"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « The Gospel According to the Church Fathers | Main | Dealing with Disappointment »

    Among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander

    Just today someone wrote to me asking this question:

    Pastor John, some people look at the verses in 1 Timothy 1:18-20 and say that if Hymenaeus and Alexander once had faith, but now have shipwrecked it, we must conclude that one can lose true faith in Christ. How would you respond to this claim? Is there more that can be said about these two men, besides, “Since other Scriptures teach perseverance, then we must assume that the faith of Hymenaeus and Alexander must have been a mere profession”?

    I sought to provide an answer here. I hope it can be useful to others. - JS

    Posted by John Samson on September 25, 2011 03:04 AM


    Sir: You did leave off a little at the end, of course; being that Paul "handed them over to the Adversary that they may learn not to blaspheme." Two points here; two questions. Why, and in what sense, did Paul hand them over; and, what was their sin, exactly? The latter is described, I believe, only in a general manner, being that Paul was using a figure of speech: the metonymy.

    Remember, as it is written, in the Gospels, that "All sins and blasphemes against the Son shall be forgiven man ..." I believe this is the type of sin we are dealing with frankly; and that it probably was something quite specific, which Paul did not name (but only used the general term, blaspheme). And also note here, that though "Paul turned them over to the Devil" - we really do not know what this precisely means, either. Do not be so quick as to interpret this as an anathema (!) Though very serious, it may be that Paul was (temporarily) casting them out of the church, for reasons of discipline.

    So again, Paul was likely using a metonymy "the Devil", in the description "handing them over to the Devil". It was not so much here as to the Devil's control, or to him literally, as it was I believe to his dominion; which the world is, outside of the Church and it's people.

    Yet; I believe that it is theologically possible one can fade from the Faith, so as to be irretrievable; thankfully, though, I think it probable to not be the case for Hymenaeus and Alexander. My primary reason for this, is, succinctly, that Paul seems to be treating them as brothers, however in an unusual sense.

    The falling out from the Faith; which seems, indeed, to be scripturally possible, after the consideration of all the New Testament, would not be a falling from *salvation*. So then, all the more important, that we press on (as Paul says), and encourage one another, so as to attain the victory. Let us certainly wish the salvation of all (!); but 1 Tim. 1 does not present the scriptural difficulties, as Hebrews may.

    - John G. Lewis

    Hi John G.,

    I am not sure how to respond? What I wrote here was just the question and pointed elsewhere to the full article. Did you read the full article I wrote?

    Greetings Pastor John.

    Yes, I'm sorry; what I wrote was no rebuke of course, and your article did explain most everything. Indeed your views, and writings, are very similar to mine; and no, I had not read your article, until now... But I was offering a general answer; a general approach.

    I liked your "retreat", if you would, to the Golden Chain of Redemption, mentioned by Paul. God will glorify those he justifies. The problem is the latter though; just exactly "when" justification occurs, if indeed there is an exact time, is, I think, largely unknown.

    Yet, the retreat; which I use too, and agree with as good theology, often does not answer the question, of a more psychological nature, to the individual. When confronted with problems and issues pertaining to warnings from on High, one will wish for comfort and assurance. The simple answer, of a theological sort (the Golden Chain), is not sufficient here, as it is actually a tautology (Rev. 22:11). No offense; tautologies can well be truth, and it is here.

    The issue, I believe, concerns Lordship; and of "finding oneself in the faith". This is war; and the individual will have to mine for promises and solace. As representatives of the faith (and all the faithful are), the idea is to offer help and protection to individuals so troubled. Help: meaning instruction in the faith (and Reformed Theology is duly a part), comradery, possibily accountability and financial aid of sorts; and protection: from the devil.


    Concerning the retreat, as I have termed it, to Calvinism: more is needed for the individual involved... Yet, concerning the strict theological component: can a man lose one's salvation? And I believed you have answered correctly: no. But that was never the question to begin with. The question, I propose, is this: can someone with a living faith [I am not saying *justifying* faith, note.] fall away? From my readings of scripture, and various commentators, I believe the answer is yes, this is possible.

    It is hard, very hard, to know who is of the "elect". What of Moses's intercession for Israel after the Golden Calf incident? It would have been all over *for the people* if it was not for the love and strength of Moses's faith, and the passion and forgiveness of Almighty God. The Lord offered to Moses a new nation - made from what would have been his offspring, but this was refused. Not only were people's lives at stake, but additionally, and quite possibly, their eternal felicity as well. Thanks to Moses, and the Lord, this disaster was averted.

    The point is that we should be aware of the psychological element in the search for, and the attainment of, salvation. We should put ourselves in other's places, seeking the best and highest for them.

    - John G. Lewis

    I believe Scripture to be clear that justification occurs the moment someone places their faith in Christ (Romans 5:1). The only faith that justifies is a living faith; a dead faith saves no one.

    The Golden Chain is not a retreat of any kind, but God's proclamation (amongst other things) that all those truly justified will indeed be glorified. He loses no one along the way. "...these whom He justified, He also glorified." (Rom 8:30).

    God's saving purpose cannot be thwarted - none of Christ's true sheep will ever be lost. Though the elect may for a time fall into radical sin (such as Peter's denial of Christ), God restores them to fellowship with Himself, and assures their eternal salvation. This salvation involves the work of the Trinity - All who are chosen by God the Father, redeemed by Christ the Son, and given faith by the Holy Spirit, are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end. They persevere in faith because He preserves them. Jn 3:16; 6:35-40; 6:44; 10:27-29; Rom 8:28-39; Phil 1:6; 2:12-13; Eph 1:13-14; Jude 24-25

    In my article I was seeking to answer the question as to whether the text in 1 Timothy shows that genuinely born again people can lose salvation. I maintain it does not.

    Greetings, Pastor John.

    I did not mean to be argumentative, and I do very well agree with your conclusion, that: Once one is born again, we are accounted as God's sheep, and cannot lose our salvation, because when "born again" the individual receives the Spirit in some manner and measure, and is forgiven of sins past, present, and future.

    Additionally, though, we should be careful how we reason; as you indeed write... Because our conclusions are identical in this particular case (of Hymenaeus and Alexander), I think it best to postpone our discussion until we arrive at the more controversial issues and documents. I will maintain, however, that "a living faith", justification, and the "born again" experience, though all very closely related, are, each one, distinct from the other (!) The most mysterious, the most difficult, and also quite possibly the most important, is justification.

    Mr. Sampson, I am not a Pastor, nor ever have been; but I see a proper viewing of this complex subject as aiding in the Church's warfare against "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." I am not really critiquing anyone, of course ... We might eventually have some theological differences; but best examined, and discussed, I propose, on another occasion. Look forward to it. {Meanwhile; I will read my Calvin and Owen.}

    Talk again, sir.
    Grace and peace,
    John G. Lewis

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