Student opinion: A transient salvation?
Lines of reasoning that favor a temporary or partial salvation can vary. Whether intentional or not, individuals can turn infallible scripture into something that agrees with their own presuppositions or desires. Ironically, looking at 2 Peter 2:1, the irrevocable concept of salvation introduces a different type of question regarding its eternality and certainty.
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” – 2 Peter 2:1
I would argue the question of losing salvation has been a widely discussed topic ever since God’s first covenant with his creation through Abraham. When Abraham showed unfaithfulness to God’s promises in Genesis, he may have doubted his own ability to be used by God again.
Some scriptures seem to hint that salvation can be lost. After reading a passage like 2 Peter 2, I’m reminded of the many passages that hint the opposite — a steadfast, eternal salvation. For instance, John 10:28-30, Romans 8:39, 1 Peter 1:4-5 and John 6:37-40 to name a few. Ephesians 2:9 also says, “this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” If a believer can’t work for his salvation, how can he work against it?
With this confusion, the only direction one can look to is beyond the words of scripture. Understanding the context to the words is key to interpreting and fully understanding what they mean.
2 Peter 2:1 is unique in its perspective. Unlike other passages that hint at the possibility of losing salvation on the believers’ side, this passage takes the perspective of a false teacher who was “bought” by “the Master.”
Many people, whether believers or not, use this passage as a backbone for the argument that salvation can be lost. Their line of reasoning is this: that if one can do so much wrong as to choose false teaching over faith in Jesus, then this means anyone can certainly lose their salvation.
Reading the passage straight through, this interpretation sounds about right. However, if this is true, I have no idea what this means considering the number of passages I listed that support an eternal and secure salvation. Immediate conviction and several questions should enter the mind of a believer who desires the clarity of scripture.
Let’s try to understand the passage by reading it with no context whatsoever. First, there are false teachers. Peter is speaking of some time in the past when false teachers were prominent, and then he speaks to their future rise.
Peter tells his audience that the objective of false teachers is to “secretly bring in destructive heresies.” These false teachers also apparently “deny the Master who bought them.” This specific phrase adds to the main question of losing salvation. Lastly, the act of false teaching forces destruction and eternal judgement.
Now, let’s understand the context of the rest of Peter’s letters. In 1 Peter, based on the introduction and the rest of the content, he is speaking to persecuted Christians living in Asia Minor. The purpose of the first letter was to give encouragement in a time of suffering by reminding the believers of their rebirth through Christ. He also wanted to uplift and challenge them in their mindsets during their suffering.
Peter writes to Christians a second time. A key passage toward understanding this letter is 2 Peter 1:12-15 and 3:1-3. Peter essentially writes that the motive for his letters is to warn believers of the false teachers to come. He reminds Christians of the truth they hold everyday.
The holy prophets, chosen by God, already spoke of the truth of Christ. The apostles taught and guided young churches by the commandment of the Lord. Peter warns of people who will try to trick believers into forgetting what God has already done. Christ won salvation.
An interesting passage to read about false teachers, specifically in “the last days,” would be 2 Timothy 3:1-9. People seek out the appearance of godliness all for the sake of serving their own evil desires. False teachers strategize in their own minds on how to best trick and destroy.
Going back to 2 Peter 2:1, the reader must think strategically. Peter doesn’t identify false teachers as Christians. He clearly writes that false teachers have risen, and they will come. Peter refers to a specific type of person whose basis in life is to lead others astray.
The best position I have found on 2 Peter 2:1 is that the false teachers appeared to be Christians just as Paul describes in 2 Timothy 3. A few other proof texts would be Matthew 3, 23 and Acts 23. Some denied the resurrection; others acted as if they were in submission to God but had selfish hearts.
The same types of false teachers should appear through the future Church Age as well. Peter even refers to these types of people in his letters, which he directly warns believers about. They initially claim to be bought by their Master, but they persuade true followers of God with incorrect doctrine.
Salvation cannot be lost. Christ knows his people, and none will be snatched out of his hand, nor will he cast them out (Jn. 6:37, 10:28). He holds the lives of many and loves them with his life. If Christ’s resurrection was final and forever, should mine through him not be the same?
Duvall is the opinion editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter