It most certainly is not, even though some within orthodox Christianity teach this false idea. The biblical teaching, however, is altogether different.
It is true that God WANTS those to be in His Kingdom whom He calls to salvation. And as we explain in our booklet, “Are You Predestined to Be Saved?”, God is confident that His disciples WILL “make it” into His kingdom (compare Philippians 1:6). He knows that all those whom He has called now CAN make it. We even read that God has already “glorified” them (Romans 8:30), even though their glorification is still in the future. God is so confident that they will be glorified that He speaks of that future event as something which has already occurred (compare Romans 4:17).
Paul tells us in Colossians 1:12 that “the Father… has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” The Authorized Version states that He has “made us meet,” which actually means, that He has made us “fit” or “sufficient” or “able” or “worthy.” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 that God made him and others “sufficient as ministers of the new covenant.”
When God calls us in this day and age, He ENABLES us and therefore KNOWS that we CAN finish our race successfully. Our ability, sufficiency or qualification come from God: We cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws us to Him (John 6:44, 65); we cannot repent unless the Father grants us the gift of repentance (Romans 2:4); we cannot really and truly believe unless the Father grants us the gift of faith (1 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 12:2); we cannot live a righteous life unless the Father grants us the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17).
All of this does not mean, however, that we cannot lose out. The Bible contains many warnings against taking our calling lightly. It is our responsibility to accept God’s gifts and use them. For instance, we are being admonished that we are to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, and that we are to seek it as a first priority (Matthew 5:6; 6:33). And so, even though the Father has qualified us to inherit salvation, we must continue in that process of qualification. We must make sure that we DON’T DISQUALIFY ourselves.
Although Paul was a “qualified” minister, he knew that it was possible that he might become disqualified, and so he made every effort to prevent this from happening. We read in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become DISQUALIFIED.” The Authorized Version renders this as “castaway.” The phrase means, “not approved,” “not standing the test,” “rejected” or “reprobate.”
Paul encourages and warns the Church in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you are DISQUALIFIED. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.”
Additional Scriptures using the identical Greek word can be found in 2 Timothy 3:8 (“disapproved”) and Titus 1:16 (“disqualified”).
That it IS possible for “qualified” members of the Church to become “disqualified” can also be seen in Paul’s strong warning in Hebrews 6, where the concept of the unpardonable sin is discussed. In verses 4 and 5, Paul talks about those who “were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift and have BECOME PARTAKERS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.” In other words, he is speaking of those who HAD received the Holy Spirit–who WERE converted. Paul is clearly NOT talking here about people who had never been enlightened. Just the opposite is true. He was speaking about those whom God had “qualified” to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light (compare again Colossians 1:12), and who had been “delivered” from the “power of darkness and conveyed… into (i.e., placed under the power of) the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13; compare Acts 26:18).
In regard to these converted Church members, Paul says that it is “impossible” (Hebrews 6:4) to “renew them AGAIN to repentance,” “if they fall away… since they crucify AGAIN for themselves the Son of God” (Hebrews 6:6). He goes on to explain that they–like the earth which bears thorns and briers–are “rejected” or “disqualified” and “near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned” (verse 8)–referring to their destruction in the lake of fire.
The concept that those who are called to salvation could not lose salvation is also wrong for the additional reason that they don’t have yet complete and total salvation. Salvation, as well as our qualification, is a PROCESS. We read that God’s people WERE saved (Romans 8:24); that they are BEING saved (Acts 2:47); and that they WILL be saved (Romans 5:9-10). Salvation is something which they are to INHERIT (Hebrews 1:14), and they will inherit it, IF they endure TO THE END (Matthew 10:22; 24:13). It is only promised to those who “overcome,” that they will INHERIT ALL THINGS (Revelation 21:7)–including the gift of salvation. That is why we are encouraged to “WORK OUT [our] own salvation with FEAR and TREMBLING” (Philippians 2:12), always recognizing the fact that it is GOD who works in us both to WILL and to DO for His good pleasure (verse 13). Even though we are appointed to obtain salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9), we are admonished not to “drift away” and “neglect so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:3); for if we do, we will not escape the judgment of God for our transgression and disobedience (verses 2-3). In 1 Corinthians 15:2, Paul says to the Church members in Corinth that they “ARE saved, IF [they] hold fast that word which [Paul] preached” to them.
