Summary: An examination of the difficult phrase "abandoning the faith" and its proper context of legalism, not salvation.
THE MAIN QUESTION: Does “abandon[ing] the faith” mean losing your salvation?
- This is one of those passages where the wording immediately lends itself to thinking about eternal security. What does it mean that “some will abandon the faith”? Does it mean people walking away from Christ and losing their salvation?
THE ANSWER: Paul is basically teaching, “In the last days, some will manipulate and change the handed-down teaching.”
- It’s not going to surprise you that this Baptist doesn’t think that people lose their salvation.
- Rather, I think the idea that Paul is conveying here has to do with people manipulating and changing the message that was handed down from the apostles.
- People would believe variants of the true teaching – ideas thrown in there by “deceiving spirits” and “demons” (v. 1). As we look back at early church history, we see exactly that happening. There were many long-term arguments in the early church over the true teachings about Jesus. These were not on minor matters – these were core doctrine like whether Jesus only appeared to be human but really wasn’t and whether Jesus actually died on the cross.
- So when Paul is talking about those who will “abandon the faith,” I think he’s speaking of the faith there in terms of our beliefs (for example, the “faith of our fathers”). There would be those who teach things that were contrary to the truth.
- Side note: there is really not quite as big a difference between, say, Baptists who believe in eternal security and, say, Methodists who do not as you might presume. In reality, both acknowledge that there are those who appear to have faith at some point who later are shown to not have had faith. The Methodist says they were saved and then lost; the Baptist says they appeared saved but never were. The two phenomenon are not significantly far apart – both are trying to describe a life arc that everyone agrees happens.
- Still, for some that question of being able to lose your salvation lingers because of another passage, so, while we’re on this subject, let’s talk about that passage.
BUT DOESN'T THE BIBLE SAY YOU CAN "FALL FROM GRACE"? Yes, but that’s not about losing your salvation, but about losing your freedom in Christ.
- Unpack that passage and its context of liberty in Christ, not salvation.
A BIG PROBLEM: Focusing on special rules.
- Galatians 5:2-3, 6.
- It’s telling that v. 3 concentrates on the special rules that they’re using.
- We see the same thing back in Galatians 5 where Paul brings up the circumcision rules that his enemies were focused on.
- What’s the point of these things? It’s that often the wrong path that these teachers point people on is a path of special rules and secret knowledge.
- It’s about knowing something no one else does. It’s about following rules that no one else does.
- Verses 4-5.
- All things are good that were created by God.
- Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25.
- Singleness: 1 Corinthians 7:25-35.
- In both cases, not a blanket ban, but rather something done under certain circumstances.
- As with most Satanic deception, there is a little bit of truth in there. (Sometimes singleness is a good thing; sometimes fasting is a good thing.) But the deception is in seeing them as essential for salvation.
- They’re trying to be “stricter than God.”
WHO IS "ABANDON[ING] THE FAITH"? Those who use religion for their own goal.
- This flows right from the point I was just making these teachers claiming to know something no one else does and to push rules that no one else does: their goal is often about accumulating power or about feeling like they’re unusually insightful on what the truth is.
- The goal is usually using religion. It becomes a tool for them to pursue a goal that’s more important to them. What kind of goal? Maybe their power. Maybe their fame. Maybe control over people’s lives.
- This verse is insightful in helping us understand why you end up pastors or church leaders who often do things that are so blatantly wrong and un-Christian. Religion is just the thing they are using to advance their larger goal. What they really want is their power, their fame, more control. This is how some pastors and church leaders end up doing things that are clearly wrong and not batting an eye about it. Verse 2 speaks of their consciences being seared as with a hot iron. They do not have a traditional Christian morality – everything is judged through the prism of the acquisition of power.