist scholar Robert Picirilli states:
Appropriately last among the points of tension among Calvinism and Arminianism is the question whether those who have been regenerated must necessarily persevere (or be preserved) or may apostatize and be lost. ... Arminius himself and the original Remonstrants avoided a clear conclusion on this matter. But they raised the question. And the natural implications of the views at the heart of Arminianism, even in its early stages as a formal movement, tended to question whether Calvinism's assumptions of necessary perseverance was truly Biblical. Those tendencies indicated by the questions raised did not take long to reach fruition, and thus Calvinism and Arminianism have come to be traditionally divided on this issue.
Prior to the time of the debate between Calvinists and the Arminians at the Synod of Dort (1618–1619), the view in the early church appears to be on the side of conditional security. From his research of the writings of the early church fathers (AD 90–313), patristic scholar David W. Bercot arrived at this conclusion: "Since the early Christians believed that our continued faith and obedience are necessary for salvation, it naturally follows that they believed that a 'saved' person could still end up being lost."
Arminius and conditional security
Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) arrived at the same conclusion in his own readings of the early church fathers. In responding to Calvinist William Perkins arguments for the perseverance of the saints, he wrote: "In reference to the sentiments of the [early church] fathers, you doubtless know that almost all antiquity is of the opinion, that believers can fall away and perish." On another occasion he notes that such a view was never "reckoned as a heretical opinion," but "has always had more supporters in the church of Christ, than that which denies its possibility." Arminius' opinion on the subject is clearly communicated in this relatively brief statement:
My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the Saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies—yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual. Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration.
For Arminius the believer’s security is conditional—"provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves." This complements what Arminius says elsewhere in his writings: "God resolves to receive into favor those who repent and believe, and to save in Christ, on account of Christ, and through Christ, those who persevere [in faith], but to leave under sin and wrath those who are impenitent and unbelievers, and to condemn them as aliens from Christ." In another place he writes: "[God] wills that they, who believe and persevere in faith, shall be saved, but that those, who are unbelieving and impenitent, shall remain under condemnation."
The Remonstrants and conditional security
After the death of Arminius in 1609, the Remonstrants maintained their leader's view on conditional security and his uncertainty regarding the possibility of apostasy. This is evidenced in the fifth article drafted by its leaders in 1610:
That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by not craft or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ's hand, according to the Word of Christ, John 10:28: 'Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.' But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with full persuasion of our minds.
Sometime between 1610, and the official proceeding of the Synod of Dort (1618), the Remonstrants became fully persuaded in their minds that the Scriptures taught that a true believer was capable of falling away from faith and perishing eternally as an unbeliever. They formalized their views in "The Opinion of the Remonstrants" (1618). Points three and four in the fifth article read:
True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish.
Picirilli remarks: "Ever since that early period, then, when the issue was being examined again, Arminians have taught that those who are truly saved need to be warned against apostasy as a real and possible danger."
Other Arminians who affirmed conditional security
John Goodwin (1593–1665) was a Puritan who "presented the Arminian position of falling away in Redemption Redeemed (1651)" which drew a lot of attention from Calvinists. In his book, English bishop Laurence Womock (1612–1685) provides numerous scriptural references to the fifth article concerning perseverance delivered by the later Remonstrants. Philip van Limborch (1633–1712) penned the first complete Remonstrant Systematic Theology in 1702 that included a section on apostasy. In 1710, a minister in the Church of England, Daniel Whitby (1638–1726), published a major work criticizing the five points of Calvinism—which involves their doctrine of unconditional perseverance.
John Wesley (1703–1791), the founder of Methodism, was an outspoken defender of conditional security and critic of unconditional security. In 1751, Wesley defended his position in a work titled, "Serious Thoughts Upon the Perseverance of the Saints." In it he argued that a believer remains in a saving relationship with God if he "continue in faith" or "endureth in faith unto the end." Wesley affirmed that a child of God, "while he continues a true believer, cannot go to hell." However, if he makes a "shipwreck of the faith, then a man that believes now may be an unbeliever some time hence" and become "a child of the devil." He then adds, "God is the Father of them that believe, so long as they believe. But the devil is the father of them that believe not, whether they did once believe or no." Like his Arminian predecessors, Wesley was convinced from the testimony of the Scriptures that a true believer may abandon faith and the way of righteousness and "fall from God as to perish everlastingly."
From John Wesley onward, it looks as if every Methodist/Wesleyan pastor, scholar, or theologian in print has opposed unconditional perseverance: Thomas Olivers (1725–1799); John Fletcher (1729–1783); Joseph Benson (1748–1821); Leroy M. Lee (1758–1816); Adam Clarke (1762–1832); Nathan Bangs (1778–1862); Richard Watson (1781–1833); Thomas Thornton (1794–1860) Samuel Wakefield (1799–1895); Luther Lee (1800–1889); Amos Binney (1802–1878); William H. Browning (1805–1873); Daniel D. Whedon (1805–1885); Thomas N. Ralston (1806–1891); Thomas O. Summers (1812–1882); Albert Nash (1812–1900); John Miley (1813–1895); Philip Pugh (1817–1871); Randolph S. Foster (1820–1903); William Burt Pope (1822–1903); B. T. Roberts (1823–1893); Daniel Steele (1824–1914); Benjamin Field (1827–1869); John Shaw Banks (1835–1917); and Joseph Agar Beet (1840–1924).
Apostasy: definition and dangers
The definition of apostasy
Apostasy "means the deliberate disavowal of belief in Christ made by a formerly believing Christian." "Cremer states that apostasia is used in the absolute sense of 'passing over to unbelief,' thus a dissolution of the 'union with God subsisting through faith in Christ'." Arminian scholar Robert Shank writes,
The English word apostasy is derived from the Greek noun, apostasia. Thayer defines apostasia as 'a falling away, defection, apostasy; in the Bible sc. from the true religion.' The word appears twice in the New Testament (Acts 21:21, 2 Thessalonians 2:3). Its meaning is well illustrated in its use in Acts 21:21, ... "you are teaching apostasy (defection) from Moses." ... A kindred word is the synonym apostasion. Thayer defines apostasion, as used in the Bible, as "divorce, repudiation." He cites Matthew 19:7 and Mark 10:4, ... "a bill of divorce [apostasion]." He also cites Matthew 5:31, ... "let him give her a bill of divorce [apostasion]." He cites the use of apostasion by Demosthenes as "defection, of a freedman from his patron." Moulton and Milligan cite the use of [apostasion] as a "bond of relinquishing (of property sold) ... a contract of renunciation ... the renunciation of rights of ownership." They also cite the use of apostasion "with reference to 'a deed of divorce.'" The meaning of the [related] verb aphistēmi ... is, of course, consonant with the meaning of the nouns. It is used transitively in Acts 5:37, ... "drew away people after him." Intransitively, it means to depart, go away, desert, withdraw, fall away, become faithless, etc.
I. Howard Marshall notes that aphistemi "is used of giving up the faith in Luke 8:13; 1 Timothy 4:1 and Hebrews 3:12, and is used of departure from God in the LXX [i.e., Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament]." Marshall also notes that "the failure to persist in faith is expressed by [other Greek] words which mean falling away, drifting and stumbling." Of particular theological significance are the verb skandalizō ("fall away from faith") and the noun skandalon ("enticement to unbelief, cause of salvation's loss, seduction").
Shank concluded: "An apostate, according to the New Testament definition, is one who has severed his union with Christ by withdrawing from an actual saving relationship with Him. Apostasy is impossible for men who have not entered into a saving relationship with God... The warnings against succumbing to the ugly peril of apostasy are directed ... to men who obviously are true believers." J. Rodman Williams adds,
One of the mistakes made by those who affirm the invariable continuance of salvation is the viewing of salvation too much as a "state." From this perspective, to be saved is to enter into "a state of grace." However true it is that one moves into a new realm—whether it is called the kingdom of God, eternal life, or other like expression—the heart of the matter is the establishment of a new relationship with God. Prior to salvation, one was "without God" or "against God," cut off from His presence. Now through Jesus Christ reconciliation—"at-one-ment with God"—has occurred. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, who becomes present, is not merely some force or energy but God Himself in a new and intimate relationship. Hence, if a person begins to "drift away," it is not from some static condition or "state" but from a Person. It is a personal relationship that thereby is betrayed, broken, forfeited; this is the tragic meaning of apostasy. It is not so much giving up something, even so marvellous as salvation, but the forsaking of a Person. Surely through such an action salvation too is forfeited. But the critical matter is the severing of a relationship with the personal God.
The dangers of apostasy
Marshall finds four biblical dangers that could serve as precursors to committing apostasy:
- 1. Persecution by Unbelievers – "Believers ... are frequently tempted to give up their faith because of the difficulties of maintaining it amid fierce opposition."
- 2. Accepting False Doctrine – "Whatever form this presents itself ... the temptation is to blunt the edge of faith in Jesus Christ and ultimately to destroy it altogether."
- 3. Temptation to Sin – "The significance of this form of temptation is that it causes the believer to deny the power of God to preserve him from sinning, to return to the very things from which he was saved by belief in Christ (and which by their nature exclude a man from the kingdom of God), and to perform those acts which are expressly forbidden by the Lord ... In other words, sin is an act and attitude which is incompatible with the obedience of faith, and hence constitutes a denial of faith."
- 4. Weariness in Faith – This is where "the believer gradually drifts away from his faith and passes into a state of apostasy."
Marshall concludes: "The New Testament contains too many warnings about the danger of sin and apostasy for us to be complacent about these possibilities. ... These dangers are real and not 'hypothetical.'" Methodist scholar Ben Witherington would add: "The New Testament suggests that one is not eternally secure until one is securely in eternity. Short of that, there is the possibility of apostasy or rebellion against God by one who has believed in Christ. Apostasy, however, is not to be confused with the notion of accidentally or unconsciously "falling away." Apostasy is a conscious, wilful rebellion against God ... Unless one commits such an act of apostasy or rebellion, one need not worry about one's salvation, for God has a firm grip on the believer."
With apostasy being a real possibility for Christians, Arminians seek to follow the example that New Testament writer's provide in urging Christians to persevere. Scot McKnight clarifies what perseverance means and doesn't mean for Arminians:
It doesn't mean sinlessness; it doesn't mean that we are on some steady and never-failing incline up into pure sanctification; it does not deny stumbling or messy spirituality; it doesn't deny doubt and problems. It simply means that the person continues to walk with Jesus and doesn't walk away from him in a resolute manner. ... What it means is continuing trust in God.
Since Arminians view sin as "an act and attitude which ... constitutes a denial of faith", believers who persist in acting like unbelievers will eventually become one of them and share in their same destiny and doom. Therefore, "the only people who need perseverance are Christians," and "the only people who can commit apostasy are Christians. Non-Christians have nothing to persevere toward or apostatize from." Thus, when Christians are appropriately warned about the dangers of committing apostasy, such warnings "can function as a moral injunction that strengthens commitment to holiness as well as the need to turn in complete trust to God in Christ through his Spirit."
Below are many key Scriptures that Arminians have used to defend conditional security and the possibility of apostasy.
Conditional security in the Old Testament
- Deuteronomy 29:18–20 – "Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, 'I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.' ... The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven." (NIV)
- 2 Chronicles 15:1–2 – The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, "Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. (ESV)
- Ezekiel 18:20–24 – "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live? But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die." (NKJV)
Conditional security in the teachings of Jesus
- Matthew 5:27–30 – [Jesus said] "You heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit-adultery'. But I say to you that everyone looking at a woman so as to desire her already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if your right eye is causing you to fall [skandalizō], tear it out and throw it from you. For it is better for you that one of your body-parts perish and your whole body not be thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand is causing you to fall [skandalizō], cut it off and throw it from you. For it is better for you that one of your body-parts perish and your whole body not go into Gehenna. (Disciples' Literal New Testament or DLNT)
- Matthew 7:21 – [Jesus said] "Not everyone saying to Me, 'Lord, Lord', will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of My Father in the heavens." (DLNT)
- Matthew 10:16–17, 21–22 – [Jesus is speaking to his twelve disciples] "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. ... Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." (ESV)
- Matthew 10:32–33 – [Jesus is speaking to his disciples] "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." (NASB)
- Matthew 18:6-9 – [Jesus is speaking to his disciples] "But whoever causes one of these little ones believing in Me to fall [skandalizō]—it would be better for him that a donkey’s millstone be hung around his neck and he be sunk in the deep part of the sea. Woe to the world because of the causes-of-falling [skandalon]. For it is a necessity that causes-of-falling [skandalon] should come; nevertheless, woe to the person through whom the cause-of-falling [skandalon] comes. But if your hand or your foot is causing you to fall [skandalizō], cut it off and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter into life crippled or lame than to be thrown into the eternal fire having two hands or two feet. And if your eye is causing you to fall [skandalizō], tear it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter into life one-eyed than to be thrown into the Gehenna of fire having two eyes." (DLNT)
- Matthew 18:10-14 – [Jesus is speaking to his disciples] "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." (ESV)
- Matthew 24:4, 42–51 – Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. ... Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (NIV)
- Matthew 24:9–14 – [Jesus said to his disciples] "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away [skandalizō] and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (ESV)
- Mark 8:34–38 – And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." (NASB)
- Mark 9:42–50 – [Jesus is talking to his disciples] "And whoever causes one of these little ones believing in Me to fall [skandalizō]—it would be better for him if instead a donkey's millstone were lying around his neck, and he had been thrown into the sea. And if your hand should be causing you to fall [skandalizō], cut it off. It is better that you enter into life crippled than go into Gehenna having two hands—into the inextinguishable fire. And if your foot should be causing you to fall [skandalizō], cut it off. It is better that you enter into life lame than be thrown into Gehenna having two feet. And if your eye should be causing you to fall [skandalizō], throw it out. It is better that you enter into the kingdom of God one-eyed than be thrown into Gehenna having two eyes—where their worm does not come to an end, and the fire is not quenched." (DLNT)
- Luke 8:11–13 – [Jesus said] "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away." (ESV)
- John 12:24–26 – [Jesus said] "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him." (ESV)
- John 15:1–6 – [Jesus is speaking to his eleven disciples minus Judas] "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (HCSB)
Conditional security in the book of Acts
- Acts 14:21–22 – They [Paul and Barnabas] preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. (NIV)
- Acts 20:28–32 – Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them. Therefore, be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace. This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (NET)
Conditional security in the writings of the apostle Paul
- Romans 8:12–13 – So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (NASB)
- Romans 11:19–21 – Then you will say, "Branches were cut off so that I could be grafted in." That's right! They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you remain only because of faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid! For if God did not spare the natural branches, he certainly will not spare you either. Consider, then, the kindness and severity of God: his severity toward those who fell, but God's kindness toward you—if you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you too will be cut off. (ISV)
- Romans 14:13–23 – Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (NIV, 1984)
- Romans 16:17–20 – I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (NIV, 1984)
- 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 – Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (NIV)
- 1 Corinthians 6:7–11 – The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NIV, 1984)
- 1 Corinthians 8:9–13 – Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol's temple, won't that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. (NIV)
- 1 Corinthians 9:24–27 – Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Therefore, I do not run like one who runs aimlessly, or box like one who beats the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (HCSB)
- 1 Corinthians 10:7–8, 11–12 – Don't become idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to play. Let us not commit sexual immorality as some of them did, and in a single day 23,000 people fell dead. ... Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall! (HCSB)
- 1 Corinthians 15:1–2 – Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (ESV)
- 2 Corinthians 11:1–5, 13–15 – I wish that you would be patient with me in a little foolishness, but indeed you are being patient with me! For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy, because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough! 5 For I consider myself not at all inferior to those "super-apostles." ... For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will correspond to their actions. (NET)
- Galatians 1:6–9 – I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (NIV)
- Galatians 4:9–11 – But now that you have come to know God (or rather to be known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless basic forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You are observing religious days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you that my work for you may have been in vain. (NET)
- Galatians 5:2–4 – Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (NIV)
- Galatians 5:16,19–21 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.... Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (ESV)
- Galatians 6:7–10 – Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (ESV)
- Ephesians 5:3–7 – But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them. (NIV)
- Colossians 1:21–23 – And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard. (ESV)
- 1 Thessalonians 3:1–5 – So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. (NIV, 1984)
- 1 Timothy 1:18–19 – This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. (NASB)
- 1 Timothy 4:1 – But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. (NASB)
- 1 Timothy 4:13–16 – Until I [Paul] come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching... Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV)
- 2 Timothy 2:10–13 – Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. (ESV)
Conditional security in the book of Hebrews
- Hebrews 2:1–4 – We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (NIV)
- Hebrews 3:7–14 – So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. (NIV)
- Hebrews 4:1–11 – Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful ["let us fear lest," ESV; cf. NASB, HCSB] that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (NIV 1984)
- Hebrews 5:8-9 - Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. (ESV)
- Hebrews 6:4–8 – For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. (ESV)
- Hebrews 10:26–31 – For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know the One who has said, Vengeance belongs to Me, I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge His people. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God! (ESV)
- Hebrews 10:36–39 – For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (ESV)
- Hebrews 12:1–13 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (ESV)
- Hebrews 12:14–17 – Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done. (NIV)
- Hebrews 12:18–29 – For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned." Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I tremble with fear." But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (ESV)
Conditional security in the book of James
- James 1:12 – Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (NIV)
- James 5:19–20 – My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (ESV)
Conditional security in the books of 2 Peter and Jude
- 2 Peter 1:8–11 – For if these qualities [faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly affection, love] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
- 2 Peter 2:20–22 – For if, after escaping the world's corruptions through a full knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Messiah, they are again entangled and conquered by those corruptions, then their last condition is worse than their former one. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to know it and turn their backs on the holy commandment that was committed to them. The proverb is true that describes what has happened to them: "A dog returns to its vomit," and "A pig that is washed goes back to wallow in the mud." (ISV)
- 2 Peter 3:16–17 – Some things in them [Paul's letters] are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, leading to their own destruction, as they do the rest of the Scriptures. And so, dear friends, since you already know these things, continually be on your guard not to be carried away by the deception of lawless people. Otherwise, you may fall from your secure position. (ISV)
- Jude 20–21 – But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (ESV)
Conditional security in the epistles of John
- 1 John 2:18–27 – Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, "Antichrist is coming," even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I have not written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Messiah? This one is the antichrist: the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son can have the Father; he who confesses the Son has the Father as well. What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as He has taught you, remain in Him. (HCSB)
- 2 John 7–11 – Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves so you don’t lose what we have worked for, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who does not remain in Christ's teaching but goes beyond it, does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don't say, "Welcome," to him; for the one who says, "Welcome," to him shares in his evil works. (HCSB)
Conditional security in the book of Revelation
- Revelation 2:10–11 – "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days Be faithful until death, and I [Jesus] will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death." (NASB)
- Revelation 3:4–5 – "But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." (NASB)
- Revelation 3:10–11 – "Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown." (NASB)
- Revelation 21:7–8 – He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (NASB)
- Revelation 22:18–19 – I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (ESV)
New Testament Greek in support of conditional security
Arminians find further support for conditional security from numerous Scriptures where the verb "believes" occurs in the Greek present tense. Greek scholars and commentators (both Calvinist and non-Calvinist) have noted that Greek present tense verbs generally refer to continuous action, especially present participles. For example, In his textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Calvinist William D. Mounce writes: "The present participle is built on the present tense stem of the verb. It describes a continuous action. It will often be difficult to carry this 'on-going' nuance into your translation, but this must be the foremost consideration in your mind." Calvinist Daniel Wallace brings out this "on-going" nuance for the present participle "believes" in John 3:16, "Everyone who [continually] believes in him should not perish. ... In this Gospel, there seems to be a qualitative distinction between the ongoing act of believing and the simple fact of believing." He argues for this understanding not simply because believes is in the present tense, "but to the use of the present participle of πιστεύων [pisteuōn, believing], especially in soteriological [i.e., salvation] contexts in the NT." Wallace goes on to elaborate,
The aspectual force of the present [participle] ὁ πιστεύων [the one believing] seems to be in contrast with [the aorist participle] ὁ πιστεύσας [the one having believed]. ... The present [participle for the one believing] occurs six times as often (43 times) [in comparison to the aorist], most often in soteriological contexts (cf. John 1:12; 3:15, 16, 18; 3:36; 6:35, 47, 64; 7:38; 11:25; 12:46; Acts 2:44; 10:43; 13:39; Rom 1:16; 3:22; 4:11, 24; 9:33; 10:4, 11; 1 Cor 1:21; 1 Cor 14:22 [bis]; Gal 3:22; Eph 1:19; 1 Thess 1:7; 2:10, 13; 1 Pet 2:6, 7; 1 John 5:1, 5, 10, 13). Thus, it seems that since the aorist participle was a live option to describe a "believer," it is unlikely that when the present was used, it was aspectually flat. The present was the tense of choice most likely because the New Testament writers by and large saw continual belief as a necessary condition of salvation. Along these lines, it seems significant that the promise of salvation is almost always given to ὁ πιστεύων [the one believing] (cf. several of the above cited texts), almost never to ὁ πιστεύσας [the one having believed] (apart from Mark 16:16, John 7:39 and Heb 4:3 come the closest . . .).
Arminian Greek scholar J. Harold Greenlee supplies the following literal translation of several verses where the Greek word translated "believes" (in our modern translations) occurs in the tense of continuous action.
- John 3:15, "...in order that everyone believing may have eternal life in him."
- John 3:16, "...in order that everyone believing in him should not perish but should have eternal life."
- John 3:36, "The one believing on the Son has eternal life."
- John 5:24, "The one hearing my word and believing him who sent me has eternal life."
- John 6:35, "the one believing in me shall never thirst."
- John 6:40, "...that everyone beholding the Son and believing in him should have eternal life."
- John 6:47, "The one believing has eternal life."
- John 11:25, 26, "The one believing in me, even though he dies he shall live; and everyone living and believing in me shall never die."
- John 20:31, "...in order that by means of believing you may have life in his name."
- Romans 1:16, "it is the power of God to salvation to everyone believing."
- 1 Corinthians 1:21, "it pleased God ... to save the one believing."
Of further significance is that "In many cases the results of the believing are also given in a continuous tense. As we keep believing, we keep on having eternal life (John 3:15, 16, 36; 20:31)." It is this type of evidence which leads Arminians to conclude that "eternal security is firmly promised to 'the one believing'—the person who continues to believe in Christ—but not to "the one having believed,"—the person who has merely exercised one single act of faith some time in the past." Indeed, "True security rests in the fact that saving faith is not a single historical act, but a present-tense, up-to-date, continuing process."
Scriptures that appear to contradict conditional security
Those who hold to perseverance of the saints cite a number of verses to support their view. The following are some of the most commonly cited:
- John 5:24 – Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (ESV)
- John 6:35, 37–40 – Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. . . . All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (ESV)
- John 10:27–29 – My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (ESV)
- John 17:12 – While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (ESV)
- Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (ESV)
- Romans 8:35, 37–39 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)
- 1 Corinthians 1:8–9 – [God] who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (ESV)
- Ephesians 1:13–14 – In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)
- Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (ESV)
- 2 Timothy 4:18 – The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)
- Hebrews 7:25 – Therefore, He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (NASB)
- 1 Peter 1:5 – ... who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (NASB)
- 1 John 3:9 – No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. (NIV)
- Jude 24–25 – To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (NIV)
Arminians would argue that they have adequately provided explanations for how these verses and others can be easily reconciled with conditional security.
Agreements and disagreements with opposing views
A major difference between traditional Calvinists and Arminians is how they define apostasy (see Perseverance of the saints for the definition as it is referred to here).
Traditional Calvinist view
Traditional Calvinists say apostasy refers to people who fall away (apostatize) from a profession of faith, but who have never actually entered into a saving relationship with God through Christ. As noted earlier, Arminians understand that apostasy refers to a believer who has departed from a genuine saving relationship with God by developing "an evil, unbelieving heart." (Hebrews 3:12)
In traditional Calvinism the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints "does not stand alone but is a necessary part of the Calvinistic system of theology." The Calvinist doctrines of Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace "logically imply the certain salvation of those who receive these blessings." If God has eternally and unconditionally elected (chosen) some men to eternal life, and if His Spirit irresistibly applies to them the benefits of salvation, then the inescapable conclusion is that these persons will be saved forever. Arminians acknowledge that the Calvinistic system is logically consistent if certain presuppositions are true, but they do not agree with these presuppositions, which include the Calvinist doctrines of unconditional election and irresistible grace.
Traditional Calvinists agree with Arminians on the need for persevering in faith
Baptist scholar James Leo Garrett says it is important for people recognize that traditional Calvinist and Arminians "do not differ as to whether continuing faith in Jesus Christ will be necessary for final or eschatological salvation. Both agree that it is so. Rather, they differ as to whether all Christians or all true believers will continue in faith to the end." For example, Anthony Hoekema, longtime Professor of Calvin Theological Seminary, stated: "Peter puts it vividly: We are kept by the power of God through faith [1 Peter 1:5]—a living faith, which expresses itself through love (Galatians 5:6). In other words, we may never simply rest on the comfort of God's preservation apart from the continuing exercise of faith." Hoekema even writes that he agrees with Arminian writer Robert Shank when he says,
There is no warrant in the New Testament for that strange at-ease-in-Zion definition of perseverance which assures Christians that perseverance is inevitable and relieves them of the necessity of deliberately persevering in faith, encouraging them to place confidence in some past act or experience.
Reformed Presbyterian James Denney stated:
And there is nothing superficial in what the New Testament calls faith . . . it is [man's] absolute committal of himself for ever to the sin-bearing love of God for salvation. It is not simply the act of an instant, it is the attitude of a life; it is the one right thing at the moment when a man abandons himself to Christ, and it is the one thing which keeps him right with God for ever. . . . Grace is the attitude of God to man which is revealed and made sure in Christ, and the only way in which it becomes effective in us for new life is when it wins [from] us the response of faith. And just as grace is the whole attitude of God in Christ to sinful men, so faith is the whole attitude of the sinful soul as it surrenders itself to that grace. Whether we call it the life of the justified, or the life of the reconciled, or the life of the regenerate, or the life of grace or of love, the new life is the life of faith and nothing else. To maintain the original attitude of welcoming God's love as it is revealed in Christ bearing our sins—not only to trust it, but to go on trusting—not merely to believe in it as a mode of transition from the old to the new, but to keep on believing—to say with every breath we draw, "Thou, O Christ, art all I want; more than all in Thee I find"—is not a part of the Christian life, but the whole of it.
Free Grace or non-traditional Calvinist view
The non-traditional Calvinist or Free Grace view disagrees with Traditional Calvinists and Arminians in holding that saving faith in Christ must continue in order for a person to remain in their saving relationship with God. For example, Zane Hodges says: "... We miss the point to insist that true saving faith must necessarily continue. Of course, our faith in Christ should continue. But the claim that it absolutely must ... has no support at all in the Bible" Joseph Dillow writes:
Even though Robert Shank would not agree, it is definitely true that saving faith is "the act of a single moment whereby all the benefits of Christ's life, death, and resurrection suddenly become the irrevocable possession of the individual, per se, despite any and all eventualities."
Any and all eventualities would include apostasy—falling away or walking away from the Christian faith and to "cease believing." What a Christian forfeits when he falls away is not his saving relationship with God but the opportunity to reign with Christ in his coming kingdom.
Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his book Salvation, provides a concise summary of the Free Grace position: "Saving faith is an act: not an attitude. Its work is accomplished when its object has been gained."
Traditional Calvinists agree with Arminians against the Free Grace view
Traditional Calvinists and Arminians disagree with the Free Grace view on biblical and theological grounds. For example, Calvinist Tony Lane writes:
The two historic views discussed so far [Traditional Calvinism and Arminianism] are agreed that salvation requires perseverance [in faith]. More recently, however, a third view has emerged [i.e., non-traditional Calvinist or Free Grace], according to which all who are converted will be saved regardless of how they then live. They will be saved even if they immediately renounce their faith and lead a life of debauched atheism. Many people today find this view attractive, but it is blatantly unbiblical. There is much in the New Testament that makes it clear that discipleship is not an optional extra and that remaining faithful is a condition of salvation. The whole letter to the Hebrews focuses on warning Jewish believers not to forsake Christ and so lose their salvation. Also, much of the teaching of Jesus warns against thinking that a profession of faith is of use if it is not backed up by our lives. Apart from being unbiblical, this approach is dangerous, for a number of reasons. It encourages a false complacency, the idea that there can be salvation without discipleship. ... Also it encourages a 'tip and run' approach to evangelism which is concerned only to lead people to make a 'decision', with scant concern about how these 'converts' will subsequently live. This is in marked contrast to the attitude of the apostle Paul, who was deeply concerned about his converts' lifestyle and discipleship. One only needs to read Galatians or 1 Corinthians to see that he did not hold to this recent view. The author of Hebrews was desperately concerned that his readers might lose their salvation by abandoning Christ. ... These three letters make no sense if salvation is guaranteed by one single 'decision for Christ'. This view is pastorally disastrous.
Scot McKnight and J. Rodman Williams represent the opinion of Arminians on this view:
"Christians of all sorts tend to agree on this point: to be finally saved, to enter eternally into the presence of God, the new heavens and the new earth, and into the [final eternal] 'rest,' a person needs to persevere. The oddest thing has happened in evangelicalism though. It [i.e., non-traditional Calvinism] has taught ... the idea of 'once saved, always saved' as if perseverance were not needed. This is neither Calvinism nor Arminianism but a strange and unbiblical hybrid of both. ... [Non-traditional Calvinists] have taught that if a person has crossed the threshold by receiving Christ, but then decides to abandon living for him, that person is eternally secure. This is rubbish theology because the New Testament does not hold such cavalier notions of security."
"Any claim to security by virtue of the great salvation we have in Christ without regard to the need for continuing in faith is totally mistaken and possibly tragic in its results. ... A doctrine of 'perseverance of the saints' that does not affirm its occurrence through faith is foreign to Scripture, a serious theological misunderstanding, and a liability to Christian existence."
Harry Jessop succinctly states the Arminian position: "Salvation, while in its initial stages made real in the soul through an act of faith, is maintained within the soul by a life of faith, manifested in faithfulness."
Denominations that affirm the possibility of apostasy
The following denominations or groups affirm their belief in the possibility of apostasy in either their articles or statements of faith, or by way of a position paper.
- Roman Catholic
- Eastern Orthodox Church
- Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
- The United Methodist Church
- Free Methodist Church
- General Association of General Baptists
- The Salvation Army
- Church of the Nazarene
- Assemblies of God
- National Association of Free Will Baptists
- Missionary Church
- Anabaptist-Mennonite Tradition
- Church of God (Anderson, Indiana)
- Evangelical Friends Church—Eastern Region
- Apostasy in Christianity
- Corporate election
- Perseverance of the saints has articles in the external links that support its position
- James Arminius, The Works of Arminius, 2:465, 466; 3:412, 413. Mark A. Ellis, The Arminian Confession of 1621, 77–78; 112–13. The Confession was primarily composed by Arminius' protégé Simon Episcopius (1583–1643), and approved by the Remonstrant Pastors in 1620. The first Dutch edition was published in 1621 and the Latin edition in 1622. For more background on the Confession see the "Introduction" by Ellis, v-xiii). French L. Arrington, Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth?, 63, 180. Stephen M. Ashby, "Reformed Arminianism," Four Views on Eternal Security, 163–166. Frederick W. Claybrook, Once Saved, Always Saved? A New Testament Study of Apostasy, 216–218. I. Howard Marshall, Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away, 210. David Pawson, Once Saved, Always Saved? A Study in Perseverance and Inheritance, 18–21. Robert Picirilli, Grace, Faith, Free Will. Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism, 192. W. T. Purkiser, Security: The False and the True, 27–33. Robert Shank, Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance, 51–71. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, 10:284–298. J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, 2:119–127. Dale M Yocum, Creeds in Contrast: A Study in Calvinism and Arminianism, 128–129.
- Shank, Life in the Son, 92; cf. Arrington, Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? 182. Marshall writes: "The Christian life is a life which is continually sustained by the power of God. It does not merely depend upon a once-for-all gift of God received in the moment of conversion, but is a continual relationship to God in which His gracious gifts are received by faith" (Kept by the Power, 22).
- Shank, Life in the Son, 116. cf. Williams, Renewal Theology 2:127, 134–135. Brenda Colijn writes: "Salvation is not a transaction but an ongoing relationship between the Rescuer and the rescued, between the Healer and the healed. The best way to ensure faithfulness is to nurture that relationship. Final salvation, like initial salvation, is appropriated by grace through faith(fulness) (Eph 2:8–10; 1 Pet 1:5)... Salvation is not a one-time event completed at conversion. It involves a growth in relationship ... that is not optional or secondary but is essential to what salvation means" (Images of Salvation in the New Testament, 140–141).
- Shank, Life in the Son, 116. In another place Shank writes: "The faith on which our union with Christ depends is not the act of some past moment. It is a present living faith in a living Savior" (Life in the Son, 66).
- Shank, Life in the Son, 43, 116.
- Shank, Life in the Son, 7, 197, 218–219; Arrington, Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? 182; Claybrook, Once Saved, Always Saved? A New Testament Study of Apostasy, 24–25. Brenda Colign writes: "The New Testament nowhere supports an understanding of saving faith as mere intellectual assent divorced from obedience. Saving faith entails faithfulness. Believers are saved by grace through faith for works (Eph 2:8–10). According to Hebrews, Jesus is 'the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him' (Heb 5:9). The 'things that belong to salvation' include faithfulness, patience and loving service (Heb 6:9–12). As James points out, the faith necessary for salvation is a faith that expresses itself in works (James 2:14–17)" (Images of Salvation in the New Testament, 140). Scot McKnight writes: "Perseverance ... is both belief and believing, trusting and obeying. ... Perseverance is an indicator of what faith is all about, not a specialized version of faith for the most advanced. True and saving faith, the kind Jesus taught, and that James talks about in James 2, and that Paul talks about in all his letters, is a relationship that continues. ... True faith is marked by steady love ..." (A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance, 49).
- The Arminian Confession of 1621, 76, 111.
- The Arminian Confession of 1621, 74; see also 78–80. John Wesley wrote: "But he [Christ] has done all which was necessary for the conditional salvation of all mankind; that is, if they believe; for through his merits all that believe to the end, with the faith that worketh by love, shall be saved (The Works of John Wesley, "An Extract from 'A Short View of the Differences Between the Moravian Brethren,'" 10:202).
- Shank, Life in the Son, 55 fn. 3; cf. Marshall, Kept by the Power of God, 199–200; Williams, Renewal Theology, 2:120–122, 130–135.
- Shank, Life in the Son, 59, 211; Ashby, "Reformed Arminianism," 123, 163. George A. Turner and Julius R. Mantey write: "It is comforting to know that 'final perseverance' is a glorious possibility and that no combination of external circumstances can sever the believer from Christ (cf. Rom. 8:35–39; John 10:28)" (The Evangelical Commentary: The Gospel According to John, 304). Ben Witherington says: "Verses 28–29 [in John 10] say not only that Jesus' sheep are granted eternal life, and so will never perish, but also that 'no one will snatch them out of ... the Father's hand.' This speaks to the matter of being 'stolen' by outside forces or false shepherds. ... Both John 10:28 and Rom. 8:38–39 are texts meant to reassure [followers of Christ] that no outside forces or being can snatch one out of the firm grasp of God" (John's Wisdom: A Commentary on the Fourth Gospel, 190–91, 389 fn. 72)
- Marshall, Kept by the Power of God, 157; Shank, Life in the Son, 158–164, 262; Arrington, Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? 180.
- Picirilli, Grace, Faith, Free Will, 201; Ashby, "Reformed Arminianism," 123–125, 167; Arrington, Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? 62; The Works of John Wesley, 10:297–298.
- Picirilli, Grace, Faith, Free Will, 207; Arrington, Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? 184–185.
- B. J. Oropeza, Church Under Siege of Persecution and Assimilation: The General Epistles and Revelation, Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 3 [Oregon: Cascade Books, 2012], 30–33; 47–48.
- Gene L. Green, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Jude and Peter [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008], 339–343.
- B. J. Oropeza, In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors: the Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters, Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 3 [Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011]: 129–130.
- Grace, Faith, Free Will, 183.
- Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 65. For quotes that appear to support his conclusions see "Salvation," in A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, edited by David Bercot, 574–585, 586–591. See also the article in the External Links by Calvinist John Jefferson Davis titled: "The Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34:2 (June 1991), 213–228. He covers the key people and groups that have discussed this topic from Augustine (354–430) to 1981. For a helpful overview see B. J. Oropeza's "Apostasy and Perseverance in Church History" in Paul and Apostasy: Eschatology, Perseverance, and Falling Away in the Corinthian Congregation, 1–33. From his research Oropeza makes three observations concerning apostasy and perseverance in Pre-Reformation Church History. First, there were three basic venues which could lead a Christian to apostatize: theological heresies; vices (i.e., temptations to fall back into pre-conversion practices like idolatry, immorality, etc.); and persecution. Second, those who apostatized were excommunicated from the church. Third, "the notion of perseverance involved patient endurance through persecutions and temptations" (Paul and Apostasy, 12).
- Works of Arminius, 3:438.
- Works of Arminius, 2:472–473.
