FOR WRITERS

FOR READERS

FOR PUBLISHERS




FREE CHRISTIAN REPRINT ARTICLES

Christian Articles for All of your Publishing Needs!

LIKE US
Translate this Page Here

FOR WRITERS

FOR READERS

FOR PUBLISHERS




Word Count: 2927

Send Article To Friend Print/Use Article

Contact Max Aplin


Does Romans 8:29-30 Prove That Genuine Christians Never Fall Away and Lose Salvation?

by Max Aplin  
11/20/2017 / Salvation


One area of disagreement among Christians concerns falling away from the faith, also known as apostasy. Some say that God will never allow a born-again believer to apostatize and finally end up in hell. Others say that this does sometimes happen. 

A KEY BIBLICAL TEXT 

One passage that is relevant for this topic is Romans 8:29-30. Here the apostle Paul states: 

29 For those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” 

(Scripture quotations in this article are from the English Standard Version.) 

Those who claim that God never allows Christians to fall away often cite these words as a proof text for their view. This passage, it is said, shows clearly that everyone who is justified when they first receive salvation will also be glorified in heaven, and that there can be no exceptions to this. 

THINGS ARE NOT NECESSARILY QUITE SO SIMPLE 

I agree that this passage does most naturally suggest that genuine Christians never fall away from the faith. However, I think the passage falls short of proving this. I don’t think it is quite as watertight as many claim. 

In my view, there are two ways in which this passage could allow for some genuine Christians to apostatize. I agree that neither of these options is, on the face of it, a natural interpretation. But I don’t think that either of them is impossible. 

Let’s look at these in turn. 

THE TIMING OF THE GLORIFICATION 

At the end of v. 30, as we have seen, Paul says: 

“. . . those whom he justified he also glorified.” 

The Greek verb, edoxasen, translated here by “he glorified,” is in the aorist tense, which is a past tense. 

Those who say that this passage proves that genuine Christians never fall away understand “he glorified” to refer, in part at least, to glorification that will take place after Christians die or the Lord Jesus returns to earth. 

Potential ways of understanding “he glorified” 

There are potentially three ways in which the timing of “he glorified” could be understood. 

(1) It could refer to being glorified upon death or the return of the Lord. 

(2) It could refer to being glorified upon becoming a Christian, and there could be an implication that the state of being glorified will necessarily continue beyond death or the return of the Lord. 

(3) It could refer to being glorified upon becoming a Christian, without any implication that the state of being glorified will necessarily continue beyond death or the return of the Lord. 

We need to consider how likely or unlikely each of these options is. 

Paul refers to glorification of Christians before and after death 

To begin with, we should note that in his letters Paul connects glory with the lives of Christians both before death and in the final state in heaven. He refers to glory before death in 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:12; and probably 1 Thessalonians 2:12, and by implication elsewhere too. And he refers to glory in heaven in many places, such as in Romans 2:7, 10; 5:2; 1 Corinthians 15:43; 2 Corinthians 4:17. 

So each of the three options above would fit well with Paul’s general references to glory in his letters. 

The fact that the verb is a past tense 

The fact that the verb edoxasen, “he glorified,” is in a past tense would also fit well with all of the above options. 

It is true that when Paul wrote Romans, most people who had become Christians up to that point would not yet have died. So for most, the experience of heavenly glory would still have been future. Someone might want to argue, then, that, at the time of writing, a past tense would have been inappropriate as a reference to the heavenly glory of Christians in general. 

However, all the other Greek finite verbs in the sequence in these verses are in the past tense – those translated as “he foreknew,” “he predestined,” “he called” and “he justified.” So Paul could have decided to make his reference to Christians being glorified match these other verbs grammatically, even if the glorification he had in mind was only the final glorification in heaven. 

Besides, “he called” and “he justified” are both past tenses, yet Paul would surely have believed that some of the calling and justifying was still future from his time of writing, as people became Christians after that time. So, since “he called” and “he justified” involve a future reference, there is all the more reason for thinking that “he glorified” could potentially be referring only to final glory in heaven. 

