The conditional preservation of the saints, or conditional perseverance of the saints, or commonly conditional security, is the Arminian Christian 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 the 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 Remonstrant Confession of 1621, the first Remonstrants 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 the 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 continue 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.
Main article: History of the Calvinist–Arminian debate
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."
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."
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."
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. Philipp 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 William 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 C. 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 Sinks 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 "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.
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.
Joseph Benson comments that no one among the people of God are to "revolt" from the Lord "to serve other gods." The person who does so is an "apostate from the true God" who is "spreading his poison to infect others." This apostate flatters himself into thinking that he is safe from the judgment of God while he does not "follow God's command," but his own devices. Moses warns the Israelites that their hopes of peace and safety will not "avail them at all if they forsook the law of God, and apostatized from his worship and service."
"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."
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;" . . . 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." . . . So then, God himself informs us that a righteous man may not only fall foully, but fall finally.
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" [skandalizō], 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 wants to make certain that the disciples realize the importance of the issue. ... [I]t is far better to suffer in losing your most important appendage than to lose everything at the final judgment. ... [O]ne must violently throw away everything that causes the lust, lest their spiritual life and ultimately their eternal destiny be destroyed in the process.
"[L]iving 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 ([note the] present tense [verb 'doing,' referring to] ... continuous action) to his will is, in fact, the definition of the 'greater righteousness' of 5:20."
"[B]e 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."
"The term 'confess' ... here has the idea of public proclamation of allegiance to Jesus. ... Here the Son of Man on the throne confesses or denies people before the heavenly court.... [v. 33] But whoever denies me before people, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. ... This is a strong warning, for 'to deny' ... here means to renounce Christ and is language of apostasy. In this persecution passage, it means that people cave in to pressure and renounce Christ to avoid beating or death."
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 driven 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.
Jesus delivers a parable about "believers . . . who can wander off into sin or false belief [cf. Matt. 18:6-9]." Jesus's disciples are to seek out and find a lost sheep (believer) who have gone astray from the flock (God's people) because God the Father values them and does not want them to ultimately "be lost forever" or perish. Lost/Perish (apollymi) in this context refers to falling into "eternal perdition," or "eternal doom because of apostasy." The wandering sheep needs to be "rescued before they commit apostasy" (i.e., become an unbeliever). But, "If he should find it," (v. 14) is significant here. Calvinist Craig Blomberg says, "'If' in v. 13 introduces a [Greek] third-class condition, which allows for the possibility that the shepherd will not find the sheep." "Verse 14 brings the parable to a conclusion with a dramatic theological assertion—the heavenly Father is not willing that any of these little ones be lost [eternally as unbelievers]. This shows God's concern that apostasy not happen to any of the followers of Jesus, but it also stresses that going astray is possible for the followers of Jesus."
Jesus "predicts that many will fall away (... [skandalizō], 24:10a). ... Betrayals, hatred, deception, and failed love all characterize the ways believers will fall away from their faith." The future "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."
Jesus' teaching in Matthew 24:45–51 illustrates how "a servant who is left in charge of the master's home" can become unprepared for the master's return. Lutheran scholar Dale Bruner says:
Jesus is not talking about two kinds of servants in our parable – one faithful, another unfaithful. The word "that" in the phrase "that wicked servant" certifies that we are dealing with the same servant, the one who was good in the preceding verses . . . and is therefore a warning: "Watch out, 'good servant,' for you can turn bad very quickly" (cf. Davies and Allison, 3:386). Jesus is talking about two possibilities (faithfulness or unfaithfulness) open to one servant (Jeremias, Par., 55; Schweizer, 463). He is talking about every Christian!
"The faithful and wise servant who devotedly feeds the household spiritual bread" does not need to worry about the time of Jesus' return. But that same servant may become "an apostate" by acting "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)." That servant will not be ready for his master's return and will be assigned a place with the hypocrites "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)."
In this teaching Jesus warns against an apostasy that is tied to persecution. He commands his disciples (and anyone who would want to be his disciple) to take up their cross in self-denial and to keep on following him (8:34). Jesus expects his disciples to follow him "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 goes on to elaborate "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' ... 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)."