- Works of Arminius, 2:219–220. William Nichols notes: "Arminius spoke nearly the same modest words when interrogated on this subject in the last Conference which he had with Gomarus [a Calvinist], before the states of Holland, on the 12th of Aug. 1609, only two months prior to his decease" (Works of Arminius, 1:665). Oropeza says, "Although Arminius denied having taught final apostasy in his Declaration of Sentiments, in the Examination of the Treatise of Perkins on the Order and Mode of Predestination he writes that a person who is being 'built' into the church of Christ may resist the continuation of this process. Concerning the believers, 'It may suffice to encourage them, if they know that no power or prudence can dislodge them from the rock, unless they of their own will forsake their position.' [Works of Arminius, 3:455, cf. 1:667] A believing member of Christ may become slothful, give place to sin, and gradually die altogether, ceasing to be a member. [Works of Arminius, 3:458] The covenant of God (Jeremiah 23) 'does not contain in itself an impossibility of defection from God, but a promise of the gift of fear, whereby they shall be hindered from going away from God so long as that shall flourish in their hearts.' If there is any consistency in Arminius' position, he did not seem to deny the possibility of falling away" (Paul and Apostasy, 16).
- Works of Arminius, 2:465; cf. 2:466.
- Works of Arminius, 3:412; cf. 3:413. For a more in-depth look at how Arminius responded to the issue of the believer's security, see External Link: "James Arminius: The Security of the Believer and the Possibility of Apostasy."
- Philip Schaff, editor. The Creeds of Christendom Volume III: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, "The Articles of the Remonstrants," 3:548–549.
- Peter Y. DeJong, Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dordt, 1618–1619, 220ff. See External Link for full treatment.
- Grace, Faith, Free Will, 198.
- Oropeza, Paul and Apostasy, 17.
- Goodwin's work was primarily dedicated to refuting the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement, but he digresses from his main topic and spends 300 pages attempting to disprove the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional perseverance. See Redemption Redeemed, 226–527. Several Calvinist's responded to Goodwin's book, and he provides a lengthy rejoinder in Triumviri (1658). See also Goodwin's Christian Theology (1836): "Apostasy," 394–428.
- The Examination of Tilenus Before the Triers, in Order to His Intended Settlement in the Office of a Public Preacher, in the Commonwealth of Utupia: Whereupon Are Annexed The Tenets of the Remonstrants, Touching Those Five Articles Voted, Stated, and Emposed, but Not Disputed, at the Synod of Dort. Together with a Short Essay, by Way of Annotations, Upon the Fundamental Theses of Mr. Thomas Parker (1638): see "The Fifth Article Touching Perseverance," 138–150; see also The Calvinists Cabinet Unlock'd (1659): 436–519.
- A Complete System, or Body of Divinity, both Speculative and Practical: Founded on Scripture and Reason: 799–820.
- See A Discourse on the Five Points: 330–397.
- The Works of John Wesley, 10:288. In his Sermon: "The Repentance of Believers," Wesley proclaimed, "For, by that faith in his life, death, and intercession for us, renewed from moment to moment, we are every whit clean, and there is ... now no condemnation for us ... By the same faith we feel the power of Christ every moment resting upon us ... whereby we are enabled to continue in spiritual life ... As long as we retain our faith in him, we 'draw water out of the wells of salvation'" (The Works of John Wesley, 5:167).
- The Works of John Wesley, 10:297.
- The Works of John Wesley, 10:297.
- The Works of John Wesley, 10:298.
- The Works of John Wesley, 10:298.
- A Full Refutation of the Doctrine of Unconditional Perseverance: In a Discourse on Hebrews 2:3 (1790).
- The Works of the Reverend John Fletcher (1851): 2:129–260.
- See notes in Hebrews 10:26–27, 38–39, in Joseph Benson's commentary The New Testament of our Lord and Savior, Volume 2: Romans to Revelation (1847).
- Objections to the Calvinistic Doctrine of Final Perseverance (18??).
- Christian Theology (1835): 413–420.
- The Errors of Hopkinsianism Detected and Refuted. Six Letters to the Rev. S. Williston, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Durham, N.Y. (1815): 215–255; The Reformer Reformed or a Second Part of the Errors of Hopkinsianism Detected and Refuted: Being an Examination of Mr. Seth Williston's "Vindication of Some of the Most Essential Doctrines of the Reformation" (1818): 168–206.
- Theological Institutes (1851): Volume 2, Chapter 25.
- Theological Colloquies (1837): 650–663.
- A Complete System of Christian Theology: or a Concise, Comprehensive, and Systematic View of the Evidences, Doctrines, Morals, and Institutions of Christianity (1869): 455–466.
- Elements of Theology: or an Exposition of the Divine Origin, Doctrines, Morals and Institutions of Christianity (1856): 163–169; 319–320.
- Theological Compend (1862): 81; see also John 15:2, 6; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 10:12; Romans 11:22; Hebrews 6:4–6; 10:26–29; 2 Peter 1:8–11; Revelation 3:5 in The People's Commentary (1878), co-authored with Daniel Steele.
- An Examination of the Doctrine of the Unconditional Final Perseverance of the Saints as Taught by Calvinists (1860).
- see notes on John 15:1–6 in A Popular Commentary on the New Testament Volume 2: Luke-John (1874).
- Elements of Divinity: or, A Course of Lectures, Comprising a Clear and Concise View of the System of Theology as Taught in the Holy Scriptures; with Appropriate Questions Appended to Each Lecture (1851): 369–381.
- Systematic Theology: A Complete Body of Wesleyan Arminian Divinity Consisting of Lectures on the Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (1888): 2:173–210.
- Perseverance and Apostasy: Being an Argument in Proof of the Arminian Doctrine on that Subject (1871).
- Systematic Theology (1894), 2:268–270.
- Arminianism v. Hyper-Calvinism, 45, 70, 74–75, 180–187.
- Calvinism As It Is: in a Series of Letters Addressed to Rev. N. L. Rice D.D. by Rev. R. S. Foster (1854): 179–194.
- A Compendium of Christian Theology: Being Analytical Outlines of a Course of Theological Study, Biblical, Dogmatic, Historical (1879), 3:131–147; A Higher Catechism of Theology (1883): 276–291.
- The Earnest Christian, "To Perdition," Vol. 43 (Feb 1882) No. 2, 37–39; The Earnest Christian, "Kept from Falling," Vol. 50 (Dec 1885) No. 6, 165–168; Holiness Teachings: The Life and Works of B.T. Roberts (1893), Chapter 21, 35.
- Antinomianism Revived or the Theology of the So-Called Plymouth Brethren Examined and Refuted (1887): 157–158; Steele's Answers (1912): 73, 142.
- The Student's Handbook of Christian Theology (1870): 220–224.
- A Manuel of Christian Doctrine (1902): 225–226.
- A Manuel of Theology (1906): 293–295; see also his notes on Romans 11:11–24 in A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (1877).
- The Dictionary of Christian Theology (edited by Alan Richardson), "Apostasy," R.P.C. Hanson [The Westminster Press, 1969], 12. Scot McKnight says: "Apostasy is a theological category describing those who have voluntarily and consciously abandoned their faith in the God of the covenant, who manifests himself most completely in Jesus Christ" (Dictionary of Theological Interpretation of the Bible, "Apostasy," 58).
- Baker's Dictionary of Theology (editor in chief Everett F. Harrison) "Apostasy," Robert Winston Ross [Baker Book House, 1976], 57.
- Life in the Son, 157-158. Richard A. Muller offers this definition of apostasy (Greek apostasia): "a willful falling away from, or rebellion against, Christian truth. Apostasy is the rejection of Christ by one who has been a Christian ..." (Dictionary of Greek and Latin Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, 41). In The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Wolfgang Bauder had this to say on aphistēmi (Fall, Fall Away): "Of theological importance is falling away in the religious sense... 1 Timothy 4:1 describes 'falling away from the faith' in the last days in terms of falling into false, heretical beliefs. Luke 8:13 probably refers to apostasy as a result of eschatological temptation. Here are people who have come to believe, who have received the gospel 'with joy.' But under the pressure of persecution and tribulation arising because of the faith, they break off the relationship with God into which they have entered. According to Hebrews 3:12, apostasy consists in an unbelieving and self-willed movement away from God (in contrast to Hebrews 3:14), which must be prevented at all costs. aphistēmi thus connotes in the passages just mentioned the serious situation of becoming separated from the living God after a previous turning towards him, by falling away from the faith. It is a movement of unbelief and sin, which can also be expressed by other words (cf. the par. to Luke 8:13 in Matthew 13:21; Mark 4:17; [see] Offence, art. skandalon). Expressions equivalent in meaning to the warning in 1 Timothy 4:1 include nauageō, suffer shipwreck, 1:19; astocheō miss the mark, 1:6; 6:21; 2 Timothy 2:18; cf. also aperchomai, go away, John 6:66; apostrephō, turn away; arneomai, deny; metatithēmi, change, alter; mē menein, do not abide, John 15:6; [see] art. piptō; Lead Astray, art. planaō; and the pictures of defection in Matthew 24:9-12, and Revelation 13." (3:607–608)
- Kept by the Power, 217, note 5; cf. Williams, Renewal Theology, 2:131–135.
- Kept by the Power, 23; These are the other Greek words connected to apostasy: "[piptō], 'to fall' (Romans 11:11, 22; 14:4; 1 Corinthians 10:12; 13:8; Hebrews 4:11; Revelation 2:5); [parapiptō], 'to fall away, transgress' (Hebrews 6:6), [pararrheō], 'to drift away' (Hebrews 2:1); the root [skandal-], 'to stumble, offend' is also important" (Marshall, Kept by the Power, 217, note 4).
- I. Howard Marshall, Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away, 217.
- Heinz Giesen, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 3:248.
- Heinz Giesen, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 3:249. Heinz Giesen writes: In the passive voice σκανδαλίζω [skandalizō] more often means ... "fall away from faith." In the interpretation of the parable of the sower (Mark 4:13-20 par. Matt 13:18–23) those identified with the seeds sown on rocky ground, i.e., those "with no root in themselves," the inconstant ones, go astray to their own ruin when persecuted on account of the word, i.e., they fall away from faith (Mark 4:17 par. Matt 13:21). The Lukan parallel reads appropriately ἀφίστημι [aphistēmi, fall away] (8:13). In Matt 24:10 Jesus predicts that in the end time many will fall away [skandalizō]. The result is that they will hate one another, wickedness will be multiplied, and love will grow cold. Yet whoever endures in love until the end will be saved (vv. 11, 13). ... In the Johannine farewell address (John 16:1) σκανδαλίζω [skandalizō] does not only imply an "endangering of faith" ... but rather "falling away from faith" entirely, from which the disciples and Christians are to be kept. ... In the active voice σκανδαλίζω [skandalizō] means "cause someone to fall away from (or reject) faith," as in the saying of Jesus about the person who "causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin [stumble]" (Mark 9:42 par. Matt 18:6/Luke 17:2). The Christian is enjoined to reject anything that might be an obstacle to faith, as emphasized in Mark 9:43, 45, 47 in metaphorical, hyperbolic language: Hand, foot, and eye—in Jewish understanding the loci of lust or sinful desires—must be given up if they threaten to become the cause of loss of faith and thus of salvation. This ... underscores the seriousness of conviction within which one must persevere if one wishes to enter (eternal) life or the kingdom of God. ... Matt 5:29, 30 also issues an exhortation to decisive action [cf. Matt 18:8, 9]. ... According to 1 Cor 8:9 a Christian's freedom regarding eating food offered to idols reaches its limit when it becomes a stumbling block to one's brother (πρόσκομμα [proskomma]). Hence Paul emphasizes that he will never again eat meat if by doing so he causes his brother to fall and thus to lose salvation (σκανδαλίζω [skandalizō], v. 13a, b), since otherwise that weaker brother is destroyed by the knowledge of the "stronger" (v. 11). Whoever sins against his brothers sins also against Christ (v. 12). ... Within the context of the protection of the "little ones" in the Church, i.e., probably the "weak ones" ([Matthew] 18:6–10), Jesus utters an eschatological threat ("woe!") against the world (alienated from God) because of temptations to sin (v. 7a); though he allows that such temptations must come (v. 7b), he finally hurls an eschatological "woe!" against the person by whom the temptation comes (v. 7c). σκάνδαλον [skandalon] used here of the temptation to fall away from faith. The parallel, Luke 17:1, like Matt 18:7b, also underscores that such temptations are unavoidable; nonetheless, the person by whom they come receives the eschatological "woe!" that already places him under divine judgment. ... In Rom 14:13 Paul admonishes the "strong," whose position he fundamentally shares (v. 14), not to cause the "weak" any stumbling block to faith through eating habits . ... In Rom 16:17 the σκάνδαλον [skandalon] are the various satanic activities of the false teachers who endanger the salvation of Church members, who are being seduced into falling away from correct teaching; such teachers also threaten both the unity and very existence of the Church. Similarly, in Rev 2:14 σκάνδαλον [skandalon] refers to a stumbling block to faith in the context of false teaching. According to 1 John 2:10 there is no cause for stumbling or sin in a believer who loves his brother ... i.e., no cause for unbelief and thus a loss of salvation. (Heinz Giesen, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 3:248-250)
- Life in the Son, 158. William Lane comes to identical conclusions in his short commentary on the book of Hebrews. He writes: "The sin [in Hebrews 6] that the preacher warns his friends to avoid is commonly called 'apostasy.' It is a sin that only a Christian can commit. Apostasy consists in a deliberate, planned, intelligent decision to renounce publicly association with Jesus Christ. It signifies a choice not to believe God, not to listen to God, not to obey God. It is the decision to be disobedient and to deny all that Christ has done for you" (Hebrews: A Call to Commitment [Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1985], 94).
- Renewal Theology, 2:135.
- Kept by the Power, 197; see also Arrington, Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? 178–179.
- Kept by the Power, 198–199; cf. Arrington, Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? 179.
- John's Wisdom: A Commentary on the Fourth Gospel, 386, fn. 28).
- Picirilli, Grace, Faith, Free Will, 207; Arrington, Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? 184–185.
- A Long Faithfulness: A Case for Christian Perseverance, 50-51.
- Kept by the Power, 197; Robert Picirilli says, "Sin persisted in, on the part of a Christian, can lead to a retraction of faith in Christ and thus to apostasy and eternal destruction" (1, 2 Corinthians, Randall House Bible Commentary, 120). See also Arrington, Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? 178–179.
- Marshall, Kept by the Power, 76; Oropeza, In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors, The Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters: Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, 1:88–90; J. Wesley Adams with Donald C. Stamps, Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary: Ephesians, 1071–1072; Robert Picirilli, The Randall House Bible Commentary: Ephesians, 219–220).
- Scot McKnight, A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance, 56. So William L. Lane: "It [apostasy] is a sin only a Christian can commit" (A Call to Commitment, 94).
- McKnight, "Apostasy" in Dictionary of Theological Interpretation of the Bible, 60.
- Joseph Benson: Verse 18. Lest there be among you man or woman—These words are to be considered as connected with verses 14, 15, and as signifying the end for which he engaged them to renew their covenant with God, that none of them might revolt from him to serve other gods. Lest there should be a root—An evil heart inclining you to such cursed idolatry, and bringing forth bitter fruits: or rather, some secret or subtle apostate from the true God and his religion, secretly lurking and working as a root under ground, and spreading his poison to the infection of others; for both the foregoing and following words speak of some particular person... Verse 19. The words of this curse—This oath and execration, wherein he swore he would keep covenant with God, and that with a curse pronounced against himself if he did not perform it. Bless himself—Flatter himself in his own eyes with vain hopes, as if God did not mind such things, and either could not, or would not punish them. Peace—Safety and prosperity. My own heart—Though I do not follow God's command, but my own devices... This is well deserving of our most serious consideration. Moses here assures the Israelites that, how much soever they might flatter themselves with hopes of peace and safety on account of their privileges, none of these would avail them at all if they forsook the law of God, and apostatized from his worship and service... Let us all take warning by this, and neither as a nation nor as individuals dare to promise ourselves security and peace while we walk in the imagination of our own hearts, and live in sin and forgetfulness of God. (The Old Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Obtained from the Wesleyan Heritage Collection CD [Rio: Ages Software Inc., 2002])
- Adam Clarke: "This is the settled and eternal purpose of God; to them who seek him he will ever be found propitious, and them alone will he abandon who forsake him. In this verse the unconditional perseverance of the saints has no place." (A Commentary and Critical Notes on the Holy Bible Old and New Testaments, Obtained from the Wesleyan Heritage Collection CD [Rio: Ages Software Inc., 2002])
- Adam Clarke: Verse 20. The soul that sinneth, it shall die.] Hitherto we have had to do with the simple cases or the righteous and the wicked; of him who lived and died a holy man, and of him who lived and died a wicked man. But there are two cases behind: 1. That of the wicked man, who repents and turns to God. 2. That of the righteous man, who backslides, and does not return to God by repentance... Verse 24. When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness] Here is the second case. Can a man who was once holy and pure fall away so as to perish everlastingly? YES. For God says, "If he turn away from his righteousness;" not his self-righteousness, the gloss of theologians: for God never speaks of turning away from that, for, in his eyes, that is a nonentity. There is no righteousness or holiness but what himself infuses into the soul of man, and as to self-righteousness, i.e., a man's supposing himself to be righteous when he has not the life of God in his soul, it is the delusion of a dark and hardened heart; therefore it is the real righteous principle and righteous practice that God speaks of here. And he tells us, that a man may so "turn away from this," and so "commit iniquity," and "act as the wicked man," that his righteousness shall be no more mentioned to his account, than the sins of the penitent backslider should be mentioned to his condemnation; and "in the sin that he" this once righteous man, "hath sinned, and in the trespass that he hath trespassed, in them shall he die." O, how awful a termination of a life once distinguished for righteousness and true holiness! So then, God himself informs us that a righteous man may not only fall foully, but fall finally. But to such righteous persons the devil will ever preach, "Ye shall not surely die; ye shall be as God." Touch, taste, and handle; ye cannot ultimately fall. Thus we find, by the manner of treating these two cases, that God's way is equal, ver. 25; just, merciful, and impartial. And to prove this, he sums up his conduct in the above cases, in the following verses, 26–29. And then, that the "wicked may not die in his sins," and that the "backslider may return and find mercy," he thus exhorts: [Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, verse 30]. (A Commentary and Critical Notes on the Holy Bible Old and New Testaments, Obtained from the Wesleyan Heritage Collection CD [Rio: Ages Software Inc., 2002])
- Grant Osborne: Adultery to the Jews meant sexual relations outside of marriage, primarily by a married person. Jesus generalizes it to refer to all who have sexual relations outside of marriage. ... Jewish writing also equated lust with adultery in the heart, first in the tenth commandment against "coveting your neighbor's wife" ... and then in other teaching (Job 31:3, 9; Sir 9:8; Pss. Sol. 4:4-6; T. Iss. 7:2). Jesus stresses that the purpose ... is to lust after her and that the sin occurs "in the heart." In our day this can occur any number of ways with one of the more dangerous being internet pornography. In any sense, the present tense "looks" ... indicates a studied looking with sexual intent. ... As in vv. 21–26, Jesus offers two illustrations to demonstrate his point, but here the two parallel each other exactly and together tell how to avoid sin. ... The idea of gouging out [your right eye] and cutting off [your right hand], needless to say, demands a violent, decisive measure for removing the source of temptation. The reason is seen in "to fall away" (σκανδαλίζει [skandalizei]), a strong term that does not simply indicate temptation to general sin but that which leads one virtually into apostasy. ... The seriousness of the sin is made even more so by the reference to "Gehenna" ... which implies the final judgment and eternal torment. Jesus want to make certain that the disciples realize the importance of the issue. You do not take such lightly because it is far better to suffer in losing your most important appendage than to lose everything at the final judgment . ... The two parallel metaphors mean simply that one must violently throw away everything that causes the lust, lest their spiritual life and ultimately their eternal destiny be destroyed in the process. (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010], 196–197) So R. T. France: To "cause to stumble" (skandalizō) is a recurrent metaphor in Matthew; ... In some of these cases the passive denotes "being offended" by a person's behavior or teaching (11:6; 13:57; 15:12; 17:27), a relatively mild sense of the verb. But often it denotes something more catastrophic, a stumbling which deflects a person from the path of God's will and salvation (13:21; 18:6; 24:10; 26:31–33), and a "stumbling block" is a person or thing which gets in the way of God's saving purpose (13:41; 16:23; 18:7). In the case of the disciples' stumbling in Gethsemane (26:31–33) the effect was not terminal, but here and in 18:8–9 (and by implication in 13:21) the stumbling involves the final loss of salvation [Gehenna/Hell] ... The theme is impediments to ultimate salvation, and the importance of eliminating them at all costs, a theme which could have many different applications to relationships, activities, mental attitudes, and the like, certainly not only to sexual temptation. (The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007], 205–206)
- Grant Osborne: The message here is that mere confession is useless unless accompanied by action. . . . So living under the obedience to "the will of [the] Father" (this is especially God's will as unfolded in the Sermon itself = the love commandments 22:37–40) is not an option but a necessity for entering the kingdom. A life of obedience (present tense "do" [ποιῶν] for continuous action) to his will is, in fact, the definition of the "greater righteousness" of 5:20 (cf. also 3:15; 5:6, 10; 6:1, 33). (The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007], 273)
- Joseph Benson: But he that endureth to the end shall be saved—But be not discouraged at the prospect of these trials, for he that perseveres in the faith and practice of the gospel, and who bears constantly and with invincible patience these persecutions, (which my grace is sufficient to enable you all to do,) shall be finally and eternally saved from all sin and misery, into the kingdom and glory of God: whatever extremities he may be called to suffer in this world, God will not only deliver him from the destruction which shall come upon the wicked, but will repay his fidelity with unspeakable and everlasting felicity in the next. (The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Obtained from the Wesleyan Heritage Collection CD [Rio: Ages Software Inc., 2002])
- Grant Osborne: 10:32 Therefore, everyone who publicly confesses me before people ... The emphasis on the public nature of the witness ("before people") is part of the teaching in the sermon on "for my sake" (10:18) and "for my name's sake" (10:22) as well as the oneness between Jesus and his followers (10:24-25). Jesus is the focus of the mission. He has sent his disciples, and they are proclaiming his name. In fact, this also sums up their witness both in mission (10:5–15) and in the courtroom (10:18–21). The recipients in both situations are those persecuting the messengers. So this is witness in the midst of serious conflict. The term "confess" ... is used of confessing Jesus as Messiah (John 9:22) or Lord (Rom 10:9) and here has the idea of public proclamation of allegiance to Jesus 10:32 ... I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven ... The verbs are the same tense (future) in both clauses; for Jesus' followers it entails future witness, and for Jesus it becomes acknowledgement before the Father and the heavenly court (16:27; 25:31), undoubtedly on the day of judgment. ... Here the Son of Man on the throne confesses or denies people before the heavenly court... The passage here is not just meant for professional missionaries and preachers but also for everyday Christians as light bearers to the world. 10:33 But whoever denies me before people, I will also deny before my Father in heaven ... There is an exact parallelism between vv. 32 and 33, with the obvious contrast being between acknowledging or denying Christ and the destiny that each brings about. This is a strong warning, for "to deny" ... here means to renounce Christ and is language of apostasy. [The word deny "points not to the mere failure to witness, but rather to the straightforward rejection of one's relationship to Jesus, that is, to open apostasy" (Dorathy J. Weaver, Missionary Discourse, 207 n183)] In this persecution passage, it means that people cave in to pressure and renounce Christ to avoid beating or death. It is clear that our status before God is completely tied to our relationship to Christ. Our eternal destiny depends on our acceptance or renunciation of Christ. Further, he along with God will be the Judge at the final judgment (cf. 7:21-23), and his witness about us will be the determining factor in where we spend eternity. At the same time, this is not just speaking of the apostate but also of the weak Christian who tries to remain anonymous, i.e., refuses to stand up for Christ at school or in the workplace. Such a one is, in effect, "ashamed" of Christ, and in another saying of Jesus on this same topic, he will be "ashamed" of that person (Mark 8:38) on the day of judgment. (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010], 402-403)
- Douglas Hare: On the basis of the present context . . . it appears that the "little ones" are particularly vulnerable to temptation and apostasy. . . . [These] "little ones" are believers who are in danger of being "scandalized," that is, fall away from Christ (skandalizō is so used in 13:21; 24:10). Those responsible for causing little ones to fall away are threatened with eternal perdition. No hint is given concerning whether the skandalon (stumbling block) of verse 7 is laid before the humble believers by an outsider or an insider. Presumably both possibilities are in view; a vulnerable Christian can be drawn away by a non-Christian or divine away by a fellow believer. . . . Believers are here warned [in verses 8-9] to exercise proper self-discipline, since the end result of continually yielding to various temptations may well be turning away from Christ. (Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew, [Westminster John Knox Press, 2009], 210-211) B.J. Oropeza: Matthew 18:8-9 warns disciples that if their body parts are causing them to fall away ([skandalizō]) it would better for them to cut off the body member than perish in hell [as an unbeliever]. The saying relates to individuals in terms of committing adultery in Matt 5:27-30, but here in 18:8-9 the sin is not specified. (In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors: The Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters, Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 1 [Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011], 72)
- Crabtree: Having warned about sinning against humble believers (v. 6), Jesus next warned against looking down on His little ones, the humble, as if they have no value in God's economy. "Take heed" suggest warning and responsibility. "Despise" (Greek kataphroneō) means "to feel contempt for someone or something because it is thought to be bad or without value" (Louw and Nida 1:763). The more powerful . . . believers must respect Christ's humble servants. Little ones are of great value to God, so valuable that they have angels assigned to watch over them. . . . These angels reside in a place of great privilege (see also Lk. 1:19). They have constant access to the Father (Newman and Stine 582). Exactly what Jesus intended to indicate about the role of these angels in caring for humble followers is unclear. Regardless, the role is positive for these little ones and negative for those who would cause them harm! . . . Consequently, what is clear is that if God and His angels have such concern for His little ones, all believers should have that same concern for each other (Hagner 33B:527). . . . So intent is the Father on locating the one wandering sheep that for a time—and this is the first point of this parable—the one sheep receives more attention and effort than the ninety-nine (Nolland 742). Jesus exaggerated to emphasize His point (Newman and Stine 583): the Father wants lost sheep found. This sheep had gone astray—that is, wandered away (Greek planaō) from the rest of the flock. As this applies to believers, this means they can wander off into sin or false belief [cf. v. 6-9]. See [Matthew] 24:4-5, 11, 24, and 1 John 2:26 for the metaphorical use of going astray as meaning being seduced or led astray into false doctrine (Grimm's 514). See also Revelation 2:20 for its metaphorical use of being led astray into immorality. The Shepherd's excitement when he finds the lost sheep shows the high value the shepherd placed on each sheep. . . . The second and overarching point of this parable in Matthew is stated in verse 14: God the Father does not—literally, it is not the will of the Father—to lose even one child. The concern is for sheep who yield to sin's temptation and head for apostasy. The possibility of a sheep becoming lost and perishing teaches that believers can be lost and apostatize [i.e., become an unbeliever] (Gundry 365). The possibility of finding the sheep before it perishes teaches that straying little ones can be rescued before they commit apostasy (Jas. 5:19-20). The possibility of apostasy (perish, v. 14) is what motivated the shepherd to "persistently" (Hill 274) [search] for the sheep and then to rejoice greatly when the sheep was found. . . . There is a difference between the sheep in Luke 15:3-7 and the sheep here in Matthew (Gundry 366). In Luke the sheep who has gone astray is the sinner, the person who has never been saved (Lk. 15:1-2 . . .). There Jesus used the parable to rebuke His antagonists (Newman and Stine 581) because they condemned Him for receiving and eating with sinners. In Matthew 18, the sheep is a believer, a little one (v. 14), who has gone astray (v. 12). He has fallen into sin or stumbled in faith and must be rescued before he apostatizes. (Matthew, Randall House Publishers, 307-308)
- B.J. Oropeza: Jesus exhorts his disciples to be watchful and productive during the coming eschatological crisis (Matt 24:4; cf. 26:41; Mark 13:5, 9, 23, 33; Luke 21:8). The imperatival "watch"/"beware" often conveys a warning that, if not followed, results in the possibility of Christians being led astray or falling away into eschatological ruin. ... In the Olivet Discourse spiritual wakefulness will be necessary for the Christians who await Jesus' return, and this idea exemplifies the stories related to Christ's coming as a Thief in the Night and the Ten Virgins (Matt 24:42–51; cf. Mark 13:33–37; Luke 12:34–40/ Matt 25:1–13; cf. Luke 12:35–36). Matthew's version of these stories adds that severe judgment awaits those who fail to watch. The uncertainty in relation to the time of Jesus' return requires his followers to always be prepared for it. At that time a bifurcation will take place between faithful and unfaithful Christians (Matt 24:37–44), which is depicted again when Jesus contrasts the behavior of a servant who is left in charge of the master's home (24:45–51). The servant may act in an unfaithful way, violating Jesus' love commandment by physically abusing fellow servants (cf. 22:37–41; 18:28–30) and getting drunk instead of staying alert (cf. Luke 21:34–36; 1 Thess 5:7; 1 Cor 6:10). The master's coming will take the servant by surprise and he will be punished severely with the hypocrites (Matt 24:48–51; cf. 8:12; 25:30). The Lukan parallel uses "unbelievers" rather than "hypocrites" (Luke 12:46). In the New Testament the former word is used of those who suffer eschatological retribution and separation from God (Rom 11:20; Heb 3:12, 19; Rev 21:8). The latter in Matthew probably refers to Israel's religious leaders, who are repeatedly labeled as hypocrites (e.g., Matt 23:13–15, 23, 25, 27–29). More specifically, punishment against the servant is described in terms of torture—he will be cut in two (Matt 24:51a; cf. 1 Sam 15:33; Sus 55–59; Heb 11:37). His portion will be in the place where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 24:51b), a phrase in Matthew representing hell (Matt 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 25:30; cf. Luke 13:28). The unprepared servant is the one who violates Jesus' law of love and practices vices such as drunkenness. That servant will be treated like an apostate and removed from God's kingdom. The implication behind the story is clear: the unfaithful Christian servant will end up eschatologically condemned along with the religious leaders who oppose Jesus. Through this message the disciples, and by extension the Matthean community, are warned to be spiritually and morally ready for Jesus' return at that close of the age (24:42, 44), or else suffer terrible consequences. Matthew's audience should therefore mimic the behavior of the faithful servant who works in his master's household and is loyal to what his lord commissions him to do. Such a servant will be rewarded at the eschaton (Matt 24:45–47). ... In short, they [the disciples] must not behave like an apostate or else they will suffer the fate of one. (In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors, The Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters: Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, 1:88–90)
- B. J. Oropeza: Despite God's promise of preserving the Christian church as a corporate entity, individual believers within this community must persevere throughout this temporal life; only the ones who endure to the end will be saved (Matt 24:13; cf. 10:22b; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:19). The preferred reading τέλος [telos] here is the "end of the age" (cf. Matt 24:6, 14; Dan 12:12–14 [Theodotion]; 4 Ezra 6:25; 7:27; 1 Cor 1:8) over the meaning of death or the end of one's physical life, as in Matt 24:22 (cf. Rev 2:10). Even so, both ideas seem to be present in 24:13 because the suffering Jesus' disciples would face includes potential martyrdom (cf. Matt 24:9–10; 10:22–39; Mark 13:7–13). If martyrdom is inevitable for some of the disciples, then the salvation of one's life here must mean something more than just physical preservation. The discourse predicts that many will fall away (σκανδαλίζω [skandalizō], 24:10a). There will be betrayals and hatred among the Christ-followers, the advent of many false prophets who will lead astray many, and an increase of lawlessness in which the love of many believers will cease to be practiced (Matt 24:10b–12; cf. 10:21–22; 2 Thess 2:3; Did. 16.3–5). More precisely, their love "will be extinguished." It is quite evident that Matt 24:10a is not describing a group of apostates independent of other groups that are not considered apostates in 24:10b–12. Betrayals, hatred, deception, and failed love all characterize the ways believers will fall away from their faith. Hence, the individual Christ-followers must not assume that they are exempt from committing apostasy simply because Jesus promises that the church as a whole will never be destroyed. The eschatological forecast is bleak: many Christians will be deceived and become apostate. They will turn away from Jesus' command to love God and love their neighbor as themselves; they will "hate one another" instead. The followers of Jesus must therefore persevere in faith to the end of the age or the end of their physical life, whichever comes first. Failure to do so would constitute apostasy and loss of eternal salvation. (In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors, The Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters: Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, 1:81–82)
- B. J. Oropeza: A significant pericope of Jesus that warns against apostasy is related to persecution (8:34–38). On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus speaks about his upcoming death and resurrection three times (8:31–9:1; 9:30–50; 10:32–45), and after each prediction he teaches his followers lessons related to discipleship, servant-hood, and suffering (8:35; 9:35; 10:43–45). In the first of these lessons he challenges his followers to take up their crosses in self-denial and follow him (8:34). As a subtext the thematic purpose of the exodus way is finally exposed in 8:31–38: the faithful must follow Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem, and that path will involve suffering and death, but it will eventually produce new life when Jesus is raised from the dead. Jesus elaborates on what cross-bearing entails: "for whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35; cf. Matt 10:39; 16:25; Luke 9:24; 17:33; John 12:25). Here "life" (ψυχή) refers to the essential person that survives death. ... The saying in 8:35 encourages the disciples, especially when facing persecution and martyrdom, to look beyond the temporal life and receive eternal life, and conversely, it warns them against keeping their temporal life at the expense of losing eternal life. If a person should gain the entire world this would not be worth the value of his or her life in the age to come (8:36–37). ... The consequence of losing eternal life in Mark 8:35 is further explicated in the following verses and chapter 9. Jesus goes on to warn that in the age to come the Son of Man will be ashamed of those who denied him in the present age (Mark 8:38; cf. Luke 12:8–9; Matt 10:32–33; 1 John 2:28; 2 Tim 2:12; Herm. Sim 8.6–4; 9.21.3). This saying has apocalyptic leanings and refers to life gained or lost on judgment day once the parousia takes place. At this judgment Jesus will be ashamed of his former followers who were ashamed of him, and he will disassociate himself from them. In essence, the disciples are warned that to deny Christ before others will result in their being denied by Christ at his second coming. He will disown them. This refers to a negative verdict and loss of eternal life. More than this, Jesus' followers must not be ashamed of his "words" (Mark 8:38; cf. Luke 9:26). This probably refers to their putting to open practice the message of the gospel that Jesus proclaims (cf. Mark 8:35; 10:29), which would include ethical precepts such as loving God and others (12:28–34), keeping God's commands (10:17–19), and forgiving others (11:25). It is not enough for them to confess Christ: their lifestyle needs to match that confession. ... The saying of Jesus in 8:34–38 would challenge all followers of Jesus who experienced persecution to be unafraid of their tormentors and unashamed of Jesus. Taking up one's cross includes self-denial and willingness to die; in essence, the audience must follow the example of Jesus. These words would be especially relevant for Mark's community, which possibly witnessed firsthand some of its members put to death by crucifixion in Rome. Such an audience would be emboldened to reaffirm their commitment to Christ and his teachings, realizing that this present life is not all there is. Jesus' conquest of physical death through the resurrection demonstrates that there is more life to come. (In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors: The Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters, Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 1 [Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011], 38–41) So Robert Picirilli: That he summoned the crowd, together with His disciples, is obviously intended by Mark to call attention to the lesson as having special importance. ... Indeed, it is ... a development of the idea of the way Messiah must walk (vv. 31–33) and therefore the way His followers must walk. That way is the way of the cross. 1. A definition of discipleship is implicit in the preface in v. 34: (literally, "Whoever desires to be following after me." ... A disciple is, by definition, one who is following after Jesus. 2. The demands of discipleship are summarized in v. 34b: to deny oneself, to take up the cross, and to follow Jesus. All three are requirements (third person imperatives in Greek). The first two are "decisive" (Greek aorist tense) and the third is ongoing, indicating the way of life that follows from the first two (Greek present). To "deny" (Greek aparneomai) is to reject or refuse, often of the claims of someone. To deny oneself is apparently just that: to reject one's own claims to one's life, both whether to live or die and how to live if that means to give up one's assumed right to run one's own life: to "turn away from the idolatry of self-centeredness" (Cranfield 281). To "take up one's cross" is even more emphatic, with the same implications. In Jesus' day, a person condemned by the Romans would be made to bear the cross (at least the cross-beam) on which he would die. "The cross" was a means of execution, a place to die. To take up one's cross after Christ then ... [means] to join Him—as it were—in his death. ... The third requirement encompasses all the rest. To be following Jesus (the present tense of the Greek imperative implies a way of life) involves denying oneself and taking up the cross. ... 3. To lose or save one's life (v. 35) is, then, the ultimate issue of discipleship. To make this point clear Jesus draws a contrast between the two ways, in the form of a double paradox. One way is to save one's life and thus to lose it, the other is the opposite: to lose it and thus to save it. "Life" (Greek psuche) is the word often translated "soul" (as in vv. 36, 37), but in this context "life" is probably a more helpful translation. At least as helpful would be "self." Surely, it refers not to one part but to the whole person: (literally) "Whoever desires to save his self will lose it." The meaning seems obvious, but serious. The desire to save oneself is the refusal to deny oneself; it is the selfish insistence on ... being one's own master. The person who does this will wind up "losing" himself. While Jesus did not explain, surely He was referring to the ultimate loss: eternal suffering and separation from God. ... Conversely, then, Jesus said: (literally) "Whoever loses his own life on account of me and the gospel, this one will save it." ... To be a disciple of Christ is, by definition, to follow Him in the proclamation of the good news of salvation. And to "lose" one's life for that cause is to give it up for that, to deny one's own selfish interest and "right to life," and to emulate and obey Him in the cause to which He has called. The person who lives like that will ultimately save himself. Again, Jesus was no doubt thinking of final salvation of one's person in eternal blessedness with Him. ... Most of v. 38 reflects back on things said earlier in this context. ... 1. The required confession of Jesus is the opposite of being ashamed of Him. To be ashamed of Jesus ... is the same as denying Him and the opposite of confessing allegiance to Him. In the context, it has the same effect as not meeting the conditions stated in v. 34. The phrase "me and my words" corresponds to "my sake and the gospel's" in v. 35. It is the very nature of discipleship to commit to one's teacher and teachings. ... Whatever the risks to confessing Christ as teacher, Savior, and Lord, the true disciple remains openly loyal to Him. 2. The context of the confession is seen in the words "in this adulterous and sinful generation." ... Surrounded by an adulterous and wicked generation ... the disciple of Jesus must confess Jesus and follow His way. ... 3. The final issue involved is seen in the last part of v. 38. If a person holds back from declaring allegiance to Jesus ... then Jesus will hold back from acknowledging a relationship to that person at the great judgment. The picture is that at His [Second] Coming He will hold a tribunal; the issue for each person will be whether he knows, and is known by, Jesus the judge. If Jesus denies a person, there is no hope for eternal life with Him. (The Randall House Bible Commentary: The Gospel of Mark [Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2003], 233–236)
- B. J. Oropeza: Another warning against apostasy is found in 9:42–50 when Jesus speaks of the potential for "little ones" to "fall away" (σκανδαλίζω [skandalizó]). The verb σκανδαλίζω has ancient meanings conveying entrapment, ensnaring, causing a downfall, and, together with its noun form (σκάνδαλον [skandalon]) in the LXX, it frequently results in the destruction of God's people or human life (Josh 23:13; Judg 2:3; 8:27; Ps 105:36; 139:5–6; 140:9; Hos 4:17; Wis 14:11). In the gospels it often connotes the notion of falling away (e.g., Mark 4:17; 14:27, 29; Matt 18:1–4; Luke 17:1–2). For those who cause little ones to fall away, it would be better for them if a millstone were tied around their necks and they be cast into the sea (Mark 9:42; cf. Rev 18:21). This probably suggests a colorful nuance for σκανδαλίζω, metaphorically depicting the casting of a stumbling block before one's path so as to cause that person to fall (cf. Sir 27.23; Pss. Sol. 16.7; 1 Pet 2:8; Rom 9:33; Rev 2:14). In this case those who cast the block will themselves suffer a fate worse than being tied to a heavy block and thrown into the Sea of Galilee to drown. A fate worse than drowning turns out to be suffering damnation in the fires of Gehenna (cf. Mark 9:43–50). We are dealing here with an act so vile as to send the culprits to hell. They do not merely cause others to stumble by sinning but by committing apostasy. Various identities have been given to the "little ones" who believe in Jesus, including "children;" those who are "weak in faith;" "defenseless disciples;" the "lowborn;" and "people with the least social status and power." We may add to this list another option: Zech 13:7, which Jesus cites in Mark 14:27, mentions the sheep or shepherd boys as the "little ones." With this meaning in mind, Jesus may be referring to his followers in the imagery of sheep who follow his lead as the shepherd. Contextually, the term points back to the earlier pericope in which Jesus sets a child before the disciples and says, "Whoever receives such a child in my name receives me" (9:33–37). The "little ones" in 9:42 would seem to include little children but not exclusively so given that he addresses disciples in verses 41 and 43–48. Matthew's version of the warning also has a child present (Matt 18:1–7), but Luke places the saying in a setting dealing with adult Christian relationships and forgiveness (Luke 17:1–4). Mark 9:42 indicates that those who are vulnerable to falling away are individuals who "believe," that is, those trust in Christ, bear his name, and belong to him. The situation in Mark's Rome possibly involved family heads of households who apostatized and in their fear of being persecuted, they discouraged and destroyed the faith of their children by refusing to let them gather with the Christians. The warning spills over into 9:43–50, in which the subject involves disciples whose body parts cause them to fall away. If their hand, foot, or eye causes them to stumble (σκανδαλίζω), they should sever the member from their body rather than be thrown into Gehenna. What type of apostasy is the pericope indicating? [Oropeza covers various suggestions such as: sexual immorality, pederasty, sexual vice in general, unbelief, or sins related to pride, selfishness, division, and haughty ambition. He also notes that the imagery of salt with fire at the end of the passage may be referring to a purification related to suffering and persecution (9:49).] At any rate, the main weakness with our interpreting 9:43–47 as persecution and torture is that the person cuts off his or her own hand and foot, as the second person imperatives suggest (ἀπόκοψον, ἔκβαλε); it is not done by a torturer or executioner. The meaning of 9:43–47, then, is perhaps wider than disciples committing apostasy because of persecution; it is probably meant to refer to any kind of sin or temptation that may cause a Christ-follower to fall away. Derrett ascribes the warnings of being thrown into Gehenna fire ... as a method of helping the disciples root out any disloyalty: "Fear of punishment was universally understood in the ancient world to be the most general means whereby people, whose loyalty was unstable and good behaviour undependable, could be attached with reasonable certainty to their leader for the time being." The imagery of amputating one's body parts recalls fire and salt (cf. 9:43, 48–50): cauterization to prevent bleeding to death, and salt to treat the wound and prevent gangrene, sepsis, and "worms." As fire and salt preserved the amputated person from dying, so those who "amputate" what might cause them to apostatize will be preserved for eternal life; this will prevent them from the "worms" and eternal fire of hell. The concept of being salted with fire (9:49) probably has in mind prophetic imagery of a fiery judgment that will punish the wicked and yet at the same time refine the righteous. Other New Testament writings addressed to Rome (Romans) or originating from that city (1 Peter) speak of Christ-followers as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1–2) and undergoing suffering in the form of a fiery ordeal (1 Pet 4:12). Along these lines also, if the concept of "little children" in Mark 9:42 originates from Zech 13:7, then it is significant that in Zech 13:8–9 God declares that two-thirds of the people in the land will be cut off and perish but one-third will be tried in fire as silver and gold. They will call on the LORD's name and be called "his people." Here again a judgment comes upon God's people in which many perish, but fire is seen as a cleansing agent for a faithful remnant who survive. The words attributed to Jesus in this pericope would be entirely relevant for the Markan community whose members may have been tortured and lit on fire during Nero's persecutions. Even so, if the persons are supposed to cut off their own body parts, this language may be understood as hyperbole related to danger of committing sins that lead to apostasy and eternal judgment. Such sins must be severed from a believer's life if they prevent the person from obtaining eternal life. Clearly, eternal destinies are at stake; according to the Markan Jesus, the consequence of apostasy is eternal punishment (Mark 9:43, 45 cf. 10:17, 30; Matt 18:7–9; Isa 66:24).
