Friday, June 24, 2011

Examples of Individuals Losing Salvation in Scripture

One of the most effective ways of refuting the Protestant (particularly Calvinist) heresy of Eternal Security (aka Once Saved Always Saved) is to point out some examples of individuals in Scripture who at one point in their life were saved but then lost their salvation through grave sin (whether they repented or not is outside the scope of this brief article). The following list is by no means exhaustive, and I welcome any suggestions for other examples.

King Uzziah:

I have to credit Dave Armstrong (bookmark him!) with pointing this example out to me a while ago. 2nd Chronicles 26 records the following about this man:
3Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. 4And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 5He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper. ...  16But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. ... 20And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him. 21 And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD.

Clearly, there was a time when Uzziah was living in God's favor, with no indication this was disingenuous. Yet, he "grew proud, to his destruction" to the point he was struck by God and never healed. (This is in contrast to those who have sinned and have healed after repenting.) This can only signify that Uzziah lost his salvation, and goes directly against the Protestant notion that good works will automatically flow. I'm sure there are similar situations for other OT Kings who at one point lived uprightly but then became corrupt.

King David:

Everyone is familiar with David's infamous sin with Bathsheba (adultery) and Uriah (murder). This was one of the most infamous and tarnishing sins in the OT, particularly because David was such a holy man (1 Kings 15:5). St Paul quotes David's repentance (in Psalm 32) in Romans 4:6-8 and calls that a moment of justification, and since David wasn't converting (for the first time) there, it can only mean his justification was lost. Indeed, Martin Luther's famous document, the Smalcald Articles (enshrined as part of the Lutheran Book of Concord) says this about the matter:
It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them. (Section 3:3:43)
This is very similar in essence to the Catholic teaching regarding Mortal Sin.

St Peter:

In Matthew 26:33-34 we hear Christ reveal that Peter will deny Him three times. We know this denial of Christ was influenced by Satan, but Jesus prayed that Peter would have the grace to repent afterwards and be converted (Luke 22:31-32). This is clear language of losing salvation and recovering it, especially considering denying Jesus is one of the worst sins a person can commit (Matthew 10:33).

Judas Iscariot:

This is one example in which Protestants give much opposition, since they claim Judas couldn't have been saved in the first place, since no true believer could do what he did. On top of this, their favorite proof text is John 17:12,
While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
However, if you read this carefully, it is saying Jesus protected all 12 Apostles, and that one became "lost" (indicating there was a time he was not lost). But that's not all the data we have to consider. In John 6:70-71, Jesus says:
70Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil." 71He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.
Here it shows Judas was one of the Twelve, chosen by Jesus. It's impossible to be an Apostle if one is not a true believer. If the Protestant position were correct, the Bible could only have said Eleven were Apostles. Acts 1:17 says Judas "was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry," and Acts 1:24-25 records the replacing of Judas by Matthias, when Peter says they need a person to "take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside." Judas had a place and apostleship, and was originally out with the Twelve, undistinguished, performing the same miracles and having power to cast out demons (e.g. Mark 6:7-13; Matthew 10:1-4). And most of the time when Judas is mentioned, his infamy traces to one thing: his future betrayal of Jesus, not some non-converted status he had the whole time. It is only in John 13 where we see Satan "entered Judas," indicating Judas consented to the betray but up until then Judas was not possessed by Satan.

The final point to consider is a very important detail which a Catholic apologist recently pointed out (bookmark his blog!) in an article he wrote on this subject. Jesus quotes a prophecy in regards to Judas in John 13:18, "But the Scripture will be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'" To share bread with someone in the Hebrew mindset indicates an intimate relationship; something impossible if Judas was never a believer to begin with. But that's not all, most of us forget to look up the prophecy Jesus is quoting, which happens to be Psalm 41:9, which says: "Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me." What a new picture emerges after reading this! Indeed, the idea that Judas was so close to Jesus up until then shows just how serious and enormous the betrayal was, since the worst betrayals are those from the people closest to you. Jesus even calls him 'friend' at the moment of betrayal (Matthew 26:49-50)!

Ananias and Sapphira:

The infamous account of this lie (and subsequent punishment by death) by a newly converted husband and wife is recorded in Acts 5. This story is actually a continuation of Acts 4:32-37, which shows how the first Christian community supported eachother such that nobody was needy. The account begins by contrasting their story to that of Barnabas' (in the previous verses), showing how the couple sold some of their property and were donating (some of) the proceeds to the Apostles for charity. This act makes no sense if they were indeed never believers in the first place, nor does Peter's rebuke of them indicate they were imposters or never true believers. Indeed, the only indication of sin was at the point of laying it at the Apostle's feet, not before, since Peter says the money was theirs all along and were free to use it as they pleased. Lastly, the account says a "great fear" came over the Church as a result of this, indicating this divine judgment was a warning to them; otherwise there would be no need to fear in that regard.

Simon Magus:

In Acts 8:9-24 is the account of Simon Magus trying to bribe the Apostles after seeing the miracles they could perform. In verse 12-13, it plainly says many men heard Philip preach and were converted, and that even Simon Magus "believed and was baptized" and followed Philip. When Peter and John arrived to give the Sacrament of Confirmation, Simon Magus became envious and wanted this 'power'. Peter rebukes him by saying: "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you." Clearly, Simon had fallen away and was in danger of damnation, unless he repented of that sin. The only 'excuse' a Protestant could make is that Simon's belief and baptism recorded in Scripture must have been fake, but this is pure assumption without any warrant in the text. Further, that excuse fails to consider that Peter was rebuking Simon Magus for a specific sin, and told him to repent, not saying that he never believed in the first place.