"Jesus pronounces an ominous warning against influencing a believing child . . . to commit apostasy (v. 42)." Jesus does not specify "whether the person envisioned as causing this [skandalizō] is a believer or an unbeliever. ... [He] simply emphasize[s] that 'whoever' . . . causes a believer to ... lose his/her faith is in danger of being cast into hell" Jesus moves from warning anyone who is involved with causing believers to fall away, to warning His disciples that if their hand, foot, or eyes causes them to fall away (skandalizō) they are to "sever the member from their body rather than be thrown into Gehenna." This amputation of body parts "could hardly be more shocking . . . . Nothing less than eternal life and death are at stake" (entering into [eternal] life/the kingdom of God or being cast into hell). "Jesus . . . deliberately chose harsh, scandalous imagery to alert disciples that their lives tremble in the balance. ... [And] a lackadaisical disregard for sin in one's own life imperils one's salvation."
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.
Some argue "that the unfaithful servant of verses 45, 46 was never a true disciple." However, this argument rests upon a false assumption. "First, it must be assumed that two different servants are in view in the parable, one of whom proves faithful, and the other of whom proves unfaithful. But Jesus did not speak of two servants. Rather, He spoke only of 'that servant' ho doulos ekeinos [in verses 43, 45, 46]. The demonstrative pronoun ekeinos ['that'] is emphatic. Language forbids any assumption that more than one servant is in view in the parable." Therefore, "Jesus' parable . . . concerns only men who know Him and to whom He commits solemn responsibilities as His true disciples."
An accurate analysis of the parable is as follows: The Question (v. 42): “Who then is the faithful and wise manager” whom his Lord will reward for giving His servants “their food allowance at the proper time?” The Answer (v. 43): “that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.” The Reward (v. 44): “he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” The Peril (v. 45): “That servant” may act unfaithfully during his master’s long absence by beating other servants and getting drunk. The Penalty (v. 46): The master will come unexpectedly and “will cut him in two and assign him a place with the unbelievers” (or “unfaithful”).
The final destiny of the unbeliever/unfaithful is nothing other than "eternal damnation" in "hell." If a disciple of Jesus persists in acting like an unbeliever while their master is gone, they will eventually become an unbeliever and share in their same fate when the master returns. This is a strong warning to the disciples of Jesus about the possibility of becoming "an apostate" through unfaithfulness manifested in selfish and sinful behavior.
"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.'" Like "in the Synoptic texts. . . 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." Those "followers of Jesus who 'hate' their life keep it for eternal life." Those followers who wind up loving their life more than following Jesus during times of persecution will "fall away" and forfeit "eternal life." Thus, "Jesus warns his faithful followers against committing apostasy" in 12:25.
"Jesus speaks of two categories of branches: fruitless and fruitful. ... 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 [v. 2], i.e., he separates them from vital union with Christ. When they stop remaining in Christ, they cease having life; thus they are severed and thrown into the fire (v. 6). "This verse shows ...there may therefore occur ... a real apostasy of such as have been really disciples of Jesus. ... He who apostatizes [i.e., becomes an unbeliever] is cast out, namely, out of the vineyard of the kingdom of God. The casting comes only after the apostasy, but it comes surely. But cut from the vine and thrown away, the branch has but for a short time the life-sap in itself; it will at once be said ... ('it is withered'). ... The rest, then, is the ... ('gathering,' 'throwing into the fire,' and 'burning'), that is, the final judgment." Jesus "makes it unmistakably clear" that he "did not believe 'once in the vine, always in the vine.' Rather, ... 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."
Paul's follow-up care with new Christians involved warning them about necessity of enduring hardships. "Hardship is a key ingredient of discipleship. Paul also teaches this in his letters (Philippians 1:28–30; 1 Thessalonians 3:3), and Jesus mentioned it in his basic call to discipleship (Luke 9:23–24)." Paul asserts that enduring hardships "is a condition for entrance into the kingdom of God." All the "strengthening" and "encouraging them to remain true to the faith" was for the purpose of enabling them to persevere in faith through the coming hardships that Jesus and Paul said was a normal part of being a follower of Jesus.
Paul warns the elders in Ephesus to be on the alert and to watch out for yourselves and for God's flock, for there is coming a time when fierce wolves will come to prey upon God's people from without and from within. These false teachers will pervert the truth of the gospel message in hopes of drawing away "Christian believers (from the faith)"—persuading them to "apostatize." Shockingly, some of the elders "will become apostate" "false teachers" who "seduce their congregation members away from the Christian message." Luke's "inclusion of the warning in Acts 20" would have put his readers on high alert regarding the "dangerous teachers situated within the Christian community that lead believers away from apostolic faith."
