Denying Christ: The Meaning of Matthew 10:33

Denying Christ: The Meaning of Matthew 10:33

It was a long thread in a Christian social media group. The number of comments and the initial question nearly ran me off. These types of discussions don’t typically go anywhere, or end well. I didn’t want to get sucked in, but something in our nature compels us to rubberneck the wreckage. I would read a little, but I wouldn’t get sucked in.

Can You Lose Your Salvation?

The combustible question of whether you can lose your salvation was on the table. The sides were well formed and unyielding. Though it appeared they were making an honest effort, neither side could quite hide their distaste for the other. There was an unmistakable rudeness in their tone as each side asked for scriptural support from the other, but little was forthcoming. That is, until one of the loudest voices offered this passage.

Matthew 10:33 (NAS): 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

Can you see it? If you are ashamed to own Jesus at the appropriate time, Jesus will disown you at the required time before the Father. And you will lose the life you were given. So goes the argument.

I was doing well until then, but that one rankled me. At best, the user had to be unaware of the many bad assumptions he had to have made to offer this passage in his defense. Here are the assumptions one has to make in order to use the passage this way.

Assumptions About Matthew 10:33

First, that Jesus has made a one-line truth declaration upon which hang life and death. He assumes denial of Jesus is a simple act that happens in a vacuum, and tosses it into the conversation without explanation, suggesting it’s application clearly applies to loss of salvation. As if once a denial is made, your fate is sealed. This simply cannot be so, because Peter would go on to “deny” the Lord three times. And the Lord knew He would. Those who do such things expose themselves as tinkerers with truth. Using it to win arguments. Playing scriptural truth like a trump card.

Second, he assumes a statement like this has no historical context. This statement happens early in Matthew’s Gospel, as he sets out to prove that Jesus is the Christ. He gives his readers, at this moment, a backstage peak, as Jesus prepares His disciples for the unique role they will play in the future building of His church. He warns them of the persecution that lay ahead. Just as men persecuted the teacher, so they will persecute the students. Yet Jesus encourages them that they are valuable to the Father. More valuable than the sparrows who are tenderly cared for by the Father.

Matthew 10:31

The result of the Father’s care is that everyone who confesses Christ before men as a result of their ministry, Jesus will confess before the Father. Likewise, everyone who denies Christ before men as a result of their ministry, Jesus will also deny before the Father. As such, this is not a warning to the disciples, but an encouragement. It’s not a threat of loss of salvation, but an encouragement that their ministry would mean life and death for many.

Third, he assumes there is no parallelism in Jesus’ statement. The presence of the parallelism brings the, confess Jesus before men, and the, deny Jesus before men, together to communicate the one idea that Jesus’ testimony to the Father will be based on what men do with Him. The antithetical parallelism highlights the person at the center of the confession or denial. In other words, the emphasis is not on the act but on the person. Some can confess Jesus and yet their hearts are far from Him. Others, like Peter, can deny Jesus and still be given charge of the sheep. If that sounds like a slippery slope, it is if you and I have to be the judge. Jesus has no problem knowing the difference.

The Straw Man Loses Salvation

In these discussions, the person who loses salvation is always a caricature and not a real person. He is saved but not serious. He is the dog who returns to his vomit. He is the person who cheapens grace by mockingly using it to continue in sin that grace may abound.

This person who loses his salvation can exist only if God can be fooled by his confession.

He somehow slips in unchanged. His sins have been forgiven but he hasn’t been set free from them. He couldn’t stop himself. Somehow his old-self escaped crucifixion with Christ. He was born again but not made new. He tasted the heavenly gift and found it wasn’t sweet enough to keep him near the giver. He slipped through the seal of the Holy Spirit which would have guaranteed his inheritance. All the things God promises He would do for those who trust His Son, he somehow missed, or God was unfaithful to provide. May it never be.

I guess you can tell on what side of the argument I stand. While I know I haven’t given enough scripture to prove to some that the salvation the Lord gives is eternal. I do hope this post will help us all understand how to get meaning from scripture, so we are not guilty of tinkering with truth.

If you would be interested in a more extensive post about what the Bible teaches about the eternal gift of life, drop me a note in the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from you. And may you all find security in the gift of life in Christ Jesus. The one who promised is faithful.


3 thoughts

  1. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but thanx for looking at it.

    I wonder, though, what drives debates such as this? Not sure I see the context for the debate. Some Christian folk get on line and just make a statement seeking the fight? Or is there already some fight… some other agenda at work… and this debate is the manifestation of that? Or what? I don’t get it.


  2. i believe the scripture refers to someone who refuses salvation and Jesus as Lord and then he will deny them before his Father. Psalms 51:17 God will in no ways cast out a broken and contrite spirit. Peter was surely of a broken and contrite spirit.


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