Question / Comment - Does Galatians 5:19-21 teach that a Christian can lose their salvation?
Just read one of your dialogues with another Christian. I accepted Jesus as Savior at age 10 in Chicago. I'm part of a men's bible study in Florida.. We are going through Romans each week using pastor steve cole material. I believe in eternal security but-- there are passages in Bible, eg Galatians 5:19 to 21 and elsewhere, in NT where some teach if you have a lifestyle of sin in one or more of these areas, " you will not inherit the kingdom of God ". Eg you won't go to Heaven. Your thoughts?
yeah there are a few passages similar to Galatians 5:19-21 like 1 Cor 6:9-11 and Eph 5:5 where Paul gives a stern warning that those who live fleshly lives will not inherit the kingdom of God. How are these to be taken?
There are two sides to salvation. There is what God sees and what we see. This is seen clearly in 2 Tim 2:19 where speaking of salvation Paul writes:
2Ti 2:19 Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."
1. "The Lord knows those who are his,"
So on the one side, the Lord knows those that are His. He knows who is genuinely saved. He has actually known them before the foundation of the world! They have eternal life and won't perish. They are those that have been given to the Son from the Father and Jesus, as the Great Shepherd, will lose none of them. So when discussing the theology of salvation, which you will see extensively in the book of Romans that you are studying, you will see God's amazing salvation and eternal security. For example in chapter 8:
Rom 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
Rom 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Rom 8:33-34 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
All of this is gloriously true. The Lord knows those who are His and for the true believer not even the future can separate us from God. No one can bring a charge against us. This is one side, for those truly born again and 'in Christ Jesus'. But we live here on earth and aren't God (clearly!) So the other side is what we should expect to see:
2. "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."
While we are not the judge of someone's salvation, there are things that we should see from a genuine born again believer. Including our own life. 'By their fruit you shall know them' Jesus said. The fruit of the Spirit, not the flesh, is shown in the one who has received the Holy Spirit and new life. Now that is not to say there isn't a battle between flesh and Spirit even in the life of a true believer - there is. But a true believer should not be characterized by the types of fleshly actions shown in Gal 5:19-21. I'll explain this below but here is the passage:
Gal 5:19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; (20) idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (21) and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Most versions say 'those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God' and the key word is practice. Greek scholar A.T Robertson writes on this verse and word:
Practise (prassontes). Prassō is the verb for habitual practice (our very word, in fact), not poieō for occasional doing. The habit of these sins is proof that one is not in the Kingdom of God and will not inherit it.
Dr A.T Robertson, Robertson's Word Pictures
Well loved Bible teacher H.A Ironside makes the same point stating:
"And such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Here he uses the present continuous tense: “That they that are in the habit of doing such things, they whose lives are characterized by such things.” If people are characterized by these things, they prove that they are not Christians at all. Real Christians may fall into them, but they are miserable and wretched until they confess them, but unsaved men revel in them and go on without judging them.
To this you might think 'but if Paul is addressing Christians, why give such a warning?' The answer is that as with any church, there are the wheat and the chaff, the sheep and the goats. There will be people who 'profess' but don't 'possess'. For example a 2022 poll in the US found that 63% of the population call themselves Christians (and this had come down from previous surveys). I hope many have been born again and show this through their life, but expect that many will be in for a shock. The Bible does tell us to 'Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test?' (2Co 13:5)
So scripture gives warnings to those whose lives would suggest that they have not been saved along with wonderful promises to true believers, such as we have seen in Romans, where even the future cannot separate us from the love of God.
Hope this helps, God Bless.