Can a Christian lose his salvation: Trinitarian Ungodliness and the question of Apostasy in Jude

In verses 5-7 Jude describes three classes of people who experienced “a punishment of eternal fire.” First, the Lord destroyed those Israelites who were exodused from Egypt but did not believe. Second, there is a group of angels who left their proper dwelling and are confined until the final judgment. Third, the immoral cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were overthrown for their sexual immorality and unnatural desire.

The third example is not too surprising. This is the sort of thing we expect a holy God to do. But the first two examples of God’s judgment give Christians reason to pause. In the first two examples we have members of the people of God and holy angels. By these examples should we understand that loosing salvation is possible? If people who were “saved” out of Egypt can fall away; if angels can fall away; can Christians fall away and face the eternal judgment of God?

There are several indications that Jude does not believe this is a possibility.

First, Jude repeatedly indicates that the appearance of these false Christians who face God’s judgment is not a surprise. In fact, these people “long ago were designated for this condemnation” (4). The word “designated” means “written before.” Their story has already been written. Because of their sin “the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (13). Their spot in hell is marked “reserved.” Jude says their appearance was predicted as far back as Enoch (14) and as recently as the apostles (17-18).

This is contrasted with the fate of the righteous. Jude instructs believers to contend for the faith (3) and to build themselves up in the faith (20). But does their security depend upon these things? Does their entrance into heaven depend on their own contending and their own building? Jude does not leave them with such a treacherous foundation. Jude closes his book with the encouraging reminder that God alone is the source of the eternal security of the believer. It is only God who is ultimately “able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (23). We contend, but God gives the victory. We build, but God holds together.

Secondly, Jude emphatically describes the true nature of those who seemingly depart from the faith. The most important and most repeated description of these people is that they are “ungodly people” (4). They are ruled by “ungodly passions” (18). Jude goes out of his way to drive this point home in verses 14-15: Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Such people are ungodly in the fullest sense of the term. They pervert the grace of God the Father, deny the Lordship of Jesus the Son (4), and are “devoid of the Spirit” (19). They are completely without God. They live in full denial of the Triune Lord.

This is in complete opposition to the source of life and strength for the believer. As mentioned above, the believer is commanded to build himself up in the faith. How does this building up occur? According to verses 20-21, by living a life in communion with the Trinity:

pray in the Holy Spirit;
keep yourselves in the love of God,
waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The life of the believer is life in the Trinity. The life of the unbeliever is un-Trinity.

People are going to fall away. There are and will be imposters in the church. This should come as no surprise. Their falling away is not due to any weakness on God’s part or overwhelming strength on sin’s part. People creep in and hinder the life of the church; people cause divisions; people speak against the leadership; people seek their own way; people live a life of sensuality; because they do not know God. More importantly, because God does not know them.


Bavinck on Perseverance of the Saints

Whatever apostasy occurs in Christianity, it may never prompt us to question the unchanging faithfulness of God, the certainty of his counsel, the enduring character of his covenant, or the trustworthiness of his promises.  One should sooner abandon all creatures than fail to trust his word.  And that word in its totality is one immensely rich promise to the heirs of the kingdom.  It is not just a handful of texts that teach the perseverance of the saints: the entire gospel sustains and confirms it.  The Father has chosen them before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), ordained them to eternal life (Acts 13:48), to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29).  This election stands (Rom. 9:11; Heb. 6:17) and in due time carries with it the calling and justification and glorification (Rom. 8:30).  Christ, in whom all the promises of God are Yes and Amen (2 Cor. 1:20), died for those who were given him by the Father (John 17:6, 12) in order that he might give them eternal life and not lose a single one of them (John 6:40; 17:2); he therefore gives them eternal life and they will never be lost in all eternity; no one will snatch them out of his hand (6:39; 10:28).  The Holy Spirit who regenerates them remains eternally with them (14:16) and seals them for the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13; 4:30)… The benefits of Christ, which the Holy Spirit imparts to them, are all irrevocable (Rom. 11:29).  Those who are called are also glorified (8:30).  Those who are adopted as children are heirs of eternal life (8:17; Gal. 4:7).  Those who believe have eternal life already here and now (John 3:16).  That life itself, being eternal. cannot be lost.  It cannot die since it cannot sin (1 John 3:9).  Faith is a firm ground (Heb. 11:1), hope is an anchor (6:19) and does not disappoint us (Rom. 5:5), and love never ends (1 Cor. 13:8).

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol 4 pg. 269-270

Glory to God for salvation in Christ!  I appreciate the fact that Bavinck estimates eternal security as a doctrine intimately connected with the gospel itself.   “It is not just a handful of texts that teach the perseverance of the saints: the entire gospel sustains and confirms it.”  To not believe that the elect are eternally secure is to misunderstand the gospel.  And there are not many things more dangerous to misunderstand.