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Letters to the Editor
I want to tell you how much I appreciate your work for GES. Each month I look forward to the newsletter and find it very informative. I want to thank you for dealing with some of my questions in the past. I realize they are difficult and sometimes controversial. It is not my intention to stir things up, but rather to understand the Bible better. I hope I don't get you into hot water.
I have another question. What is the spiritual condition of apostates as they are found in the books of Jude (v 4), 1 Timothy (4:1-3), 2 Timothy (3:1-9), and 2 Peter (chp 2)? Were these false teachers saved or mere professors?
Keep up the good work and I hope to get to meet you sometime. You have been a real encouragement to me.
Thank you for your kind words. I am glad that you have been blessed by our ministry!
As you surely know, the spiritual condition of the false teachers you mention is disputed. While most commentators would say that they are unsaved, there are some in the Free Grace camp who argue that some or all of those mentioned in the books you cite were saved.
I believe that the false teachers predicted in 2 Peter 2 and announced as present in Jude 4 were unsaved. Jude 13 and 2 Peter 2:17 describe these false teachers as those for whom "is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." This phrase "blackness of darkness forever," while not a technical expression for hell, surely seems to be referring to eternal condemnation.
It is important to recognize, however, that Peter and Jude are talking about specific false teachers. They are not saying that believers, saved people, cannot be duped and become false teachers. Indeed, they say just the opposite. Peter and Jude warn their believing readers not to be led astray by these false teachers (2 Pet 2:18-22; 3:14-18; Jude 20-24). Thus while some false teachers may be believers who have been led astray, the ones mentioned in 2 Peter and Jude were unsaved.
The spiritual condition of the false teachers mentioned in First and Second Timothy is a different matter. In my estimation no unequivocal statement is made concerning their spiritual condition.
What is clear, however, is that Paul warned Timothy that both he and his believing congregation were in danger of straying from the truth and being duped by false teachers (cf. 1 Tim 1:6-7; 4:16; 6:20-21; 2 Tim 2:16-18). Paul, like Peter, envisioned the possibility that saved men and women might actually adopt and then teach major doctrinal error. Indeed in both letters Paul referred to certain believers named Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim 1:18-20) and Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim 2:16-18) who "concerning the faith suffered shipwreck" and who "strayed concerning the truth." Since only someone on board ship can suffer shipwreck, and only someone who has faith can stray from the faith, these men were believers. [For further discussion of these men see Zane Hodges's, Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation, pp. 108-112.] The bottom line is this: we who are believers need to cultivate our faith by careful and regular Bible study, prayer, fellowship in a good Bible-teaching local church, witnessing, and doing good deeds. If we become complacent, our faith can falter and fail. While our salvation is eternally secure, our faith is only secure if we continue to abide in Christ day by day.
Thank you for this excellent question. I consider it a privilege to answer the questions of those who are diligently seeking to know and apply God's Word!
I think you are doing a great job and I appreciate your firm stand on the clarity of the gospel. I was glad to see the [GES News] article a while back about gospel tracts as all believers are commanded to witness. Keep up the good work.
Baton Rouge, LA
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