I found this account by accident, but it's still worthy of mention. Demas appears 3 times in the New Testament: Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:10; Phm 1:24. He is a companion and fellow laborer with Paul, mentioned alongside St Luke, who helped Paul and sent their greetings to the other Christians. Yet Paul says Demas got caught up in worldly affairs and deserted him (cf. 2 Tim. 4:16). There is no reason to think Demas was some scam artist who was pretending to be a Christian this whole time, and we have little reason to think Paul would be so deluded as to not detect such a thing. As with other examples, the apostasy is tied to a specific sin, in this case abandonment in pursuit of worldly affairs (cf. 1 Tim. 6:10). 

The Seven Congregations of Revelation:

In Revelation 2-3, John records how Jesus is judging seven Christian communities in different regions of the Roman empire. The following are some excerpts:
1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ... 3I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

18"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ... 19 "'I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works

1"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ... "'I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.
14"And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ... 15"'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
In each case, God is eager to warn these congregations of impending punishment, and in each case tells them to repent before it's too late. This only makes sense if these are genuine Christians who have grown cold, for the language will not allow any sort of reading that entails they were never truly Christian. For example, the warning often starts out by saying they are doing certain things pleasing to God, which is impossible if they're non-Christians. There are references to "abandoning" their first love, God's servants being "seduced" into immorality, people who have not "soiled their garments," and those who are "lukewarm" rather than purely evil. 


Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

Thanks for these, Nick.

I always found it curious that if good works and living an acceptable Christian life naturally flow out of faith why so much ink wasted in scripture on instructing those with faith that good works are needed and warning them not to fall into sin.

TimCHebold said...

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:27-28)


The doctrine of perseverance does not state that believers never struggle, grow cold or even fall. It says that God in his grace lifts them up again and thus saves them eventually.


There is a possibility of dead faith (cf. James 2:17), insufficient faith or the mere appearance of faith (cf. Mark 4). And it has nothing to do with 'pretending' - at least not always. Such people often think that they have saving faith. That's why Paul exhorts us: "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Corinthians 13:5) If we meet the test, we are in the faith and Jesus Christ lives in us. People who fall away forever proof that Jesus Christ never lived within them. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us." (1 John 2:19)


“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your FAITH may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter fell, but -- as you said -- God graciously granted him to repent. That’s why the first of Luther’s 95 Theses was: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ He willed the whole Christian life to be repentance.”

Judas Iscariot

"Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.'" (John 6:70) It's about choosing them as Apostles. Not necessarily for eternal life. Jesus knew that one was a devil, even before the betrayal of Judas. Yet he chose him anyway. Didn't he know the moment he chose him? Obviously he chose him as an Apostle for some purpose. Hm, what could that be? That the scriptures might be fulfilled (cf. John 17:12). By the way, would you say that there has never been an unconverted bishop, priest, deacon or minister of some kind throughout the entire history of the Church?

TimCHebold said...

Ananias and Sapphira

Could be a case of fake faith. Could be a case of saving faith. Nowhere in Acts 5 does it say that Ananias and Sapphira went to hell after receiving the punishment of death. Come on, you Catholic? What about purgatory?! "If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:15) :-)

Simon Magus

Same thing as with Peter. If he was one of the elect, he repented. If not, not. But I think there is hope: "And Simon answered, 'Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.'" (Acts 8:24) After all it was the Council of Trent (Can. VIII) that said: "If any one saith, that the fear of hell - whereby, by grieving for our sins, we flee unto the mercy of God, or refrain from sinning - is a sin, or makes sinners worse; let him be anathema."


We simply don't know what happend to him in the end. If he was one of the elect, he repented. If not, not. What about 1 Corinthians 5:5: "You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." A temporal fall does not necessarily exclude from eventual salvation.

The seven CONGREGATIONS of Revelation

See what I'm up to? It's about the fate of entire congregations, not the salvation of individuals. Where individual's salvation is concerned there also is a call to repentance. Guess what? The elect answered the call! For in the very end it's God who grants repentance: "And they glorified God, saying, 'Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'" (Acts 11:18) -- or not: "But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death." (1 Samuel 2:25) "Grant what thou commandest, and command what thou dost desire." (St. Augustine)


Josh McManaway said...

I think you mean 'Magus' (magical) and not 'Magnus'(great). Thanks for the post.

Nick said...

Thanks Josh. I fixed it.

John Thomson said...


Re, Uzziah you are on a creaky wicket, the point being made is simply that being leprous he was banned from the temple. It is not a comment on his eternal state.

Nick said...


In the OT times, being struck with an illness like that was a sign of God's disfavor, which surely would have been reversed had there been repentance. Instead, we see he remained in this state till the end. He was not "simply" banned from the Temple, he was under God's displeasure. This also contradicts the notion good works are guaranteed

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a protestant church and only have been exposed to OSAS from those in the Baptist denomination. I now am a follower of the Way and find all demominations wrong including the Catholic faith. Nothing supercedes the scriptures. All denominations claim to have the true path but all have different beliefs. WE ALL HAVE INHERITED LIES. Thats scripture WE ALL HAVE BEEN DECEIVED. There is only one truth and one way. Denominations have different beliefs which are man made. Many are called but few are chosen. Kind of choppy but trying to keep it short so as not to lose the casual reader. Peace out...

Nick said...

Would you mind interacting with some arguments? Simply telling me I'm wrong does nothing for anyone. Am I supposed to fold up shop and convert to Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons simply because they post "Catholics are wrong, join us"?

Anonymous said...

Don't lump all protestants in the OSAS camp. I'm definitely a protestant and definitely opposed to "OSAS" or "Once Saved, Always Saved", "Unconditional" Eternal Security or "Perseverance of the Saints". You can put most calvinists in there, there but there are a large majority of protestants that fight vigorously the concept of OSAS.