"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.' '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." "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)."
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.
The strong Christian is warned not to place a stumbling block (. . . proskomma) or an obstacle (... skandalon) in a brother's path…. The stumbling in this verse is spiritual … it refers to stumbling and falling into sin…. It refers to ... 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…. 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…. [O]ne 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. [Paul goes on to write:] Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. The Greek word for "destroy" is ... (apollymi), a very strong word …. Just how serious is this destruction? Is Paul referring to a loss of salvation, and condemnation to hell? … I must conclude … 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…. The verse cannot be reconciled with "once saved, always saved."
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.
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…. 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.
The 'wicked' will not inherit the kingdom of God." This is of course refers to the eschatological [i.e., future and final] consummation of the kingdom…. Paul's point in all this it to warn "the saints," … 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…. 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 solemnly warns [Christians] of the danger of dabbling with idolatrous practices. 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)…. [Paul] is concerned … about weaker believers … being drawn … back into idol worship…. In verse 11 Paul states the dire consequences of such cultural compromise: The weak will be "destroyed" [apollymi]. This language should not be watered down.
David Garland states: "Paul always uses the verb [apollymi] to refer to eternal, final destruction ([So] Barrett 1968: 196; Conzelmann 1975: 149 n. 38; Fee 1987: 387-88; Schrage 1995: 265; Cheung 1999: 129). If salvation means that God has 'rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son' (Col. 1:13), then returning to idolatry and the regime of darkness means eternal ruin." Robert Picirilli notes that "the verb [apollymi] is present tense ... '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." Picirilli concludes: "Sin persisted in, on the part of a Christian, can lead to a retraction of faith in Christ and thus to apostasy [i.e., becoming an unbeliever] and eternal destruction."
Paul issues an imperative "Be running in such a way that you may win [the prize]" (9:24b, DLNT), which controls the whole paragraph. The command ("be running") suggests that some believers are not running the Christian race in such a way to win the prize. Specifically, some are not "exercising proper self-control (the emphasis in vv. 25-27)" in their Christian walk. Some Christians are demonstrating a lack of self-control in regards to knowingly eating food offered to idols in a pagan temple and influencing other Christians to engage in such idolatry as well (see 1 Cor. 8:7-13). This passage "serves as a clear warning if they fail to 'run' properly," and anticipates the warnings found in 10:1-22. The goal of running with self-control for the believer is an imperishable prize which commentators and scholars identify as: "final salvation" or "eternal life" with God, or more specifically, "eternal life in an imperishable new body (15:42, 50, 53-54)." Gregory Lockwood concludes:
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 [eternal] life, as the context makes clear (1 Cor 9:24–27). ... 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).
The Corinthians are being saved by means of the gospel and can confidently expect final salvation if in fact … they go on holding fast to such good news as Paul announced to them. … Paul is confident that they are holding fast to the gospel … 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 [original] 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.
The Christians in Corinth are "being seduced and defiled by double agents of Satan (11:2–3)" proclaiming a "false gospel." These false teachers "have snaked their way into the Corinthians' affection and captured their minds" by preaching "a different Jesus, Spirit, and gospel—that can only lead Christians away from Christ" and into "spiritual apostasy." These "false apostles" disguise themselves as servants of God but they are really servants of Satan. "Their … 'end,' in the sense of 'destiny,' or 'fate,' will correspond to what they have done, specifically in introducing alien [i.e., false] teaching (11:4) and seducing the congregation (11:3, 20). ... They have done Satan's work, to Satan's fate they will go. ... (v. 15; cf. Matt 25:41, 46)." Therefore, "'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 writes to the churches in Galatia who have a large number of uncircumcised Gentiles already standing in a saving relationship with Christ, but are repeatedly warned by him that they are in danger of existing out of this relationship. Simply put, "the Galatians are in danger of apostasy" (i.e., becoming unbelievers). Rival teachers, whom Paul refers to "as 'agitators' or 'troublemakers' (1:7; 5:10b, 12)," have infiltrated the churches and are "leading astray Gentile believers" by "preaching a false gospel of circumcision (1:7; 4:17; 5:7; 6:12)." "The Galatians Christians . . . appear to be giving them a careful and attentive hearing, even standing on the verge of being persuaded by them (1:6; 5:1)." These rival teachers are "persuading gentile converts to receive circumcision . . . (explicitly in 5:2; 6:12-13; indirectly in 5:11-12), probably as a means of securing their place in the family of Abraham, the line of promise (3:6-29), and as a means of combating the power of the flesh (indirectly, 5:13–6:10) and thus experiencing freedom from its power over them so that they can make progress in their new life of godliness (3:3)." These false teachers likely pushed other Torah-prescribed observances (see 4:10), but it was getting the Galatians to take "the final plunge of circumcision" which aligned oneself with the Torah commandments as "the surest path to aligning oneself with God's standards and thus being 'justified' before God ('being deemed to be righteous' or 'brought into line with God's righteous demands by means of the law,' 5:4)." Paul views such teaching as a "different gospel" (1:6)—a perverting of the gospel of Christ (1:7) that he originally preached to them. "He stands amazed at how quickly the Galatians are deserting God to follow a false gospel." This desertion "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." The verb for "deserting" (metatithēmi) is in the present tense and "indicates clearly that when the apostle wrote [this letter] the apostasy of the Galatians was as yet only in process." The Gentile believers "were in danger of apostasy" or "a reverse conversion, although they had not yet 'become apostate.' But Paul considered this a real possibility (see 5:4)." Paul passionately declares that if anyone (including himself) was to preach to others this different gospel, "let them be under God's curse!" (v. 8, 9, NIV). Scot McKnight states: "This word ['curse' anathema] 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." Lyons states that "this conditional curse" would carry the meaning: "may he be condemned to hell!" (GNT [cf. NET]). 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 .... 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). If the Christians in Galatia go on to fully embrace the false gospel of these false teachers they will "fall into apostasy [i.e., become unbelievers] and stop being a Christian." As unbelievers, the false teachers and their followers can expect to receive "eternal punishment at the last judgment."
"Paul warns the Galatians" that if they "turn back" again to the weak and elemental spirits "they are on the verge of deconverting." "The looming threat of his convert's apostasy (4:8-10; 5:2-4) is now expressed in distress (4:11) .... This is not the only place where Paul warns his converts that if they pursue the wrong path their faith and his work will have been in vain (1 Cor. 15:2, 10, 14; 2 Cor. 6:1; cf. Phil. 2:16) or the only place where he fears the possibility (1 Thess. 3:5)."
Paul warns Gentile Christians that if they follow the demands of the false teachers in seeking to be justified by the law through circumcision then Christ will be of no saving benefit to them (v. 2). Furthermore, they will become "severed from Christ" and will have "fallen from grace" (v. 4). "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
For Paul, Christ is everything or nothing. Either God has inaugurated the new, eschatological age of the Spirit through Christ, or not. Either justification, or life in the Spirit, is received by faith, or not. Either cruciform faith expressing itself through cruciform love is the essence of covenantal existence, or not. Either this is all of grace, or not. Whereas for the circumcisers Christ is necessary but not sufficient, for Paul Christ is either sufficient or else not necessary.... Circumcision is a gate into a way of life—obedience to the entire Law (5:3)—that has had its day but has ended with the coming of the Messiah and his Spirit (3:24). Now anyone—a Gentile or Jew—who is in Christ, by faith, shares in the hope of future righteousness (5:5) and expresses that faith, as Christ did (2:20), in love (5:6). Circumcision counts for nothing because ‘having’ it (or not) neither enables or prevents entry into the realm of Christ and the Spirit. Seeking it, however, betrays a lack of confidence in the power of grace and faith, the sufficiency of Christ and the Spirit. 
Therefore, submitting to circumcision would indicate "a cessation of faith in Christ," "an act of repudiation of God's grace manifested in Christ." The circumcised end up "returning to their former state of slavery, (4:9; 5:1)," having severed their saving union with Christ, and fallen from grace. Such persons necessarily "cease to be Christians"  and will not receive "a favorable verdict at the final judgment (5:5)." "Paul could hardly have made any clearer that a person who chooses to submit to the Law," (specifically, circumcision as commanded in the Law), and "who seeks final justification" before God "by means of the Law, has in effect committed apostasy, has fallen from grace, has even severed themselves from relationship with Christ." "The danger of apostasy, falling away from grace, must have been very real, or Paul would not have used such strong language." "Paul certainly did not teach the popular doctrine today of 'once saved, always saved.'"
