Chafer - Losing Fellowship or Rewards, but not Salvation
By Lewis Sperry Chafer
REWARDS MAY BE FORFEITED, OR LOST, BUT THIS CANNOT BE SAID OF SALVATION
1 Corinthians 9:27 says, "But I keep under - my body, and bring it into subjection: lest
that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway"
(disapproved). The context is only of rewards and not at all of
The word here translated "castaway" is "adokimos," which is the negative form, by the prefix
a, of dokimos. The negative form is translated by three English words in the NT: "castaway," once;
"rejected," once; and "reprobate," six times. Three of the translations of "reprobate" are
given a marginal rendering "void of judgment." Four meanings given to the word by the lexicons
are "unable to stand test," "rejected," "refuse" and "worthless." The less severe form of the word is by the
lexicons given first, which corresponds with the meaning given to it in the numerous translations
in the Bible. The moderate meaning of the negative form of this word is demanded in the passage in question
for at least four reasons.
(1) The affirmative form of the word dokimos,
used in the NT six times, is always translated in
the Bible and defined by the lexicographers, as
well, as meaning "approved," or "to stand test."
"For he that in these things serveth Christ is
acceptable to God, and approved of men" (Romans
14:18); "Salute Apelles approved in Christ" (Romans
16:10); "For there must be also heresies among
you, that they which are approved may be made
manifest among you (1 Corinthians 11:19); "For not he
that commendeth himself is approved, but whom
the Lord commendeth" (2 Corinthians 10:18); "Study to
show thyself approved unto God, a workman that
needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the
word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15); "Blessed is the man
that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he
shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath
promised to them that love him" (James 1:12).
If dokimos is always "approved," or "tested" as
to rewards, it follows that its negative form is naturally "disapproved" or "failure under testing."
(2) To give adokimos the severest possible
meaning of being "cast off forever" would be to
ignore wholly the meaning in the context. This
is of rewards to the believer for faithful service.
The passage opens with the words (verse 18) "What
then is my reward?" And Paul's fear, as has been
before stated, is lest through half-hearted ministry he should be disapproved. Salvation is not in
question, for salvation is not once related in the
Scriptures to dokimos, the affirmative form of this
(3) To give adokimos the severest meaning in this
passage would be to bring it into direct opposition
to all the great promises of God concerning His
purpose and power in salvation.
(4) It is to choose a meaning of the word which
is remote and in no way the usual use made of it
in the Scriptures. Conybeare and Howson render
the passage: "But I bruise my body and force it
into bondage; lest, perchance, having called others
to the contest, I should myself fail shamefully of
the prize" (Life of St. Paul, Chapter 12).
1Corinthians 3:15 says, "If any (Christian's)
man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss:
but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
The whole context, again, is of rewards for
Christian service. The work of God must stand.
The child of God will himself be saved, though all
his works are burned.
Colossians 1:21-23, "And you, that were some
times alienated and enemies in your minds by
wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in
the body of his flesh through death" (this is the
work of God in salvation), "to present you holy
and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight"
(depends, not on His salvation, but); "if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not
moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye
CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP MAY BE LOST THROUGH SIN
"If we say that we have fellowship with him, and
walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth" (1
John 1:6). This passage has to do with loss of fellowship
(not salvation) through sin. The cure for a Christian's sin is not in a second
regeneration and justification by faith, but rather, "If we confess our
sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (verse 9).
This is the believer's way back into blessed joy
and fellowship with his Lord, and should never
be confused with the establishment of the eternal
grounds of salvation. The unregenerate are not
saved by confessing, but by believing.
Thus the Prodigal Son, representing the possible
return of the Jewish publicans and sinners under
the Jewish covenants and relationships, returned
to his father on the ground of confession, and
not by a birth, or generation. He was lost and
was found, which has not the same significance
as being lost and saved. He never ceased to be a
son, and was restored to the former relation to
his father by confession: "Father, I have sinned
against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more
worthy to be called thy son."
The same underlying truth will be found in the
other parts of the same parable: "The lost sheep"
and "The lost coin." Thus a saint of this dispensation, being under the new covenant, may return
to his place of blessing by confession (1 John
1:9). David did not pray that his salvation might
be restored after his great sin; but he did pray:
"Restore unto me the joys of my salvation," and
that after his full confession had been made.
CHRISTIANS MAY BE CHASTENED (1 CORINTHIANS 11:29-32)
"For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily,
eateth and drinketh damnation (judgment)
unto himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
For this cause many are weak and sickly
among you, and many sleep. For if we would
judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But
when we are judged, we are chastened of the
Lord that we should not be condemned with
This passage has to do with a possible eating
and drinking at the Lord's table in an unworthy
manner, and the table is referred to in this passage as being an outward evidence of the believer's
true fellowship with his Lord. He is thus warned
against going to that table when there is unconfessed sin in his life, by that act assuming to be in
fellowship with his Lord when he is not.
The Father's method of dealing with His sinning child is then revealed. The sinning child may
first judge himself, which he does by confessing
his sins. If he judge not himself, he must be judged
of his Father; but the Father's judgment is always
chastisement and never condemnation with the
world. The chastisement for the unyielding child,
according to this passage, is that he may become
"weak," "sick," or may experience "sleep" (physical death).
John 15:2 says, "Every branch in me that beareth not
fruit he taketh away." The reference is evidently to
true branches, which is not the case in verse 6. From
the fact that the Greek word airo has the meaning
"lifting up out of its place," here translated from
airei, "taketh away," it would seem probable that
the reference is to the last form of chastisement
mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:30. Such branches are
taken home to be with the Lord (see also 1 Timothy
5:12, "having judgment" which is chastisement
for a child of God).
CHRISTIANS MAY FALL FROM GRACE.
Galatians 5: 1-4: Stand fast therefore in the
liberty wherewith Christ hath set us free,
and be not entangled again with the yoke of
bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that
if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you
nothing. For I testify again to every man that
is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the
whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto
you, whosoever of you are justified by the
law; ye are fallen from grace.
Falling from grace, it will be seen from this passage, is not caused by sinning.
It is simply departing from the liberty wherewith Christ hath set us
free. It is returning to the yoke and bondage of the
law from which the death of Christ hath delivered
us. When we return to the law, the liberty which
is ours in Christ is lost, and Christ, as the grounds
of liberty, is of no effect. It is all a question of the
enjoyment of that priceless liberty in grace.
There is not the slightest hint in the passage that
God withdraws His grace, or that any aspect of
salvation has been canceled. It is probable that
many believers have never had a vision of their
liberty in Christ; but this passage is of those who
have known such liberty and then have been
drawn back into the yoke and bondage of law
From the foregoing it may be concluded that there
is no Scripture, when rightly divided and related
to the whole testimony of God, that teaches that
a Christian may be lost. Nor is there any such
example in the Bible. Of all the incidents and
parables, none can be made to teach the loss of
salvation. Moreover, if it were possible to lose it,
there is no promise, or hint, in the Bible that it
could be regained. The Bible reveals nothing concerning repetition of regeneration.
Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-
1952) was the founder of Dallas
Theological Seminary. This is from
Chap. 10 of his book Salvation: A
Clear Doctrinal Analysis (public
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