- John Nolland: The seed is the word of God, and the first place it has fallen is along the path. The initial group hear, but get no real hold on the word of God. The Devil has no difficulty in extricating it from their hearts. In their case, no response of faith has bound the message to their hearts ... which could have brought them salvation (cf. Acts 15:11; 16:31). The second group have a different problem. They "receive the word"—a mode of expression that indicates a right believing response to the gospel (Acts 8:14; 11:1; etc.). ... The real potential of these newly germinated plants will only come to light when the pressures come on in some kind of trial. Just as the true deep loyalties of Jesus were put on trial in Luke 4:1–13, so will those of every respondent to the Christian gospel also be. If the rootedness is not there, the new life will wither away. Apostasy is the outcome. (Word Biblical Commentary: Luke 1–9:20 [Dallas: Word Publishers, 1989], 388)
- B. J. Oropeza: After Jesus speaks about his upcoming death (12:23–24) he proclaims in 12:25, "the one who loves his life loses it; the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for life eternal." In this variant, unlike any of its predecessors in the Synoptic texts, loving (φιλέω) and hating (μισέω) life are contrasted. And to love one's life is to lose it, and to hate it is to keep or protect (φυλάσσω) it. The contrast between love and hate may be borrowed from a Semitic idiom of preferring one thing over the other, and the idea is found in other Jesus sayings (Luke 14:26; Matt 10:37; cf. Matt 6:24; Gen 29:31–33; Deut 21:15). Compatible with Johannine themes ... this saying includes the words "this world" and life as "eternal" . ... Eternal life involves salvation pertaining to the eschatological age to come, which is given to those who believe in Jesus (e.g., John 3:16). This brings into sharper relief what is already found in the Synoptic parallels: this saying warns against falling away and losing eternal life. Elsewhere in Johannine thought the "world" (κόσμος) is blind, unregenerate, and often hostile toward Jesus and believers (1:10, 29; 3:17; 6:51; 8:12; 9:39; 12:47; 15:18–20; 16:33; 17:13–16). Unbelievers live in this realm, and its destiny ends in destruction (John 3:16–18; 8:23–26; 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 1 John 2:15–17; 1 John 5:19). The Johannine believers are not to "love" the world, that is, be assimilated to its attitudes and values of lust, fleshly desires, and pride (cf. 1 John 2:15–16). The disciples of Jesus are not of the world, and the world hates them (John 17:14–16); the world exemplifies loveless behavior opposite of what the believers are to practice (1 John 3:10–13). The nuance of loving one's life in John 12:25, then, may be related to the notion of conforming to the world. Possibly this passage functioned as a warning for the Johannine community not to be conformed to the "world." More pointedly, however, love is contrasted with hate, and the followers of Jesus who "hate" their life keep it for eternal life. In the Johannine context Jesus declares this saying in relation to his upcoming death on the cross. As in the Synoptic texts, then, the saying is relevant to persecution and martyrdom, and a true disciple of Jesus must be willing to "hate" his/her life in the sense of be willing to lose it for the sake of Jesus (12:23-26). ... In 12:25 ... we see another glimpse of a Johannine warning against apostasy directed at authentic believers. ... John 12:25 and 15:6 both seem to be actual warnings in which the authentic voice of Jesus can still be heard through the Johannine narrative, and Jesus warns his faithful followers against committing apostasy. Both passages likewise are set in a larger framework related to persecution. (In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors: the Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters, Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 3 [Eugene: Cascade Books, 2011], 206–208)
- B. J. Oropeza: In the vineyard pericope of John 15:1–17 Jesus claims himself as the true vine, the Father as the vine grower and pruner, and the disciples as the branches. Those disciples who abide (μένω) in Jesus will bear much fruit. Whereas in ancient Israel vineyard illustrations often represent the nation in terms of its unfaithfulness to God and his covenant (e.g., Isa 5; Ezek 15), the Johannine Jesus and his disciples represent a vine and branches that point to a restored Isaianic eschatological covenant with God's people. Those individuals who do not bear fruit and abide in the vine are cast off as a branch, dried up, and tossed into the fire for burning (John 15:6). The fruitless branches that God the Father cuts off in 15:2 and the ones that do not abide in 15:6 are probably the same. Presumably it is the Father who casts out the worthless branches in 15:6 also. The reason they are cast away is because they do not abide or remain "in" Jesus (15:2). Likewise, Johannine thought does not allow for fruitless disciples to continue in the vine because bearing "fruit" in this context is directly related to loving one another and keeping Jesus' commandments (John 15:7–17; cf. 1 John 2:3–5; 3:17-24; 4:21). Both of these ethical precepts are essential for true believers. These branches refer to Jesus' followers, not the unbelieving "Jews." John 15:2 presupposes that the branches belong to Jesus and abide "in" him; namely, these are believers who have an authentic relationship with Christ. This relationship involves believing in Jesus and having some sort of a mystical union with him . ... Such a relationship reflects the later Christian communion typified by the Johannine community, who had spiritual fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (cf. 14:10, 17–23; 15:4–5, 10; 1 John 1:3; 2:24). More than this, abiding in Jesus seems related to abiding in a covenant with him. As we noticed in John 6, abiding is associated with Jesus in terms of eating and life, and these are directly informed by the "everlasting covenant" mentioned in Isa 54‒56. To abide in Jesus and his words is to have eternal life and remain in a perpetual covenant related to loving one another and keeping his commandments. The influence of the covenant motif on the Johannine concept "to abide in" (μένω ἐν) is verified by Edward Malatesta, who examines the related Septuagint term ἐμμένω ἐν to affirm that contexts using this term in the Septuagint are similar to the "Johannine formulae"—they are related to keeping God's covenant, observing commandments, "fraternal" union, and divine mercy and love (Deut 27:26; Isa 30:18; Sir 6:20; 28:6; cf. Isa 5:1–11). Rekha Chennattu adds that the covenantal motif may be seen as an undercurrent for John 15‒16. He sums up important covenant elements from the Hebrew and Septuagint scriptures in terms of: 1) loving God and keeping his commands, 2) the community of God's public declaration of commitment to God, 3) God's promise of abiding presence, and 4) election and knowledge of God (e.g., Exod 19‒24; Deut 26‒32; Josh 24; Hos 2‒6; Jer 4, 9, 31–33). Several aspects derived from earlier covenantal language are identified in John 15‒16, including abiding in Jesus/God (John 15:4–10/LXX Deut 27:26; 30:18), keeping his commandments and bearing fruit (John 15:9–17/Exod 19:5; Josh 7:11; Jer 2:21; 3:13), and being God's chosen people (John 15:16–19/Duet 7:6; 14:2; Exod 19:5). Severe judgment awaits the people of God who fail to remain in God's covenant. As failure to live up to keeping God's commandments resulted in Israel's destruction often by fire—so the disciples failure to keep Jesus' commandments would result in eschatological destruction (John 15:6/Ezek 15:1–8; Isa 1:3–7, 31; 4:4; 5:1–6, 24; 6:13; Deut 29:10–28). The believers, if they do not continue to abide in Jesus, wither or "dry up" (ξηραίνω), are cast off from Jesus, and burned (John 15:6). The term ξηραίνω often appears in agricultural contexts, and perhaps significantly for our purposes it is found in Jesus' parable of the Sower where it refers to the drying up of the second seed sown on rocky soil, which refers to apostates (Mark 4:6; Matt 13:6; Luke 8:6; cf. Herm. Sim. 9.21.1–3). It is clearly evident that the person who is cut off like a branch in 15:6 was once part of the metaphoric vine. He once belonged to God's covenant people who, for John, are the community of Christ-followers. More specifically this individual represents a genuine believer who becomes apostate. The possibility of bona fide disciples committing apostasy makes necessary Jesus' instruction in 16:1–4. ... The severed "branch" is not restored or engrafted back into the vine; it is thrown with other branches into the fire to be burned (15:6b). The defector in 15:1–6 is someone who truly abides in Jesus (cf. 15:2: ἐν ἐμοὶ), which could hardly be the case with the spurious followers in 1 John 2:19. ... The third person singulars in 15:6a [refer] ... generally to any individual who abides in Christ and then is cast away (cf. the indefinite singular pronoun "anyone": τὶς). ... Although the singular language in 15:6a focuses on an individual being cast away, such a person would seem to be joined by others, for in 15:6b the branches become plural with the neuter αὑτὰ: "they gather them" (i.e., the branches) to be cast into the fire and be burned. ... The individuals who face a danger of being cut off from Christ are those who already abide in him, which means that the apostasy described in 15:6 refers to authentic believers. ... Maloney may be correct when he writes that the gnomic aorist of the branch being cast away and withering suggests a "truth valid for all time and all potential disciples." The severity of these former believers being "burned" in fire in 15:6 has often been played down to the point of denying it has anything to do with eternal judgment. The identity of "they," the ones who gather the broken branches and toss them into the fire, seems deliberately ambiguous in John 15:6b. It probably alludes not only to farm helpers but also to the task of angels gathering up a final harvest of people at the culmination of the eschaton (Rev 14:14–20; Matt 13:36–43; cf. 24:31; 25:31–32). In agricultural imagery the wicked are occasionally represented as chaff and tares that are burned in eschatological fire (Matt 3:10, 12; 13:30, 39–42; Luke 3:17; cf. Matt 25:31–32, 41, 46; Rev 14:10–11; 20:10–15; 21:8). The picture we find in 15:6 may resemble the fiery imagery of Gehenna found in the Synoptic Gospels (e.g., Mark 9:42–47). In any case, whether by "fire" or some other means, elsewhere Johannine literature affirms that defectors will face eschatological destruction (10:10; 12:25; 17:12; 1 John 5:16). John 15:6 is another example of this. (In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors: the Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters, Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 3:199–202) So Donald Stamps: 15:2 every branch. Jesus speaks of two categories of branches: fruitless and fruitful. (1) The branches that cease to bear fruit are those who no longer have the life in them that comes from enduring faith in and love for Christ. These "branches" the Father severs from the vine, i.e., he separates them from vital union with Christ (cf. Matthew 3:10). When they stop remaining in Christ, they cease having life; thus they are severed and thrown into the fire (v. 6). (2) The branches that bear fruit are those who have life in them because of their enduring faith in and love for Christ. These "branches" the Father prunes so that they will become more fruitful. That is, he removes from their lives anything that diverts or hinders the vital life-flow of Christ into them. The fruit is the quality of Christian character that brings glory to God through life and witness (see Matthew 3:8; 7:20; Romans 6:20; Galatians 5:22–23; Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 1:11). 15:6 like a branch that is thrown away. The parable of the vine and branches makes it unmistakably clear that Christ did not believe "once in the vine, always in the vine." Rather, in this parable Jesus gave his disciples a solemn but loving warning that it is indeed possible for true believers to ultimately abandon the faith, turn their backs on Jesus, fail to remain in him, and thus be thrown into the everlasting fire of hell. (Life in the Spirit Study Bible [Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1992, 2003], 1635)
- William J. Larkin Jr.: Paul's purpose is "to strengthen the souls of the disciples." He wants the new Christians to become "more firm and unchanging in attitude or belief" (Louw and Nida 1988:1:678)... Paul commands them to remain true to the faith (literally, "remain in"; compare Acts 11:23; 13:43). As it was Christ's divinely appointed destiny (dei) "to suffer these things and then enter his glory" (Luke 24:26), so his followers must [dei] go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22; compare Romans 8:17; Philippians 3:10–11; Colossians 1:24). Many hardships are to be expected as a normal, indeed necessary, part of the Christian life. For Luke, they mainly come in the form of persecution (Acts 5:41; 11:19; 20:23). We must endure through them if we would hope to enter the kingdom of God, experience the full enjoyment of salvation blessings either at death (2 Timothy 4:18) or at Christ's return. (IVP New Testament Commentary: Acts [Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1995], 215–216) Ajith Fernando: The third feature of follow-through care here is warning the converts about hardship. Not only does Acts 14 tell us about the necessity of suffering, it also illustrates that by showing how Paul suffered. We referred earlier to the mental anguish and humiliation that Paul must have experienced when he was stoned and dragged outside the city of Lystra. Luke suggests that this message about suffering was an important part of his ministry of "strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith," for immediately after he records their teaching: "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (v. 22b). Hardship is a key ingredient of discipleship. Paul also teaches this in his letters (Phil. 1:28–30; 1 Thess. 3:3), and Jesus mentioned it in his basic call to discipleship (Luke 9:23–24). Acts 14:22 goes further, however, suggesting that suffering is a condition for entrance into the kingdom of God. Paul says the same thing in his letters: "We share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Rom. 8:17; see 2 Tim. 2:12). (NIV Application Commentary: Acts [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998], )
- G. W. H. Lampe: According to the speech to the elders ... Paul's ministry is to be succeeded by a time of danger and trouble. The admonition 'Take heed (προσέχετε) to yourselves' recalls the Gospel warning: 'Beware (προσέχετε) of false prophets who come to you insheep's clothing, but inwardly are rapacious wolves' [Matt. 7:15]; 'Beware' of men who will persecute Christian missionaries [Matt. 10:17]; 'Beware' of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees [Matt. 16:6/Luke 12:1]; 'Take heed (προσέχετε) to yourselves' lest 'that day' come upon you unawares [Luke 21:34]. 'Grievous wolves' will 'come in' (from inside) to attack the flock, and men will arise (from within) who will not merely teach a deviationist form of Christianity but actually 'pull away' (ἀποσπᾶν) Christian believers (from the faith). This suggest that preachers or teachers from outside the Church, non-Christian missionaries, are persuading members to apostatize and to subvert the faith of other Christian disciples in their turn; to 'draw away' disciples must presumably mean to persuade them to deny that Jesus is the Christ. In such a crisis the word for the overseer, 'Be watchful' (γρηγορεῖτε) recalls the warning of Mk. 13:35, 37, addressed, not wholly unlike this admonition, to servants appointed to guard the master's house until his return. (G. W. H. Lampe, "'Grievous wolves' (Acts 20:29)," in Christ and Spirit in the New Testament, 255). B.J. Oropeza: The power of deception is a grave concern for ... Paul when he gives his farewell speech to the church leaders of Ephesus at Miletus (Acts 20:17–35). ... Paul exhorts their leaders to "take heed" (προσέχετε: 20:28) and "be alert" (γρηγορεῖτε: 20:31) in relation to themselves and their congregation. ... The reason for this warning in Acts 20:31 is that Paul predicts "fierce wolves" will come in and not spare the community (20:28–29). The "wolves," in contrast to the shepherds, appear to be false teachers who would infiltrate the group and have the potential to lead astray many followers, causing them to pervert their faith. The Lukan Paul's use of the phrase "I am innocent of the blood of all of you" (20:26) is a declaration that is featured in farewell discourses, and as Paul Trebilco affirms regarding this instance, it is "a Lucan expression, which implicitly envisages the defection of some of the Ephesian Christians" (cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6). ... More than this, some of their leaders ... will become apostate and seduce their congregation members away from the Christian message (Acts 20:30–31). In Ephesus it is some of the seasoned elders, once tried and true, who will become false teachers. They will draw away members to themselves presumably to start a rival church that corrupts the gospel message. Since Acts 20 is addressed to Ephesian Christians in the late first century, it is significant that other early church writings addressed to this community likewise identify false teachings at this location (cf. 1 Tim 1:3, 19–20; 4:1–3; Rev 2:2, 6; 1 John 2:18; Ign. Eph. 7–9, 16). ... The inclusion of the warning in Acts 20 ... would alert the Lukan audience of dangerous teachers situated within the Christian community that lead believers away from apostolic faith. (In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors: The Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters, 1:141–143)
- Jack Cottrell: [Paul] issues a solemn warning, stressing the danger of continuing to live the lifestyle of the flesh now that we are in the Spirit. For if you live according to the sinful nature [literally, "flesh"], you will die ... "Die" cannot mean die physically, for that will happen regardless. Thus it means die spiritually by reverting to an unsaved condition; or die eternally in hell. Actually these cannot be separated; ... This verse is a strong affirmation of the real possibility that a Christian can fall from grace and lose his salvation. Those who cling to the dogma of "once saved, always saved" deny this, of course. Moo (1:528) says he favors the "Calvinist" interpretation, i.e., that the "truly regenerate believer, while often committing 'fleshly' acts, will be infallibly prevented from living a fleshly lifestyle by the Spirit within." This view, he says, "in no way mitigates the seriousness of the warning Paul gives here." MacArthur (1:422) agrees: "The apostle is not warning genuine believers that they may lose their salvation and be condemned to death if they fall back into some of the ways of the flesh... He is rather saying that a person whose life is characterized by the things of the flesh is not a true Christian and is spiritually dead." Such comments are incredible in view of the fact that Paul here directs this warning specifically to his "brothers" (v. 12). He is not speaking of an anonymous "anyone" (v. 9) who is not a true Christian, but is speaking directly to these brothers in second person plural: "If you live according to the flesh, you will die." To say that it cannot really happen "in no way mitigates the seriousness of the warning," and to say that the Spirit will "infallibly prevent" the very thing he warns against, approaches the limits of spiritual confusion. Of course it mitigates the seriousness of the warning! If living according to the flesh is impossible for Christians, then this "warning" is meaningless to the very ones to whom it is addressed, and it can be totally ignored. The warning is serious and relevant: if believers continue to live according to the flesh, they will die. But the warning is balanced by a glorious promise: ... but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live ... This is the Christian's other possibility. He can continue to live the fleshly lifestyle, yes (and die!); or he can put to death the sins of the body (and life!). ... These and any other sins are to be "put to death," mortified (KJV), killed. This is the opposite of living according to the flesh... Like Paul, we must beat or buffet our bodies and make them our slaves (1 Cor 9:27), gaining control over our passions... We must note here again the Christian's personal responsibility for this discipline: "if ... you put to death." Again, this is not automatic and inevitable; we must personally will it and do it... The key to victory lies in these three words: "by the Spirit"! The Spirit's power alone ensures victory in our battle against sin; this is why he lives within us. He gives us the power to put sin to death... The promise to those who succeed, by the Spirit, is eternal life: "You will live." This can be nothing than the glory of heaven. (The College Press NIV Commentary: Romans, 1:474–77) So Grant Osborne: In essences verses 12–13 are a call to what has been labeled "the mortification of the flesh" (or "putting the flesh to death"). ... Paul is drawing an inference (therefore) from verses 5–11; since we have the Spirit in us, we have a new obligation, and this obligation is not to the flesh, to live according to it. The obligation has no debt or duty to obey the flesh. Here we have a new metaphor for sin and the flesh, a kind of loan shark demanding payback. In the ancient world, debts often led to slavery, so this may be connected to sin as enslavement in 6:16–22. While we live fleshly lives and are subject to fleshly temptations (7:14), we owe the flesh nothing and do not have to live according to it. This means that the Christian has been set free from sin and the flesh by Christ (6:18, 22), achieved by dying to it in Christ (6:2–4, 11). Paul fails to complete the thought in verse 12 (by discussing our obligation to the Spirit) but instead digresses to give a warning concerning the flesh. ... He makes this more direct by shifting to you: if you live according to the flesh, you will [certainly] die (the Greek construction, "about to die," stresses the certainty of it). The death here is not the physical death of verse 10 but the broader spiritual and eternal death that is the lot of those who reject God and Christ (compare Gal 6:8, "the one who sows to please the flesh ... will reap destruction"). Paul wants his readers to understand the seriousness of giving in to the dictates of the flesh. It is absolutely imperative to refuse to surrender to the flesh: one's eternal destiny is at stake. ... The answer of course is the Holy Spirit, through whom you put to death the misdeeds of the body. ... Here the believer dies to the flesh. Believers who live the Christian life in their own strength utterly fail, in the Spirit they are able to mortify the flesh and find victory (8:37, "more than conquerors."). The Christian grows in holiness and defeats sin only when following the Spirit's leading and depending on the Spirit's empowering. It is interesting that Paul says the misdeeds of the body, almost equating the body with the flesh. Most likely (as in vv. 10, 11), this refers to the physical body as the arena in which these misdeeds occur. But when Christians heed the Spirit and die to these fleshly deeds, they will live, parallel to die in verse 13 and referring to eternal life (in this case not present life but future life). (Romans [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004], 202–204) Robert Picirilli: A Debt Cancelled (verse 12). The first summary conclusion is this: We are no longer obligated to the flesh. We owe the flesh nothing. We do not have to live according to its impulses. ... The flesh is still "there" with its lusts . ... But we do not have to obey it. Its hold is broken. A Destiny Considered (verse 13a). "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die" is a general principle that warns all men where flesh will take them. It is an axiom much like Romans 6:23: "The wages of sin is death." ... Paul's words apply first to any reader who is living according to the impulses of the flesh. Any such reader had better consider that eternal death is his certain destiny. ... Paul's words do apply to all believers as a warning. True, the believer has been freed from the hold flesh had over him. The sinful body has been dethroned. Another master has taken control. He no longer has to heed the call of flesh and sin. But can he heed that call? Indeed—as we all know from tragic experience—he can. The believer too needs the warning then that to obey the flesh leads ultimately to death. If the believer allow flesh's impulses to get the upper hand, again he faces the awful prospect of apostasy and eternal death (cf. 2 Peter 2:19–22). The believer then must be on guard. A Death Commanded (verse 13b). And here is the very method by which the believer can combat the tug of the flesh and keep victory he has been granted by the Holy Spirit. He must "mortify" (put to death) the deeds of the body. So long as he continues thus, life, not death, is his destiny. The sinful body has already been dethroned; its chains of mastery over us broken by the power of Christ and presence of the Spirit. Thus all the believer needs to do is "kill" each and every impulse that comes from the flesh as it arises. Were the believer still alone and dependent on his own energy, he could not do this. But "through the Spirit" who lives within him he can. ... A new master lives within. He is the divine Spirit. You own Him complete obedience. He will aid you in resisting and in mortifying each impulse of the flesh. By that method you can have everyday victory and live for God, walking after the Spirit. (Romans [Randall House Publications, 1975], 146)
- Joseph Agar Beet: verses 20—22 involve clearly an emphatic contradiction of the teaching, by Calvin and others, that all who have been justified will ultimately be saved. For Paul assumes throughout that his readers are already justified, are adopted as sons and heirs of God, and possess the Spirit of God as a firstfruit of their inheritance: see chapters 5:9—11; 6:18, 22; 8:2, 15, 16, 23. Yet he solemnly and emphatically warns them that unless they continue in the kindness of God they will be cut off. This last can be no less than the punishment already inflicted on the unbelieving Jews who have been broken off, and who are held up in verse 20, 21 as a warning to the believing Gentiles. For Paul's deep sorrow for the unbelieving Jews proves clearly that in his view they are on the way to the destruction (chapter 2:12) awaiting unrepentant sinners. His warning to Gentiles who now stand by faith implies clearly that unless they continue in faith they will experience a similar fate. We therefore accept the words before us in their simple and full meaning. Although salvation, from the earliest good desire to final victory, is entirely a work of God, a gift of His undeserved favor, and a realisation of His eternal purpose, it is nevertheless, both in its commencement and in its continuance, altogether conditional on man's faith. (Obtained from the Wesleyan Heritage Collection CD [Rio: Ages Software Inc., 2002]) Jack Cottrell: The first part of this paragraph [11:17–22] is a specific warning to Gentile Christians not to think of themselves as somehow superior to the Jewish branches that were broken off the tree. ... Here [11:20b–21] Paul tells the Gentile Christians the proper attitude to develop in place of arrogance: fear of God. ... The fear of God takes two different forms. One is the healthy, reverential awe of the creature before his Creator. The other is the terror and dread of a sinner in the presence of the holy Lawgiver and Judge. To which of these kinds of fear is Paul referring? Certainly to the first ... There is no better antidote to arrogance, nothing more conducive to humility, than to come to a full realization of our creatureliness before God Almighty. But what about the second, being afraid of Judgment? Certainly when it is truly felt, this kind of fear cancels out arrogance ... As a rule such fear is inappropriate for Christians, since we are free from condemnation thanks to justification by faith in the blood of Christ. But there is one context in which the fear of terror is still necessary even for Christians, namely, when we stand on the brink of apostasy or falling away. In such a situation, how can we not call to mind that "it is dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31)? In view of Paul's warning to the Gentile Christians in v. 21, I think he probably also has this kind of fear in mind in v. 20b, i.e., terror at the prospect of being cut off. We should make no mistake: in v. 21 Paul holds before us all the real possibility of falling from grace and losing our salvation. This is another reason why Gentile Christians, and Jewish Christians as well, should realize the folly of arrogance regarding their salvation status... Why does Paul admonish the representative Gentile Christian (and us) to "consider" or "observe" the kindness and sternness of God? Because these are the two basic attributes that God expresses toward sinners, depending on their response to the grace of his Son, Jesus Christ. In this context they are the attributes that lie behind the breaking off of the unbelieving Jewish branches and the grafting in of the believing Gentile branches: sternness to those who fell, i.e., the Jews who rejected Christ (v. 11), but kindness to you as a Gentile who has accepted Christ. In verse 20 Paul stressed that the reason the Gentile Christians were grafted into the tree was their faith in the Messiah, not some merit on their part. Here he shows that God's willingness to accept someone on the simple basis of faith in Christ is a matter of his gracious kindness. There is no merit in faith itself. Paul says all these things to set up his final warning to Gentile Christians, which also applies to all branches on the olive tree (all members of his church) in all times and places. I.e., the very fact that you are on the tree (and by implication saved) means that you have received the kindness of God. But be warned: you will remain on the tree as a recipient of God's kindness provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off... God will continue to bestow his kindness upon you, if and only if you "continue in his kindness." To "continue in" God's kindness means to continue to trust his kindness and grace as embodied in the saving work of Jesus. What will happen if you do not continue to trust God's grace? Paul's answer is very clear: "you also," like the Jews who refused to believe, "will be cut off." You will lose your salvation. This verse brings into sharp focus the issue of whether or not salvation is conditional, which includes the issue of "once saved, always saved." In general Calvinists believe that God's grace is sovereignly bestowed and maintained in an unconditional way, and non-Calvinists believe that it is conditional... In my judgment this verse unequivocally supports the view that salvation is conditional. Just as becoming saved is conditioned upon faith, staying saved is conditioned upon continuing to believe. You will remain as a branch on the olive tree "if you continue" (NASB) in God's kindness. (See Colossians 1:23 for the very same point.) More specifically this verse shows that falling from a saved state and thus losing one’s salvation is possible. Dunn rightly says, "The possibility of believers 'falling away' ... apostatizing, is one which Paul certainly did not exclude." He adds, "Perseverance is a Christian responsibility rather than an unconditional promise" (2:664–665). ... In my opinion all ... attempts to harmonize the "if' in 11:22 (or elsewhere) with Calvinism, or with any "once saved, always saved" belief ... reduce Paul's warning to a travesty. Unless there is a genuine possibility that this warning may be disregarded by a genuine believer, then it is not a warning at all, and its very presence in the Bible is deceptive. (The College Press NIV Commentary: Romans, 2:254, 258–263)
- Jack Cottrell: The strong Christian is warned not to place a stumbling block (. . . proskomma) or an obstacle (... skandalon) in a brother's path. These words are very similar in meaning and refer to an obstacle which causes someone to stumble and fall. ... The stumbling in this verse is spiritual, not physical; it refers to stumbling and falling into sin. It is important that we understand that the stumbling to which Paul refers is not just becoming offended or having one's feelings wounded. It refers to a real spiritual harm (see Rom 9:33; 11:9), a true "spiritual downfall" (Moo, 851). The cause for such spiritual stumbling would be an act on the part of the strong brother that is not wrong in itself, but which is perceived as wrong by a weak brother. Such an act becomes a stumbling block when the weak brother observes it and is influenced there by to do the same thing, even though in his heart he believes it is wrong, which is sin (v. 23). In this way the strong brother has inadvertently influenced the weak brother to "fall into sin and potential spiritual ruin" (Moo, 852), just by exercising his Christian liberty. The point is that we must be sensitive to how our conduct is affecting others, and we must be willing to forgo perfectly legitimate behavior if it has the potential of causing someone to sin against his conscience. Verses 14 and 23 in particular show how this may happen. ... 14:15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. The NASB is more literal here: "For if because of food your brother is hurt." It seems best to consider the statement of principles in v. 14 as a parenthesis, with this verse linking up directly with v. 13. In v. 13 Paul urges the strong Christian to not put a stumbling block in the way of the weak; here in v. 15 he gives one reason for this, i.e., it is not consistent with love. ... To the one who loves, a weak brother's spiritual well-being is always more important than indulging the right to eat whatever one likes. A crucial question is the meaning of "distressed" ("hurt" in the NASB). The word is ... (lypeō), which in the passive means "to be grieved, distressed, hurt" (AG, 482-483). The issue is whether Paul is referring simply to hurt feelings, or to actual spiritual harm. ... lypeō here refers to actual spiritual harm, is more in keeping with the context and thus appears to be the right interpretation. The meaning would then be that one is not acting in love if his exercise of liberty influences a weak brother to follow his example and thus fall into sin by violating his own conscience. Murray (2:190–191) gives convincing arguments for this view and against the idea that the "distress" here is merely annoyance or displeasure at seeing the strong partake of certain foods. This latter view, he says, does not do justice to the reference to the stumbling block (v. 13), nor to the word "destroy" in v. 15b, nor to many elements in verses 20–23. Dunn agrees; he says Paul is referring to "an actual wounding of conscience ... which destroys the whole balance of the brother's faith" (2:820). The rest of this verse support supports this interpretation: Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. The Greek word for "destroy" is ... (apollymi), a very strong word which means "to ruin, destroy, kill, put to death, cause to perish" (AG, 94). ... What are the implications of this warning? Just how serious is this destruction? Is Paul referring to a loss of salvation, and condemnation to hell? Those committed to Calvinism and especially to "once saved, always saved" of course deny that Paul has this in mind. They must rule this out since Paul is talking here about "brothers" (vv. 13b, 15a) who have already been saved; and (according to their view) once they have become saved, they can never be lost. Thus the destruction is limited to "loss of spiritual well-being" and "utter devastation" in the area of Christian growth (MacArthur, 2:294). ... Though this could potentially lead to "eternal perdition" if not corrected, Paul is not implying that it actually will do so; he uses this dire language only to show the strong brother how serious his offense is (Murray, 2:192; see Moo, 854). I must conclude, though, that this strong warning does imply that the careless and unloving exercise of Christian liberty can lead to actual loss of salvation for a weak brother. Apollymi is frequently used in the sense of eternal destruction in hell (e.g., Matt 10:28; Luke 13:3; John 3:16; Rom 2:12). The reference to the fact that Christ died for these weak brethren supports this meaning here. I.e., the destruction in view would negate the very purpose of Christ's death, which is to save them from eternal condemnation. Stott is correct to point out that a weak Christian's single sin against his conscience does not in itself bring him under eternal punishment (365–366), but here Paul is not referring to a single act of stumbling. He has in mind the ultimate outcome to which a single act of this kind could potentially lead. By violating his conscience the weak brother is weakened even further and could ultimately give up his faith altogether . ... The weak brother's destruction is thus his "actual and complete ruin" (Lenski, 837), his "final eschatological ruin" (Dunn, 2:821; see Cranfield, 2:715). The verse cannot be reconciled with "once saved, always saved." We must remember that his passage is addressed to the strong brother. By showing him the potential disastrous consequences of the indiscriminate use of his Christian liberty, Paul attempts to motivate him to a discreet and even sacrificial use of it. Just what is your weak brother's eternal life worth to you? He asks. To Jesus, it was worth his very life. If Jesus was willing to give up his life to save your brothers, surely you can give up meat! "Shall we set a higher value on our meat than Christ did on his divine life?" (MP, 530). Do you love your freedom more than you love your brother or sister from whom Christ died? (The College Press NIV Commentary: Romans, 2:406–408)
- Jack Cottrell: Paul knew from experience that false teachers could devastate a church, and he did not want this to happen to Rome. He was always conscious of this problem. Since he has not yet in this letter said anything about this danger, he sees this as an opportune moment to insert this warning. ... Paul exhorts the church to "watch out for" such false teachers. ... [This] means "be on the lookout for, keep your eyes open for" such teachers, so that you will be sure to spot them if and when they show up (in Rome). Paul's unqualified praise for the Roman congregation suggests that these false teachers were not yet present within it (1:8; 16:19a). It is significant that Paul does not refer directly to the false teaching propagated by these false teachers, but speaks of the "divisions" and "obstacles" they cause in the church. "Divisions" are a work of the flesh according to Galatians 5:20, where the word is translated "dissensions." It refers to anything that separates one group of brethren from another group. "Obstacles" is hardly a strong enough translation for the Greek word σκάνδαλον (skandalon) (see 9:33; 14:13), which is an occasion not just for stumbling, but for falling into ruin and destruction (Lenski, 915). What, then, is this potential danger, one so serious that it is able to separate brother from brother, and to lead them to destruction? The answer is false doctrine. How do we know this? Because Paul specifically says that what these outsiders may bring into the church is "contrary to the teaching [διδαχή, didachē, "doctrine"] you have already learned." This implies that the Roman Christians have already learned good solid teaching, but just from Paul himself but from those leaders who started the church in Rome. Thus he warns them to be on the lookout for anyone who teaches something contrary to basic Christian belief, because false doctrine leads to division and destruction (see Moo, 930). What Paul says here is directly opposed to the "peace at any price" approach to Christian unity, which often maligns all emphasis on sound doctrine as being divisive. But Paul is very clear. It is not doctrine that divides the church, but false doctrine. ... What shall we do with such false teachers, if we spot them? "Keep away from them," says Paul. Shun them, avoid them, stay out of their way. Since these men were probably not in Rome at this time, Paul is ... talking about refusing to give them any opportunity to spread their false teachings (2 John 7–11). The elders of the church should not allow them access to the congregation, but should themselves expose and refute their false teaching (Titus 1:9–11). In this verse [v. 18] Paul says all that he wants to say about the false teachers of v. 17. The main question is whether he has any particular false teaching in mind, or whether this verse is just a generic description of false teachers of all kinds. Probably the best approach is to take the phrase in this most general sense, and to acknowledge that we simply are not sure if Paul had any specific group in mind, or to acknowledge that if he did we cannot identify it with any certainty. In this case we may take the warning as speaking generically about all false teachers, who by definition are no longer serving Christ but are slaves to their own egos. See Cranfield, 2:802; Dunn, 2:903–904. One reason Paul issues such a strong warning about these false teachers, whoever they may have been, was their ability to teach and defend their false doctrines with such fluent and persuasive speech. They used "smooth talk," speech that sounds so good and plausible and beneficial, speech that creates the illusion of truth based on its form alone, regardless of its content. The Apostle thus reminds us that many a lie is hidden behind eloquence and personal charisma. We must never accept teaching as true just because of the packaging it comes in, but must "search the Scriptures" daily to see if the content of what we are being taught is indeed true (Acts 17:11). Those who are especially vulnerable to being taken in by fancy talk and flattery are described ἄκακος, akakos), "innocent, simple, unsuspecting, unwary, naive." They are "innocent of evil and easily duped" (Godet, 498). ... While a certain kind of simple innocence is good (v. 19), that of which Paul speaks here is not necessarily so. In Christian infancy it may be excusable, but we are supposed to outgrow it as we mature in Christ (Heb 5:11–14). To be called simple-minded in the sense of being easy prey for false teachers is by no means a compliment. In this verse [v. 19] Paul lets the Roman Christians know that he is not implying that their congregation is itself the origin of these false teachers. He speaks again of their universal reputation for faithfulness (see 1:8), and declares that they are the source of much joy for him personally. But, he says, this universal good reputation is the very reason why he must warn them about the false teachers. The NIV does not translate the word γὰρ (gar), with which this verse begins. It means "for, because." It connects with v. 17: "I urge you to watch out for false teachers, because (gar) you have a widespread reputation for being a strong and obedient church; and false teachers seem to be attracted to such churches, to try to draw them into their own counterfeit orbits. Your reputation is so stellar that not only are you sure to be a target of false teaching, but also your fall would have a tragic and devastating effect on all who look up to you" (see Murray, 2:236). How may Christians guard against false teachers? Paul gives this instruction: but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil."? Being "wise about what is good" presupposes a knowledge of what is good, i.e., being thoroughly familiar with sound doctrine with regard to both theology and ethics. But wisdom is more than just knowing these truths; wisdom is knowing how to use them and apply them to life. It is knowing how to live by them, and especially how to distinguish between truth and falsehood and between good and evil. It means to know all about the good, not just in terms of book knowledge but by experience as well. Such wisdom replaces the simple-mindedness that makes us vulnerable to false doctrine. At the same time, says Paul, the Christian must retain a real innocence with respect to what is evil (including both false beliefs and immoral deeds). The adjective for "innocent" here is ἀκέραιος (akeraios), not akakos as in v. 18. Akeraios literally means "unmixed, untainted," and thus "pure, innocent, guileless." I.e., keep your doctrine (the teaching you believe to be true) unmixed with false teachings; do not let yourself get "all mixed up" in your thinking (see Eph 4:14). Also, keep your moral life unmixed with sin and even the appearance of sin; stay as far away from evil as possible. Be so sensitive to it that the moment you suspect something is evil, flee from it at once. Phillips's translation sums this thought up well: "I want to see you experts in good, and not even beginners in evil." 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. This promise is still connected with vv. 17–19. The implication is that Satan is the ultimate source of all lies and false doctrines (John 8:44; 1 Tim 4:1), and thus is the "author of discord" (Bruce, 278). Paul does not hesitate to say that "false teachers are under the influence of Satan, as in 2 Cor 11:14–15" (Fitzmyer, 746–747; see Godet, 489–499). But Paul's promise is that if we follow his instructions in vv. 17-19, Satan will not ensnare us with false doctrine but will instead be defeated by the power of God and the power of his truth. This will happen; it is God's promise. But when will it happen? ... As Morris says (541), "It is better to see [this as] the promise of a victory over Satan in the here and now." Such victories are won by the power of God's Word in inspired Scripture (John 8:32; Rom 1:16; Heb 4:12), and the power of God's Spirit indwelling our bodies (8:13). (The College Press NIV Commentary: Romans, 2:484–489) So Heinz Giesen: In Rom 16:17 the σκάνδαλον [skandalon] are the various satanic activities of the false teachers who endanger the salvation of Church members, who are being seduced into falling away from correct teaching; such teachers also threaten both the unity and very existence of the Church. (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 3:249). Grant Osborne: Paul warns the Roman Christians about false teachers before they ever appear in the community. ... He commands them to watch out or maintain constant vigilance regarding the dangerous heretics who may come at any time. The first problem with these people is that they cause divisions or "dissension" in the community. ... Second they put obstacles or "stumbling blocks" before believers. ... these are forces [i.e., teachings] that destroy one's faith and can lead to apostasy. This is in fact a primary characteristic of heresy. It ... actually destroys the core doctrines of the Christian faith. (Romans, 411–412)
