Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | June 9, 2008

Do believers lose their salvation? (Lesson 6: Question 8 Answer)

8. Do believers lose their salvation?

We now move to the final verses of the second chapter of the fourth Gospel after an extended examination of the munus triplex found in the previous verses of the text.  As we approach these final verses of chapter two we encounter a difficult passage that will require an explanation about the nature of faith.  The verses that will be the subject of this entry are as follows:

 

23Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

As we have previously pointed out, it is very interesting that the apostle John makes this statement immediately after the confrontation at the temple.   It was during this same Passover feast that the Jews in the temple demanded that Jesus perform a sign to authentic His credentials to cleanse the temple and regulate the worship practices previously approved by the religious leaders.  Jesus, however, not compelled to give in to their demands, instead provides a prophetic utterance, which would be fulfilled in the near future.  The apostle here points out that Jesus was actually performing signs in Jerusalem during this period, which would have authenticated the credentials the temple Jews were seeking to receive.  Although, this is an interesting qualification that the apostle provides in these verses, the main point of concern is the affect these miraculous signs had on the crowds in Jerusalem.  According to the apostle these miraculous signs produced a disingenuous faith and Jesus was fully aware of the quality of their faith. 

It is fairly obvious that these verses are in contradistinction to verse 11, which characterized the response of the disciples after the miraculous sign performed at Cana.  In contrast to the Jerusalem crowds’ response the disciples responded with genuine faith to the miraculous sign, which is defined as a manifestation of Jesus’ glory.  Although it is apparent from this, that miracles are intended to produce a response of faith from those who observe, here John alludes to another prerequisite that is necessary to make this response effective.  This prerequisite will be defined in the next chapter (John 3:1-8), which will be discussed in the next lesson.  For now we will simply state that this prerequisite that is essential for creating an effective response in faith, facilitates the acquisition of a faith in the appropriate Jesus.

During Passover time in this period there was a higher eschatological expectation of deliverance amongst the crowds in Jerusalem132.   This messianic expectation, however, was characterized more as deliverance from foreign oppression rather than deliverance from sin and death.  Thus, it is understandable that many who witnessed the spectacular signs and wonders being performed by Jesus were eager with anticipation to believe that a Messiah had appeared.  In previous lessons we have discussed the tendency within Israel during this period for the people to possess a theology of glory in lieu of a theology of the cross.  For many, their scrupulous observance of the Mosaic Law would result in the appearance of the Messianic deliverer.  This Messianic deliverer would finally restore the greatness of the Davidic theocracy, which would bring blessing to this long forsaken land.  Unfortunately this is not the promise that Jesus came to fulfill, thus the crowd essentially believed in a person other than the real Jesus of Nazareth. 

This is indicative of the fact that the same crowd only two Passovers later went from excitement and anticipation in Jesus to eventually screaming, “Crucify Him!” (John 19:15)  Thus, it is our contention that the nature of the disingenuous belief that was evident in Jesus’ apprehension to entrust Himself to the crowd was that it was faith in a fictitious Christ rather than the authentic.  As long as Jesus appeared to be fulfilling their false expectations demonstrating His power through miraculous signs and wonders they “believed” in Him.  However, once He began to proclaim the message of the cross that was irreconcilable with their expectation of glory, they would begin to leave in droves (John 6:66-71).  Fortunately, this opinion is not only the expression of this author but others such as John Calvin have made similar conclusions about this text:

But as they did not understand the peculiar office of the Messiah, their faith was absurd, because it was exclusively directed to the world and earthly things.  It was also a cold belief, and unaccompanied by the true feelings of the heart.  For hypocrites assent to the Gospel, not that they may devote themselves in obedience to Christ, nor that with sincere piety they may follow Christ when he calls them, but because they do not venture to reject entirely the truth which they have known, and especially when they find no reason for opposing it. 133

The infatuation that many in Israel had with a restoration of the earthly theocracy, which was only a temporary institution intended to point to the age to come, was the source of consternation that caused the cross to be a fundamental stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:8).  The nature of the faith then described in the verse by John was one of expediency devoid of any genuine authenticity, thus not saving faith. 