Paul calls Christians in Galatians chapters 5-6 to be "living under the guidance of the Spirit and following the law of love." Paul's opponents, who insist that Gentiles believers must keep the works of the Law (specifically, circumcision), are "condemning uncircumcised Christians," and using "the Law . . . to exclude faithful Gentiles from inheriting God's promises (1:6; 4:17; 5:10)." "The works of the Law, then, when imposed on the Gentile Christ-followers," wind up causing "divisions" among those in the Christian community. "It is not by coincidence that Paul includes vices of division in his list of 'works of the flesh' (5:19-21). For Paul the 'works of the flesh' are deeds associated with" unbelievers (i.e., "the pre-converted status of individuals void of God's Spirit and subject to the evil era"). "To indulge in these works is to commit vices and live in a manner incompatible with the leading of God's Spirit (5:16-18, 22-25)." The "threat of apostasy" "is a real danger" in Paul’s "warning in 5:21b," which is directed specifically "to the believers" in Galatia. Paul's "emphasis here, as in 1 Cor 6:9-11 and Eph 5:5, is to warn believers not to live as unbelievers, those who are destined to experience the wrath of God (Col 3:6)." If believers persist in living according to the flesh like unbelievers, they will eventually become an unbeliever (i.e., commit "apostasy") and "be excluded" from "inheriting God's kingdom." To not inherit (klēronomeō) the kingdom of the God means to fail to "partake of eternal salvation in the Messiah's kingdom" when it becomes fully manifested in the new heaven and new earth described in Revelation 21-22 (cf. Rev. 21:7-8 with Gal. 5:19-21).
Paul issues "a solemn warning based on an agricultural principle: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows (v. 7 [NIV]). When people think and act as if they will not reap what they have sown, or as if they will reap something different from what they have sown, they are deceiving themselves and mocking God." In verse 8, Christians "are faced with a decision, a decision" that will determine their eternal destiny—"sowing to the flesh" or "sowing to the Spirit." Sowing to the flesh would refer to practicing "the works of the flesh" already warned about in 5:19-21. Sowing 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." Paul spells out the contrasting harvests or destinies: sowing to the Spirit = "eternal life," while sowing to the flesh = "corruption." This warning in Galatians 6:8 is parallel "to the warning about the possibility of not inheriting the Kingdom of God set out in 5.21," for those practicing the works of the flesh. Therefore, this "corruption" or "destruction" (NIV, CSB) can mean nothing less than "eternal destruction" or "eternal death" for sowing to the flesh since it is explicitly contrasted with "eternal life." For any believer overtaken by any sin related to the works of the flesh in 5:19-21, "there is a potential recovery in 6:1." This trespass (paraptōma) "is considered by Paul as a sin or an immoral act (cf. Rom 4:25; 11:11-12; 2 Cor 5:19; Col 2:13; cf. Matt 6:15). Those who operate in the fruit of the Spirit . . . are to restore such individuals, being mindful that they themselves are susceptible to temptations." If a believer were to continue practicing/sowing to the flesh, this would lead to their "apostasy" (i.e. becoming an unbeliever), with the outcome being "eternal destruction and exclusion from God's kingdom (Gal 5:21; 6:7-8)." Hence, Paul holds that believers who are engaged in sowing to the flesh are "headed towards apostasy if not restored." "A real danger exists that believers in Christ may apostatize, falling away from faith, and miss out on eternal life. ... For some Christians the doctrinal slogan is 'once saved, always saved.' Paul would not agree."
Paul is "warning" believers in Ephesus about "the danger to faith inherent in falling back into the pagan lifestyle." The command, "Let no one deceive you with empty words" warns the Ephesians "against allowing themselves to be led astray by the specious arguments of antinomians" who "pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality" (Jude 4, NIV), and who promise those engaging in the same sins as the "sons of disobedience" (i.e., unbelievers) as still having an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and escaping the wrath of God on judgment day. "The reason" believers "should not act like unbelievers is because unbelievers are not going to inherit the kingdom of Christ and God." Paul could not be clearer, Christians must not be fellow-partakers in the sinful way of life of the "sons of disobedience," lest they become one of them and "participate with them in their destiny." Believers "who take a cavalier attitude toward sin are playing games with their eternal destiny."
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.
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.