- David E. Garland: Since this community building is the temple of God, where the Spirit of God dwells, Paul introduces a new, more serious threat. While some builders may do a lousy job of building on the foundation and their work will be consumed, some work moves beyond mere shoddiness and becomes destructive. Paul assumes that the community can be destroyed by insiders, not by outsiders... It is a severe warning. He has real destruction in mind, and those who destroy God's temple will also be destroyed. There is no narrow escape from this sin. Yinger points out, "The dividing line between poor building and destruction is not clearly marked out, making Paul's initial warning to 'beware how you are building' all the more potent." Paul does not describe how the temple is destroyed, but it is undoubtedly relates in some way to their boastful arrogance, their eagerness to appraise others, and their competitive partisanship—all the things that divide Christ... Paul allows the readers to imagine that their petty jealousies (3:3), boasting (1:29; 3:21; 4:7), arrogance (4:6, 18, 19), and quarrels (1:11; 3:3) might qualify for this bleak judgment. The survival of the church and their salvation is at risk. (1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003], 120–121)
- Gordon Fee: With these sentences [verses 9–10] Paul ties together a number of items in 5:1–13 and 6:1–8. The first sentence flows directly out of vv. 7–8 with another rhetorical "Or do you not know that?" (cf. vv. 2 and 4 above). Likewise, the word adikoi ("wicked") Paul ties these words of warning to the "wrongdoing" of vv. 7–8, and at the same time ties both to v. 1. The "wicked" in v. 1 are those in the world who are going to be judged by the saints (v. 2), a judgment now expressed in terms of their not inheriting the kingdom. Here is a piece of eschatological teachings about which one can be sure the Corinthians had previously been informed: "The 'wicked' will not inherit the kingdom of God." This is of course refers to the eschatological consummation of the kingdom that is "not yet," just as the same phrase in 4:20 referred to the kingdom as it is "already" being realized in the present age. The failure of the wicked to "inherit the kingdom of God" is the other side of their being judged in v. 2; this is what that judgment leads to. Paul's point in all this it to warn "the saints," not only the man who has wronged his brother, but the whole community, that if they persist in the same evils as the "wicked" they are in the same danger of not inheriting the kingdom. Some theologies have great difficulty with such warnings, implying that they are essentially hypothetical since God's children cannot be "disinherited." But such a theology fails to take seriously the genuine tension of texts like this one. The warning is real; the wicked will not inherit the kingdom. That first of all applies to the "unsaved." Paul's concern is that the Corinthians must "stop deceiving themselves" or "allowing themselves to be deceived." By persisting in the same behavior as those already destined for judgment they are placing themselves in the very real danger of that same judgment. If it were not so, then the warning in no warning at all. Paul's own response to such, of course, is v. 11, in which he invites them to change their behavior by reminding them that they do indeed belong to God through the gracious work of Christ and the Spirit... Paul cannot bring himself to conclude on the note of warning struck in vv. 8–10, especially since it might leave the impression the Corinthians were actually still among "the wicked." Thus he brings this whole matter to a conclusion by reaffirming: "And these things are what some of you were." This sentence, therefore, functions in a way similar to the indicative of 5:7 ("Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed"). Just as the imperative in that passage was intended to be taken seriously, so too with the warning in this one. But the predicate in each case is God's prior action in Christ Jesus. The previous list is what the wicked are like still, and because of that they will not inherit the kingdom. Those who persist in the same activities are in similar danger. "But that is what some of you were. Now in Christ Jesus you are something different, so live like it. Stop defrauding, living in sexual sin, etc., because you are no longer among those who do." The rest of the verse gives the soteriological basis for this premise: "But you were washed, you were sanctified, your were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God." As such it is also one of the more important theological statements in the epistle. Paul's concern is singular: "Your conversion, effected by God through the work of Christ and the Spirit, is what has removed you from being among the wicked, who will not inherit the kingdom." By implication there is an inherent imperative: "Therefore, live out this new life in Christ and stop being like the wicked." (1 Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmens Publishing Company, 1987], 242, 245)
- Robert Picirilli: The meaning of v. 11 is a matter of dispute, involving the question whether a regenerate person can commit apostasy from God... The argument arises over the word "perish." Those who do not believe that a genuine Christian can be lost will interpret ... "perish" ... as though the word does not mean eternal ruin but the "stunting of his Christian life and usefulness" (Bruce 82), or as though it simply means "comes to sin" (Grosheide 197). According to this view, the prospect of apostasy is not in view ... the "ruin" involved is the ruin of one's life and service by falling into sin. It strikes me that ... [this] view does not do justice to the severity of the word "perish" (Greek apollumi), as it is consistently used in the New Testament to describe "definitive destruction, not merely in the sense of extinction of physical existence but rather of an eternal plunge into Hades and a hopeless destiny of death" (TDNT 1:396)... "Communion with Christ is threatened, and the salvation of the believer is at stake" (Ridderbos 292). Actually, the verb is present tense, not future: either "Is your brother perishing?" or "Your brother is perishing." (This use of the present is futuristic, of course, but it puts the future into the present time as something already in process.) Paul does not mean that this weak brother has perished yet; but he does mean that the outcome of his falling into sin, if the process is not reversed in some way, is certain to be his eternal ruin... Sin persisted in, on the part of a Christian, can lead to a retraction of faith in Christ and thus to apostasy and eternal destruction. (Randall House Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthian [Nashville: Randall House Publishers, 1987], 119–120) Richard B. Hays: Verse 10–12 offer a specific description of how Paul imagines the possible damage inflicted on the community by those who want to eat the idol meat. The weak will see the gnōsis [knowledge]-boasters eating in the temple of an idol and be influenced, contrary to their own consciences, to participate in the same practice (v. 10). This is a very important statement, because it shows that Paul's primary concern here is not the consumption of meat sold in the marketplace (cf. 10:25–26); rather, he is worried about having weak Christians drawn back into the temple, into the powerful world of the pagan cult, which was, we must always remember, the dominant symbolic world in which the Corinthian Christians lived. In verse 11 Paul states the dire consequences of such cultural compromise: The weak will be "destroyed." This language should not be watered down. The concern is not that the weak will be offended by the actions of the gnōsis-boasters; Paul's concern is, rather, that they will become alienated from Christ and fall away from the sphere of God's saving power, being sucked back into their former way of life. Paul presents this horrifying possibility with biting irony: "So, the weak one is destroyed by your gnōsis, the brother from whom Christ died." If the Corinthians will only pause to ponder this picture seriously, the contrast is stunning: Christ gave up his life for this "brother" ... Christ died for this person, and you can't even change your diet? On the one side we have the Son of God who died for us "while we were still weak" (Rom. 5:6); on the other side we have the gnōsis-flexers who are so fixated on exercising their own freedom that they ware willing to trample on the weak and jeopardize their very salvation. This is not only to injure the community but also to "sin against Christ" (v. 12) by scorning and undoing his saving work... Paul concludes this unit by declaring his own resolution in this matter. "Therefore, if food cases my brother [so sister] to fall, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause my brother [or sister] to fall." Interestingly, the word "meat" in this sentence is the generic word for animal flesh, not the specific term "idol meat" that has occurred previously in the passages. Paul is willing to forgo not only the specific practice of eating idol food but also the eating of meat altogether if that is necessary to protect the weak from stumbling... The "stumbling block principle" is often erroneously invoked to place limits on the behavior of some Christians whose conduct offends other Christians with stricter behavioral standards. For example, it is argued that if drinking alcohol or dancing or dressing in certain ways might cause offense to more scrupulous church members, we are obligated to avoid such behaviors for the sake of the "weaker brother's conscience." The effect of such reasoning is to hold the entire Christian community hostage to the standard of the most narrow-minded and legalistic members of the church. Clearly, this is not what Paul intended. He is concerned in 1 Corinthians 8 about weaker believers being "destroyed" by being drawn away from the church and back into idol worship. Therefore, in applying this text analogically to our time, we should be careful to frame analogies only to those situations in which the boundary-defying actions of the "strong" might actually jeopardize the faith and salvation of others by leading the weak to emulate high-risk behaviors. Framing the analogy in this way will significantly limit the number of situations to which the text is directly relevant. A corollary of this point, however, is that idolatry can actually lead to destruction. This was denied by the gnōsis group at Corinth, but Paul solemnly warns of the danger of dabbling with idolatrous practices. (First Corinthians [Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997], 141–142, 145).
- Gregory Lockwood: Paul proceeds to illustrate the need for self-discipline if he is to reach the goal of saving as many people as possible (9:22). As a resident of Corinth in A.D. 50–52, he had probably witnessed the Isthmian Games in the spring of A.D. 51. This prestigious event, second only to the Olympic Games, was celebrated every two years about ten miles from Corinth. The basic athletic events included racing, wrestling, jumping, boxing, hurling the javelin, and throwing the discus. Paul begins with an illustration from the footraces in the stadium. A number of runners competed in each event, but only one could win the prize. The analogy to the Christian life is, of course, imperfect, for in the Christian race all believers are prize winners. But Paul uses the analogy only to point to the exertion and self-discipline required of the successful runner. He challenges the Corinthians: "Run that you may win" (9:24). Every entrant in the Olympic Games was required to devote ten months to strict training. Presumably the same rule applied to the games at Isthmian. As is well known from such contests both in the ancient and modern times, the competitor must renounce not only bad habits, but give up many things that are fine in themselves, in order to focus totally on preparation for the goal. The theme of self-control applies equally to the Christian life (9:25). Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit that should be found in the lives of all Christians (Gal 5:23; 2 Pet 1:6). It is one of the qualities essential in a minister of the Gospel (Titus 1:8). Whereas contestants in the Isthmian Games exercised self-control in order to win a wreath of withered celery and some ephemeral honor and glory, it is infinitely more worthwhile for the Christian to practice self-control, for the crown awaiting him—if he completes the race—is the imperishable gift of eternal life (2 Tim 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4; Rev 2:10). Paul now applies the imagery of the stadium to his own example as the Corinthians' apostle (1 Cor 9:26). It was not his practice to run the race of the Christian life aimlessly (2 Tim 4:7), like someone with no clear goal. Rather, he pressed on "toward the goal for the prize [... as in 1 Cor 9:24] of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:14). Likewise, in fighting "the good fight" (1 Tim 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7), he did not behave like a boxer flailing the air and never landing a blow. ... His practice was to keep his body in check, so that it continually serves the great goal (cf. Heb 12:11–12). Paul is not here advocating asceticism or self-flagellation as a means to the individual's private spiritual ends. Rather, he is calling on Christians to give up whatever does not advance the cause of the Gospel. Paul himself gave up many things that he could have claimed a right to have (1 Cor 9:4–6, 11–12, 15, 18). He calls on Christians to avoid doing anything that offends others (8:9–13). Christians should forego their rights "for the sake of others in the community," placing their bodies at God's disposal as a "living sacrifice" (Rom 12:1) devoted to winning others for the Gospel. Buy thus disciplining himself, Paul's faith was active in loving service to all. If he were to live a life of self-indulgence, he would endanger not only the salvation of others, but also his own. The danger of being disqualified is real. Disqualification would mean nothing less than missing out on the crown of life, as the context makes clear (1 Cor 9:24–27). Paul has been devoting his life to commending the benefits of the Gospel to others. These benefits are worth having; Paul wants to share in them himself (9:23). What a tragedy it would be if, after preaching to others, he would be found to be no longer "in the faith" (2 Cor 13:5–6), because he had become complacent and fallen in love with the things of this world (James 4:4)! The implication for the Corinthians should be obvious: it would be a tragedy if they forfeited their salvation by ceasing to exercise self-control and thus relapsing into idolatry. Paul will now elaborate that message in 1 Corithians 10. Christians must constantly exercise self-discipline, restraining their sinful nature and putting it to death by the power of the Spirit, so that they may live for God—now and in eternity (Rom 8:13). (Concordia Commentary: 1 Corinthians [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2000], 318–321)
- B.J. Oropeza: We have observed that in 1 Corinthians 10:1–13 Paul warns members in the Corinthian congregation that if they continue to participate in vices related to those which the Israelites practiced, they would suffer divine rejection and judgment. Paul's method of persuading the Corinthians about this danger is by comparing Israel in the wilderness with the Corinthians, who are viewed as being in a state of eschatological overlap. The experiences of Israel in the wilderness are types pointing to the Corinthians' experiences, and the judgments are hypothetical prefigurations of what might happen to the Corinthians (10:6, 11a). Paul compares the two communities in relation to election, conversion-initiation, and divine graces. Israel's unified initiation through the cloud and sea under Moses prefigured the Corinthians' Spirit and water baptism which made them members of the body of Christ (10:1–2). Israel's consumption of supernatural sustenance in the wilderness represented for the Corinthians their participation in the Lord's Supper and any other means whereby they might have deemed themselves as spiritual. Paul claims that Christ was the provider of these blessings for Israel; hence, Christ was spiritually present with the Israelites in the wilderness just like he was present with the Corinthians (10:3–4). Despite these privileges, the majority of Israelites did not make it to the promised land; their bodies fell in the wilderness. God rejected them because they coveted the food of Egypt, committed idolatry and fornication, tempted Christ, and murmured against their leaders. Likewise Paul implies that the Corinthians may be rejected by God if they participate in idolatry, commit fornication, provoke Christ through their inconsiderate liberties, and continue in their factions and perhaps their opposition toward Paul (10:5–10). Many in Israel were destroyed in the wilderness; likewise, many in the Corinthian congregation could be destroyed in the present eschaton. For Paul, this period covers the overlap between the eschatological present and future ages. The eschatological "rest" for Paul is in the "not yet" kingdom of God (cf. 10:11b). Paul's eschatological framework is added to his argument, in part, because the Corinthians had an overrealized perspective of eschatology... They believed they had already achieved an aggregative status because of their initiation and separation from their pre-converted status. Paul attempts to bring them back to the realization that they are still in a state of liminality. Paul warns them to watch out or else they will commit apostasy; namely, they will fall away from the grace in this marginal state and fail to enter the "not yet" kingdom of God (10:12). After such a stern warning, he provides them with some comfort by giving them assurance about persevering through temptation (10:13). This assurance, however, was not intended to contradict or mitigate his previous warning about the genuine possibility of apostasy. (Paul and Apostasy, 225–226)
- Robert Picirilli: Paul strings together three relative clauses to describe the Corinthian Christians' relationship to the gospel he had preached to them. First, they had received it—looking to the past, their original reception of Paul and his message of salvation. Second, they now stand in it—looking to the present, to the firm footing one has in his relationship with God as a result of hearing the gospel with faith. Third, they are being saved through it—looking not only to the present, but to the future experience of final salvation ... As v. 2 will show, all this is involved in the Corinthians' faith; and, as verses 3, 4 will show, saving faith, in its essence, is always "bound to the gospel in its concrete redemptive content" (Ridderbos 240). To all this, especially to the last of the three, Paul attaches a condition. It is not meant to cast doubt on their salvation: the condition is one assumed true (a Greek first class condition). Even so, it is a real condition (expressed exactly like the one in Col 1:23). The Corinthians are being saved by means of the gospel and can confidently expect final salvation if in fact (as they really are) they go on holding fast to such good news as Paul announced to them. "Keep in memory" [KJV] (Greek katecho, as in 11:2) literally means to hold down, hold firmly to, and is continuing action... The last part of v. 2 (literally), "unless if otherwise you believed for nothing," actually continues the conditional addition by stating its negative. Paul is confident that they are holding fast to the gospel (as his assumed true condition has expressed); even so, he feels it necessary to attach an exception clause. They are holding fast—except for the possibility that if they are not they placed their faith (in Christ) in vain... There is really no reason to doubt that ... the reference to believing in vain reflects the real possibility of apostasy from faith. Apparently Paul regards their doubts about the resurrection of believers seriously enough that his usual confidence in his converts must be qualified at least this much. (Randall House Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthian, 214)
- David Garland: Paul has repudiated self-commendation and comparison (one-upmanship) as worthless. Scripture attests that God gives the only valid praise. But he now asks the Corinthians to bear with a little foolishness of his own. The circumstances have driven him to this extremity. Boasting is clearly unwise; but if he ignores the slurs of rivals who have maligned him, the church might be persuaded that they were on target. If he stoops to their level by boasting, he is a fool. But if he does not defend himself, he might lose the congregation to even greater fools. ... He begins by expressing a wish that they would put up with his foolishness and then says they must put up with him. In 11:2–6 he gives three reasons for this proposed foolishness and why they should at least humor him. (1) His zeal for the church whom he betrothed to Christ compels him to try to protect them from being seduced and defiled by double agents of Satan (11:2–3). (2) The community's readiness to put up with a false gospel from almost anyone who shows up should dispose them to listen again to him, fool that he is (11:4; see 11:19, "they gladly bear with fools"). (3) He is convinced that he is not in the least inferior to his opponents who so enamor them (11:5–6). Paul puts the matter in the framework of betrothal and marriage. He sees himself as the father of the congregation (1 Cor 4:15), and as their father he has betrothed them to Christ—to one man, not a slew of husbands. Among the Jews, betrothal was the first stage of marriage, and it took place at a very early age. Unlike betrothal in the modern era, Jewish betrothal in the first century was not something that was entered into lightly, nor was it easily broken. The betrothal could be canceled only by an official bill of divorce. If a betrothed woman had sexual relations with any other man, it was treated as adultery. The betrothed couple did not live together until the marriage ceremony when they entered the wedding canopy and the marriage blessings were recited. A year therefore normally passed before the woman moved to her husband's home where they would take up common residence. The responsibility of safeguarding his daughter's virginity fell to the father (see Deut 22:13–21). This image of betrothal suggests that the Corinthians' marriage to Christ awaits consummation when Paul will present them to him at the Parousia. In the meantime they keep the spiritual father of the bride on tenterhooks lest she be defiled and disqualified for the marriage. He feels a divine jealousy, as any father would, to preserve the purity of the bride for her husband. ... Undivided ("total") devotion and purity are prerequisites for a continuing relationship to Christ, and Paul expresses his fear that the Corinthians may already have been unfaithful, ravished by theological libertines. He draws on the account of the cunning serpent's deception of Eve (Gen 3:13; 1 Tim 2:14), which had developed in some segments of Jewish tradition as a sexual seduction. The verb "to be led astray" (phtharein) frequently applies to moral ruin or corruption (1 Cor 15:33; see also Gen 6:11; Hos 9:9). But Paul has in mind a spiritual debauchery. As the serpent ensnared Eve with guileful arguments (see 4:2), so his smooth talking rivals have snaked their way into the Corinthians' affection and captured their minds with a more alluring gospel but a deadly one since it is no gospel. ... Paul's reference to the serpent's deception serves to remind the Corinthians that Satan is the master of disguise, which prepares readers for his identification of his opponents, who seem so impressive and wonderful, as servants of Satan in 11:15. Paul sounds the alarm that the same tempter who flattered and deceived Eve has ensnared them. Satan always lies coiled ready to strick at the first signs of weakness and to exchange sugarcoated lies for the unvarnished truth. ... The opponents came with eloquence, a swaggering boldness, and persuasive words that proclaimed a testimony about themselves rather than Christ. Not only did they trespass on Paul's allotted field, but they sowed that field with the tares of a false gospel. Their preaching is false—a different Jesus, Spirit, and gospel—that can only lead Christians away from Christ. ... Paul does not single out any particular false doctrine in condemning these Corinthian rivals. We may infer from this that it is primarily their haughty manner and actions that expose their faulty theological doctrine. They are self-seeking, not self-denying. ... Fee is correct that Paul "is less concerned about what these insurgents are teaching and more on what is happening to the Corinthians as a result of this teaching" which conflicts with "their first encounter with Christ and the Spirit through Paul's preaching of the gospel." But what is it that is happening that has him so concerned? The only thing he says specifically is that there is "quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder," and "impurity, sexual sin and debauchery" (12:20–21). This "other Jesus" and "other Spirit" add up to "another gospel" that fosters and condones these vices. It is a gospel that apparently gives Paul's rivals license to slander him, to boast beyond measure, to enslave others, to put on airs, to exploit others, to slap them around, and to live in boastful confidence in their racial heritage, religious achievements, and mystical experiences. It is not a gospel that requires converts to live by the cross of Christ. ... The Jesus Paul preached is Jesus Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:23) and Jesus Christ as Lord (4:5). Jesus as Lord requires humble submission and makes absolute moral demands. Any gospel that has no moral core, fosters boasting, and soft-pedals sacrifice is no gospel. ... Paul has driven home the point in this letter that appearances can be deceptive (4:18; 5:12), and this is particularly true when unscrupulous persons don a religious guise to further their selfish ambitions. The rivals' claim to apostleship has been so convincing that the Corinthians have been tricked. In 11:13–15 Paul launches a frontal assault on his rivals. These superapostles are in reality pseudo-apostles, perhaps a word coined by Paul. He cannot compare himself with these so-called luminaries because there is no comparison between a true apostle and a false apostle. They are deceitful (crafty, crooked) workers (see 2:17; 4:2). ... They may deceive themselves and others that they are doing God's work, but their narcissism and superior air reveals that they serve someone other than God. They only masquerade as apostles in the same way that Satan masquerades as an angel of light. ... The argument runs, if Satan disguises himself with the raiment of righteousness, then so will his minions. The rivals are no different from the master they serve. ... Paul next accuses these rivals of disguising themselves as "ministers of righteousness." In 3:9 he describes his own ministry as a "ministry of righteousness" (NIV, "the ministry that brings righteousness"). His gospel proclaims that God made Christ "who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (5:21). The rivals pose as participants in this same ministry that leads to righteousness and is undergirded by the Spirit. They are frauds. Paul does not pinpoint the particulars of their false theology but focuses more on their boasting beyond measure. It is their demeanor and behavior that reveal them to be ministers of Satan rather than of righteousness. "Ministers of righteousness" are those who live righteously, not those who purport to be righteous or to preach a righteous message. "Ministers of righteousness" remove the veil of hardheartedness and by the Spirit lead God's new covenant people to be transformed into the image of Christ—to be Christlike (3:12–17). They renounce shameful things and deceitful practices (4:2). They also repudiate all fleshly boasting and boast only in the Lord. These persons are therefore not simply deceitful rivals of Paul. As servants of Satan, they are rivals of God (cf. Acts 13:10). "To follow them is to risk damnation." Such language may sound harsh, but Paul judges the situation to be perilous, calling for sharp warnings to jar the Corinthians awake. ... Paul next deals with the difficult issue of how they might discern the appearance of false righteousness from true righteousness, the false apostle from the true. Any minister who passes darkness off as light, lies as truth, or sin as an alternative lifestyle choice must reckon with God's judgment. He argues that these nameless rivals are aligned with the forces of evil, are thoroughly evil themselves, and therefore should be expelled from the community. Their end will be destruction (see Rom 3:8; Phil 3:19), and the same will hold true for any who fall sway to them. (2 Corinthians, The New American Commentary, 458–466, 484–487)
- Scot McKnight: The reason why Paul wrote this letter, and the reason we have it, is because the Galatians had "changed positions" on a crucial subject: the means of acceptance with God and the role Christ played in that acceptance. Paul is amazed that their change took place "so quickly" (v. 6). At 5:4 Paul states that this change was opting for a system in which grace was not crucial and in which Christ's work was not sufficient. Paul states here that they were "deserting the one who called you" (v. 6); that is to say, their move was not just an intellectual one. Rather, it was a desertion of God as made known in Christ; it was abandoning of their personal relationship with God. If we use the categories of 3:19–25, their departure was a decision to live in B.C. days when the A.D. days had arrived. It was a decision to recede back in time into the days of Moses and to reject the epoch-altering revelation in Christ. While Paul suggests this was a move to a "different gospel," he goes on in verse 7 to clarify this by saying that this is "really no gospel at all." The move of the Galatians was not one of those views of legitimate Christian differences; it was total and devastating. Paul counters here any suggestion of simple Christian differences. When the gospel of grace in Christ is supplemented with the system of Moses, the result is not a perfected, fully mature gospel; rather, it is a gross perversion and a totally different message. Gross perversions of the gospel are heresies. Paul's final words here are potent. He invokes a curse on anyone (including himself!) who distorts the gospel. Paul's sentences in verses 8–9 are largely parallel and synonymous with one interesting variation. The expression "the one we preached to you" in verse 8 has its parallel in verse 9 in "than what you accepted." The latter expression is related to his apostolic calling. Paul uses here the technical language of passing on sacred traditions ("what you accepted"; Gk. parelabete) in such a way as to guarantee authenticity and heredity. It is the same language used by rabbis for handing on their sacred traditions, and it is the same term Paul uses for the tradition of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:23). The message Paul preached is the message that ultimately derives from the Lord because it has been transmitted to others through his apostles. Those who distort this message are rejecting the authority of Christ and are therefore cursed (anathema). This word is used in the Old Testament for something consecrated to God for his destruction (cf. Deut. 7:26; Josh. 6:17–18). Paul is not talking here about church discipline; his language is far too strong for that. He is invoking God's final damnation and wrath on people who distort the gospel of grace in Christ and substitute, in effect, Moses' law as the preeminent form of revelation. They are like those who reject the message of the prophets (1 Kings 11:30–31) or apostles (Matt. 10:14). (NIV Application Commentary: Galatians [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995], 50–52) So George Lyons: v. 6 Thaumazo I am astonished, Paul's first word in Greek conveyed amazement, bewilderment, or disappointment at an unexpected sight (Annen 1990, 134). ... Paul was amazed that the Galatians were so quickly deserting and turning. The adverb quickly could refer to how soon after their conversion (e.g., Burton 1920, 19; Arichea and Nida 1976, 11) or after Paul's departure from Galatia (e.g., Dunn 1993, 40) their desertion was occurring. It could refer to "how easily" (TM) they were being led astray (see Gal 1:7; e.g., Dunn 1993, 40). The modifier so does not emphasize that their desertion was extremely soon or easy. Rather, it describes the manner of their desertion—quickly or easily. The word quickly may echo OT passages (Exod 32:8; Deut 9:16) that charge Israel with breaking their covenant with God even before it was ratified (Mussner 1977, 53; Wilson 2004). Paul compared the Galatians to traitors. They were abandoning their former allegiance for another. They were in danger of apostasy. Paul addressed his audience using a second person plural—you are ... deserting. He addressed them all similarly in Gal 1:6; 3:1–5; and 5:7 suggesting that the problem was pervasive (Jewett 1970, 209). Everyone was at risk. The present tense are ... deserting indicates that their desertion was "as yet only in process" (Burton 1920, 19; see Longenecker 1990, 14). The verb describing the Galatians' defection, metatithesthe, implies that the change underway was a reverse conversion, although they had not yet "become apostate" (despite Mauer 1972, 161). But Paul considered this a real possibility (cf. 5:4). They were in danger, not merely of failing to live out their faith, but of abandoning it entirely. The present tenses in 1:7; 3:2; 4:16–18; and 6:12–13 confirms that the Galatians were seriously at-risk believers. They were headed the wrong way, but they were not hopeless (e.g., Jewett 1970, 209; Betz 1979, 45 and nn. 19 and 47). Evidence of this may be found in: Paul's uncertainty as to the outcome of the situation expressed in 3:3–5 and 4:8–11; the conditional nature of his blessing in 6:16 and curse in 1:8–9; his expectation that his letter would encourage the intransigent troublemakers to leave (1:8–9; 4:30; 5:10, 12), restoring the unity (4:19–20, 30; 5:1, 10, 12; 6:1). You are turning from the one who called you ... to another gospel. The preposition from indicates who the Galatians had abandoned; and to, what they were embracing. Paul initially described their reverse conversion as from a person (the one who called you) to a message (a different gospel). But he corrected himself in v 7. "Some people" were responsible for perverting "the gospel of Christ." Thus, he acknowledged that both sides involved substantially different persons and messages. Paul did not say what the Galatians were doing nor how he knew. But he was bewildered: Why are you "converting" from the one who called you by the grace of Christ? ... "Some people" (v 7) were leading them astray from him, his gospel, and God. Paul used the OT language of divine vocation (Isa 41:8–9; 42:6; 43:1; 45:3–4; 49:1; 51:2) as a reminder that God always takes the initiative in salvation (see Rom 1:7; 9:11–12; 1 Cor 1:26–31; 7:18; Col 3:15; 1 Thess 1:4–5; 2 Thess 2:13–15). He summons to conversion in the preaching of the gospel, the portrayal of Jesus Christ crucified (Gal 1:16; 2:2, 7, 16, 20–21; 3:1–5, 22–24; 4:13; see Rom 10:9–17). God's call is the indispensable means by which the process of salvation begins. Galatians makes clear that salvation is all by ... grace, regardless of the precise meaning here. ... Grace is both the doorway into the Christian life (Rom 5:1–2) and God's empowering presence, enabling humans to be and do what they could not alone. The human response of faith to the preaching of "the gospel" (Gal 1:7) is merely receptivity to Christ's gift of the Spirit, experienced as justification. The gospel is the good news of God's saving intervention in human history in Christ. It is God's saving power (Rom 1:16). The articulation of the story does not save. The events are saving; preaching merely witnesses to these events. But when the gospel is proclaimed in the power of the Spirit, God is powerfully at work (1 Thess 1:4–5; 2:13; see Rom 10:9–15). v. 7 Paul self-corrected his description of the Galatians' reverse conversion "to a different [heteron] gospel" in v 6. ... The Galatians defected not simply to a different message, but to different personalities. There are some people who are confusing you. The verb tarassō (throwing ... into confusion) means "cause inward turmoil, stir up, disturb, unsettle" (BDAG, 990; see Matt 2:3; 14:26; Mark 6:50; Luke 1:12; 24:38; John 5:7; 11:33; 12:27; 13:21; 14:1, 27; 15:24; 17:8, 13; 1 Pet 3:14). The Agitators were terrifying the Galatians (Balz 1990c, 3:335–36). ... Paul also characterized them as Perverters. They want to pervert the gospel of Christ (1:7). This could mean that they were trying, but not succeeding, to alter the Christian proclamation (so Jerome, cited in Edwards 1999, 7). But it could mean that their misrepresentation of the gospel was by deliberate design. The present participle translated are trying is literally wanting. Paul did not hesitate (see 4:9, 17, 21; 5:17; and 6:12–13) to assign motives to the Agitators and to the Galatians they may not have identified themselves. ... The goal of his rhetoric was not to be "fair," but persuasive. Here (as in Rom [1:3, 9;] 15:19; 1 Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 2:12; [4:4;] 9:13; 10:14; Phil 1:27; 1 Thess 3:2; [2 Thess 1:8]), Paul characterized his message as the gospel of Christ. What force did the genitive of Christ have here? Objective: Christ was its central content. The gospel was all about Christ (see Rom 1:1–3). Subjective: Christ was its source. The gospel was the good news Christ revealed to Paul (see Gal 1:12). Perhaps, it "is both objective and subjective" (Betz 1979, 50 n. 69). ... As in v 6, Paul referred to an unfortunate change—a "turning of the Gospel into its opposite" (Bertram 1971, 729). In Gal 4:8–9, he described the Galatians' response to this perversion with the same verb. They were effectively "turning back" from the knowledge of God to idolatry (see Martin 1995). v. 8–9 Paul issued a twofold conditional curse, stated first hypothetically (in the subjunctive mood in v 8) and then concretely (in the indicative mood in v 9). ... Paul prayed that God's curse would fall upon those preaching a gospel different from the one the Galatians first accepted (v 9). ... Thus, we might paraphrase v 8: But even if I or a heavenly angel were preaching a substitute gospel to you, may such a preacher be cursed by God. Verse 9 might be paraphrased: Let me repeat: If anyone is preaching a substitute gospel to you, may such a preacher be cursed by God. ... Koine Greek used the imperative mood for pronouncing curses (see Mark 11:14; Acts 8:20; 1 Cor 16:22; see Robertson 1919, 939; BDF, 194, §384). English has no equivalent to third person commands. Let him be cursed! (see Rom 9:3; 1 Cor 16:22) must suffice. ... Paul described the Galatians' reverse conversion as still in progress. Their defection was occasioned by Agitators, who preached a perverted gospel. Accepting it would make them subject to the curse of destruction. While the word "hell" never appears in Paul's letters, this conditional curse has the colloquial force: "may he be condemned to hell!" (GNT). This shocking wish was occasioned by the seriousness of the Agitators' crime. They had perverted the gospel, preached a substitute nongospel, confused his converts, and led them to consider turning away from Christ (1:6–8; compare Matt 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2). v. 8 Paul's strong adversative conjunction made it obvious that "the gospel of Christ" he preached (v 7) was antithetical to the message of the Agitators. And this was regardless of what the Galatians thought (Burton 1920, 25; Longenecker 1990, 16). ... v. 9 Paul repeated himself: As we have already said, so now I say again. ... Repetition enforced the seriousness of the matter. He put those terrifying the Galatians on notice: Beware of divine judgment. And he warned the Galatians that surrender to the Agitators meant placing "themselves 'under the curse'" (Betz 1979, 250). Perhaps this implicit threat would embolden the Galatians to resist the Agitators' so-called gospel (1:7). ... Those who also think the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints means "once saved always saved" have difficulty explaining Paul's concern. "Can genuinely converted Christians actually lose their salvation?" Paul thinks so. Believers can surrender their salvation by deserting the God who called them. (Galatians: A Commentary on the Wesleyan Tradition, 59–65)
- George Lyons: Paul expressed despair over the developments in Galatia: I am fearful for you that I may perhaps have toiled for you for nothing. Were his ministry efforts (see Rom 16:6, 12; 1 Cor 15:10; 16:16; Phil 2:16; Col 1:29; 1 Thess 5:12) in their behalf to be wasted (cf. Gal 3:4)? They seem determined to return to an enslaved existence like that from which they had been delivered. Paul’s fear was for the Galatians, not himself. They were in danger of falling from grace and being alienated from Christ (cf. 5:4). The apostle cherished no doctrine of the [unconditional] eternal security of believers. He faced the possibility that his ministry might not have enduring results (cf. 2:2; see 1 Thess 3:5). ... Paul apparently believed it was possible for genuinely converted believers to be lost. The Galatians' plans to abandon Christian freedom and return to slavery caused him fear that they might forfeit their final salvation (see Gal 4:9, 11; 5:1–5, 13; see 1 Thess 3:5). (Galatians: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 259–260).