From this example a principle can be derived that faith in a false Christ, is not a saving faith at all (Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4).  This principle can be applied to many modern sects or movements who promote faith in a Jesus different from the one proclaimed in the Scriptures.  This is most obviously evident in the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness cults who deny that Jesus was the Second Person of the Trinity.  Since they do not possess faith in the real Jesus they would not enjoy forgiveness of sins, which is promised to believers (John 8:24).

Although this principle is fairly applied to those who explicitly deny the Christ proclaimed in the Scriptures, it must certainly be exercised with caution with those who do possess a more orthodox understanding of the Person of Christ.   For the examples indicated above, it essentially can be categorized as violations of the first and second commandments, worshipping another god or a distortion of the one true God (Exodus 20:1-4).  The faith in the “name” that is being professed by these individuals is not in the right “name” under heaven to which salvation is given to men (Acts 4:12).

After this consideration we can now proceed to answer the question that was posed at the outset of this work.  We would affirm that “true” believers do not, will not and cannot lose their salvation.  It is evident from the Scriptures that believers are preserved by the power of God (1 Peter 1:3-5), who is able to make them stand (Jude 24-25), and confirm them until they are ultimately glorified (Romans 8:28-30).  Moreover, as we proceed in the subsequent sections of John it will be manifested that all that the Father gives the Son will be raised on the last day (John 6:35-47), nobody will be able to snatch them away from Him (John 10:28-30), and He seals this in an effective intercession to guarantee their perseverance (John 17:9-26).  It should be noted, however, that these true believers have placed their faith in the real biblical Jesus.        

On the other hand, those that have not placed their faith in the real biblical Jesus or do not possess saving faith are not classified as true believers.  Thus, we find that there exists within the Scriptures and in our general experience a class of individuals who appear to profess faith and ultimately fall away.  This is indicative of the fact that they were never truly believers (1 John 2:19) or a situation that is well described by the Westminster Confession of Faith in chapter 17.3:

Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.  

As the confession insightfully indicates there may be times in some believer’s lives when a temporary falling away occurs.  This interim condition will ultimately conclude in the restoration of the true believer’s status of being in Christ and destined for salvation.  Nonetheless, it is evident from our text that the crowd interacting with Jesus during this Passover festival would be classified under the former and not the latter condition.  These two conditions are illustrative of the example of Judas and Peter in the Gospel records. 

In this example we have two of Jesus’ disciples undergo a falling away manifested in public betrayal and denial.  However, the subsequent outcomes of these grievous falls from grace produced extremely different results.  The true believer, Peter, is brought to repentance and undergoes a restoration.  The false believer, Judas refuses to repent resulting in his judgment and appointment to perdition.  There was nothing within these individuals that made the other better than the other, which would cause this drastically different outcome to take place.  It may only be attributed to the grace of God within the individual made effective by the Holy Spirit, and incidentally also the subject of our Lord’s intercessory petition in His High Priestly prayer.  Therefore, we may conclude that the assurance of the true believers salvations to persevere is based not upon their on volition or intestinal fortitude.  On the contrary, it is solely based upon the gracious preservation of the Covenant Lord who seeks to fulfill His commitment to effectively save a people and raise them up on the last day (Philippians 1:6; John 6:37-39).

 

132 Everett Ferguson Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; WB Eerdmans, Third Edition 2003) 557

133 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 100

 

 

 

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  1. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptDo believers lose their salvation? We now move to the final verses of the second chapter of the fourth Gospel after an extended examination of the munus triplex found in the previous verses of the text. As we approach these final verses … […]

  2. […] Do believers lose their salvation? (Lesson 6: Question 8 Answer) …that faith in a false Christ, is not a saving faith at all (Matthew 7:21-23; … After this consideration we can now proceed to answer the […]


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