"Central to this charge is the defense and preservation of the true faith, which is currently under attack" from false teachers. Paul depicts Timothy's role "as a warrior in service to his or her king. This is wholly appropriate following a doxology to 'the eternal King' (1:17)." "Timothy is to wage warfare, not by using violence, but by holding on to faith and a good conscience (v. 19)." "Faith involves here the act of trusting in God" "A good conscience is the state where one's own moral self-evaluation says that one has been obedient to God." "The conscience functions as the Christian's moral compass" and "is guided in its everyday life by faith, trust in the living God, to guide and to teach one." Holding on to a good conscience would thus entail being committed to following the Christian faith proclaimed by Christ's apostles as the basis for godly living. "Without a good conscience, Timothy could end up like Hymenaeus (cf. 2 Tim 2:17) and Alexander (cf. 2 Tim 4:14) who had shipwrecked their faith (1:19-20)." Paul, "as a warning, cites two tragic examples of men whose moral laxity has led to their faith being ruined." They have "rejected" (apōtheō) or better "'thrust away from themselves' a good conscience." The verb expresses "a willful and violent act," "a conscious, deliberate rejection . . . not a passive, careless slipping away from faith." By willfully thrusting away a good conscience they have made "shipwreck of their faith." "The metaphoric use of the word [shipwreck] conveys a complete loss of the ship," a "total disaster," and serves as a fitting "metaphor for apostasy" since these men have "lost their faith altogether." Thus, Hymenaeus and Alexander "were once true believers" who "had personal faith comparable to Timothy's (1:18-19a), but that faith was destroyed,", and thus they became "apostates" (i.e., unbelievers).
The Spirit has given a clear "warning"  about "the sober" reality "of apostasy" that will take place within the church. "The ultimate cause of this apostasy is that people pay attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” The verb aphistēmi means to "fall away, apostatize," in three theologically significant passages in the New Testament (Lk. 8:13; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:12), and "often conveys apostasy" in the Old Testament and other literature. In each of these NT references we find aphistēmi conveying "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." Paul says in verse 1, "some of the faith will fall away or apostatize." William Mounce's translation brings this out and is more accurate than other renderings. When Mounce examined the NT occurrences of aphistēmi, he says "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 [aphistēmi, fall away], "the faith" would seem to modify the indefinite pronoun "some" rather [than] 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.
In Paul's final exhortation to Timothy in v. 16, he gives "the reason why" he "is so persistent and concerned, because what is at stake is salvation for Timothy and his hearers." Traditional Calvinist George Knight observes that some commentators take save (sōzō, v. 16) in the sense of to preserve or be kept safe from the doctrinal error of the false teachers "(Bengel, Gromacki, Vine, Wuest)," but most commentators understand save "soteriologically and eschatologically (Alford, Bernard, Brox Bürki, Calvin, Earle, Ellicott, Fairbairn, Gealy, Guthrie, Hendriksen, Hiebert, Huther, Kelly, Kent, Lenski, Moellering, Robertson, Scott, Simpson, van Oosterzee, and White; also J. Schneider, NIDNTT 3:215; W. Foerster, TDNT 7:995)." Knight goes on to note: "The other occurrences of [sōzō, save] in the PE (1 Tim. 1:15; 2:4, 15; Tit. 3:5; 2 Tim. 1:9; 4:18) are clearly soteriological [i.e., salvation] in orientation. It is true that [didaskalia, teaching] does deliver from error and bring to truth, but that seems to be included in the ultimate goal expressed in [sōzō, save] (cf. 2:4; so also Oosterzee). The salvation of the hearers is elsewhere depicted by Paul as the central goal of the ministry (cf. especially 1 Cor. 15:1, 2; 9:22; 2 Ti. 2:10; 4:5), and it is that hope in the living God who is the Savior of all believers that Paul has presented as the centerpiece of encouragement for Timothy in this section." Gordon Fee would agree, and thus writes: "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 . . . salvation." Therefore, "Ultimate salvation is not automatic, even for Timothy. He must persevere in the faith to be saved eternally, and to be the instrument to save others."