- G. Walter Hanson: The third and fourth consequences of following the demands of the false teachers are given in verse 4: You ... have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. No doubt the rival teachers had assured them that keeping the law was not abandoning their faith in Christ; it was the way to "attain your goal" (3:3)—perfection—in Christian life. But Paul says that those who regulate their lives by the law are removed from the reign of Christ over their lives. If you trust in your own efforts to keep the law, then you are no longer trusting in God's grace. Circumcision or Christ, law or grace: these are exclusive alternatives. You cannot have it both ways. You must choose. The danger of apostasy, falling away from grace, must have been very real, or Paul would not have used such strong language. If we use the doctrine of eternal security to deny the possibility of falling from grace, we are ignoring Paul's warnings. People who ignore warnings are in great danger. Just observe the person who sees the warning sign of a sharp curve and a fifteen-mile-per-hour speed limit but keeps driving at seventy miles per hour. (IVP New Testament Commentaries: Galatians [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994], 156) I. Howard Marshall: The main theme of the Epistle to the Galatians is a warning to its readers against turning back to Judaism as a means of salvation. A die-hard Judaizing party had arisen which ... held indeed that circumcision was necessary for salvation. ... The general tone of the letter is one of warning rather than of condemnation; the false teaching was making headway, but the churches had not wholly succumbed to it. In itself circumcision was a matter of complete indifference to Paul—except when the physical act was regarded as in indispensable means to salvation... At the same time, submission to circumcision indicated a cessation of faith in Christ. It implied that even after trusting in Christ a man was still not completely justified from his sins; he was still a transgressor, and Christ's death had been vain. ... Submission to circumcision was not, therefore, a meaningless piece of empty ritual. It was the expression of a repudiation of God's grace manifested in Christ. The person who was circumcised severed himself from Christ and His saving power (Galatians 5:2); he had fallen away from grace (Galatians 5:4). ... There can be no doubt that in this verse Paul is speaking of the possibility of turning from faith in Christ to an attempt to be justified by the law, and that such an action leads to the loss of salvation, since for Paul salvation is either by faith in Christ or by complete obedience to the law (which he regards as impossible in practice). (Kept by the Power, 109–110, 241 fn. 38)
- I. Howard Marshall: The Epistle to the Galatians has an important section on the possibility of sin in believers. Paul realizes that Christ might misunderstand their freedom from the law (Galatians 5:1) to mean a license to follow the inclinations of the flesh (Galatians 5:13–26) instead of the possibility of living under the guidance of the Spirit and following the law of love. Two possibilities thus lie before the Christians, walking by the Spirit and gratifying the flesh. Two opposing sets of desires are at conflict them, and it is possible that the believer may follow either of them. Either set may act to prevent a man from following the other (Galatians 5:17), so that there is a real danger that a man may live by the flesh instead of by the Spirit. Such people will not inherit the kingdom of God; they will reap what they sow, and those who sow to the flesh will reap corruption (Galatians 5:21; 6:8). Here is a plain warning that if a Christian lives according to the flesh he may in the end be excluded from the kingdom. 'Even as a believer man stands both under the promise of grace and also the threat of apostasy ... (the flesh) can seize control and threaten him.' [quoting from E. Schweizer in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 6:429] (Kept by the Power, 111–112)
- Robert Picirilli: Because verse 8 includes such broad terms, we should also apply this principle [of sowing] to things in general as well as giving in particular. The context both before and after these verses, refers to our relationships with the brethren, either in generous giving or good deeds. Therefore Paul must be thinking specifically of sowing and reaping in our relationships (whether donations or deeds) with one another in the Christian fellowship. If this is correct, then "soweth to his flesh" probably means doing things to or with one another that stem from the flesh's drives. This would refer to such things as jealously, strife, or selfishness in any form (compare the list in 5:19–21) ... This ultimately carries us back to the realm of "the works of the flesh" listed in chapter five, verses 19–21. And anything produced on a fleshly basis will not survive, but is corrupt. The only fruit that can be harvested from such a sowing is corruption. This word refers to that which perishes, decays, and decomposes. In other words, sowing to the flesh begets a rotten harvest. "Soweth to the Spirit" is exactly the opposite in every respect and means doing things to or with one another that stem from the Spirit's impulses. And so here we come to "the fruit of the Spirit" listed in 5:22, 23. When we deal with one another in genuine, Spirit-motivated love, longsuffering, meekness, etc., we can expect a fruit that will live forever not subject to corruption. The contrast between "corruption" and "life everlasting" refers not only to the fruits reaped in our relationships with one another in the Christian fellowship, but also to the destinies of the persons involved. Those who practice in life "sowing to the flesh" will "not inherit the kingdom of God" (5:21), while those whose manner of life is to "sow to the Spirit" will inherit life everlasting... The principle of sowing and reaping still applies as verse 9 clearly indicates... It is interesting to notice that the analogy of sowing and reaping comes from the work of a farmer, and Paul often used the farmer as an example of patience or endurance just as here... Farming is an especially good example of perseverance in labor, because the farmer must prepare, plant, fertilize, cultivate—all at the right times faithfully and all with the ultimate harvest in view. This is what Paul is saying about our "well-doing" for one another. We must persevere like a good farmer. Sometimes we may not immediately see the fruits of our service; but if we are faithful, if we do not lose heart or tire out, we will reap the promised harvest—first of good things produced in our brotherly relationships, and finally of eternal life itself. (The Book of Galatians [Nashville: Randall House Publications, 1973], 101–103)
- J. Wesley Adams with Donald C. Stamps (posthumously): Living as God's children and God's holy people involves walking in love. For the third time Paul uses the word peripateo (trans. "live" in 5:2) when discussing the conduct of the Ephesians believers (cf. also 5:8, 15). To "live a life of love" (5:2) involves being "imitators of God" (5:1)... Just as children will imitate a loving earthly father, so believers are to imitate their loving heavenly Father... Paul turns from the self-sacrifice of Christ to the very opposite, the self-indulgence of the sinner (5:3–4), from agape love to its perversion, lust; he mentions three manifestations of self-indulgence of loves perversion... These three sins [sexual immorality, impurity, greed] are not even to be mentioned or talked about among "God's holy people" ... Verse 5 contains a solemn warning and pronouncement: No one who gives himself or herself to practice the aforementioned sexual sins "has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" ... Bruce (1961, 103) discredits a common rationalization about this verse that misrepresents the point Paul is making: "The idea that Paul means that such people may be true Christians even so, but that their behavior will debar them from any part or lot in a future millennial reign of Christ, is totally unwarranted by the context and by the New Testament teaching in general." Paul goes on to state that a "greedy person ... is an idolater" because his or her affection is set on earthly things rather than on this above, so that some earthly object of desire has "the central place with God alone should have in the human heart" (Bruce, 1961, 104). Paul knew that his message of freedom from the law and exhortation to love could easily be used to excuse sexual sin. Thus he adds: "Let no one deceive you" (5:6) into believing that some immoral, impure, or greedy persons do have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ. Such assurance and false security involve deception and "empty words." Upon such people "God's wrath comes." The danger of forfeiting our inheritance in God's kingdom is a real one for "those who are disobedient," that is, those who know God's moral law and willfully disobey it. "Therefore, do not be partners with them" (5:7), lest you share in their doom. (Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary: Ephesians [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999], 1071–1072). Robert Picirilli: We must walk in love, as children of God's love, thus manifesting His family character in our own lives. We therefore, should be emulators of Him. He loved us to make us His children. Christ loved us to die for us as a sacrifice that brought God's pleasure on us. Then we, too, must walk in self-sacrificing love. Such a walk will avoid the love-perverting and love-destroying ways of those who lives are characteristically disobedient to God. Sexual immorality, all forms of moral impurity, greed—the Christian community must never let such sins be identified among them; they are not fitting for people who are holy. Shameless speech (or conduct), talk that reveals the folly of sinful thinking, and even the course jesting that sinners find amusing are unseemly for Christians. Their speech should be characterized by gratitude to God. The ways of such sinners lead to death. They will not inherit the kingdom of God that is ruled by Christ. No words to the contrary should be tolerated, they are the empty words of fools. Those whose lives are characterized by disobedience to God's revealed will are the objects of His eschatological wrath. Therefore Christians must not participate with them in their way of life, lest they participate with them in their destiny. (The Randall House Bible Commentary: Ephesians [Nashville: Randall House Publishers, 1988], 219–220)
- Robert W. Wall: In the first half of verse 23 Paul breaks with tradition to address his readers in a more intimate way. His exhortation to them expresses a condition of their reconciliation, which includes both a positive and a negative element. This exhortation has caused problems for those who think of Paul's idea of salvation in terms of God's unconditional grace. However, Paul's understanding of God's salvation is profoundly Jewish and therefore covenantal. The promise of the community's final justification is part of a covenant between God and the "true" Israel. Even the idea of God's faithfulness to a promise made is modified by the ideals of a covenantal relationship: God's fulfillment is conditioned upon a particular response. According to Paul's gospel, getting into the faith community, which has covenanted with God for salvation, requires the believer's confidence in the redemptive merit of Christ's death (as defined in vv. 21–22). And staying in that community requires the believer to keep the faith. Paul does not teach a "once saved, always saved" kind of religion; nor does he understand faith as a "once for all" decision for Christ. In fact, apostasy (loss of faith) imperils one's relationship with God and with the community that has covenanted with God for salvation. So he writes that the community's eschatological fitness holds if you continue in your faith... The negative ingredient of the passage envisions the very real possibility that the community may indeed [move] from the hope held out in the gospel, risking God's negative verdict at Christ's parousia. (IVP New Testament Commentaries: Colossians [Downer's Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994], 81–82)
- Gene Green: The possibility of apostasy is expressed in the final part of the verse: I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. ... Paul expresses apprehension, which was rooted in his knowledge of Satanic activity. Although the Thessalonians' contemporaries were driving the persecution forward, the power of the tempter orchestrated this battle for their souls (cf. Eph. 6:11–12). ... The temptation of the tempter was ... to commit the sin of apostasy (Luke 8:12; 1 Pet. 5:8), which is implied in this context by the references to their stability and continuance in the faith (3:3, 6, 8). The issue is not moral lapse but continuance in faith. What was at stake was the salvation of the Thessalonians. Paul knew the machination of Satan (2 Cor. 2:11), the tempter, but he was unsure whether he had met success in Thessalonica (and out efforts might have been useless). The temptation, while inevitable, was resistible. But the possibility of apostasy was clear a clear and present danger. (Green, The Letter to the Thessalonians, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002], 164–165)
- John Wesley: One who is endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly. For thus saith the inspired Apostle, "War a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck." (1 Timothy 1:18, 19) Observe, (1.) These men (such as Hymeneus and Alexander) had once the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience; which they once had, or they could not have "put it away." Observe, (2.) They "made shipwreck" of the faith, which necessarily implies the total and final loss of it. For a vessel once wrecked can never be recovered. It is totally and finally lost. And the Apostle himself, in his Second Epistle to Timothy, mentions one of these two as irrecoverably lost. "Alexander," says he, "did me much evil: The Lord shall reward him according to his works.' (2 Timothy 4:14.) Therefore one who is endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly. (Works of Wesley, "Serious Thoughts on the Perseverance of the Saints," 10:287–288)
- B.J. Oropeza: The AP [i.e., the Author of the Pastoral Letters] thus seems to believe that whereas the elect community of believers will prevail because of Christ's faithfulness, not every individual within that community necessarily perseveres to final salvation. In fact "some" (τινες [tines]) will indeed fall away in the last days, according to 1 Tim 4:1 (cf. the plural τις; in 1 Tim 1:6, 19; 5:15, 24; 6:10, 21; 2 Tim 2:18). Such an onslaught of apostasy at the end of the age is well documented in ancient Jewish and Christian sources. More specifically, since the Spirit is speaking lucidly about the upcoming defection (1 Tim 4:1a), this might suggest that the author's knowledge came to the author and community through prophecy (1:18; 4:14). Even so, the prophecy would seem to confirm what the author may have already known through earlier Pauline predictions of apostasy and deception that would take place before the end, Ephesus included (Acts 20:22–31; cf. 2 Thess 2:3–4, 9–12). Likewise, the author may have known the predictions of Jesus that in the last days many would fall away and follow false prophets (Mark 13:5–6, 12–13, 21–23; Matt 24:10–13). Although the defection in 1 Tim 4:1 is to take place in "later times," the author views this event as already taking place in his own time (cf. 2 Tim 3:1–9; 4:3–4). The apostasy in 1 Tim 4:1 is not necessarily "from the faith"; the literal translation is, "some of the faith will fall away" (ἀποστήσονταί τινες τῆς πίστεως [apostēsontai tines tēs pisteōs]). The verb ἀφίστημι [aphistémi] may be translated in an absolute sense here (cf. Luke 8:13). As Mounce shows through examining New Testament occurrences of ἀφίστημι, "in the vast majority of cases if there is a recipient of the verb's action, it will most likely be indicated by a preposition and will immediately follow the verb." Hence, in 1 Tim 4:1, which has no preposition following ἀφίστημι, "the faith" would seem to modify the indefinite pronoun "some" rather the verb "fall away." If so, then the "some" who will fall away are identified as faithful church members. These ones who apostatize are not fake believers but real Christians. The nature of their apostasy involves devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and demonic teachings. These teachings are no doubt promulgated by the false teachers (4:2–5). Satanic spiritual forces are viewed as being the inspiration of their false teachings, and these powers are mentioned as a way to vilify the teachers (1 Tim 5:15; 2 Tim 2:25–26). Some of the believers will fall away by following the opponents' teachings that have been influenced by anti-god powers (1 Tim 4:1–3). It is affirmed here that more apostasies of those who possessed faith will take place similar to the defections of Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim 1:19; cf. 1:6). In the Pastoral Letters, then, final salvation is futuristic, with the real potential to have one's faith undermined, making it all the more important for these Christians to take seriously the need to endure through potential deception. Nevertheless, believers can take comfort in the fact that, no matter how many individuals fall away, the church will continue to exist as the community of God and the false teachings will not finally undermine the authentic gospel message. Some but not all believing Christians will fall away.(Oropeza, Jews, Gentiles, and the Opponents of Paul: Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Vol. 2:282–284) Gordon D. Fee: [1 Timothy 4:1–5] is joined to 3:14–15 by the conjunction de (untranslated in NIV), which could mean "now" (as KJV, meaning "to move on to the next matter") or "however." The latter seems preferable. In 3:15–16 Paul declared that the church has been entrusted with the truth—the truth we sing about Christ. "However," he goes on, the Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith [i.e., the truth]. But who are these some [people]? In this case—and surely this is the great urgency of the letter—they are not the false teachers themselves but the members of "God's household" (3:15), who are being led astray by the hypocritical liars (the false teachers) of verse 2. Note how this same concern is expressed in 2 Timothy 2:16–18; 3:13; and 4:3–4. (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, New International Biblical Commentary [Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988], 97)
- Gordon Fee: Watch your life, Paul says, referring to his being an example for the believers (v. 12); and doctrine, (better, "teaching"; as in v. 13 the noun here emphasizes the act of teaching more than its content, although the latter is not excluded) referring to his ministry to them (vv. 13–14). So one more time Paul enjoins, persevere in them, because by so doing Timothy will save both himself, and especially his hearers. As in 2:15 above and 1 Corinthians 7:16, the language may not be theologically precise, but the meaning is clear. Salvation involves perseverance; and Timothy’s task in Ephesus is to model and teach the gospel in such a fashion that it will lead the church to perseverance in faith and love and hence to final, eschatological salvation. (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, New International Biblical Commentary, 109)
- B.J. Oropeza: The potential for apostasy among individuals within Timothy's church is clearly evident in the hymn found in 2 Tim 2:11–13. The hymn was apparently known before these writings, and it may have originated within the Pauline churches. This pericope begins with a comforting statement: if we died with him (Christ), we will also live with him (2:11b). The aorist tense of dying suggests the believer's past burial of the old self at baptism (cf. Rom 6:3–4, 8). The hymn opens with conversion and the spiritual life it brings. The second line of the hymn states that if we endure, we will also reign with Christ (2 Tim 2:12a). The line may recall the Lukan words of Jesus to his disciples who stood by him during his sufferings and would reign with him in the eschaton (Luke 22:30; cf. 21:19; Matt 10:22). Perseverance is related to suffering and persecution. This is something the author himself risks for the sake of the elect (2 Tim 2:8–10). "Paul" remains a good example of endurance for his followers. If he were to defect, a negative corollary to this would seem to be that many of his followers ("the elect") would also fall away. The first two lines may also hint at martyrdom in relation to persecution given that the author is in prison and expects to be put to death (4:6–8, 9–18). The thought of these may also parallel Jesus' exhortation for his followers to take up their crosses daily, and in the context of Jesus' upcoming death and martyrdom he claims to his disciples that those who lose their life will save it (Luke 9:23–24; 17:33; Matt 10:38–39; 16:24–25; Mark 8:34–35). This backdrop to the hymn suggests a present reality that culminates in the future—for the Pauline writer, salvation and perseverance are both now and not yet. Final salvation has not yet been obtained by the elect (1 Tim 2:15; 4:16; 2 Tim 1:18; 3:15). A connection between the Pastoral hymn and specific Jesus sayings becomes all the more evident with the next line: "If we deny him, he also will deny us" (2 Tim 2:12b). These words almost certainly recollect Jesus' warning that if his followers deny him publicly before outsiders he will deny them before his Father at the eschatological judgment (cf. Matt 10:33; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:36). This type of denial (ἀρνέομαι [arneomai]) refers to apostasy resulting from persecution, and this is almost certainly what it means here in 2 Tim 2:12: to deny Christ is to fall away from Christ. For the AP [i.e., the Author of the Pastoral Letters], denying Christ may be seen as reversing one's confession of Christ at baptism (cf. 2 Tim 2:19; Titus 2:12–13; Rom 10:9–10; Acts 22:16). Such denial reverses conversion so that Christ disowns the person who denies him, and as with the Synoptic sayings this leads to eternal judgment. ... The final line of the hymn reads, "If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he is not able to deny himself" (2:13). Some interpreters understand this line in a positive sense: he is faithful to the believers even when they lack faith. But given that the previous line was a negative warning (2:12) and that what contextually follows after this verse involves the false teachers (2:14–26), this interpretation may be incorrect. The Pauline author has suffered persecution and is now in prison awaiting his foreboding sentence. He endures such things so that the elect church might persevere to final salvation (2:9–10; cf. 3:10–12; 4:6, 9–17). The thought of endurance in the face of suffering in 2:10 is insinuated in the first two lines of the hymn (2:11–12a). The next two lines (2:12b–13) look forward and speak to the apostasy related to false teachers that bring other hearers to ruin in 2:14. Even so, the hymn uses "we" instead of "they" in reference to faithlessness, which clearly suggests that the hymn's lines applied to those who sang it; i.e., members of the Christian church. Given the hymn's context, "if we are faithless" refers to believers losing faith. In light of this meaning for 2:13a, how does Christ remain faithful and not deny himself (2:13b)? Some understand 2:13b as Christ being faithful to his warnings—he is faithful to carry out his punishments to those who would deny him. God's faithfulness in the Pauline Epistles, however, normally refers to his comforting and protecting his people rather than making sure he condemns unbelievers and wrongdoers among them (cf. 1 Cor 1:10; 10:13; 2 Cor 1:18–20; 1 Thess 5:24; 2 Thess 3:3). Another view is that this unfaithfulness in 2 Tim 2:13 is less severe than the apostasy in 2:12a. On this view Mounce writes that 2:13 is "a promise of assurance to believers who have failed to endure (line 2) but not to the point of apostasy (line 3). Peter's denial of Christ (Matt 26:69–75; Mark 14:66–72; Luke 22:54–62; John 18:15–17, 25–27.) and his repentance and forgiveness (John 21:15–19) are often used as an illustration." This is certainly possible, but it is not clear how a boundary can be drawn between a believer's faithlessness to Christ, which receives divine mercy, and a believer's denying Christ, which does not. Unless a distinction similar to the Johannine "sin leading to death" and "sin not leading to death" is defensible here (cf. 1 John 5:16–17), this meaning remains tenuous at best. A more convincing view suggests that Christ is faithful despite the unfaithfulness or apostasies that occur among his elect church. This outlook parallels thoughts about God's faithfulness to his own nature, purposes, and covenant despite the unfaithfulness of his people (Rom 3:3–4; cf. Deut 32; 7:9; 23:19; 1QS 9.11). That Christ is faithful could mean that his purpose as savior will not be thwarted simply because some of his followers turn out to be unfaithful. Or it could mean that Christ will be faithful to preserve the elect community despite individual members who ruin their own faith, as did Hymenaeus and Alexander. It could also suggest both nuances. The final words in 2 Tim 2:13 ensure the believer that Christ is faithful to his divine mission of saving people and giving them eternal life. He cannot be untrue to his purpose (2 Tim 1:9; Titus 1:2) or himself since God commissioned him and Christ himself appears to be God (Titus 2:13; cf. 1:3–4). Thus no amount of suffering (2 Tim 2:9), apostasy (2:12), or deception (2:14–26) the Christian church may face will ever change the fact that Christ will continue to save people. The elect church as a whole will survive to final salvation and inheriting God's eschatological kingdom despite "some" defections that will take place in its midst before the culmination of the age comes (1 Tim 4:1). Put differently, the unfaithfulness of the Christians who apostatize does not nullify Christ's faithfulness and dependability to saving his church and adding to their number. Persecution from without and false teachings from within will not ultimately prevail against the elect community; the gospel of Christ and his church will prevail. (Oropeza, Jews, Gentiles, and the Opponents of Paul: Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Vol. 2:278–282)
- J. Wesley Adams: This is ... where the author combines urgent exhortation and solemn warning in order to move his readers to a place of renewed confidence, hope, and persevering faith in Christ. ... The close connection between this paragraph [Heb 2:1–4] and the exposition in 1:5–14 demonstrates that scriptural exposition for our author was not an end in itself but rooted out of his concern for his readers and their perilous situation. ... The Greek construction of 2:1–4 consists of two sentences: a direct statement (2:1), followed by a long explanatory sentence (2:2–4), which includes a rhetorical question ("how shall we escape") with a condition ("if we ignore [or neglect] such a great salvation") (2:3a). The word "therefore" (2:1) connects this paragraph to the Son's incomparable splendor and supremacy in chapter 1. Because the Son to is superior to the prophets and the angels, what God "has spoken to us by his Son" (1:2), if neglected, makes one that much more culpable: "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard" lest we "drift away." The expression "what we have heard" refers to God's revelation in his Son about salvation (cf. 2:3a). Here the danger of drifting away is due not to a rebellious refusal to heed the gospel, but to a carelessness about the commitment to Christ that it requires. The verb prosecho (lit., "to give heed") means not only "pay attention" with the mind to what one hears, but also "to act upon what one perceives" (Morris, 1981, 21). This verb is analogous to katecho in 3:6, 14; 10:23, where the readers are admonished to "hold fast to their confession of faith, without which the goal of salvation cannot be reached" (Lane, 1991, 37). The Greek word translated "drift away" (pararreo) has nautical overtones, as when a ship drifts past a harbor to shipwreck. The picture thus conveyed in 2:1 is that of Christians who are "in peril of being carried downstream past a fixed landing place and so failing to gain its security" (Bruce, 1990, 66). The result of drifting from Christ is a worse end than that experienced by those who disobeyed the law of Moses under the old covenant (vv. 2–3; cf. 10:28). As Bruce notes, "our author is warning Christian readers, who have heard and accepted the gospel, that if they yield to the temptation to abandon their profession, their plight is hopeless" (1990, 66). "The message spoken by angels" (2:2) refers to the law given at Sinai. Here we begin to see the primary reason why the Son's superiority to the angels was emphasized in 1:5–14. The author makes an a fortiori argument (i.e., arguing from a lesser, well-accepted truth to a greater truth, for which there is even stronger evidence) from angels to the Son, from law to gospel (cf. 7:21–22; 9:13–14; 10:28–29). The angels were of instrumental importance in the lesser matter of the law; the Son is of supreme importance in the greater matter of the gospel (Hagner, 1983, 21). If the law accompanied by angels was honored, how much more should we respect God’s word that came in his Son! If "every violation and disobedience" of the law had inescapable consequences, how can we hope to escape the consequences of ignoring the gospel of Christ? Our author writes "to awaken the conscience to the grave consequences of neglecting" God's message in his Son (Guthrie, 1983, 80). The answer to the rhetorical question in verse 3—"How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?"—is obvious: No escape is possible. In Hebrews "salvation" (soteria) was promised by the Old Testament prophets (1:1), is fulfilled by Jesus in the present time (2:3, 10; 5:9), and will be consummated in his future coming (cf. 1:14; 6:9; 9:28; see TDNT, 7:989–1012). ... The emphasis here and elsewhere in Hebrews [with the phrase "how shall we escape"] is on the inescapable, terrible, and eternal consequences for apostasy (cf. 6:4–6; 10:26–31). The first steps in that catastrophic direction occur when Christians drift away from Christ (2:1) and ignore God's glorious salvation in his Son (2:3a). The author identifies his readers as fellow believers by using the pronoun "we" in 2:1, 3a and "us" in 2:3. As I. Howard Marshall points out, the warning addresses "people who have heard the gospel and responded to it. At no point in the Epistle is it warrantable to assume that the readers originally addressed by the author are not Christians" (1969, 139). By using the preacher's "we," our author not only identifies the readers as believers, but also includes himself and all other believers in the same warning (cf. 3:6, 14; 10:26–27; 12:25). ("Hebrews," Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999], 1312–1313) See also Scot McKnight's article "A Synthetic Look at the Warning Passages in Hebrews" in External Link.
- J. Wesley Adams: Hebrews views the possibility of remaining steadfast in faith or abandoning faith as a real choice facing the readers; the author illustrates the consequences of the latter by referring to the destruction of the rebellious Hebrews in the desert after their glorious deliverance from Egypt (3:7–19). The final statement in 3:6 ["And we are God's house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory"] serves as a transition to the solemn warning and exhortation in 3:7–19. As a comparison was drawn between Moses and Jesus in 3:1–6, so now a parallel is drawn between (1) the response of unbelief and disobedience by the Hebrews who were redeemed out of Egypt under Moses' leadership (3:7–11), and (2) the possibility of the same response by the Hebrews who were redeemed by Christ under the new covenant provisions of salvation (3:12–19). Moses had been faithful to the end (3:2, 5), but most of those who left Egypt with him were unfaithful. They all shared by faith in the first great Passover deliverance but afterward because of unbelief hardened their hearts against God and perished in the desert (cf. Num. 13:26–14:38). Likewise, Christ, who is far superior to Moses, is also faithful (Heb. 3:2, 6), but the author of Hebrews was deeply concerned that the community of Hebrew Christians he is addressing, who had experienced the deliverance of the cross, were now in danger of hardening their hearts and of perishing because of unbelief . ... This section reveals the progressive nature of unbelief: (1) The seed of unbelief is sown and allowed to sprout; (2) unbelief leads to hardness of heart; (3) hardness leads to disobedience and rebellion; and (4) rebellion leads to apostasy and forfeiting forever God's promised rest. The powerful warning and exhortation in this section begins with a quotation from Psalm 95:7–11 (Heb. 3:7–11) and follows with the author's application for his readers (3:12–19). The application is framed by the repetition of the verb blepo ("see to it," 3:12; "so we see," 3:19) and the noun apistia ("unbelieving," 3:12; "unbelief," 3:19). Lane observes: "The warning against unbelief in vv. 12 and 19 provides a literary and theological frame for the admonition to maintain the basic position of faith, which is centrally placed in v. 14" (1991, 83). ... The warning of Hebrews 3:7–19 is that "those who have experienced the redemption of the cross may find themselves in a similar situation" (Hagner, 1983, 43) to the desert generation who perished, if they harden their hearts in unbelief and turn back from Christ to their former way of life. The passage represents a serious exhortation to persevering discipleship and unwavering faith. ... In Hebrews 3:12, the author applies the Psalm 95 warning to his fellow believers. That his readers are genuine Christians is again indicated by the word "brothers" (cf. 3:1). He is concerned that none of them be lost: "Be careful," he exhorts, "that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away [apostenai, lit., departs] from the living God" (pers. trans.). Like the Hebrews mentioned in Psalm 95:7–11, God's people under the new covenant "sometimes turn away from God in apostasy . ... This may be provoked by suffering or persecution or by the pressures of temptation, but the root cause is always unbelief" (Peterson, 1994, 1330). Apostasy refers to abandoning what one has previously believed, in this case, a disowning of Jesus as the Son of God a departing from the fellowship of believers. Our author calls it a turning "away from the living God." . . . As with the desert generation, apostasy is not so much a decision of the moment as it is the culmination of a process of hardening the heart (3:8, 13, 15) in unbelief (3:12, 19; cf. 4:2), resulting in the end in rebellion against God (3:8, 15, 16), disobedience (3:18; cf. 4:6), and finally turning away from God (3:12; cf. 3:10). An important safeguard against apostasy is a loving, nurturing community of true believers, who "encourage one another daily" in the Lord (3:13). Isolation from other believers particularly makes one vulnerable to the world's wisdom and lies, to the many temptations of the devil, and to "sin's deceitfulness." . . . "Today" carries with it both a note of urgency and an inherent warning that windows of opportunity do not last forever. . . . Believers are sharers (metochoi, plural) "in Christ" (3:14, NIV), "partakers of Christ" (NASB, NKJV), "partners of Christ" (NRSV). As Christ came to share our humanity, so "in Christ" we share his life, grace (4:16), salvation (2:10), kingdom (12:28), suffering (13:12–13), and glory (2:10). To begin well is commendable, but we must "hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first" (3:14b). As Bruce states, "it is only those who stay the course and finish the race that have any hope of gaining the prize" (1990, 101; cf. 12:1–3). We must persevere until Jesus comes the second time (cf. 9:28) or until we go to him through death (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8). ("Hebrews," Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary, 1319–1322) See also Scot McKnight article "A Synthetic Look at the Warning Passages in Hebrews" in External Link.
