Does 2 Peter 2:1 teach that we can lose our salvation?

by Matt Slick

2 Peter 2:1, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”

If Christians cannot lose their salvation, then why does it say there were false teachers who denied the Lord who bought them?  Doesn't that imply that they lost their salvation since they were bought with the blood of Christ?  Let's take a look. 

They are called false teachers.  It is difficult to maintain the position that the false teachers are also true Christians or were true Christians, who would then lose their salvation by denying Jesus.  It makes more sense to say that these false teachers appeared as Christians but were not really saved to begin with.  But if that is the case, then how could they had been bought by the Master? 

In Peter's first epistle he addressed the Jews who were aliens scattered abroad (1 Peter 1:1), just as James was addressing "the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad," (James 1:1).  In the second epistle, he is addressing "those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ," (2 Peter 2:1).  Let's take a look at the context.

  • 1:1-2, to those who've received faith in Jesus, grace to you
  • 1:3-4, God's power has granted life and godliness, that we might become partakers of the divine nature
  • 1:5-7, Apply moral excellence, knowledge, godliness
  • 1:8, Having these qualities makes you useful
  • 1:9, Not having these qualities makes them blind
  • 1:10-11, Therefore, make your calling sure and heaven awaits
  • 1:12, You already know this
  • 1:13, it is good to stir you up by reminding you of this
  • 1:14, Peter knows his death is imminent
  • 1:15, Remember what he is saying after he is gone
  • 1:16, Our witness is not due to clever tales because . . .
  • 1:17-18, Peter says he heard and saw the glory of God concerning Jesus
  • 1:19, So, pay attention to the prophetic word made sure
  • 1:20, No prophecy is a matter of one's own interpretation
  • 1:21, No prophecy made by an act of human will but by the Holy Spirit
  • 2:1, false prophets arose, false teachers will also arise
  • 2:2-3, many will follow their sensuality and greed
  • 2:4-6, God did not spare the fallen angels, the wicked at the time of Noah, or Sodom and Gomorrah
  • 2:7-9, if God knows how to rescue Lot, then he knows how to rescue the godly from temptation and punish the unrighteous

Peter is urging the believers to be moral (1:5-8) and to make their calling sure (1:10-11).  He tells them that he actually saw the glory of God and Jesus (1:17-18), that prophecy comes from the Holy Spirit (1:21), that there were false prophets in old times and there will be false teachers to come (2:1), and many will follow sensuality and greed (2:2-3).  So, from the context, it appears that Peter is urging the believers to remain faithful and to beware of false teachers. 

In both of his epistles, Peter referred to the Old Testament many times: 1 Pet. 1:16, 22-25; 2:6-9; 2:24; 3:6, 8-12, 20; 2 Pet. 2:5-8; 15-16; 2:21; 2 Pet. 3:4-6, 13.  Therefore, it seems natural to conclude that he could be referring to the Old Testament when he speaks about people being bought, especially since he shifts from past tense (false prophets arose) to future tense (there will be false teachers).  What could Peter have been referring to in the past tense that was referenced in the Old Testament about false prophets who were bought?  Consider this . . .

Deuteronomy 32:6, “Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you.”

In Deuteronomy, Moses was addressing the rebellious Israelites who were turning away from God, “Is not He your Father who has bought you?”  Though they had been bought, it did not mean they were saved.  And, of course, they were not bought with the blood of Christ.  Notice that Peter says in 2 Peter 2:1 that "there arose among the people."  This is the past tense and, again, is most probably referring to the Old Testament times.  I don't know of any other reference that fits.  Then he says, "just as there will also be false teachers among you."  Peter switches from past tense to future tense, referring to false teachers of past times and then false teachers to come--both of whom were bought.  But bought in what sense?  Were they bought as in salvation or bought as in delivered from bondage?  It makes sense to say that Peter is referring to the Jews being freed from their bondage in Egypt since they were bought, but not all of those Jews were true believers.  Peter was warning people that just as there were false prophets in ancient times, there will also be false teachers in the present time.  Also, since the false prophets of the Old Testament context were bought and delivered from the bondage of Egypt but were not true believers, so also there will be among Christians in the church today those who likewise will not be true believers but can appear to be bought by the Master as well.  Peter is warning Christians to be on guard.

So, since the context is Old Testament terminology and concepts, we cannot say definitively that Peter was saying people lose their salvation.  Instead, he was probably referring to the then present people--like those during the times of Moses, who were "bought" and freed from bondage or appeared to be saved but were not saved and who were also false teachers.  False teachers are not real Christians.  They didn't become false teachers by losing their salvation.  They were false to begin with, and Peter is warning his people that just as there can appear to be people who have been freed from bondage in the Old Testament, they can also appear to be free from bondage in the New Testament having been, so-called, "bought" but are actually never really saved.

Finally, this verse cannot mean that people lose their salvation since that is not possible.  See Scriptural proof Christians cannot lose their salvation.  Since scripture cannot contradict itself, 2 Peter 2:1 cannot teach that a Christian can lose his salvation.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.