It is true that God has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance (compare again Colossians 1:12). But this does not mean that we already possess the inheritance. Today we are HEIRS of the promises (compare Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; 4:7; 1 Peter 3:7; Titus 3:7). We are not yet inheritors–but we will inherit the promises if we remain faithful. God says that He “has chosen [or we might say, “qualified”] the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him” (James 2:5). We are told that we love God when we keep His commandments (1 John 5:3). THEREFORE, if we don’t love God–if we refuse to keep His commandments–we don’t have God’s promise of the kingdom and are disqualified from being heirs of the kingdom and of salvation (Note the connection between inheriting salvation, eternal life and the kingdom of God, in Matthew 19:16, 23-25).
Let us also realize what our FUTURE inheritance will consist of–always recognizing that we don’t have it yet. We are to INHERIT eternal life (Matthew 19:29)–an “eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15)–the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:34; note that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Corinthians 15:50; Ephesians 5:5-7). We are to INHERIT the promises through faith and patience (Hebrews 6:12), always remembering that it is GOD who is ABLE to build us up and give us an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32). When we receive the Holy Spirit after repentance and belief in Christ’s sacrifice, baptism and the laying on of hands by one of God’s true ministers, then we receive a “guarantee of our INHERITANCE until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:13-14). As long as God’s Holy Spirit continues to dwell in us, we WILL inherit the promises–including the promise of salvation.
Note 1 Peter 1:3-5:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled INHERITANCE and that does not fade away, RESERVED in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith FOR SALVATION ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Some commentaries, including the Ryrie Study Bible, have said that our salvation is guaranteed, even though we might lose our reward, referring to a passage in 1 Corinthians 3:8-15. However, that passage does not justify such a conclusion. It refers to God’s ministers who are to preach the gospel and feed the flock. The endurance of the flock–the “work” of the minister–will be tested by fire (verse 12-13). If that work endures, the minister will receive a reward for that particular work (verse 14). But if that work is burned, he himself might suffer loss (it is never a pleasant experience for a minister to see the flock under his care drifting away), but he still will be saved, “through fire,” if he was genuine in his efforts (verse 15). However, this passage does not address someone who falls away from the truth. Such a person will neither inherit salvation nor will he receive a reward.
We should also ask, how COULD it be that someone who was unwilling to obey God and who developed an attitude of hatred toward God COULD inherit salvation WITHOUT a reward? What would he DO for all eternity–how would he live? The truth is, both our salvation and our reward for living a righteous life pleasing to God ARE interconnected. Even though God GRANTS us the gift of salvation by His grace, independent from what we might have done prior to our calling (Titus 2:11; 3:5), He expects of us to live worthy of our calling by diligently seeking Him and His Will (Hebrews 11:6). We will be rewarded in accordance with our works (Revelation 22:12), but our reward might be greater or smaller, depending on how we live our lives (Matthew 10:42; Luke 6:35; 2 John 8).
To summarize, those who live unworthy of God’s gift of salvation will NOT inherit salvation, nor will they receive a reward. After all, we don’t have total salvation yet, but we are waiting for it. Paul says in Romans 13:11 that “now our salvation is NEARER than when we first believed.” He also tells us in Colossians 3:23-25: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive THE REWARD OF THE INHERITANCE, for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.”
God has qualified us to inherit the promises, but we must continue in that qualification process to ensure that we don’t become disqualified and that we don’t judge ourselves unworthy of everlasting life (Acts 13:46)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link