- Gareth Lee Cockerill: The pastor [i.e., the writer of Hebrews] began the previous section of this exhortation in 3:12 with the imperative "see" or "be alert lest." His hearers, however, have now "seen" (3:19) the horrible fate of the wilderness generation (3:16-19). Thus the pastor begins this new section [i.e., 4:1-11] of his exhortation with the much stronger "let us fear lest," softened only by the inclusion of the author himself with his hearers in the first person plural. It is not only, however, the terrible fate of the wilderness generation but also the great value of what is offered the people of God, of what is at stake, that motivates this exhortation to fear. The pastor urges his hearers to a new level of caution and concern appropriate to both their peril and the opportunity that is theirs to enter God's own "rest." God's people stand at this point of opportunity "because a promise of entering his rest still remains" for them. One might translate the perfect passive participle, "is remaining," or "is standing." They are living in the reality of this ancient promise's continuing validity. Furthermore, the promise is not simply a promise of "rest" but a promise that they, the people of God, can "enter" that "rest." Since the promise given the wilderness generation is still in effect, God's "rest" is available and its loss a true possibility. In the following verses the pastor substantiates the availability of this promise, concluding with "there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God" (v. 9). The perpetuity of the promise given the wilderness generation implies the eternal nature of the "rest" in question, as the pastor will explain below. The urgency of the pastor's exhortation gains additional impetus from the temporal force of the participle: not only "because" but "while a promise of entering his rest still remains." It is possible to pass beyond the time of opportunity by forfeiting this promise through unbelief and disobedience. God's promise is fundamental to biblical theology in general and to the thought of Hebrews in particular. This promise of entering God's "rest" forfeited by the wilderness generation is the promise of a heavenly homeland given to Abraham (11:9-10), guaranteed by God's oath (6:13-20), and certified to the faithful by Jesus' entrance into God's presence on their behalf (6:19-20; cf. 7:20-22). The fact that both God's "rest" and the homeland sought by Abraham are the object of this promise underscores their identity and substantiates the future, ultimate nature of entrance thereunto. Faith is conducting one's life on the assumption that this promise of God is certain and that his power to fulfill it is assured (11:1-6). In light of this great promise, God's people should fear lest "any of you be found to have fallen short." This rendering is more in accord with the pastor's urgency than the more common, "lest any of you seem to have fallen short." The pastor's concern is that they not be found by God to have come short of their eternal goal at the Judgment. The wilderness generation came all the way to the border of the Promised Land but "fell short" of entrance through refusal to trust God. Those who follow them in such rebellion are destined to forfeit what God has promised. The opposite of falling short is perseverance in the life of faith and obedience until final entrance into God's rest (cf. 11:1-38). There is a finality to the perfect tense "have fallen short" reminiscent of the Kadesh generation's permanent exclusion (3:19) and anticipatory of the apostasy yet to be described (6:4-8; 10:26-31). "Lest any" reminds us that the pastor is concerned with every individual within the congregation he addresses. [In v. 2] The pastor reaffirms the oneness of his hearers with the wilderness generation in receiving the offer of eternal rest (v. 2a) while urging an opposite response to God's invitation (vv. 2b-3). God's promise "remains (v. 1), "for we [Christian believers] also have had the good news" of God's "promise" of eternal rest "proclaimed to us just as" the wilderness generation had that good news proclaimed to them. The way this sentence is formed suggests that the wilderness generation received the original "good news" or "gospel." They too were offered God's eternal "rest." The revelation they received at Sinai through the angels was to be and has now been fulfilled in the "great salvation" provided by Christ (2:1-4) that it typified. Thus those obedient to that earlier offer were destined to enter God's eternal "rest" through Christ in company with those after him (11:39-40). In the consummation God's faithful people of all time will enjoy his rest without distinction (12:22-29). "We have had the good news proclaimed to us" is in the perfect tense. For the pastor's hearers the good news of God's "promise" has taken the form of the "great salvation" provided by Christ and proclaimed to them at the inception of their community (2:1-4). The proclamation of that good news, however, continues to address God's people in the present "today" of their opportunity. It summons them to enduring faithfulness: thus the pastor warns his hearers to distance themselves from the unbelieving response of those who previously received the "good news" of God's eternal "rest." The "but" which begins v. 2b sets the wilderness generation's rejection in contrast to the appropriate response: "but the word that they heard did not profit them because they had not joined themselves to those who heard with faith." In the immediate context of the wilderness generation "those who heard with faith" is a reference to Joshua and Caleb (Num 13:25-14:10). The pastor, however, is already thinking of the heroes of faith catalogued in 11:1-38. The "with faith" of this verse anticipates the many "by faith's" and "through faith's" of that chapter. The wilderness generation did not join themselves "to those who heard with faith," but "we" do belong "to the people of faith" (10:39) enumerated in that catalogue. The surface awkwardness of the Greek phrase we have translated "because they did not join themselves to those who heard with faith" appears to have given rise to several textual alterations. Nevertheless the way in which this statement reinforces one of the author's main concerns joins with the weight of manuscript evidence to attest its authenticity. The pastor is not urging his hearers to mere mental assent or private obedience, but to enduring identification with the great company of those who live "by faith," despite the ridicule of and exclusion from unbelieving society. "Did not profit them" is deliberate understatement that only serves to sharpen the ominous "they could not enter in because of unbelief"at the conclusion of 3:16-19. By contrast [in v. 3], the pastor rushes to describe himself and his hearers: "For we are entering that rest, we who have believed." "We are entering rest" is a true continuous present that stands in opposition to the final dictum on the wilderness generation: "they could not enter in." The journey of the wilderness generation is over. "They could not enter in" (3:19) is the conclusion of their story. "Our" journey, however, is in progress. "We are in the process of entering rest." It is for this very reason that the pastor urges perseverance. He is now ready to explain the nature of this "rest." The pastor would emphasize the importance of faith and spur his hearers to perseverance by reserving "we who have believed" for the end of the sentence. He is assured that his hearers are on the way to this eternal "rest" because, in contrast to the unbelievers (3:19) of the wilderness generation, they are those "who have believed." This relative clause translates a substantive aorist participle. The aorist is constative, asserting that a life evidencing trust in God's power and promises is characteristic of those who are on their way to "rest." The pastor would encourage his hearers by affirming that they are such people. This affirmation is a perpetual encouragement for all who are living the life of faith to continue therein. Past belief is no guarantee of entrance but a spur to continued faithfulness, as v. 11 makes clear (cf. 10:32-39). In vv. 3b-9 the pastor demonstrates from Scripture that God's promise of rest once offered to the wilderness generation is still valid (v. 1) and thus that "we who have believed" are indeed in the process of entering the place of promised rest. . . . [The writer of Hebrews answers a possible objection by someone who might say] "True, the wilderness generation failed to enter God's 'rest,' but did not Joshua lead the next generation into that 'rest' when he brought them into the Promised Land?" Ps 95:7 is the pastor's answer to this question as well: "If Joshua had given them rest (which he did not), then God would not have kept on speaking of another day" through Ps 95:7 after his people had entered Canaan. The imperfect tense, translated "would not have kept on speaking," has iterative force. God's invitation in Ps 95:7 has continued to be addressed to his people in their "today." The very existence of this invitation demonstrates that the promised "rest" was more than earthly Canaan. . . . The pastor's opening (v. 1) and closing (v. 11) exhortations depend on the continued validity of God's promise inviting his people into his "rest." He established this validity in v. 6 on the basis of the Scripture cited in vv. 3b-5. Here in this verse [4:9], after the reinforcement and clarification found in vv. 6-7, he restates that conclusion in grander form: "Therefore a Sabbath celebration remains for the people of God." If the word the pastor has been using for "rest" denotes the place of final "rest," the eternal "City" and "homeland," "Sabbath celebration" provides the hearers with some idea of what they will enjoy there. This term, first attested by Hebrews, was probably derived from the verb "to celebrate the Sabbath." In the Church Fathers it "stresses the special aspect of festivity and joy, expressed in the adoration and praise of God" which was to characterize that holy day. The pastor gives us a picture of such joyous celebration in 12:22-24. Thus "Sabbath celebration" describes the nature and quality of that "rest" without detracting from the fact that it is identified with and to be fully experienced in the yet-to-be-entered "heavenly homeland" (11:16). Just as this rest was established by God as the climax of creation, so his people will receive final entrance at the culmination of creation (12:25-29), for it is God's promised "Unshakable Kingdom" (12:28). While the pastor's focus in 3:7–4:11 is on future final entrance, by the time he gets to his grand description of this "Sabbath celebration" in 12:22-24 he has abundantly described the present access to God available to believers through Christ (4:14-16; 10:19-25). Thus in that description the persevering faithful join the already victorious faithful in the great Sabbath celebration of God's rest. The pastor would give his hearers a glimpse of this glorious reality as the supreme encouragement for perseverance in faithful obedience. This "Sabbath celebration" is the ultimate blessing – but only for those who persevere as the "people of God," not for those who fall away through "unbelief." . . . In v. 1 the writer urged his hearers to "fear" lest they fall short of God's rest; here [in v. 11] he urges them to "become diligent" in pursuit of entrance thereunto. Fear of loss should inspire greater diligence in pursuit. The availability of the promise of entering God's wonderful "rest" and its quality as a great "Sabbath celebration" (vv. 3b-10) are more than sufficient motivation for this renewed effort. Since this rest is God's own ultimate rest, the goal of creation, and the intended destiny of God's people, they must pursue it with a new diligence. The pastor would awake them from the lethargy implied by the "drifting" and "neglect" against which he warned them in 2:1-4 lest they fall into apostasy. He would replace slothfulness with zealous pursuit of entrance into God's rest through a life of faithful obedience. He has focused the hearers' vision on the magnitude of the goal and the dire consequences of its loss. He will soon reinforce this argument by describing the great provision for its attainment through the high-priestly work of the Son (4:14–10:25). The pastor who moved from "fear lest anyone fall short" (v. 1) to "give more diligence to enter" would conclude once more with a warning not to follow the wilderness generation – note the ominous word, "fall" (cf. 3:17): "lest anyone fall by the same example of disobedience." The pastor has moved the word for "the same" near the beginning of the Greek clause in v. 11b and deliberately reserved "disobedience" for the end. Thus he draws his hearers' attention once more inexorably to the "same" fallen wilderness generation. Note his continued concern for the whole congregation and for each of its members – "lest any of you." Their "diligence" must express itself in mutual concern for each other's perseverance. They must avoid both the concrete "disobedience" (4:11; cf. 4:6) of the wilderness generation and the "unbelief' (3:19) from which it sprang. The pastor would leave this dire warning against Kadesh Barnea-type "disobedience" ringing in their ears. With this final caution the pastor draws his discussion of the wilderness generation's failed pilgrimage to a close. After explaining the great benefits of Christ's high priesthood, he will return to the theme of pilgrimage in 10:36-39 and catalogue the great examples of faith in 11:1-38. As his hearers must avoid identification with the unbelieving and disobedient wilderness generation, so they are to identify with those who receive the "promise" (10:36) because they live "by faith" (10:38). This tragic history of disobedience will be countered by the glorious history of God's people of faith. (Cockerill, Hebrews [Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012], 195-213).
- Stanley Outlaw: This wonderful accomplishment of eternal salvation applies . . . literally "to all those who keep on obeying him" (Greek present participle). (Stanley Outlaw, Hebrews, [Randall House Publishers, 2005], 102).
- B. J. Oropeza: Our author assumes his audience already knows the foundational instructions prior to listing them in 6:1–2. Since all the teachings may be related to conversion initiation, he seems to be reminding them of their earliest instruction that led to their confession when they were baptized. His reminder provides confirmation of the audience's identity as Christian converts. Even if the author claims them babes in Christ, they are still bona fide believers. They are holy brothers and sisters who share in Christ (3:1, 6), have already repented, placed initial faith in God, experienced baptism in water and Spirit, and placed their hope in the resurrection of the dead and day of recompense. Moreover, it seems they have been believers for a long time (5:12), and so their potential to fall away is probably not precipitate but a gradual drifting away (cf. 2:1). The author's reaffirmation of their Christian identity may function as an implicit means of discouraging them from returning to their pre-converted status prior to their having a spiritual life in Christ. Even though they are to press on towards maturity, they must not forget how they first became Christ-followers. Our author may also believe that anything short of advancing forward to maturity would be a step backward, which eventually leads to backsliding. An important preventative against falling away, then, is for the audience to move forward. This reiteration of the foundational teachings sets up our author for his next warning. The author turns from directly addressing his audience to speak primarily in aorist masculine plural participles about others in 6:4–6. The string of participles describing these people prior to their failing away would seem to imply that they had also experienced conversion and understood the elementary teachings in 6:1–2. The audience would have doubtless thought that these apostates were also once Christians. Our author mentions them vaguely as "those". ... When speaking about others in the context of his warnings, and whether they are anonymous (e.g., 10:38–39) or not (e.g., 3:16–19; 12:16–17), the author uses their example as a springboard to directly challenge his recipients not to behave in a like manner. Here he mentions apostates (6:6), but he implies through the larger context that the recipients' reluctant hearing might become the cause of their own defection. ... With the immediate context of 6:1–3 fresh in the author’s mind, the thought of those who "were once enlightened" ... probably refers to conversion or "saving illumination" as in 10:32 where the word [enlightened] refers to the audiences' actual conversion in the past. In 6:4 the word assumes conversion as a one-time event with the adverb "once" (cf. 9:7, 26–29; 10:2; 12:26f). ... The text is referring to their conversion and this is the primary meaning of [enlightened] in 6:4. An echo from the wilderness generation's eating of manna possibly appears through the next phrase, "had tasted of the heavenly gift" (6:4b). ... Attridge understands the meaning of this gift to be more eclectic: it is "the gracious bestowal of salvation, with all that entails—the spirit, forgiveness, and sanctification." This is perhaps the best interpretation of the phrase. Important for our purposes is that the "tasting" of this gift does not mean a mere sip or sampling but the reality of experiencing something related to personal salvation. The author uses the term earlier to refer to Christ "tasting" death (Heb 2:9; cf. Matt 16:28). Whatever else the author means in 6:4, he is conveying that the apostates were at one time converted and experienced the grace of God. They also "shared in the holy Spirit" (6:4c: . . . , a thought that comes close to the mystical union of sharing in a relationship with Christ (cf. 3:1, 14). Here the focus may be on the Spirit's relationship, communion, and solidarity with the believers, an early Christian hallmark for determining conversion-initiation, new life, and sanctification (Acts 11:15–18; Rom 8:9–14; 2 Thess 2:13; Titus 3:5; Eph 1:13–14; John 3:3–7). There is in fact no passage in the New Testament that affirms unbelievers or fake Christians having a share in the Holy Spirit. ... They had also "tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the age to come" (6:5). This refers back to the theme of God speaking through his Son in the final days (1:3). The apostates were taught the spoken word, the gospel message of salvation and life (2:3; 4:1; 5:9; 6:12). The powers of the coming age likely points to the signs and wonders experienced by early Christian communities (Heb 2:2–4; cf. 1 Cor 12:4–11). ... The upshot in Heb 6:4–6 is that despite all these salvific blessings these individuals experienced, they fell away. ... There is no conditional "if" in the Greek text and none should be imported. The warning does not express what hypothetically happens to apostates even though Christians cannot really become apostates. The danger of apostasy is a real threat for the community. The severity of language and repeated warnings attest to this regardless of whether the apostates in 6:4–6 are anonymous or people the author and audience once knew. [Fell away] appears nowhere else in the New Testament, but in the LXX it normally conveys some form apostasy from God, righteousness, or wisdom (Ezek 14:13; 15:8; 18:24; 20:27; Wis 6:9; 12:2). We are not told specifically in 6:6 what they fall away from, but we can adduce from the immediate context that it would be a turning away from conversion and salvific benefits described in 6:1–5. The author, in any case, refers to Christians who were once converted, sharers in God's Spirit, and experienced gracious salvation, God's word, and the miracles of the coming age. At very least, then, they commit apostasy by rejecting God’s grace and God’s Spirit (cf. 10:29c). There is little reason for the author to bother compiling an entire list of salvific blessings described in 6:1–4 if he were intending to communicate to his audience that these people were inauthentic believers. ... The surprise of their apostasy is implied in 6:6: they experienced all the gifts and blessings a normal Christian experiences, and yet they fell away. Our author presents this passage, then, as part of his effort to shake the audience free from their spiritual dullness. His rhetorical strategy for them comes through loud and clear: "if these other Christians fell away who had experienced conversion and spiritual blessings just like you experience, watch out lest the same thing happen to you!" The author of Hebrews not only affirms that Christ-followers can fall away, but that once they do they cannot be renewed again to repentance (6:4–6). The meaning of the adjectival neuter αδύνατον means an unqualified "impossible," as it does elsewhere in the homily (6:18; 10:4; 11:6; cf. 9:9; 10:1, 11). ... For our author, it is impossible to bring the apostate again to repentance and conversion. The reason why it is impossible is not specified. Perhaps God will not allow it to happen. It is God who declares that the wilderness generation will never enter into his rest after they reject his ways (3:11). Then again, if an apostate repudiates Christ, he or she rejects the very basis upon which atonement and forgiveness is made possible (cf. 10:26–29). The author might assume both ideas. ... The author of Hebrews was not unique in his declaration that apostates could not be restored. The verdict for the apostates in Hebrews is similar to God's verdict for the wilderness generation who are rejected because of their persistent unbelief and disobedience when he swears "they will never enter into my rest" (Heb 3:11; 4:3, 5). This divine oath from Ps 94:11 and Num 14:21–35 provides a strong undercurrent for the author's ultimate rejection of apostates who reject God in the final "today" of salvific history. ... The punishment of the apostates is described through a comparison between well-watered and fruitful ground blessed by God, and useless ground that produces thorns and thistles and "is about to be cursed; its end is for burning" (6:7–8). The blessing and curse distinction may recall the Deuteronmic tradition's divine blessing on covenant keepers and curses on violators (Deut 11:11, 26–28; 30:1, 19). In this tradition fire is related to divine judgment (Deut 32:22; cf. 2 Sam. 23:6; Isa 33:12). More specifically, however, the burning in Heb 6:8 recalls eschatological judgment comparable to Jewish apocalyptic and early Christian traditions (Matt 13:31–32; 1 Cor 3:10–15; Rev 20; cf. Isa 66:24; 1 En. 102.1; 4 Ezra 16.78). The metaphor of burning useless thorns and thistles is also evident in the gospels that depict the imagery of fire related to a judgment on the wicked at the end of the age (e.g., Matt 13:30, 36–43; cf. Matt 7:16–26; John 15:6). In Hebrews final judgment will take place when Christ returns, and the apostates will be punished with fiery destruction at that time (Heb 10:30–31; 12:29). Most likely, a similar thought about the apostates' final destruction is being conveyed in Heb 6:8. (Church Under Siege of Persecution and Assimilation: The General Epistles and Revelation, Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 3 [Oregon: Cascade Books, 2012], 32–38, 41, 45) See "Christian Apostasy and Hebrews 6" by Ben Witherington in External Link; see also Scot McKnight's article "A Synthetic Look at the Warning Passages in Hebrews" in External Link.
- B. J. Oropeza: In the opposite direction of receiving the forgiveness of sins, maintaining confidence, and exhorting one another the author writes: "For if we continue sinning willingly (ἑκουσίως) after receiving the knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις) of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (10:26). The present tense participle for "continue sinning" ... may suggest a state of sin rather than a single act of sin. The "knowledge of the truth" refers to the proclamation of the gospel and Christ's atoning sacrifice that brings forgiveness of sin. Here it may imply the notion of conversion similar to the Pastoral Letters (1 Tim 2:4; 4:3; 2 Tim 2:25; 3:7). "We" includes both the author and audience (cf. Heb 2:1). Their spiritual transformation is implied in 10:22 (cf. 9:13), where repentance and the removal of sin is contrasted with the old covenant that could not deliver from the consciousness of sin (cf. 9:9; 10:2). The body washed in water is probably referring to baptism. In light of 10:22, the sin in 10:26 is committed after conversion. This verse refers to the danger of believers who after being converted and fully accepting and understanding the gospel message then reject it. ... Perhaps the most celebrated parallel to Heb 10:26 comes from Numbers and distinguishes intentional and unintentional sins (Num 15:22–31; cf. Lev 4:1–2; 5:18; Deut 19:4; Heb 5:2; 9:7). An Israelite's commitment to witting sin showed contempt for God and barred forgiveness, excluding the violator from God's people. It is clear that our author was familiar with this source; he echoes it earlier in the homily when speaking about the wilderness generation's rebellion and punishment (Heb 3–4/Num 14). In Hebrews the sinning believers cannot claim ignorance; they know fully the message of salvation in Christ and yet reject it (Heb 10:26, 29). This is akin with committing witting or intentional sin, and it is virtually synonymous with committing apostasy, as 10:29, 35 and 38–39 suggest (cf. also 3:13). Hebrews 10:29 gives three descriptions of the apostate: 1) he tramples underfoot the Son of God (10:29a); 2) he profanes the blood of the new covenant by which he was sanctified (10:29b); and 3) he has insulted/outraged the Spirit of grace (10:29c). Regarding the first description (Heb 10:29a), καταπατέω is used of trampling something underfoot (cf. Matt 5:13; Luke 8:5; 12:1). ... At its most basic level the notion of trampling in Hebrews refers to the apostate rejecting the Son of God. ... To trample on the Son of God ... implies a repudiation of Jesus as the Son of God and eschatological ruler of the cosmos (Heb 1), a reversal of the Christian confession that was considered a brash challenge to Caesar according to Roman opponents and blasphemy according to Jewish opponents. Regarding the second description (10:29b), the thought of reckoning unclean the blood of the covenant refers to a repudiation of the new covenant work of Christ involving his sacrificial death that provides the forgiveness of sin (cf. Heb 9:12, 13–14, 20; 10:19; Acts 21:28; Rev 21:17). Here the atoning death of Christ related to the new covenant is being denied. Johnson astutely writes, "The apostasy, in effect, reverses the effect of Christ's priestly work." Also significant in 10:29b is that the apostate was at one time "sanctified" ... through Christ's sacrifice. There is no doubt that the author considers the apostate as being once a genuine Christ follower thoroughly converted and cleansed from sin before his repudiation of the new covenant. The third description (10:29c) asserts that the apostate outrages or insults (ἐνυβρίζω) the Spirit of grace, implying insolence of the arrogant sort. Some interpreters associate the thought with blaspheming the Holy Spirit. This is certainly possible, but the author probably intends to convey something more than this. The "Spirit of grace" relates to the arrival of the eschatological era and may echo Zech 12:10, a passage that our author would probably interpret as Christ's death on the cross (cf. John 19:34–37; Rev. 1:7). The idea, then, may refer to a repudiation of the baptism and outpouring of the Spirit during the end times, which was considered a gift (i.e., "grace") associated with miraculous signs, conversion, and the believers' new life in Christ (cf. Heb 2:4; 6:4; Acts 2:4, 38–39; 11:15–18; 1 Cor 12:13; Rom 8:9; John 3:5). The person in Heb 10:26–29 commits the sin of apostasy: he repudiates the confession of Jesus as Son of God, reverses his atoning death, and arrogantly rejects the gift of God's Spirit. This apostate seems antagonistic towards his former faith. There no longer remains a sacrifice that could bring this person back to right standing with God. Since Christ's once-for-all sacrifice is considered unrepeatable, and this person has rejected this sacrifice, he cannot be renewed, nor can he turn to the old covenant priestly sacrifices that were offered yearly to cover sins, because according to our author such things were rendered obsolete by Christ’s sacrificial death (cf. 10:9, 18). In essence 10:26, similar to 6:4–6, teaches that it is impossible for the apostate to be restored, and 10:29, similar to 6:4–6, teaches that the apostate was once an authentic believer. What remains for the apostate, according to our author, is judgment in the form of a fearful, impending punishment from God (10:27–31). The judgment is described in at least three significant contours. First, the apostate is to expect a "fiery zeal" ... from God that will consume God's enemies (10:27). A natural inference is that the defecting Christian has now become an enemy of God deserving punishment. This form of retribution uses the Isaianic tradition in which God sends fiery judgment against his adversaries on the appointed "day" that is fast approaching (Heb 10:27/Isa 26:11 cf. Isa 26:1, 20/Heb 10:37a). Hebrews relates this judgment to eschatological destruction on the "day" Christ returns (10:25), in other words, the day after "today" (cf. 4:7–11). Second, using qal wahomer, our author affirms a punishment (τιμωρίας) worse than the penalty of physical death prescribed under Mosaic Law (Heb 10:28–29). ... According to the Law, no pity should be given to heinous violators of God's covenant, and by the testimony of two or three witness the punishment was prescribed (Heb 10:28/Deut 17:2–6; cf. Deut 13:5–11; 19:11–13, 21; 25:12). Hebrews, in turn, presents three greater witnesses against the apostate who repudiates the new covenant; these are the Son of God (10:29a), the "blood of the covenant" (10:29b), and the Spirit of grace (10:29c). The living God then executes the judgment (10:30–31). Third, the Song of Moses is cited twice by the author in Heb 10:30–31 (Deut 32:35–36; cf. 17:6): "vengeance is mine, I will repay," and "the Lord will judge his people." The song testifies of God's people breaking their covenant with God and thus incurring covenant curses as a result. Our author used this song earlier as background for first warning in Heb 2:1–4. In this song the day of vengeance and destruction draws "near" when God will punish his enemies. God will avenge the blood of his "sons," recompense the opponents, and the land will be purged (Deut 32:35f, 41–43). The song affirms that God makes alive and none can deliver from his "hands"; he lives forever (32:37–39). The song may have influenced the passage in Hebrews several ways. It reinforces that our author has in mind the concepts of apostasy, covenant breaking, and God's judgment against his people at an impending time. The Deuteronomic day of vengeance is reconfigured into the day of Christ's return and final judgment. The enemy judged by God is the apostate. At the same time, God's faithful servants will be delivered, which may be seen in light of the Deuteronomic benefit of covenant blessings (cf. Heb 10:39). The cleansing of the land in the song perhaps anticipates the final "shakedown" presented in 12:26–29 (albeit, the passage in chapter 12 relies primarily on Haggai 2). Moreover, the song's stress on God as living and making alive, as well as his hands bringing judgment, probably influenced 10:31: "it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." This all plays into the author's rhetorical strategy of portraying God's judgment on covenant violators in a graphic manner in order to instill the audience with fear of falling away (Heb 10:27, 30–31; cf. 4:1; 12:21). The author's concept of fearfulness (10:27, 30–31), in fact, reflects the characterization of covenant curses (Deut 28:66–67; cf. Deut 10:17). The recipients must choose between fearing God (Heb 10:30–31) or fearing humans who harass and marginalize them (10:32–34; 11:23–28; 13:6). Such a decision was repeatedly made by the emerging Christians (Matt 10:28; Luke 12:4–5; cf. 1 Pet 3:14–15/Isa 8:12–13). They could backslide and not come to Christian gatherings as a result of intimidation caused by outsiders, but it would be far better for them to fear God rather than be punished by him as apostates on judgment day. Even so, their fear is not supposed to be the same thing as being traumatized with anxiety attacks because of God; they are to have "godly fear" involving moral response to submit to God's will (cf. 5:7; 12:28). This requires their possessing both a sense of awesomeness about God as well as a deep realization that God will punish the wicked at the end of time, and for our author this includes any Christians who reject God. (Church Under Siege of Persecution and Assimilation: The General Epistles and Revelation, Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 3:48–54) See also Scot McKnight's article "A Synthetic Look at the Warning Passages in Hebrews" in External Link.
- Kevin Anderson: The alternation of threat (10:25, 26–31) and encouragement (10:32–34) is concentrated in the final verses of this chapter [v. 37–39]. The preacher presents another set of reasons (For [gar]) why the community must "persevere" (v. 36) in a composite biblical quotation. The quotation supplies further scriptural support for the eschatological urgency punctuating the transitional section (10:25, 27, 30–31, 34, 35, 36). "The Day" is fast approaching (10:25) because Christ is coming soon (10:37). The quote also introduces the topic of living by faith (v. 38a), illustrated at length in ch. 11. The introductory line, in just a very little while, comes from Isa 26:20. Its original context accounts for the distinctly eschatological resonance of the phrase: the promise of resurrection (Isa 26:19), the gracious opportunity given to God's people to hide from divine wrath (26:20–21), and the broader themes of God's righteous judgment and salvation (26:1–18). The phrase fits perfectly with the following quote from Hab 2:3b–4 (Heb 10:37b–38). It reinforces the promise that the Coming One will come and will not delay (v. 37b). The author adapts the text from Habakkuk in several ways in order to drive home his points. ... First, he cements the messianic interpretation of the passage (already present in the LXX) by adding the to the word for coming: ho erchomenos, He who is coming or "the Coming One" (ESV, HCSB, NLT, RSV). This leaves no doubt that the prophecy in Habakkuk concerns Christ's second coming. Second, he transposes the two clauses in Hab 2:4 (LXX) and adds an adversative and ... between them. So in Hebrews the subject of the phrase if he shrinks back is not the coming deliverer (as in the LXX) but is my righteous one (i.e., the person of faith). The inversion sets up two contrasting courses of action for believers: living by faith or shrinking back. Third, he alters the LXX by attaching my to righteous one instead of faith. This (along with the inversion of clauses noted above) unambiguously identifies the righteous one as the believer. It switches the focus from God's faithfulness (as in the LXX) to the imperative for God's righteous people to live by faith. Hebrews embraces the assurance found in God's faithfulness (Heb 6:13–20; 10:23). But here the emphasis is upon the responsibility of God's people to live in accord with divine faithfulness—by faith. ... The preacher sets an encouraging pastoral tone in his application of the Habakkuk text (v. 39). he does this by using the first person plural we (hēmeis; 10:19–25; 12:1). Providing reassurance on the heels of a strong warning about divine judgment is an effective method of exhortation he has used before (6:9 and 10:32–34). In effect, our author invites his audience to acknowledge with him that we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed. To shrink back (hypostolēs) is to be timid (BDAG, 1041). It is the opposite of having "confidence" (10:19, 35), but it also plays phonetically with another antonym, endurance (hypomonēs [10:36]). Fortitude is necessary, because slinking away from God's people (10:25) and abandoning one's confession (10:23) inevitably lead to destruction (apōleian). This is connected with the "eternal judgment" (6:2), described as the dreadful and fiery execution of divine justice (6:8; 10:27, 30–31; 12:26–29). It is falling under God's curse (6:8) and displeasure (10:38), rather than doing what is pleasing to God by aligning one's actions with his will (10:36; 13:21). The readers must count themselves among those who believe (pisteōs) or "those who have faith" (ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NRSV). Faith is directly opposed to shrinking back. Lack of faith characterized the apostasy of the wilderness generation (3:12, 19; 4:2) and led to their destruction (3:16–18; 4:11). Readers must instead follow the example of those who through faith and perseverance inherit God's promise (6:12; 10:36). Faith is here more than a mental assent to the truth or a mere profession of one's belief. It entails drawing near to God in "absolute trust" (10:22 NAB) and "confidence" (10:19, 35). It means holding on to the confession of hope (10:23) and committing oneself to the Christian community and its vital practices of love and well-doing (10:24–25). Such faithfulness involves courage and "perseverance" (10:32, 36). A long list of people who model this follows in ch. 11. The result of faithfulness is that we are saved. The expression is literally "preserving of the soul" (NASB). ... In the NT it refers to attaining eternal life (Luke 17:33; compare "receive salvation [peripoiēsin sōterias] [1 Thess 5:9]; . ... From the beginning, the preacher has warned his audience not to ignore "such a great salvation" (2:3; see 1:14) or the Great High Priest who has procured it (2:10; 5:9; 9:28). Now, as earlier, though he must warn them about the dire consequences of apostasy, he is convinced "of better things" in their case—"things that accompany salvation" (6:9). (Hebrews: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, [Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2013], 289–291). See also Scot McKnight's article "A Synthetic Look at the Warning Passages in Hebrews" in External Link.
- B. J. Oropeza: Since the believers have so many previous examples of faith who stand as a cluster of spectators or "cloud of witnesses," they are encouraged to run their metaphoric footrace of life with endurance (Heb 12:1; cf. ch. 11; 1 Cor 9:24–27). Hebrews uses the imagery of a footrace as one more example of God's people "moving" towards the goal of eschatological completion, similar to the wilderness generation journeying to the place of "rest" (Heb 3–4). The race metaphor, in any case, eventually breaks down when we realize that our author is not concerned about who gets first prize but just that all the contestants run until reaching the finish line. Once that has been achieved, the location is transformed from a stadium to the heavenly Jerusalem (12:22). Hence, the footrace concerns the participants' endurance, and apostasy would seem to be the outcome for those who do not finish the race. The runners are to mimic the attitude of the faithful champions who are now watching them in the stadium as the runners participate in the contest. In this race they must not return once they have gone out (cf. 11:15–16a). If they continue the race God will not be ashamed of them but will grant them entrance into the heavenly city (cf. Heb 11:16b; contrast Mark 8:38). The point for our author is not that some in the congregation will not start the race, but that some will not finish it. To run this race appropriately they should lay aside every impediment and easily obstructing sin, similar to a runner who loses excess body weight and sets aside heavy clothes or anything else that would hinder the athlete's speed (cf. Philostratus, Gymnasticus 48; Philo, Sacrifices 63). The sin is unspecified, and some exegetes surmise it as the sin of apostasy (cf. Heb 3:13; 10:26). The closest prior mention of sin is in 11:25, which speaks of Moses choosing mistreatment with God's people over the temporary pleasures of sin. That sin also has been understood as apostasy. But its connection with pleasure (ἀπόλαυσις/cf. ἀπόλαύω), when used in a negative sense, often refers to enticements related to forbidden foods and sensual vices, and this comes close to the meaning of sin in 12:16. The imagery of laying aside excess impediments in 12:1 is something normally done before the race starts, which tend to make the "sin" relevant to pre-conversion impediments that would hinder the participants during their new course of life if they are not discarded. The sin in 12:1 therefore refers to pre-converted sins or sin in general (cf. 9:26). It is not referring to apostasy per se. Interestingly, disrobing before baptism was practiced in Christian circles in the second century, and a similar practice may be operating in Asia Minor in the first century, which uses the same word in 12:1 (ἀποτίθημι) to describe disrobing. In any event, post-baptismal sins could always resemble pre-baptismal ones that do lead to apostasy, and sin would seem to ensnare easily any runner (cf. 12:1, 14–16). As runners focus their eyes down the track at a person "seated in the place of honor," so the believers are to keep their eyes on Jesus. He has already run the race of faith and finished his course having endured great suffering to the shedding of blood, something the believers have not yet experienced (12:2–4). Jesus is thus the ultimate exemplar of faithfulness as well as the object of faith for the runners. He endured crucifixion and despised "shame," affirming the societal honor system and public opinion as unreliable regarding its evaluation of crucifixion as dishonorable. Our author deems Jesus' death to be noble, voluntarily allowed in obedience to God, dedicated to virtue, and for the benefit of others (cf. 2:9–10, 14f; 4:14–16; 5:7–10; chs. 7–10). By setting their eyes on Jesus and his accomplishment on the cross, the believers will be encouraged not to grow fatigued and "give up" on the race (ἐκλύω: 12:3, 5). The believers, as good athletes, are to endure "discipline" (παιδεία), rigorous training conducive for running a good race (12:5–11). The author reconfigures the idea of παιδεία from a loving yet punitive and correcting discipline the LORD gives to children in Prov 3:11–12 to a non-punitive discipline in Heb 12. The discipline and suffering the believers experience, in other words, are not the result of divine punishment. Rather, the training and suffering fosters virtuous living with the special qualities of holiness and righteousness (12:10–11). Children who are without this training from the Father, something all God's children participate in, are "illegitimate and not sons" (Heb 12:8; cf. Wis 4:3). These words do not accuse some of the audience as false believers. The author gives us no clear indication of such a problem within this community. The homily suggests instead that the members have in fact experienced suffering and are currently enduring the struggle of salvation, and this is why he encourages them to press on—they are legitimate children belonging to Christ (Heb 2:13; 3:1; cf. 10:32–34). Their training and suffering should be considered as badges of honor; being illegitimate is a mark of dishonor. The argument probably aims to counter their supposing that discipline and suffering brings shame. David deSilva rightly argues in 12:8: "The author thus makes the experience of reproach and loss suffered for the sake of Christ a sign of favor and honor, and, more astounding, the lack of such hardship a sign of disfavor and dishonor! Those who shrink back so as to avoid these experiences find themselves shamed because they no longer experience what all children of God share in common." Moreover, the thought of illegitimacy also stresses the reality of a person being denied the right of inheritance as a legal child (cf. Gen 21:10; 25:5–6; Gal 4:30). In this homily such an inheritance ends with everlasting salvation (Heb 1:14; 6:12; 9:15; 11:8), and if one is without discipline, one could anticipate a fate similar to Esau who sold his birthright and lost his rightful inheritance (Heb 12:16–17; cf. v. 23). Esau's profane act nullified his rightful privileges as the firstborn son; and if the believers fall away from their spiritual footrace they will become illegitimate children by losing their place in the family of God and Christ (cf. 2:13b; 3:1, 6; 12:23). The imagery turns to a fatigued or crippled runner who needs reviving so as to continue advancing: "Therefore strengthen your drooping hands and your feeble knees and make straight paths for your feet so that what is crippled may not be dislocated [ἐκτρέπω] but rather be healed" (Heb 12:12–13/Prov 4:26). In this passage ἐκτρέπω is sometimes interpreted as a turning aside from the course, suggesting apostasy. Or it may have a medical meaning, referring to the dislocation of a joint. A dislocation would cause the runner to fall or not be able to continue the race, so in either case it seems that the runner would not be able to make it to the finish line. Thus committing apostasy is implied as a negative outcome of what might happen if the runner is not healed and strengthened once again. The author's exhortation intends to bring about the audience's strengthening and renewing; the congregants are presumed to be spiritually fatigued and about to give up the metaphoric race that leads to eternal inheritance. (Churches Under Siege of Persecution and Assimilation: The General Epistles and Revelation, Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 3:57–60).