Paul suggests in 2 Timothy 2:10, that if he faithfully endures suffering and hardship to the end of life, this will provide "a good witness to others and is done for the sake of the chosen ones," in order that they, "will persevere and go on to receive eschatological [i.e., future and final] salvation." "The implicit negative corollary is that if Paul" fails to persevere and apostatizes, then "surely that would have led to the . . . apostasy by others" in the church. "The potential for apostasy" among believers in Ephesus "is clearly evident in the hymn found in 2 Tim 2:11–13." This trustworthy saying has four "if" clauses that describe a believer's action that are followed by "then" clauses that describe Christ's action taken in response. The "we" throughout this hymn applies first to Paul and Timothy, and then "equally to all believers." The hymn begins with: "if we died with him (Christ), we will also live with him (2:11b)." This line "portrays the entire scope of Christian existence, from conversion to glorification, in terms of 'dying and rising' with Christ." The next clause says "enduring" leads to "reigning with" Christ. The word enduring (hupomenō) means "to persevere: absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trial to hold fast to one's faith in Christ." The present tense verb conveys the meaning "keep on enduring" or "persevering." Thus, a persevering faith "is to be a normal way of life" for Timothy and other Christ-followers. Paul and Timothy "must endure in spite of every adversity, including suffering and/or imprisonment, so that others 'may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.'" Believers who faithfully keep on enduring will "reign together with" (symbasileuō) Christ. This means that they will "share in the 'kingdom of God' (basileia tou theou), the traditional symbol of God"s eschatological [i.e., future and final] reign (see 4:1, 18), the focus of Jesus' own preaching of the good news (see Mark 1:15)." "The causal connection between perseverance in the present age of suffering and the future attainment of salvation is expressly stated in 2 Tm. 2:12." The third clause contains a definite "warning against apostasy." "If we deny Him, He will also deny us" certainly recalls "Jesus' warning that if his followers deny him publicly before outsiders he will deny them before his Father at the eschatological [i.e., future and final] 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 Jesus is the opposite of enduring/persevering (in faith) and "means the surrender of faith, 'to apostatize.'" Such denial reverses conversion so that Christ disowns the person who denies him, and as with the Synoptic sayings this leads to eternal judgment. This warning is definitely directed toward Timothy, "Paul and all believers." "If it is not possible to disown faith in Christ, there is no need for these words. The possibility of Timothy and others disowning the faith is real."
"Hebrews contains what are perhaps the most severe warnings against apostasy in the entire New Testament."
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 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).... 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).
On the heels of describing the wilderness generations "dire consequences for apostasy" in 3:16-19, the author connects what he had just written to his forthcoming teaching in 4:1-11 with "an in inferential particle (oun, Therefore)." "Therefore—In view of the fearful examples of apostasy in the last chapter. Let us fear" of being found to have fallen short of God's promised rest. This implies "a belief in its practical possibility and an earnest desire to avoid it." "By including himself in 'let us fear,' the author enlists the audience to share his concern that some of them might apostatize and thus not only fail to enter into God's rest but also influence others not to." Both the wilderness generation and the believers the author is addressing "are part of the one people of God called by his word to the same kind of faith and obedience in anticipation of the same 'rest.'" The "wilderness generation’s apostasy" and consequent exclusion from entering into God's promised rest "poses the sternest warning to contemporary believers. On the basis of this continuity the pastor urges his hearers to separate themselves from their predecessors by persevering in faithful obedience." "The wilderness generation came all the way to the border of the Promised Land but 'fell short' of entrance through refusal to trust God. . . . 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)." God's people have the opportunity of entering into God's promised rest through a persevering faith, or of being found/judged by God on judgment day to have fallen short of it through unbelief and disobedience. "God's 'rest' is available and its loss a true possibility." Note how complementary warnings bracket verses 1-11.
