On 8/21/23 GES posted a video by Mike Lii and me. You can see it here. We were discussing a video by Allen Parr. Currently, there are 79 comments. One of the comments, actually a question, caught my attention: “Are you implying that a believer can be disapproved by Christ and still be saved?”
Yes. Only faithful believers are approved by Christ. All believers are eternally secure. But only faithful believers are in fellowship with God and approved by Him.
The Greek nouns meaning approved and disapproved are dokimos and adokimos. They make for great word studies because they don’t often occur in the NT. I encourage you to do the study for yourself.
Dokimos, approved, occurs seven times in the NT (Rom 14:18; 16:10; 1 Cor 11:19; 2 Cor 10:18; 13:7; 2 Tim 2:15, the AWANA verse; Jas 1:12).
We must serve Christ faithfully in order to be “acceptable to God and approved by men” (Rom 14:18). In Rom 16:10, Paul tells us of such a man: “Greet Apelles, approved in Christ.” That is, at the time Paul wrote, Apelles was a faithful Christian who had the Lord’s approval.
Paul indicates in 1 Cor 11:19 that divisions in the church at Corinth had the effect “that those who are approved may be recognized among you.” Not all the believers in Corinth were approved. Compare 1 Cor 11:30. See also 2 Cor 10:18; 13:7.
The requirement for a teacher in the local church, such as Timothy, to be approved is explained by Paul in 2 Tim 2:15: being diligent in one’s work for the Lord, “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
James said that the requirement to be approved by Christ is that one “endures temptation” (Jas 1:12).
The antonym of dokimos is adokimos. It occurs eight times in the NT (Rom 1:28; 1 Cor 9:27; 2 Cor 13:5, 6, 7; 2 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:16; Heb 6:8). Some think it is used to refer to unbelievers. However, in nearly all of those occurrences it clearly refers to believers.
At the end of 1 Corinthians 9, Paul said he lived a disciplined life for Christ partly because he feared being disapproved of by Christ at the Bema. Paul did not doubt his eternal destiny. He was unsure that He would rule with Christ, which requires perseverance (2 Tim 2:12).
Almost half the NT uses of adokimos occur in 2 Cor 13:5-7. Paul is warning the believers in Corinth that they might be adokimoi, disapproved. They were to test themselves to see if they were faithfully serving Christ, as Paul and his team were. Paul said, “we are not disqualified [better, disapproved]” (2 Cor 13:6).
Although not everyone understands Heb 6:4-8 in this way, it refers to believers (vv 4-5) who fall away from the faith and are like a field covered in weeds that is “rejected (adokimos) and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned” (Heb 6:8). The author of Hebrews was speaking of the temporal judgment of a believer who falls. Notice that the field remains after the “thorns and briers” are burned off.
There are several uses of adokimos that might refer to unbelievers. Paul said Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, and they were “disapproved concerning the faith” (2 Tim 3:8). We don’t know who these men were. Nor do we know whether they were believers or unbelievers.
In Rom 1:28, Paul refers to homosexuals and lesbians (see Rom 1:26-27) as those whom “God gave over to a debased (or disapproved, adokimos) mind.” This could refer to believers or unbelievers who practice homosexuality. See also Titus 1:16.
I urge you to study passages like the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27), the Parable of the Just and the Unjust Servants (Matt 24:45-51), Matt 10:32-33, 1 Cor 3:10-15, 1 Cor 9:24-27, 2 Cor 5:9-10, Gal 6:6-10, 2 Tim 2:11-13, 2 Tim 4:6-8, 1 John 2:28, and Revelation 2-3. They all show that believers will be judged at the Bema and that only faithful believers will be approved of by Him.