- J. Wesley Adams: As holiness belongs to the essence of God and is his highest glory, so it is to characterize God's people. We were chosen in Christ to be holy (Eph. 1:4), and God disciplines us as his children so "that we may share in his holiness" (12:10). ... Lane observes that "in Hebrews 'pure' and 'holy' are interchangeable terms because those who have been made holy are those for whom Christ has made purification. ... Christians have within their reach the holiness that is indispensable for seeing God" (1991, 451). Holiness "is not an optional extra in the Christian life but something which belongs to its essence. It is the pure in heart, and none but they, who shall see God Matt. 5:8). Here [Heb. 12:14], as in v. 10, practical holiness of life is meant" (Bruce, 1990, 348). Thus 12:14 begins by exhorting believers to earnestly pursue peace and holiness as a way of life. "Make every effort" (dioko) conveys diligence in the pursuit of peace and holiness. ... Peace is viewed as an objective reality tied to Christ and his redemptive death on the cross, which makes possible harmony and solidarity in Christian community (cf. Col. 1:20). Similarly, "holiness" is essential to Christian community (cf. 12:15). Sin divides and defiles the body of Christ, just as cancer does a human body. To pursue holiness suggests a process of sanctification in which our life and manner of living are set apart for God as holy and God-honoring. Verse 14 concludes that "without holiness no one will see the Lord." To "see" the Lord and "know" him intimately are closely related. To see the Lord "is the highest and most glorious blessing mortals can enjoy, but the beatific vision is reserved for those who are holy in heart and life" (Bruce, 1990, 349). Things that are unholy effectively block seeing and knowing God and in the end keep the person from inheriting the kingdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9–10). Believers must be vigilantly watchful over the spiritual well-being of each member of the church. The verb translated "see to it" (episkopeo; 12:15a) conveys the idea of spiritual oversight and is related to the function of "overseers" or elders. This verb is a present active participle with the force of an imperative and carries the sense of "watching continually." Three subordinate clauses of warning follow this verb, each one introduced by the words "that no one" (me tis): Watch continually—"that no one misses the grace of God" (12:15a) "that no bitter root grows up ..." (12:15b) "that no one is sexually immoral or ... godless" (12:16a). This appeal to spiritual watchfulness is a call to the church as a whole. The exhortation "see to it that no one misses the grace of God" (12:15a) is a key statement. Remaining steadfast in faith (10:19–11:40), enduring discipline as children (12:1–13), and pursuing peace and holiness (12:14) are all related to the grace of God, as is everything involving our salvation. If entrance into the Christian life is by the grace of God, even so the continuance and completion of it is by the grace of God. The dreadful possibility of missing God's grace is not because his grace is inaccessible, but because some may choose not to avail themselves of it. For this reason it is possible for a person (though once a believer) not to reach the goal that is attainable only by his grace operating through faith (cf. 3:12; Bruce, 1990, 349). Marshall makes several observations concerning this warning passage (1969, 149–51). (1) It is possible for a believer to draw back from the grace of God (12:15a; cf. 2 Cor. 6:1; Gal. 5:4). The context of the warning here, as elsewhere in Hebrews (e.g., Heb. 2:1–4; 6:4–8; 10:26–31), indicates that a true believer is meant. (2) Where the grace of God is missed, bitterness will take root and potentially defile other members in the church (12:15b). The deadly sins of unbelief and a poisonous root of bitterness function like a fatally contagious disease that can "defile many" in the community. (3) No one should be "sexually immoral [pornos; lit., fornicator] or ... godless like Esau." Esau was a sensual man rather than a spiritual man—entirely earthly-minded rather than heavenly-minded—who traded away "his inheritance rights as the oldest son" (12:16b) for the momentary gratification of his physical senses. He represents those who would make the unthinkable exchange of long-range spiritual inheritance (i.e., things hoped for but not yet seen, 11:1) for present tangible and visible benefits, momentary though they be. Afterwards, when Esau realized the foolishness of his choice, he wanted to inherit his blessing but could not since "he was rejected" by God (12:17a). Attridge notes that the comment on Esau "conveys the sharpest warning" of this passage (1989, 369). Though some have understood verse 17b to mean that Esau could not change Isaac's mind, the more likely sense is that of rejection by God—that is, repentance was not granted by God. "God did not give Esau the opportunity of changing his mind and gaining what he had forfeited. The author intends his readers to apply this story to themselves and their salvation. Just as Esau was rejected by God, so can they be rejected if they spurn their spiritual birthright" (Marshall, 1969, 150). Bruce concurs that this example of Esau "is a reinforcement of the warning given at an earlier stage in the argument, that after apostasy no second repentance is possible" (1990, 352). Esau's "tears" represent regret for having lost his birthright, not repentance for having despised and shown contempt for God's gift of a birthright and for the covenant by which it was secured. This is all immediately applicable to the readers of this book, for Esau represents "apostate persons who are ready to turn their backs on God and the divine promises, in reckless disregard of the blessings secured by the sacrificial death of Jesus" (Lane, 1991, 455). In other words, a person may miss the grace of God and the spiritual inheritance of eternal life that he or she might have received. In such cases "God may not permit ... an opportunity of repentance. Not all sinners go this far; but an apostate may well find that he has stretched the mercy of God to its limit, so that he cannot return" (Marshall, 1969, 150–51). ("Hebrews," Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary, 1382–1384)
- B. J. Oropeza: In 12:18–29 thoughts about divine judgment merge with the finishing line of the runner and the place of "rest" for the moving people of God portrayed in the earlier portion of the homily (Heb 3–4). The end of the race is met with a festival gathering (πανήγυρις) appropriate for the end of a competition. The scene in Hebrews is primarily eschatological with the believers having arrived in Zion, and the heavenly Jerusalem (12:22). The city is paradoxically yet "to come" (13:14; cf. 11:10). In 12:18–24 our author seems to be stripping away the curtain that hides the presently unseen reality so that the audience could get a magnificent glimpse or sneak preview of the heavenly city awaiting them at the culmination of the race. The scene depicts a location where the blessings of God's promises are fully realized: the faithful enter into a final state of rest and receive their reward of inheritance. In heavenly Zion, God is the judge, Jesus is enthroned, the firstborn assembly is registered as its citizens, and both angels and perfected "spirits" reside there. If our author is primarily fast–forwarding the recipient community's race so that they could see in advance the final scene, then the "church" and firstborn in Zion might include the recipients who have persevered. If so, then the "spirits" of the righteous ones are probably those who had already died by the time the author presented this homily. This group might be identified as the heroes of faith in chapter 11 (cf. 10:38a) or early Christian leaders and martyrs (cf. 13:7), or both. 11:39–40 claims that the people of faith from bygone eras could not be perfected "without us," that is, they could not be completed without believers who presently live in the new covenant era (cf. 7:19; 10:10, 14). This group, it seems, will be perfected when Zion is fully realized to all the firstborn at the end of time. A final comparison from lesser to greater is given in 12:18–29. God speaking in the past from Mount Sinai is compared with God speaking in the present from the heavenly city. At Sinai when the old covenant was established Moses trembled exceedingly and the people were terrified at God's voice. Even beasts were to be destroyed if they touched the mountain of divine presence (cf. 12:18–21). Fearful as Israel's past experience with the divine presence might have been, the future heavenly Zion is intended to be even more fearful and operates on the new covenant of Jesus with God as judge (12:22–24). God's voice shook the earth when his presence was manifest at Sinai, but now a promise remains that at the end of the age God will also shake "the heaven" (12:25–26). The shaking of heaven and earth resembles apocalyptic imagery and destruction that must take place before the end (Rev 6:12–14; 16:18–21; 21:1–2; 2 Pet 3:5–7; Isa 59:3; Joel 2:10–11; cf. Isa 33:20). Such shaking communicates the fearful presence and intervention of God (cf. Nah 1:5; Joel 3:16; Isa 13:13; Jer 10:10; Ezek 39:20). ... An echo from Hag 2:6–7 (cf. 2:21) is felt here which was originally addressed to Zerubbabel of Judah and "Jesus the high priest." In the prophetic book the day of the Lord was soon approaching, and at that time everything would be affected by it. A shaking would take place horizontally on sea and dry land and vertically on earth and in the heaven. Then all the nations would surrender their treasures and submit to Jerusalem and its temple so that that latter house of God would be greater than the former temple (Hag 2:6–9). Our author in Hebrews relates the shaking from Haggai to the final eschatological visitation in which the temporal and unholy things will be removed and only that which is permanent and holy will remain for the coming kingdom of God. The implication for believers seems clear enough. The author essentially warns that if the fearful presence and voice of God from the heavenly city is greater than the theophany at Sinai, then how much greater and terrifying will be the judgment of God on those who reject God's voice in the new covenant era? The author's final warning resembles the first one in Heb 2:1–4. The audience is to take heed (βλέπετε) and not to refuse God who now speaks from heaven. The author and the community to whom he writes ("we") will not be able to escape the final judgment if they turn away (ἀποστρέφω) from the one who warns from heaven (12:25, 29). God is viewed as a consuming fire, a thought that alludes to his judgment against enemies and those who violate his covenant (cf. Deut 4:23–24; 9:3; Isa 33:14). Our author has in mind a burning judgment and picture of final destruction akin with early apocalyptic traditions (Isa 66:16, 24; Zeph 1:18; 1 En. 91.9; 4 Ezra 7.38; 2 Bar. 44.15). Put differently, if the malaise Christian community that suffers from dullness of hearing commit apostasy by rejecting God's message, then God will consume them with a fiery punishment at the eschaton. Given that the audience is in the process of inheriting an unshakable kingdom, the appropriate way to worship God, then, is for all believers to show gratitude (Heb 12:28), which is the proper response beneficiaries are to show to the benefactor who gives them a gift. In this case the benefactor is God. They are also to offer service pleasing to God with "godly fear" (εὐλάβεια) and "dread" (δέος). Again the author uses fear as a strategy in his warning (4:1; 10:27, 31; 12:21; cf. 11:7). The believers are exhorted to worship God acceptably and not commit apostasy but inherit instead the promised blessing of rest in heavenly Zion. (Church Under Siege of Persecution and Assimilation: The General Epistles and Revelation, Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 3:64–67)
- David P. Nystrom: As in the wisdom tradition, the word "blessed" has both present and future connotations, for the one who perseveres is qualified to be called "blessed," and the reward is the "crown [stephanos] of life." ... The "crown of life" is eternal life, and in this age it is a life lived in the will of God as his faithful and loyal servant... James then adds that this crown of life is what "God has promised to those who love him." As his children, Christians are to stand fast, as do all who truly love God, in order to receive our inheritance. Here the theme of loyalty to God and of turning from lesser and therefore potentially dangerous and false loyalties is present. The faithful are those who stand the test, for real love for God manifests itself in action. James is here faithfully following the teaching of Jesus (see Matt. 25:31–46). (The NIV Application Commentary: James [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997], 71–72)
- Peter Davids: The verse is in fact very significant. James is written in a typical Greek letter form. It was customary to end such a letter with a summary (James 5:7–11), an oath (James 5:12), a health wish (James 5:13–18) and a purpose statement (James 5:19–20). This verse, then, should be part of the statement of the purpose of the whole letter. That in itself is reason enough to assign it great importance. The condition this verse speaks to is described in James 5:19. A Christian ("one of you") has erred. James gives us plenty of illustrations of this in the letter. The errors he addresses are those of partiality and greed, of anger and jealousy. All of them are found within the church. Such error calls for another Christian ("someone") to point it out so that the person can repent and be restored ("bring him back"). That, of course, is what the entire letter is about, bringing the Christians he addresses back to proper Christian behavior. This is indeed the purpose statement of James. Therefore the sinner in this verse is a Christian who has fallen into sin, such as greed or criticism of others. This Christian brother or sister has erred or gone the wrong way—the text is not talking about an individual sin, however "serious" we may consider it, from which the believer quickly repents. As Jesus points out in Matthew 7:13–14 (which may be the word of Jesus that James is applying here), there are two ways. The way that leads to life is narrow and difficult, while the one leading to death is broad and easy. Unfortunately there are many ways to get from the narrow to the broad way. This Christian (the sinner) has taken one of them and is observed by another, whom we shall call the rescuer. The question is, Who is saved from death—the sinner or the rescuer? Ezekiel 3:18–21 is a discourse on the responsibility of the rescuer. If someone sees a person fall into sin and sits by and does nothing, the sinner will indeed receive the results of the sin, but the potential rescuer will be held guilty of the sinner's blood. In the Old Testament such guilt usually cost the person his life. On the other hand, the rescuer who tries to warn the sinner is free of any guilt, whatever decision the sinner makes. This is certainly the message of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:9; compare 1 Tim. 4:16), but is it the message of James? It seems to me that James's message is that the sinner is the one rescued from death by the rescuer's efforts. There are four reasons for this. First, the fact that sins are covered (an adaptation of Proverbs 10:12: "Love covers all wrongs") seems to refer to the sinner's sins, not the potential sin of the rescuer. Only the sinner has erred in the context. Second, the word order in the Greek text makes it more likely that it is the sinner who is delivered from death. Third, the very picture of turning a person from his wandering way (a rather woodenly literal translation that brings out James's imagery) suggests that it is the error that is putting the individual in danger of death. The rescuer is presumably safe (although potentially in error, if he or she fails to help the erring Christian). What, then, is the death that the person is saved from? Certainly sin can lead to physical death in the New Testament, as shown by the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11), as well as by Paul's statement in 1 Cor. 11:30 (compare 1 Cor. 5:5). Moreover, in James 5:15–16 we discover that sin may be involved in the illnesses of Christians. Could this be what James is referring to? By turning a sinner from their error a person is saved from physical death, their sins being forgiven? Attractive as this solution is, it is not the most likely interpretation of the passage. The fact that each of the units of James 5:7–20 is separate and dictated by the letter form means that we should look to the body of the letter (and the call to repentance in James 4:1–10) rather than to the "health wish" (James 5:13–18) for the meaning of "death" in this verse. Both testaments view death as the end result of sin, usually referring to death in terms of eternal death or condemnation at the last judgment (Deut. 30:19; Job 8:13; Psalm 1:6; Psalm 2:12; Jeremiah 23:12; Jude 23; Rev. 20:14). James has already mentioned this in James 1:15: desire gives birth to sin, which results in death. That death is contrasted with the life that God gives (James 1:18). Since death and life are parallel ideas, it is likely that they are not physical but eternal (or eschatological, to use the more technical term). This parallel, plus the seriousness of the tone in James 5, indicates that it is this sort of death, the ultimate death that sin brings about, which is in view. What James is saying, then, is that a Christian may err from the way of life. When another Christian attempts to rescue him or her, it is not a hopeless action. Such a rescue effort, if successful, will deliver that erring person from eternal death. That is because the sins will be covered (the language is that of the Old Testament sacrifice; when atonement was made the sin was said to be covered as if literally covered by the blood). It may be one simple action of rescue, but it can lead to the covering of "a multitude of sins." In stating this, James shows his own pastor's heart and encourages all Christians to follow in his footsteps, turning their erring brothers and sisters back from the way of death. (More Hard Sayings of the New Testament, [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991], 149–152)
- Peter Davids: What does the author mean in 2 Peter 1:10 in exhorting us to make our "calling and election sure"? ... The passage is certainly calling for moral effort. The call for zeal in the phrase "be all the more eager [or diligent]" tips us off to that fact. If that were not enough, this verse comes right after another exhortation to moral living. In 2 Peter 1:5–7 we discover a chain of virtues that Christians are strongly encouraged (using a phrase similar to "be all the more eager") to develop. Developing them will make us effective and productive in our relationship to Christ, while the failure to develop them means that we are blind and have forgotten the cleansing from past sins that we have experienced. We are not surprised at this encouragement to moral effort, for the false teachers in 2 Peter are false precisely in that they are not living morally (false teaching in 2 Peter and in many other New Testament writings is false because it sets a wrong moral example, not just because it teaches wrong doctrine). They apparently claim to see, but in Peter's eyes they are blind. To make one's "calling and election sure," then, is to guarantee or confirm or ratify (the term has those meanings in various contexts) the calling one has received. The calling, of course, is the calling to Christ referred to in [2 Peter] 1:3. The ideas of calling and election are closely associated. ... The point is that this word pair ... indicates God's action in bringing a person to Christ. This is what needs to be confirmed or ratified by the ethical obedience of the Christian. However, the author is not saying that moral effort can produce election to Christ's kingdom. The calling and election are first (the grace of God appears in [2 Peter] 1:3), just as faith comes first in his list of virtues in 1:5. Everything else is to be a fruit of faith. What Peter does believe is that without moral living one will not enter the kingdom, which is precisely what Paul also believed (1 Cor 6:9–10; Gal 5:21). Peter makes his point clear in the second half of the verse. To confirm one's calling is not to "stumble." This term can mean to sin, as in James 2:10, 3:2. But if this were all Peter had in mind, the sentence would be so obvious as to be meaningless: If you live ethically (do these things), you will not sin (fall). Therefore Peter is using the term as it is used in Romans 11:11, to "fall" in the sense of "come to grief" or "fall disastrously." In Jude 24 a related term refers to God's grace in keeping people from falling in this way, meaning "leaving the faith." The opposite of falling, then, is to "receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11). In other words, the author pictures Christians on a journey begun with the calling and election of God. If they fall on the way, they will never reach the goal of the kingdom (salvation). But if they do not stumble, and instead develop the virtues he has already listed, they will in the end arrive at the kingdom and be warmly welcomed into it. This teaching is important within the context of 2 Peter. As noted above, the false teachers in the church were not living according to Christian standards, yet they were claiming to be elect and on their way to Christ's kingdom. The author is denying this claim. While the whole New Testament witnesses to forgiveness of sin for all who repent, and acknowledges that Christians do sin from time to time, no author in the New Testament, whether Paul or James or Peter or John, believed that a person could be living in disregard of Christian standards and still be "saved" (or still inherit the kingdom). (More Hard Sayings of the New Testament, [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991], 184–186. Richard Bauckham: Through the knowledge of Christ he has given Christians everything necessary for godly life (verse 3); if they exercise the virtues, this knowledge will be fruit... The "knowledge Jesus Christ," received at conversion, came as illumination to those who were blind in their pagan ignorance (2 Corinthians 4:4), but Christians who do not carry through the moral implications of this knowledge have effectively become blind to it again... "Therefore, my brothers, make all the more effort." ... ("to be zealous, to make an effort") is a natural word for moral effort (Ephesians 4:3; Hebrews 4:11 ...) and is something of a favorite word in 2 Peter (also 1:15; 3:14)... "to confirm your call and election." ... Christ has called the Christian into his kingdom (v. 3), promising him immortality (v. 4), but an appropriate moral response is required if his final salvation is to be guaranteed... This passage does not mean that moral progress provides the Christian with a subjective assurance of his election (the sense it was given by Luther and Calvin, and especially in seventeenth-century Calvinism), but that the ethical fruits of Christian faith are objectively necessary for the attainment of final salvation. Although we should not obscure the variety of New Testament teaching about justification by faith as it is supposed. (1) The author of 2 Peter is concerned with the ethical fruits of faith (1:5) and with moral effort which is only possible through grace (1:3: "his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for a godly life"). (2) Paul can also regard the ethical fruits of faith as necessary for salvation, even in Galatians (5:21), when countering the dangers of libertinism. (3) If our author seems to emphasize man’s role in salvation, the context should be remembered. His readers were in danger of moral apostasy, under the influence of teachers who evidently held that immorality incurred no danger of judgment... ["If you do these things, you will never stumble"] Many commentators think that because this metaphor means "sin" in James 2:10; 3:2 it must do so here ... but this makes the sentence virtually tautologous: "if you lead a virtuous life (or: if you confirm your calling by leading a virtuous life), you will never sin." The metaphor must rather be given the same sense as in Jude 24: it refers to the disaster of not reaching final salvation (so Bigg, James, Kelly, Grundmann, Senior)... Verse 11 holds out the prospect of entry into Christ's kingdom for those whose faith is effective in virtuous living. [Bauckham notes on page 192 that: "In view of the eschatology of chapter 3, the eternal kingdom here is not simply 'heaven,' but looks forward to the cosmic reign of God in righteousness in the new heaven and new earth (3:13)".] (Word Biblical Commentary: Jude, 2 Peter [Waco: Word Books, 1983], 189–193)
- Robert Picirilli: A preliminary question concerns the identity of the "they" in verse 20, who are identified as the apostates: Are these the false teachers, or their intended victims? In view of the fact that Peter will deal with this as an apostasy that has already occurred, I am satisfied that he is identifying the false teachers as the apostates. However, as Bauckham observes, "The false teachers are in the state of definite apostasy described in verses 20–22; their followers are doubtless in severe danger of joining them." For our purposes here, however, it makes no difference which group Peter regards as apostates or in danger of apostasy. The main "movements" of the passage can be indicated in a relatively simple outline: verses 18, 19 [deals with] the attempts of the false teachers to lure believers astray; verses 20, 21 [deals with] the apostasy which they exemplify; verse 22 [is] an illustrative analogy. The key verses to consider, in discussing apostasy, therefore, are verses 20, 21. Without taking time to analyze everything leading up to them, then, I will proceed to the major questions involved. 1. That these whom Peter regards as apostates had a genuine Christian experience is seen in at least three ways. First, they "got clean away" from the pollutions of the world, which recalls 1:4. The aorist apophugontes (verse 20 and in 1:4) harks back to the time of their conversion. Second, they accomplished this escape "by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." ... Peter's use of epignōsis leaves me in no doubt that he uses this compound for knowledge consciously as a way of representing the saving knowledge of Christ one gains at conversion. Third, they "have come to know the way of righteousness." The verb "have come to know" is cognate to the noun epignōsis just referred to, and is used with the same meaning. That it is perfect tense focuses on the state of the knowledge that followed the initiation therein. The "way of righteousness" is obviously the same as "the way of truth" in verse 2 and "the straight way" in verse 15... It would be hard to find a better description of what it means to become a Christian... 2. The apostasy which Peter ascribes to these and warns his readers against is found in two expressions, each standing in sharp contrast to the experience just described. First, they "have been overcome by being again entangled with these (pollutions)." And this after their escape from those very pollutions! In light of verse 19b, this being overcome is being re-enslaved. Clearly, these apostates have returned to the practice of the fleshly wickedness that previously defiled them. Nor does the fact that this is introduced with an "if" mitigate this conclusion... Even [Simon J.] Kistemaker, a thorough-going Calvinist, acknowledges that the ones referred to were once "orthodox Christians" who "escaped the world's defilements"—and then hurries to make these "orthodox Christians" orthodox in external profession and lifestyle only. He apparently does not realize how self-contradictory this sounds, or how unlike Peter's more obvious meaning. Second, they have come to the place where they "turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them." And this after having come to know the way of righteousness! The "holy commandment" ... [is] "Christianity as a whole way of life." [J. N. D. Kelly] It was "delivered to them" when the gospel was preached to them and its implications taught. It is a holy commandment because it sets people apart as God's and teaches them a way of life appropriated for saints. 3. The seriousness of this apostasy Peter indicates in two expressions and a proverb. First, "the last things have come to be worse for them than the first." No doubt Peter is alluding to Jesus' words in Matthew 12:45 and sees that principle fulfilled in the experience of these apostates. They are in worse condition than before they came to the saving knowledge described above. Second, "it were better for them not to have come to know the way of righteousness." This is incredibly startling thing: can anything be worse than never having come to the saving knowledge of the way of the Lord? As Kelly notes, apostates are worse off than unconverted believers "because they have rejected the light." ... An apostate cannot be recovered; a never converted unbeliever can. Third, Peter illustrates with a two-fold proverbial saying (or with two proverbial sayings). That the idea proverbially represented "has happened" to the apostates means that the proverbs fit their situation. Like a dog that comes back to lick up the spoiled vomit that sickened him in the first place, like a sow that gets a bath and goes back to the mud from which she had been cleansed, these apostates return to the enslaving, polluting wickedness from which they had been delivered. Those who attempt to mitigate Peter's teaching by suggesting that the real nature of the sow or the dog had not been changed, and that this implies that these apostate false teachers were never regenerated, are pressing the illustration beyond what they are intended to convey. Indeed, the proverbs must be interpreted by the clearer words that precede them and not the other way around. The previous paragraph expresses precisely what the proverbs are intended to convey. In conclusion, it is clear that Peter is describing a real apostasy from genuine Christianity. (Grace Faith Free Will, 229–232)
- Gene L. Green: Instead of being faithful to Paul and his presentation of the gospel, the false teachers have distorted his message... These people "twist" Paul's teaching, wrenching and distorting it in such a way that the true is tuned into the false (BDAG 948; MM 593). From Paul's own writings we are aware that some in his audience distorted his preaching concerning grace (Rom 3:8), misunderstanding various declarations (e.g., Rom 3:21–27; 4:15; 5:20; 8:1; 1 Cor 6:12; Gal 5:13) as support of antinomianism (cf. Jude 4). Others also perverted his teaching regarding eschatological events (2 Thess 2:2–3; 2 Tim 2:17–18). The Pauline doctrines that the "ignorant and unstable" have distorted have to do with precisely these two points (2:19; 3:4). The false teachers and those who follow them do not solely target Paul's teaching. They twist his teaching ... as even the other Scriptures. During Peter's era, the term "Scriptures" referred specifically to the divinely inspired writings of the Old Testament (2 Peter 1:20–21; Luke 24:27, 32, 45; John 5:39; Rom 1:2; 1 Cor 15:3–4; Gal 3:8, 22; 1 Tim 5:18; 2 Tim 3:16; 1 Pet 2:6). But early in the life of the church, the concept of "Scripture" was expanded to include the teachings of Jesus (1 Tim 5:18; cf. Matt 10:10; Luke 10:7)... In the final clause, Peter underscores the seriousness of distorting the teaching of the Scriptures, whether that of Paul, Jesus, or the Old Testament. The heretics and those who follow them distort this teaching ... to their own destruction [apōleian]; see the comments at 2:1, 3; 3:7 regarding apōleia. [At 2 Peter 2:1 Green writes: "In the New Testament this word refers to final and ultimate destruction of those who oppose God and his purposes (Matt 7:13; Rom 9:22; Phil 1:28; 3:19; Heb 10:39; 2 Peter 3:7; Rev 17:8, 11; BDAG 127; A. Oepke, TDNT 1:396–397; H. C. Hahn NIDNTT 1:462-66). It is, therefore, the opposite of salvation (Phil 1:28; Heb 10:39) and is the result of the execution of God's wrath (Rom 9:22)."] The result of their error, which includes their embrace of immorality on the basis of their distorted teaching, is condemnation before God. The problem of the false teachers is not that they have poorly understood portions of divine revelation but that they use their twisted interpretation to justify their immorality (e.g., 2:19; 3:3-4). Twisted teaching and twisted practice go hand in hand. Heretical teaching has led to moral decadence. Before the final doxology of the letter, Peter gives his last call that his readers not fall into the error of the false teachers... He exhorts ... Therefore you, beloved, since you know these things beforehand, be on your guard... Since the recipients of this letter have not yet succumbed to the error and since they already have in hand the apostolic argument against the error via this letter as well as the prophetic and apostolic teaching regarding the coming error (3:2-3), they are advised in advance and can guard themselves from heresy... they are to be on their guard against the error of the false teachers lest they succumb to the error (3:17b). ... The apostle recognizes that the best antidote against apostasy is a Christian life that is growing. Therefore, in this the final exhortation ... of the letter, Peter urges ... but grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ... Increase in 'grace' ... suggests advances in the appropriation or experience of the benefits of salvation (1 Peter 1:10; 3:7; 4:10; 5:5, 12; see 2 Pet 1:2; Jude 4). ... The increase in "knowledge" ... is not theoretical but rather personal knowledge ... whose object is 'our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ' (1:1, 11; 2:20; 3:2). Such knowledge, which marked the believers' conversion, also continues and increases throughout the life of the Christian. Along with grace, such knowledge is the strongest antidote against the destructive lures of the false teachers. (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Jude and Peter [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008], 340–343).