The fact that “he glorified” is a past tense, then, would easily allow for all of the three potential options listed above. 

Other references to glory in Romans 8 

Earlier in the same chapter, at Romans 8:18, Paul had already written: 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” 

In this verse Paul is referring to glory that Christians will experience after death or the Lord’s return. And Romans 8:17, 21 similarly focus, at least primarily, on glory that is not yet the experience of Christians. 

In view of the references to future glory in these verses of chap. 8, it would make most sense if the reference to glory in Romans 8:30 also refers, in part at least, to the glory that Christians experience after death or the Lord’s return. 

Of the three options that I listed above, options (1) and (2) involve a reference to glory after death or the Lord’s return, but option (3) does not. The references to glory in Romans 8:17, 18, 21 therefore fit much better with options (1) and (2) than with option (3). 

Conclusion 

Let’s sum up what we have found regarding our three options for understanding the timing of “he glorified” in Romans 8:30. 

First, we saw that the way Paul refers to glory generally in his letters fits well with each option. Second, we saw that the past tense “he glorified” fits well with each option. Third, we saw that the references to glory in Romans 8:17, 18, 21 fit much better with options (1) and (2) than with option (3). 

All things considered, then, options (1) and (2) are much more natural than option (3). In other words, it seems much more natural to understand “he glorified” in Romans 8:30 as a reference either only to glory in heaven (option (1)) or to glory in heaven and before death (option (2)). It seems much less natural to understand it as a reference only to glory before death (option (3)). 

If option (3) is correct 

So I admit that option (3) is by far the least likely of the three options. However, I don’t think it is impossible that it could be the right one. It is just possible that when Paul wrote edoxasen, “he glorified,” he was referring to being glorified upon becoming a Christian, without implying that the state of being glorified would necessarily continue beyond death or the Lord’s return. 

And if Paul was referring in v. 30 only to this kind of glorification, it could potentially allow for the possibility of born-again Christians apostatizing. Every single Christian would be foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified. But it might be possible that God would then allow some who are glorified to later fall away and lose salvation before they die. 

This is the first way in which Romans 8:29-30 could be reconciled with the view that God does at times allow born-again Christians to fall away from the faith and lose salvation. 

ALLOWING FOR EXCEPTIONS 

To refresh the reader’s memory, here is the text of our passage again: 

29 For those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” 

Those who say that this passage proves that genuine Christians never fall away always claim that it shows that being justified is necessarily followed by being glorified. They claim that the passage teaches that every single person who is justified when they first receive salvation will also be glorified in heaven. 

Exceptions to the rule 

There is a second way of understanding Romans 8:29-30 that could allow the possibility of Christians falling away from the faith and losing salvation. 

In this second way, it is agreed that when Paul says “he also glorified,” he is referring in part at least to final glorification in heaven. So in this argument there is no attempt to claim that Paul is thinking only about glorification before death or before the Lord returns. 

Instead, this argument is based on the possibility of allowing exceptions to the rule. The argument says that when Paul states, “those whom he justified he also glorified,” he isn’t insisting that every single person who is justified is also glorified. Rather, he is saying that those who are justified at conversion typically go on to be glorified in heaven, but that there are exceptional cases where justification doesn’t in fact lead to glorification. 

We could compare this idea to a group of students. Suppose I were to say this about a group of science students: 

Last year a group of students began a degree course. First, they did a class in chemistry, which was followed immediately by a class in physics. Then they took a break. After that, they began a class in biology, which is still in progress. When this finishes, they will begin a class in engineering. 

In the previous paragraph the students are considered as a group. I said that they did various things in the past, are currently doing something else, and will do something further in the future. What I didn’t bother to mention, however, was that a few of the students who began the course have since dropped out. My focus was on what the group studied, not on whether every student who started as part of the group has continued to the present or will continue in the future. 