Therefore, let us fear, since a promise remains of entering his rest, lest any of you should be found to have fallen short. (v. 1)
Let us be diligent, then, to enter into this rest, lest anyone fall by the same example of disobedience. (v. 11)
This promised rest (katapausis) which believers are to be diligent to enter requires "diligent faith"  and "is not the same as entering the Promised Land of Canaan. Joshua led them into that land, yet we are told here that Joshua did not lead them in the promised rest. If he had, the author claimed, the door to rest would still not be open (4:8)." Thus, as J. Ramsey Michaels states, entering God's rest "is not an earthly rest . . . but a heavenly rest in the sense of eternal salvation or life with God after death." Many commentators and scholars (Calvinist and Arminian) interpret God's rest in this manner, as do several Greek reference works. Furthermore, many commentators and scholars mention how
"Rest" correlates with other images of salvation described as future ("to come") or transcendent ("heavenly") in Hebrews. There are future realities such as "the world to come" (2:5), powers of the age to come (6:5), good things to come (10:1), and the city to come (13:14). Their transcendent character is expressed in references to the heavenly call (3:1), "heavenly gift" (6:4), heavenly sanctuary (8:5), "heavenly things" (9:23), heavenly homeland (11:16), and "heavenly Jerusalem" (12:22). The rest may be compared with "the promised eternal inheritance" (9:15; see 6:12; 10:36) or salvation (1:14; see 9:28). It is an entrance into glory (2:10) or into "the inner sanctuary behind the curtain" (6:19), where Jesus has already entered as our forerunner (6:20) and champion (2:9-10; 12:2). The rest fulfilled in the unshakable kingdom (12:28), that "enduring city" (13:14) with solid foundations, whose "architect and builder is God" (11:10). Rest, then, is one of the many images that display the multifaceted character of our eschatological [i.e., future and final] hope.
God's rest is "the final goal of the Christian pilgrimage" where believers who persevere in faith experience "final entrance into God's presence at Christ's return." Since this heavenly rest can be forfeited through unbelief and disobedience, believers must diligently strive by faith to enter this rest, "lest anyone fall by the same example of disobedience"  displayed by the wilderness generation. This "fall" (piptō) means to "commit apostasy" and corresponds to the use of "fall" (piptō) "in 1 Cor 10:12, another passage that uses the example of the wilderness generation's defection to warn believers." In both passages "the audience is warned against committing apostasy and falling into eschatological [i.e., future and final] ruin." Both "of these verses makes clear that the apostasy threatening the audience follows after the rebellion of Israel in the wilderness. The Christ-followers in Hebrews are identified as God's people in the last days, and they are in danger of rejecting God and failing to enter the promised eschatological rest. . . . They are in danger of abandoning God and the final salvation that comes at the end of their journey. Their potential rejection of God would happen through disobedience and unbelief.
"This wonderful accomplishment of eternal salvation applies . . . literally 'to all those who keep on obeying him' (Greek present participle)." This "eternal salvation" (aiōnios sōtēria) refers to "Messianic and spiritual salvation" and includes "deliverance from punishment and misery as the consequence of sin, and admission to eternal life and happiness in the kingdom of Christ the Savior." "The implication is clear. Those who do not continue to obey him . . . forfeit their eternal salvation."
The preacher presents another set of reasons (For …) 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).
"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)." The footrace imagery is just one more example of the people of God on the move towards the goal of final salvation with God. With this race metaphor, the author is concerned that all the participants "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." Running the race appropriately involves laying "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." The sin which clings so closely is left unspecified. Even though some commentators hold that "it is the sin of apostasy (cf. Heb 3:13; 10:26)," this is unlikely the case here. "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." Since this sin is connected with pleasure (apolausis) in a negative sense, this "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). Sin can "ensnare easily any runner (cf. 12:1, 14-16)," and therefore must be discarded. As runners believers are to keep their eyes focused on Jesus who is "seated in the place of honor."
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," …. 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 [eklyō]: 12:3, 5). The believers, as good athletes, are to endure "discipline" (παιδεία [paideia]), 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 believer’s 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). . . . [I]f 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.
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).
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.
"[T]he word "blessed" has both present and future connotations." "[T]hose who have persevered in trusting and loving" the Lord "in the face of trials" are "qualified to be called 'blessed'." For the Lord has promised to give them "the crown of life," which means "'the crown that consists in eternal life'"— "the life of the age to come" which is equivalent to inheriting the kingdom of God in James 2:5. "Their love for God is the outcome of their faith in him which produces willing endurance for him (1:2-4). Love is the essence of true faith" and trials have a way of testing a Christians "love as well as faith."
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 . . . 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? . . . 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 . . . suggests that it is the error that is putting the individual in danger of death. . . . What, then, is the death that the person is saved from?
A few commentators suggest that this death refers to "physical death," But most commentators see death in James 5:20 as referring to spiritual or eternal death.
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 . . . . 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 [i.e., save, sōzō] 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.
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.
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, "Just as becoming saved is conditioned upon faith, staying saved is conditioned upon continuing to believe."
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:
Arminians would argue that they have adequately provided explanations for how these verses and others can be easily reconciled with conditional security.
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 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.
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.
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 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."
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.
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