- Gene L. Green: As in verse 17, the emphatic "but you" places the believers in sharp contrast with the heretics whom Jude has denounced in verse 19. These infiltrators are devoid of the Spirit and are trying to cause a division in the church by their teaching. Jude exhorts the beloved members of the Christian family not to be swayed by their teaching but to build themselves up on the foundation of the faith (v. 20a); pray in the Spirit, which they have as the true people of God (v. 20b); and keep themselves in the love of God (v. 21)... One of the issues that Jude has consistently raised in this epistle is the way the heretics, like their ancient prototypes, did not keep their proper place but crossed the line to participate in things outside their allotted domain. Certain angels did not remain in their proper domain but engaged in illicit relations (v. 6). These violated God's order, as had the exodus generation (v. 5) and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7). The heretics were trying to divert the church down a similar path (v. 4a) by altering the gospel (v. 4b) and persuading members of the congregation to follow their lifestyle (vv. 22–23). Jude therefore calls the church both to "contend for the faith" (v. 3) and to hold on securely to what they have received (v. 21). Jude previously affirmed that they, as the elect of God, were "kept" for Jesus Christ and his return (v. 1 ...). But in the present verse he turns the indicative of their existence into an imperative as he calls them to "keep" themselves "in the love of God." ... In the face of the persuasive tactics of the heretics, Jude calls the church to keep themselves "in the Love of God." They should not move away from God but remain faithful. Keeping themselves "in the love of God" echoes the thought of verse 1, where Jude identifies the Christians as those who are the beloved of God and kept for Jesus Christ. God's love was the cause of their election, and now Jude exhorts them to stay within this state of grace. This principle imperative is a powerful call to flee from apostasy... Jude adds one final (participial) imperative: ... eagerly await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life... Jude exhorts the church not only to maintain their faith but also to anxiously await the coming of "the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9–10). The vivid hope of the parousia ... is linked with Christian ethics. Jude remains the church of the end so that they may live godly lives in the present... The mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, shown to them upon his coming, will bring eternal life... The hope of eternal life was linked with the expectation of the coming kingdom of God... While John is able to speak about eternal life as a present possession of the believer (John 3:15–16, 36; 5:24; 6:47, 54), this life anticipates the final day with the righteous will be raised (John 6:40, 54). Much of the discussion of eternal life in the New Testament understands it as the future hope of the resurrection (Matt. 19:29; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Rom. 2:7; Titus 1:2; 3:7). This the final act of salvation and, as such, is in contrast with the final judgment and condemnation of the unrighteous (Matt. 25:46; John 3:36; 10:28; 1 John 3:15 ...)... Jude's concern is not simply to inform them about a bright future. His call to await this event also implies that in the hope of eternal life, they should continue to avoid the way of the heretics. (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Jude and Peter, 119–120, 122–124)
- Daniel R. Streett: The "leavers" [i.e., "Jewish-Christian Apostates"] of 1 John 2:19 were individuals who participated in the community and confessed that Jesus was the messianic redeemer foretold in the Scriptures. At some point, for reasons unstated in the text, they turned back on their confession of Jesus and on the community, leaving both behind to (most likely) return to the Jewish communities they had been part of prior to their confession of Jesus. ... The readers all know about the nature of the antichrists’ apostasy and they are able to discern between those who are "of us" and those who are not. The readers' ability to discern friend from foe comes from their knowledge of the truth, which they already possess (v. 21). The "truth" here is nothing other than the basic message (ἀγγελία) disputed by the ἀντίχριστοι [antichrists’], namely that Ἰησοῦς ἔστιν ὁ Χριστός [Jesus is the Messiah]. The author emphasizes that the audience knows this, has confessed it, has received God's testimony to it, and therefore has no need to be taught it again by the author or by anyone else (see v. 27). The truth, in the form of the message and confession, forms the foundation of the community's existence as well as the line which divides the community from the world in the eschatological struggle. ... The readers' knowledge of the truth and ability to discern between the truth and a lie comes from their "anointing," which they have "from the Holy One" (χρῖσμα ἀπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου). ... From the context, the following characteristics of the χρῖσμα [anointing] may be noted: 1) Its reception was a past event that has continuing effects (v. 27). 2) It is pictured as teaching the readers the knowledge of the truth and eliminating the need for teaching (vv. 20–21, 27). 3) It is probably to be associated with the message the readers "heard from the beginning," and would therefore have been received at the readers' initiation into the community (v. 24). 4) It unites the audience with Jesus, the "anointed one" (ὁ Χριστός, v. 22) in a relationship likely characterized as κοινωνία [fellowship] (1:3). 5) It sets the audience in opposition to the ἀντίχριστοι, or "anti-anointed-ones." 6) The function of the χρῖσμα is similar to the activity of the Spirit in the rest of the letter. Both prompt confession of Jesus, provide saving knowledge, and unite the recipient to God and his Son (3:24; 4:2, 6, 13; 5:6). While v. 21 establishes a strong antithesis between the Truth, known and confessed by the audience, and the Lie, vv. 22–23 specify what these terms are referring to. Both have to do with the central confession of the community that Jesus is the Messiah. In v. 22, the author identifies the "liar" (ψεύστης) with the "antichrist" and specifies his defining mark: the lie or falsehood (ψεῦδος) of the liar is his denial that Jesus is the Messiah. . . . In 2:22b the author elaborates upon the antichrists’ denial. The liars and antichrists deny both the Father and the Son. From 2:23 it is clear that this claim is disputed; the author must argue for it. The antichrists themselves almost certainly would not have admitted to denying the Father. In their mind, they denied only that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son. The author reasons that the opponents’ denial of the Son logically entails their denial of the Father, since in Johannine theology, it is the Father who has declared Jesus to be the Son and has set his seal upon Jesus, signifying this very fact (John 3:33; cf. 6:27). To deny that Jesus is the Son is therefore to declare the Father a liar (1 John 5:10), and even to "hate" the Father (John 15:24). Verse 23 continues this logic: if someone denies the Son, he does not "have" the Father either, and vice versa. The language of "having" (ἔχειν) has been shown by E. Malatesta to derive from Jewish covenantal thinking. The author is thus saying that a proper covenantal relationship with God depends upon acceptance and acknowledgement of his messenger. Verses 22–23 provide numerous reasons for believing that the central issue in the antichrist secession was Jesus’ messiahship. If this is the case, then the Johannine Epistles address substantially the same context and set of issues as the Fourth Gospel. The following points are especially significant: First, the confession in 1 John 2:22 that serves as the dividing line between the antichrist secessionists and the anointed believers contains exactly the same wording as the confession in John 20:31. There the author of the Fourth Gospel announces that his purpose in writing is to convince his readers that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. . . . Thus, the phrase "to confess/deny the Son" in 22b–23 is a shorthand summary of the lengthier form in 22a: "to confess/deny that Jesus is the Christ." Likewise, the child of God’s most basic confession may be stated in terms of believing that "Jesus is the Messiah" (1 John 5:1), and only a few verses later restated in terms of believing that "Jesus is the Son of God" (5:5). By shifting from one title to the other the author emphasizes the filial relationship between God and the Messiah and thereby demonstrates that confessing Jesus as the Messiah is a sine qua non for a relationship with God. . . . The dramatic way the confession is presented in 1 John 2:18–27 as the crucial issue in the apocalyptic-eschatological struggle between truth and falsehood, believers and antichrists, shows that what is at stake is the community’s most central belief, not a peripheral issue dealing with the details of the hypostatic union. At the heart of the controversy is the very confession that has created and presently defines the community. The very fact that our passage uses the language of confessing and denying (ὁμολογέω/ἀρνέομαι) suggests that it preserves a fixed traditional formula, a succinct summary of the faith, which one might be required to affirm publicly for membership in the community, or be asked to deny in the context of persecution. In short, the confession is the boundary marker of the Johannine community and its litmus test for teachers. As such, it is unlikely that it would take on a meaning in 1 John different from that which it carried in the Fourth Gospel. ... The argument of 1 John 2:22b–23 implies that the "antichrists" who deny that Jesus is the Messiah would claim to "have the Father." This would suggest that such "antichrists" are Jews who understand themselves to be in a proper relationship with God, despite their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. The same argument is used by Jesus in his dispute with Jews who claim to "have God" as their Father (John 8:41). Jesus replies that if they had God as their Father, they would love the one sent by God, namely Jesus (John 8:42; cf. 15:23). By virtue of their rejection of Jesus, they are shown to be "liars" (ψεῦσται, cf. John 8:44, 55) who have believed the "lie" of the Devil. These are the same terms (ψεύστης/ψεῦδος) 1 John 2:21–22 uses to describe the "antichrists" and their denial of Jesus' messiahship. The same type of logic is used frequently throughout the Fourth Gospel to show that the Jewish claim of faithfulness to God is disproved by rejection of Jesus, God’s Son. Thus, Jesus tells the Jews that because they do not acknowledge him, they do not know the Father (John 8:19). Because they do not honor him, they do not honor the Father (5:23). He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). ... In v. 24, the author urges the audience to do the opposite of the antichrist secessionists. While the antichrists renounced their initial confession and departed from the community, the audience must ensure that the message they heard from the beginning continues to be at the center of its communal existence. [fn. 128 reads here: The third person imperative μενέτω [be remaining] is to be taken as an instruction to the audience to hold onto the message and not to forsake it.] ... If believers maintain their participation in the community, and correlatively maintain the presence of and obedience to the original message in/among themselves, it will ensure their relationship with the Son and the Father, which will in turn ensure that they will remain, or live, forever and not be ashamed at Jesus’ coming. (Streett, They Went Out From Us: The Identity of the Opponents in First John, 142–167)
- Daniel R. Streett: The material in 2 John that addresses the problem of the secessionists is limited to verses 7–11. Much of the material repeats the themes and language of the key passages in 1 John. For example, the apocalyptic rhetoric of "antichrists" and "deceivers" who have "gone out into the world" echoes the warnings of 1 John 2:18–27 and 1 John 4:1–6, as does the emphasis on the confession of Jesus as the dividing line between friend and foe. ... Verse 7 provides the reason (ὅτι) the author feels it necessary and helpful to reiterate the centrality of obedient love. Obeying the commandments, loving God, and loving the brothers—all of these take on heightened importance in light of the eschatological events unfolding around the community. If possible, even greater vigilance is needed if the community is going to survive the onslaught of the eschatological deception. ... The "many deceivers" are said to "have gone out into the world" (ἐξῆλθον εἰς τὸν κόσμον). This is the same language used of the false prophets in 1 John 4:1. While it is possible that ἐξέρχομαι is being used to describe secession or apostasy, as it was in 1 John 2:19, there is no clear indication in 2 John that the "deceivers" have come from the Johannine community. The better parallel, then, is 1 John 4:1, which, as I argued above in Chapter 4, has in view an itinerant ministry. ... This passage, then, is less a warning about enemies within than about predators without. It is stock apocalyptic paraenesis of the type found throughout the NT. As in 1 John 4:2, the defining quality of the deceivers, or "antichrists" as they are called at the end of the verse, is their failure to confess "Jesus Christ coming in the flesh."16 Here it will suffice to reiterate briefly what was argued above in Chapter 4: the confession of 2 John 7, like that of 1 John 4:2, has as its focus the messiahship of Jesus who has come "into the world," or come "in flesh," as these passages put it. The focus is not on the mode of Jesus' coming, but on the identity of Jesus as the Messiah. This is suggested both by the grammar of the confession, as well as by the numerous similar early Christian confessions which speak of Jesus or the Messiah coming in flesh without any hint of anti-docetic intent. ... The description of the eschatological opponents in v. 7 flows naturally into the warning in v. 8. In view of the many antichrists and deceivers who have embarked on their Satanically-inspired mission, the audience must "be on guard." If they fall prey to the deception of the antichrists, all previous labor will be for naught. If, however, they are vigilant and repel the antichrists' offensive, they can expect to receive a "full reward," presumably on the eschatological day of reckoning. [In fn. 45, Streett asks: What is "the nature of the μισθός [reward]? Does the author have in mind different levels or degrees of reward, so that one’s unfaithfulness would result in a decreased reward? Or, does μισθὸς πλήρης [full reward] simply refer to salvation itself, conceived of as an "abundant" reward? In favor of the latter is the parallel in Ruth 2:12, where the phrase does not appear to carry any connotation of degrees of reward.] This thought is amplified in v. 9, as the author further explains the necessity of holding on to the confession. The first half of the verse describes the person who falls prey to the antichrists’ deception. The antichrists’ message is fundamentally opposed to the basic beliefs of the community, so that to accept their message is by necessity not to remain in the "teaching of Christ," and therefore not to "have God." Conversely, the second half of the verse states, to remain in the teaching of Christ is to "have" both the Father and the Son. The same language of "having" God and the Son also appeared in 1 John 2:23, where, as I argued, it speaks of being in a proper covenantal relationship with God. There, "having" God was conditioned upon confessing the Son. Here, the condition is remaining in the "teaching of Christ." ... The flow of the author’s argument in 2 John 8–9 makes it clear that ὁ προάγων [the one going forth or departing] refers not to the antichrists and deceivers of v. 7, as most exegetes assume, but rather to members of the audience who might fall under the spell of the deceivers and be led to leave the community. While v. 8 warns the audience against forfeiting their reward, v. 9 provides the reason that following the "deceivers" would result in forfeiture: such an action would sever the individual from God and his Son. In these verses, then, the same kind of situation is envisioned as in 1 John 2:18–27 and 4:1–6. The audience is told of antichrists and false prophets who are on the move, and they are warned not to give heed to them because to do so is to join the eschatological rebellion and to be cut off from the only source of eternal life. The term προάγω [going forth or departing], then must denote a course of action that the author wishes to prevent his audience from taking, much like ἀρνέομαι in 1 John 2:23. . . . The author warns that everyone who does not remain ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ [in the teachings of Christ] does not have God. The phrase may be taken either a) as a subjective genitive, referring to the teaching that Christ himself propagated during his earthly ministry, or b) as an objective genitive, referring to the teaching about Christ. ... The context of 2 John 9 also favors the objective reading. Only two verses before, the author has spoken of the confession of Jesus as Messiah as the dividing line between truth and deception. This, then, is the teaching about the Messiah that the author refers to in v. 9. To "remain" in the teaching is to maintain one’s confession that the expected Messiah is indeed Jesus. Verse 10 confirms this by warning the audience not to welcome anyone who does not bring this "teaching"—an injunction that makes perfect sense in light of the way v. 7 declares anyone who does not confess Jesus’ messiahship to be a "deceiver" and "antichrist." Similarly in 1 John 4:2–3, the confession of Jesus as Messiah is what distinguishes the true visiting prophet from the false. ... The parallel in 1 John 2:22–23 is also illuminating. That passage states that the one who denies that Jesus is the messianic Son, does not "have" the Father. In 2 John 9, the condition for "having" the Father is remaining in ἡ διδαχὴ τοῦ Χριστοῦ [remaining in the teaching of Christ/Messiah]. Proper confession is thus functionally equivalent to remaining in the teaching. This suggests that the content of the "teaching" is the identification of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. ... Having announced the existence of the antichrists’ mission of deception in v. 7, and having warned his audience in vv. 8–9 not to give up their promised reward but to maintain faithfulness to the basic teaching of Jesus' messiahship, the author now instructs his audience how to deal with visitors to the congregation. Specifically, these visitors appear to be itinerant teachers or prophets, since v. 10 refers to the teaching they carry. In the synagogue setting, visiting rabbis were often invited to provide a "word of exhortation," and there is no reason to think that the Johannine house churches would not have held to the same custom. The author, however, wants to make sure that his audience does not fall prey to the "antichrists," so he warns his audience to apply the key Christological criterion: does the visitor carry the teaching that Jesus is the Messiah? If so, then he may be welcomed and heeded, but if not he must be spurned and the right hand of fellowship must not be extended to him. In a first-century setting, to welcome him (λέγων αὐτῷ χαίρειν) would be to provide him hospitality and support, and thus to participate in his rebellion and to take part in the propagation of the lie. A situation involving visiting teachers is probably also envisioned in 1 John 4:1–3, which provides the same criterion for discerning true prophets from false. It is easy to imagine that in a situation where normal Jewish synagogues were not outwardly or visibly differentiated from Jewish-Christian synagogues or ἐκκλησίαι, 2 John’s Jewish-Christian audience might not hesitate to welcome an esteemed scribe or rabbi who was able to teach the Scriptures but did not hold to Jesus’ messiahship. Perhaps, the "elder" writes to head off such openness, which could conceivably lead to some of the members abandoning their faith. In good Johannine fashion he holds that the coming of the Messiah has introduced a rift in the Jewish nation, and that those who do not accept Jesus as Messiah are not to be received as brothers and sisters, since they have rejected the Son and therefore the Father. (Streett, They Went Out From Us: The Identity of the Opponents in First John, 338–357). So Gerard S. Sloyan: The usual phrase, "having" God, both the Father and the Son (v. 9), has already occurred in 1 John 2:23 with respect to the Father and 5:12 as regards the Son. It is a stark way of saying that denial of the community's traditional position on Christology will mean loss of the intimate relation with the two that adhering to the tradition ensured. All in all, v. 9 closely resembles 1 John 2:22–23 in saying that apostasy from a once held faith stance means loss of the abiding divine presence. (Walking in the Truth: Perseveres and Deserters, The First, Second, and Third Letter of John, 65–66)
- Mitchell Reddish: The persecution would be a time for testing of the church's faith. The time of affliction would be brief ("ten days," that is, an indeterminate, short period) but may result in death for some of the faithful. They were not to fear, however, because Christ will reward the faithful with eternal life ("crown of life"; cf. 1 Cor 9:25; Jas 1:12). Those so rewarded will escape "the second death" (2:11), that is, exclusion from participation in God's final kingdom (cf. 20:6, 14). (Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary: Revelation, [Macon: Smyth and Helwys Publishing, 2001], 57)
- Mitchell Reddish: A few in the church in Sardis have remained faithful. They are the faint heartbeats in the nearly dead body of the Sardis church. Apart from their steadfastness and endurance in faith, the church would have been completely lifeless, only a corpse. Since they have not "soiled their clothes" (v. 4), they will be allowed to walk with Christ dressed in white robes, the symbol of purity, celebration, and victory. If the others in the church at Sardis heed the warning and repent, they too will become conquerors and will receive the white robe as a sign of their righteousness. Additionally, those who conquer will not have their names removed from the Book of Life, that is, the registry of those who belong to the people of God. The converse of this assurance to the faithful, though not stated, is certainly implied—those who are not faithful will have their names expunged from the Book of Life and will lose their place in God's fellowship. This is a sobering wake-up call to those who take their relationship to God for granted. As Wilfrid Harrington has noted, "While one cannot earn the right to have one's name in this book, one can forfeit it." Furthermore, Christ will personally acknowledge and claim as true children of God those who are faithful (cf. Matt 10:32–33; Luke 12:8–9). (Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary: Revelation, 72) Stanley M. Horton: To all who overcome, who keep on winning victories through Christ, is made the promise of being clothed like the few in Sardis. They will be counted worthy to walk with Christ, their garment having been made "white in the blood of the Lamb." Furthermore, their names will not be blotted out of the Book of Life, and Jesus will confess their names before the Father and before the angels of God. That is, Jesus will confess them as belonging to Him. The plain meaning here is also that those who do not overcome or keep on winning victories for Christ will have their names blotted out of the Book of Life. Some well-meaning Christians today say that this cannot be, because this would make the continuance of our salvation depend on works, a terrible denial of the grace of God. But we must recognize that our overcoming, our winning of victories, is not a matter of our works. The victory that overcomes the world is our faith (1 John 5:4). We have our victory because God give it to us through Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). We continue by grace through faith, obedient faith (1 John 1:7; 2:3–6). The Greek tenses in 1 John 5:5 indicate continuous, or characteristic, action. That is, the person who keeps on overcoming is the one who keeps on believing with active, trusting, obedient faith. The same sort of continuous, characteristic believing causes one to keep on having the witness in himself (1 John 5:10; Romans 8:16). Because eternal life is Christ's life and is only in Christ, only those who keep on having (or holding to) the Son keep on having eternal life, while those who do not keep having (or holding to) God's Son do not keep on having that life (1 John 5:11–12; see also John 3:16; 6:47; the one who keeps believing keeps on having eternal life). (The Ultimate Victory: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation [Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1991], 59–60)
- Homer Hailey: "Hold fast that which thou hast," which is an open door, His Word, a little power, steadfast endurance, and an assuring promise from the Lord. Hold each of these fast; keep hold of what you have. The promise of keeping these safe (v. 10) implies and imposes continuous steadfastness by the saints. "That no one take thy crown" (the crown of life, 2:10) away from you. The thought does not concern itself with gain to the taker, but with loss to the loser. The crown may be forfeited by any individual who grows careless, complacent, self-satisfied, overconfident, or who neglects opportunity and duty... To forfeit the crown is to lose eternal life. The doctrine that a redeemed child of God cannot so act as to be lost is here clearly denied. (Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979], 153). Craig S. Keener writes: Despite Jesus' praises for the Philadelphian Christians' perseverance to this point, however, "it's not over till it's over." They must continue to hold fast what they have (3:11), that is, to continue to keep the message that demands their perseverance (3:10), lest their persecutors seize from them their crown (3:11; cf. 2:25). The "crown" is a victor's wreath appropriate to overcomers (see comments on 2:10, where the crown of life contrasts with the second death in 2:11), and losing it means roughly the same as the warning to the preceding church: exclusion from the kingdom (3:5). (The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000], 151)
- Ben Witherington: Scholars have often pondered over the reason for the list in verse 8, but when one remembers that John's audience is Christians under pressure and threat of persecution, cowardice and faithlessness to the Lord, either spiritually or ethically, must be censured... The intended rhetorical effect of this verse was not to castigate the lost or gloat over their demise, but rather to warn the faithful of the dangers of spiritual and moral apostasy. (Revelation, New Cambridge Bible Commentary [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003], 256) Grant R. Osborne: The section [21:1–8] concludes with a challenge to the readers to recognize the difference between those who are faithful and those who are not, that is, decide whether to be a "conqueror" (21:7) or a "coward" (21:8)... The first of the [vice] list ... (deilois, cowards), is worthy of special consideration. The ... (de, but) that connects 21:8 should have its full adversative force and may well especially be contrasting ... ("the conqueror") with ... ("the cowards"). While the rest of the list describes the unchurched and wicked who were the enemies of Christianity, this first term probably describes those in the church who fail to persevere but give in to the pressures of the world. Whatever one's position concerning the "eternal security" issue, these would be those who fit the description of passages like Hebrews 6:4–6; 10:26–31; James 5:19–20; 2 Peter 2:20–21; and 1 John 5:16, namely, those in the church who are overcome with sin and leave their "faith." The reader is being asked to make a choice whether to "overcome" the pressure of the world and refuse to succumb to it or to be a "coward" and surrender to sin. Those who do so will join the unbelieving world in eternal damnation. (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation, 739, 741–42) Craig Keener: In the context of Revelation, overcoming addresses such varied tests as compromise with the world's values (2:14, 20), dependence on our own strength (3:17), and persecution (2:10); but persecution is the test Revelation particularly emphasizes for the end-time witnesses of Jesus (12:11; 13:7). Jewish texts often speak of inheriting the world to come (21:7), a common figure of speech among early Christians as well (e.g., Matt. 25:34; Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 6:9). Here the overcomers inherit "all this," that is, the new and sorrowless world God has prepared for them (21:1–6). The promise that God will be his people's God and they will be his people is the most basic component of the ancient covenant formula (Gen. 17:8; Ex. 6;7; 29:45; Lev. 11:45; 22:33; 25:38; 26:12, 45; Num. 15:41; Deut. 29:13). The prophets rehearse the same covenant formula (Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 24:7; 30:22; 31:33; 32:38; Ezek. 11:20; 14:11; 36:28; 37:23, 27; Zech. 8:8). But Revelation slightly adapts it: He will be the overcomer's God, and the overcomer will be his own child (Rev. 21:7)... All these promises culminate, however, in a warning: Those who fail to overcome, who prove disobedient, will be damned (21:8). The NIV's "their place will be" is more literally, "they will have their part [or share] in"; this is the language of inheritance, a deliberate contrast with the inheritance of the overcomers in 21:7. The "fiery lake" is the destination for all who will not inherit the new Jerusalem and the new creation of 21:1–6. "The second death" (21:8) contrasts with the abolition of death in new Jerusalem (21:4). Those who begin as believers must "overcome"; apostates, like those who never professed Christ to begin with, will be lost. (NIV Application Commentary: Revelation, 488–499)
- Grant Osborne: As in Deuteronomy [4:2, "Do not add to what I command you, and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you"], Christ is warning against false teachers who distort the meaning of the prophecies by adding their own teaching to it or removing the meaning God intended. ... The difficulty for us is how to apply this ban. It can hardly restrict differing interpretations regarding the meaning of the book. The key is to apply carefully the meaning of a "false teacher" or heretic. ... It refers to someone who uses Revelation to restructure the Christian faith . ... At the same time, the use of ... everyone who hears ... demonstrates that it is directed to every reader. In John's day it was especially meant for the seven churches for whom the visions were intended. For our day it must be directed to every person in the church who "hears" this message. ... We are all responsible to make certain that we interpret the book in accordance with the message God intended. For such people Christ provided a severe warning. ... Those who twist the divinely inspired prophecies to their own ends will suffer the consequences that fits their sin: (1) If they "add" their own meanings, "God will add to that person the plagues written in this book." ... They will be treated as unbelievers and suffer the punishments to be inflicted on the wicked. (2) If they "take away" God's meaning, "God will take away that person's share in the tree of life." This is more extreme, because it means they will suffer the "second death" (2:11; 20:6) or the lake of fire. The "tree of life" is found in 2:7 and 22:2 and stands for the gift of eternal life. ... Since it is said that God will "take away" their "share," scholars often debate whether this implies the apostasy of the believer. ... There is a strong sense of warning against apostasy throughout [the book of Revelation] . . . . Thus, the reader is warned here that distorting God's message in these prophecies is tantamount to apostasy, and the person guilty of it will become an apostate unbeliever in God's eyes. (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation, [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002], 795–797)
- Ashby, "Reformed Arminianism," 164–65. Purkiser, Security: The False and the True, 27–33. J. Harold, Greenlee, J. Harold. Words from the Word: 52 Word Studies from the Original New Testament Greek, 49–52. Daniel Steele, Mile-Stone Papers: Doctrinal, Ethical, and Experimental on Christian Progress, 53–65.
- For extensive documentation of Greek Scholars and commentators (Calvinist and non-Calvinist) who note the significance of the Greek present tense verb "believes" in salvation contexts, please see the following External Links: "Saving Faith: Is it Simply the Act of a Moment or the Attitude of a Life?" "Saving Faith is the Attitude of a Life—the Scholarly Evidence;" and "Saving Faith in the Greek New Testament."
- William Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, 246.
- Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 522, brackets are from Wallace.
- Wallace, Greek Grammar, 620–621.
- Wallace, Greek Grammar, 621, fn. 22.
- Words from the Word, 50–51.
- Stanley Horton, Pentecostal Evangel, Another Word Study From the Greek: "Keep on Believing," [October 29, 1972]: 21, emphasis added. On John 3:16, Greenlee writes: "the verb for have [ἔχῃ] is the form which emphasizes continual 'having.' . . . [Thus, the one believing shall] keep on having life" (Words from the Word, "John 3:16," 70).
- Greenlee, Words from the Word, 52.
- Purkiser, Security: The False and the True, 32–33.
- See the external link article: "Arminian Responses to Key Passages Used to Support Perseverance of the Saints," for explanations given by Arminian scholars and theologians.
- Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, 104. An accurate example of a Calvinist definition of apostasy is provided by Bruce Demarest and Keith Matthews: "Apostasy constitutes a serious turning away and repudiation of core Christian beliefs and practices. The Greek verb, aphistēmi (Luke 8:13; 1 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 3:12) means 'to fall away' or 'become apostate.' An apostate [i.e., an unbeliever] is a professing Christian who renounces Christian faith previously held [in profession only] and who often opposes and assaults the faith. Someone [i.e., an unbeliever] who professes Christianity but who then turns aside from the faith [he or she professed but never actually embraced by faith] commits apostasy, or in the words of Jesus, commits 'blasphemy against the Spirit' (Matthew 12:31). An apostate (unbeliever) can’t be said to fall from grace because he never was truly in a state of grace [i.e., they were never saved to begin with]." (Demarest and Matthews, The Dictionary of Everyday Theology and Culture, [NavPress, 2010], 15).
- Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, 104.
- Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, 104.
- Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, 104.
- Ashby, "Reformed Arminianism," 155–156.
- Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Theological, Volume 2, 430.
- Saved by Grace, 244. Hoekema goes on to write: "As we have noted, the Bible teaches that God does not preserve us apart from our watchfulness, prayer, and persevering faith" (Saved by Grace, 245). Traditional Calvinist John Murray said: "Let us appreciate the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and recognize that we may entertain the faith of our security in Christ only as we persevere in faith and holiness to the end" (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 155).
- Saved by Grace, 245.
- The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation, 291, 301-302, emphasis added.
- Hodges, Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation, 63. So Norman Geisler believes that "Continued belief is not a condition for keeping one's salvation" ("Moderate Calvinism," Four Views on Eternal Security, 109).
- The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man, 202.
- Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, 199. Charles Stanley writes: "The Bible clearly teaches that God's love for His people is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from the faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand" (Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure?, 74). Stanley also writes, "To say that our salvation can be taken from us for any reason, whether it be sin or disbelief, is to ignore the plain meaning of this text [Ephesians 2:8–9]" (Eternal Security, 81).
- Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, 202. Based on 2 Timothy 2:11–13, Stanley holds that "The unfaithful believer will not receive a special place in the kingdom of Christ like those who are fortunate enough to be allowed to reign with him. But the unfaithful believer will not lose his salvation. The apostle's meaning is evident. Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy" (Eternal Security, 93).
- Chafer, Salvation, 112.
- For a Traditional Calvinist critique of Moderate Calvinism as presented by Zane Hodges, see Kim Riddlebarger, "What is Faith?" in Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation, editor Michael Horton (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 81–105. See also John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988, 2008). For an Arminian critique see Ashby, "Reformed Arminianism," 156–167; and Robert E. Picirilli, Discipleship: The Expression of Saving Faith (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2013).
- Exploring Christian Doctrine: A Guide to What Christians Believe,(Downer's Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 216.
- McKnight, A Long Faithfulness: A Case for Christian Perseverance, 49.
- Williams, Renewal Theology, 2:133–34. Baptist scholar Dale Moody wrote: "we dare not teach that believers can lose their . . . [confident faith, Heb 3:14], even become atheists and unbelievers and live like reprobates, and still be eternally secure in their salvation . . ." (Apostasy: A Study in the Epistle to the Hebrews and in Baptist History, 28).
- That Burning Question of Final Perseverance, 56.
- The Catholic teaching on apostasy is found in The Catechism of the Catholic Church (first published in the United States in 1994, and the Second Edition in 2003). According to Pope John Paul II it is "presented as a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine" (Catechism, "Apostolic Letter"). See sections 161–162; and 1849–1861, obtained at http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/ccc_toc2.htm
- While the Orthodox Church has no statement of faith or position paper on the possibility of apostasy, two Orthodox resources support the conditional security of the believer and the possibility of apostasy—see http://evangelicalarminians.org/files/Orthodox%20Church%20Affirms%20Conditional%20Security.pdf
- "The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord" reads: "Thus many receive the Word with joy, but afterwards fall away again, Luke 8:13. But the cause is not as though God were unwilling to grant grace for perseverance to those in whom He has begun the good work, for that is contrary to St. Paul, Philippians 1:6; but the cause is that they wilfully turn away again from the holy commandment [of God], grieve and embitter the Holy Ghost, implicate themselves again in the filth of the world, and garnish again the habitation of the heart for the devil. With them the last state is worse than the first, 2 Peter 2:10, 20; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 10:26; Luke 11:25" (XI. Election, #42, Obtained at http://bookofconcord.org/sd-election.php). Also, "The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord" reads: "Above all, therefore, the false Epicurean delusion is to be earnestly censured and rejected, namely, that some imagine that faith and the righteousness and salvation which they have received can be lost through no sins or wicked deeds, not even through willful and intentional ones, but that a Christian although he indulges his wicked lusts without fear and shame, resists the Holy Ghost, and purposely engages in sins against conscience, yet none the less retains faith, God's grace, righteousness, and salvation. Against this pernicious delusion the following true, immutable, divine threats and severe punishments and admonitions should be often repeated and impressed upon Christians who are justified by faith: 1 Cor. 6:9: Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, etc., shall inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5: They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Rom. 8:13: If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die. Col. 3:6: For which thing's sake the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience" (IV. Good Works, #31–32, obtained at http://bookofconcord.org/sd-goodworks.php)
- Cyclopaedia of Methodism (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1882): "Arminian churches . . . do not believe that those who are converted will necessarily be [finally] saved. They ground their belief further on the warnings which are given by our Savior and his apostles, in teaching the necessity of watchfulness and prayer, in the warnings against falling away contained in many passages of Scripture, and the express declaration that some had been made 'shipwreck of faith' and had fallen away. . . . The Methodist Churches, being Arminian in theology, totally reject the doctrine of the necessary perseverance of the saints, while at the same time they teach that the prayerful and obedient, while they remain in that condition, can never be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. They believe it, however, to be necessary to use all diligence to make their 'calling and election sure'" ("Perseverance, Final," 708–709). Leland Scott, in Encyclopedia of World Methodism, (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1974): [John Wesley says] "Arminians hold, that a true believer may 'make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience;' that he may fall, not only foully, but finally, so as to perish forever." (The Question, "What is an Arminian?" Answered. 1770). ... [According to Wesley] "a man may forfeit the free gift of God, either by sins of omission or commission." ("What is an Arminian?" question 11) How important, therefore, for every believer to beware, "lest his heart be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin;' ... lest he should sink lower and lower, till he wholly fall away, till he become as salt that hath lost its savor: for if he thus sin willfully, after we have received the experimental 'knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins' ..." (Sermon on the Mount, IV, i, 8, 1747). ... Perseverance in grace, therefore, was conditioned upon the believer's persevering! Although the believer continued dependent upon atoning, redeeming grace throughout the course of his salvation, nevertheless—for Wesley—such grace (as seen through Scripture) must be considered finally resistible, the Spirit could finally be quenched. Thus the believer is "saved from the fear, though not from the possibility, of falling away from the grace of God" (Sermon 1. ii. 4.) ("Perseverance, Final," 1888–1889). Mark B. Stokes says: "Other people say, 'once in grace always in grace.' ... But we United Methodist believe that we are still free to turn away from Christ even while we are Christians. ... The Bible is filled with examples of people who started out well and ended up tragically. ... We experience no state of grace which is beyond the possibility of falling" (Major United Methodist Beliefs, Revised and Enlarged [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990], 117–118). Article XII—Of Sin After Justification: "Not every sin willingly committed after justification is the sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore, the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after justification. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and, by the grace of God, rise again and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned who say they can no more sin as long as they live here; or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent. (The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church, obtained at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-05-02. ) Charles Yrigoyen writes: "Article XII addresses the problem of our disobedience and sin after we have been prepared by grace and have accepted God's offer of pardon and forgiveness (justifying grace) by faith. ... After justification, any of us 'may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and, by the grace of God, rise again and amend our lives.' In this Article there is a plain denial of what some call 'eternal security' or 'once saved, always saved,' which claims that once people have received the saving grace of God, they cannot lose their salvation" (Belief Matters: United Methodism's Doctrinal Standards [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001], 85).
- See "Does Doctrine Matter?" By Donald N. Bastian available at http://wilmorefmc.org/truth/theology/
- "We believe that those who abide in Christ have the assurance of salvation. However, we believe that the Christian retains his freedom of choice; therefore, it is possible for him to turn away from God and be finally lost. (A) Assurance: Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 5:9. (B) Endurance: Matthew 10:22; Luke 9:62; Colossians 1:23; Revelation 2:10–11; 3:3–5. (C) Warnings: John 15:6; Romans 11:20–23; Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 3:12; 10:26–29; 2 Peter 2:20–21. (D) Finally Lost: John 15:6; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Hebrews 6:4–6." "Statements of Faith," obtained at http://s3.amazonaws.com/mychurchwebsite/c1707/statementsoffaith.pdf
- See The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine , 179–190, obtained at http://salvationist.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/26defc89-e794-4e5a-a567-0793f3742430_English+Handbook+of+Doctrine+web.pdf
- "We believe that all persons, though in the possession of the experience of regeneration and entire sanctification, may fall from grace and apostatize and, unless they repent of their sins, be hopelessly and eternally lost." "Articles of Faith," obtained at http://nazarene.org/articles-faith
- See Position Paper "The Security of the Believer" at "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2010-06-19.
- See A Trestise of the Faith and Practice of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, Inc., Chapter XIII Perseverance of the Saints and the Appendix to Chapter XIII available at http://www.nafwb.org/files/images/treatise09.pdf
- See Position Paper "The Assurance of the Believer," available at https://www.mcusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/The-Assurance-of-the-Believer-1.pdf
- See J. C. Wenger, Introduction to Theology: A Brief Introduction to the Doctrinal Content of Scripture Written in the Anabaptist-Mennonite Tradition (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1954), 306–309, obtained at http://evangelicalarminians.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Wenger-Anabaptist-Mennonite-on-Apostasy.pdf
- See Dr. Gregory Robertson (Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Anderson University School of Theology) article "Eternal Security: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal," obtained at http://evangelicalarminians.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Eternal-Security-A-Biblical-and-Theological-Appraisal.pdf
- See Faith and Practice: The Book of Discipline 2013, obtained at http://efcer.org/media/1/9/Faith-and-Practice-2013.pdf. "We further believe that the fullness of the Holy Spirit does not make believers incapable of choosing to sin, nor even from completely falling away from God, yet it so cleanses and empowers them as to enable them to have victory over sin, to endeavor fully to love God and people, and to witness to the living Christ. [2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Peter 2:20–22; Acts 1:8]" (Faith and Practice, 11). "Security of the Believer: Evangelical Friends believe that the security of the believer, even for eternity, is indicated in God’s Word and witnessed to by the Holy Spirit to the individual, but we do not hold this security to be unconditional. As repentance and faith are the human conditions of acceptance of God’s free offer of salvation, so faith manifested by obedience is necessary to continuance in that salvation (Hebrews 5:9; I John 2:4)." (Faith and Practice, 22) Evangelical Friends Church—Eastern Region is associated with Evangelical Friends International.
- Churches of Christ do not consider themselves a denomination, and have no "headquarters" that could issue official positions on the movement as a whole, there is no official "statement of faith" or position paper which can be referenced. Nevertheless, secondary sources from recognized Church of Christ scholars clearly affirm conditional security and the possibility of apostasy. For example see James Thompson's Paideia Commentary on the New Testament: Hebrews (chapters 2, 3, 6, 10, 12); Jack Cottrell's College Press NIV Commentary on Romans (Romans 8:12–13; 11:19–21; 14:13–23; 16:17–20); The Faith Once for All (pages 375–382). See also The College Press NIV Commentary Series which is done by Church of Christ commentators.
- Arminius, James. The Works of Arminius, translated by James and William Nichols (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986).
- Arrington, French L. Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? (Tennessee: Pathway Press, 2005).
- Ashby, Stephen M. "Reformed Arminianism," Four Views on Eternal Security, editor J. Matthew Pinson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002).
- Atwood, Craig D., Hill, Samuel S., and Mead, Frank S. Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 12th Edition (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005).
- Bercot, David W, editor. A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: A Reference Guide to More Than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998).
- Bercot, David W. Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity (Amberson: Scroll Publishing Company, 1989).
- Boettner, Loraine. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing House, 1932).
- Brown, Colin, editor, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Volumes (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library/Zondervan, 1975–1978).
- Claybrook, Frederick W. Jr. Once Saved, Always Saved? A New Testament Study of Apostasy (Lanham: University Press of American, 2003).
- Davis, John Jefferson. "The Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34:2 (June 1991), 213–228.
- DeJong, Peter Y. Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dordt, 1618–1619 (Grand Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, Inc., 1968).
- Dillow, Joseph. The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man (Hayesville: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992).
- Ellis, Mark A, translator and editor. The Arminian Confession of 1621 (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2005).
- Greenlee, J. Harold. Words from the Word: 52 Word Studies from the Original New Testament Greek (Salem: Schmul Publishing, 2000).
- Hoekema, Anthony. Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989).
- Jessop, Harry E. That Burning Question of Final Perseverance (Indiana: Light and Life Press, 1942).
- Marshall, I. Howard. Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1969).
- Muller, Richard A. Dictionary of Greek and Latin Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985).
- Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955).
- Oropeza, B. J. Paul and Apostasy: Eschatology, Perseverance, and Falling Away in the Corinthian Congregation (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000).
- Pawson, David. Once Saved, Always Saved? A Study in Perseverance and Inheritance (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1996).
- Picirilli, Robert. Grace, Faith, Free Will. Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2002).
- Purkiser, W. T. Security: The False and the True (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1956).
- Schaff, Philip, editor. The Creeds of Christendom Volume III: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984).
- Shank, Robert. Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1960, 1961, 1989).
- Stanley, Charles. Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? (Nashville: Oliver-Nelson Books, 1990).
- Steele, Daniel. Mile-Stone Papers: Doctrinal, Ethical, and Experimental on Christian Progress (New York: Nelson and Phillips, 1878).
- Wesley, John. The Works of John Wesley, Third Edition Complete and Unabridged, 14 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001).
- Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, 3 Vols. in One (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).
- Witherington, Ben. John's Wisdom: A Commentary on the Fourth Gospel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995).
- Yocum, Dale. Creeds in Contrast: A Study in Calvinism and Arminianism (Salem: Schmul Publishing Co., 1986).
- Multiple views
- Arminian view
- W. T. Purkiser (1956, 1974 2nd ed.). Security: The False and the True. Beacon Hill Press. ISBN 0-8341-0048-7
- Robert Shank (1960). Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance. Bethany House Publishers. ISBN 1-55661-091-2
- I. Howard Marshall (1969, 1995 Rev. ed.). Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away. Paternoster Press. ISBN 0-85364-642-2
- Dale M Yocum (1986). Creeds in Contrast: A Study in Calvinism and Arminianism. Schmul Publishing Co. ISBN 0-88019-183-X
- David Pawson (1996). Once Saved, Always Saved? A Study in Perseverance and Inheritance. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-61066-2
- B. J. Oropeza (2000, 2007). Paul and Apostasy: Eschatology, Perseverance, and Falling Away in the Corinthian Congregation. Wipf & Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1-55635-333-8
- B. J. Oropeza (2011). In the Footsteps of Judas and Other Defectors: Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 1: The Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Letters. Wipf & Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1610972895
- B. J. Oropeza (2012). Jews, Gentiles, and the Opponents of Paul: Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 2: The Pauline Letters. Wipf & Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1610972901
- B. J. Oropeza (2012). Churches under Siege of Persecution and Assimilation: Apostasy in the New Testament Communities, Volume 3: The General Epistles and Revelation. Wipf & Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1610972918
- Scot McKnight (2013). A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance, Patheos Press. ISBN 978-1-62921-469-6.
- Robert E. Picirilli (2002). Grace, Faith, Free Will. Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism. Randall House Publications. ISBN 0-89265-648-4
- Frederick W. Claybrook, Jr. (2003) Once Saved, Always Saved? A New Testament Study of Apostasy. University Press of America. ISBN 0-7618-2642-4
- French L. Arrington (2005). Unconditional Eternal Security: Myth or Truth? Pathway Press. ISBN 1-59684-070-6
- Traditional Calvinist view
- G. C. Berkouwer (1958). Studies in Dogmatics: Faith and Perseverance. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8028-4811-7
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1976). Romans 8:17-39: The Final Perseverance of the Saints. Banner of Truth. ISBN 0-85151-231-3
- Judith M. Gundry (1991). Paul and Perseverance: Staying in and Falling Away. Westminster/John Knox. ISBN 0-664-25175-7
- Anthony A. Hoekema (1994). Saved by Grace. Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-0857-3
- A. W. Pink (2001). Eternal Security. Sovereign Grace Publishers. ISBN 1-58960-195-5
- Thomas R. Schreiner & Ardel B. Caneday (2001). The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. Inter-Varsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-1555-4
- Alan P. Stanley (2007). Salvation is More Complicated Than You Think: A Study on the Teachings of Jesus. Authentic Publishing. ISBN 1-934068-02-0
- Non-traditional Calvinist or free grace view
- R. T. Kendall (1983, 1995). Once Saved, Always Saved. Authentic Media. ISBN 1-932805-27-3
- Zane C. Hodges (1989). Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation. Zondervan Publishers. ISBN 978-0-310-51960-7
- Charles C. Ryrie (1989, 1997). So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ. Moody Publishers. ISBN 0-8024-7818-2
- Charles Stanley (1990). Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure?. Oliver-Nelson Books. ISBN 0-8407-9095-3
- Joseph C. Dillow (1992). The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man. Schoettle Publishing Company. ISBN 1-56453-095-7
- Norman L. Geisler (1999, 2001). Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of Divine Election, 2nd ed. Bethany House Publishers. ISBN 0-7642-2521-9
- Tony Evans (2004). Totally Saved. Moody Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8024-6824-6
- "Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine" by John Jefferson Davis (a Traditional Calvinist)
- "Early Christian Writers on Apostasy and Perseverance" by Steve Witzki
- James Arminius: The Security of the Believer
- The Opinions of the Remonstrants (1618)
- The Arminian Confession of 1621 and Apostasy
- "Serious Thoughts Upon the Perseverance of the Saints" by John Wesley
- Arminian Responses to Key Passages Used to Support Perseverance of the Saints
- Arminian Responses to Calvinist Arguments for Perseverance of the Saints
- Scriptures Used to Support Conditional and Unconditional Security
- Saving Faith: Is it Simply the Act of a Moment or the Attitude of a Life?
- Saving Faith: The Attitude of a Life—the Scholarly Evidence
- Saving Faith According to the Greek New Testament
- See 13 part series on "Perseverance of the Saints" by Ben Henshaw
- The Orthodox Church Affirms Conditional Security
- Messianic Jewish theologian David Stern Affirms the Conditional Security of the Believer
- Messianic Jewish Scholar Dr. Michael Brown Affirms Conditional Security
- "A Synthetic Look at the Warning Passages in Hebrews" by New Testament Scholar Scot McKnight
- "Christian Apostasy and Hebrews 6" by Methodist Scholar Ben Witherington
- Hebrews 6:4-6 and the Possibility of Apostasy by Free Will Baptist Scholar Robert Picirilli
- See "The Society of Evangelical Arminians" for more articles dealing with the Calvinist and Arminian debate