Similarly, under the interpretation of Romans 8:29-30 that we are considering in this section, the focus would not be on whether every Christian whom God foreknows etc. will reach the stage of being glorified in heaven. Instead, the focus would simply be on the stages that typically apply to Christians. Typically, God foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies and glorifies Christians. But that is not to say that every Christian will necessarily complete this process. 

Under this interpretation, Paul would not be promising that God will not allow Christians to fall away. Rather, he would be encouraging his readers that if they keep going in the faith, God will bring them to the stage of being glorified. 

A difficulty with this interpretation 

I admit that on the face of it this way of taking the text is more than a little difficult. 

The difficulty is not that we have to allow for unexpressed exceptions to what Paul says. The Bible often allows for unexpressed exceptions to things, far more than we are used to in modern Western culture. 

The problem is that this interpretation has to allow for exceptions to the stage “those whom he justified he also glorified,” yet there can be no exceptions to any of the other stages mentioned in these verses. 

In other words, there can be no doubt that the passage is teaching that every single Christian whom God foreknows He also predestines, every single Christian whom He predestines He also calls, and every single Christian whom He calls He also justifies. It is not possible to allow for any exceptions in these things. So it does look strange then to say, as in this interpretation, that not every single Christian whom He justifies He also glorifies. 

This interpretation, then, seems very difficult. Nevertheless, I don’t think it is impossible. I think it is just possible that when Paul said, “those whom he justified he also glorified,” he could have believed that some of those justified might not in fact go on to be glorified. 

SUMMING UP 

We have seen that there are two possible ways of taking Romans 8:29-30 which allow for some born-again, saved Christians to apostatize and lose salvation. 

First, we could argue that when Paul says, “he also glorified,” he is referring only to glorification that happens before death or the Lord returns. If we do this, it might be possible that some Christians who are glorified would later fall away from the faith. 

Second, we could argue instead that when Paul says, “those he justified he also glorified,” he is just referring to what typically happens to Christians. If we do this, we could potentially allow for exceptional cases where being justified does not in fact lead to being glorified in heaven.  

I freely admit that neither of these interpretations seems to be a natural one, for the reasons I have given above. But I don’t think that either of them is impossible. In other words, I think this passage falls short of proving that God never allows born-again Christians to fall away and lose salvation. 

Of course, when we are using the Bible to form views on something, it is important that we take all the passages on that topic into account. As regards the subject of falling away from the faith, there are dozens of texts that need to be allowed to speak. Romans 8:29-30 is therefore just one small part of this issue. 

For a wider-ranging discussion of this topic, see my article: Does God Ever Allow Born-Again Christians to Fall Away and Lose Salvation?

I have been a Christian for over 30 years. I have a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Edinburgh. I am a UK national and I currently live in the south of Scotland. Check out my blog, The Orthotometist, at maxaplin.blogspot.com

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.com-CHRISTIAN WRITERS

If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! Click here and TRUST JESUS NOW

Read more articles by Max Aplin

Like reading Christian Articles? Check out some more options. Read articles in Main Site Articles, Most Read Articles or our highly acclaimed Challenge Articles. Read Great New Release Christian Books for FREE in our Free Reads for Reviews Program. Or enter a keyword for a topic in the search box to search our articles.

User Comments

Enter comments below. Due to spam, all hyperlinks posted in the comments are now immediately disabled by our system.

Please type the following word below:


Not readable? Change text.



The opinions expressed by authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.

Hire a Christian Writer, Christian Writer Wanted, Christian Writer Needed, Christian Content Needed, Find a Christian Editor, Hire a Christian Editor, Christian Editor, Find a Christian Writer


Main FaithWriters Site | Acceptable Use Policy

By using this site you agree to our Acceptable Use Policy .

© FaithWriters.com. All rights reserved.


FaithWriters.com Free Reprint Articles - Your place for Christian articles, Christian poems, Christian stories and much more.