The Danger of a Christian Turning into a Reprobate

In the King James version of the bible, the word “reprobate” (either in its singular or plural form) appears seven times (Jeremiah 6:30, Romans 1:28, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 2 Corinthians 13:6, 2 Corinthians 13:7, 2 Timothy 3:8, and Titus 1:16).

What does it mean? In the New Testament, the word “reprobate” is translated from the Greek word ἀδόκιμος (adokimos [pronounced as ad-ok’-ee-mos]). According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, adokimos can be used specifically to describe metals and coins that are “not approved” or “not standing the test”. It can also be used in general terms to describe something “that which does not prove itself such as it ought”, or (according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance) is “worthless” or “rejected”.

In the New Testament, the word adokimos (or its related forms) appears eight times (Romans 1:28, 1 Corinthians 9:27, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 2 Corinthians 13:6, 2 Corinthians 13:7, 2 Timothy 3:8, Titus 1:16, and Hebrews 6:8), and invariably, it is used to refer to people who once walked with God (and no longer do so), or – more importantly for our discussion – Christians who think that they are walking with God, but are in fact “rejected” by God!

On the latter, the Apostle Paul warned that it is indeed possible for people to be so greatly deceived (Titus 1:16; Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament; with emphasis added):

They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny him, being abominable and disobedient and worthless (adokimoi; ἀδόκιμοι) for any good work.”

(Note:   Although believers in Jesus Christ are not saved by works [Ephesians 2:8], one telltale sign that a believer may have become a reprobate is the lack of good works in this person’s life [see Titus 1:16 above])

For this reason, the Apostle Paul admonished believers to “examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine” (2 Corinthians 13:5; NLT), and specifically, to see if “Jesus the Messiah lives in you” (2 Corinthians 13:5; International Standard Version).

One may ask, “Is it really possible for someone who once sincerely believed in Jesus Christ to turn into a reprobate?” The answer is an affirmative “yes” – even the Apostle Paul did not consider himself to be immune to reprobation, as he said in 1 Corinthians 9:27 (Jubilee Bible 2000 version; with emphasis added):

“But I keep my body under, and bring it into subjection, lest preaching to others, I myself should become reprobate (adokimos; ἀδόκιμος).”

Borrowing from an expression used in sailing, the Apostle Paul even went so far as to warn Timothy, his son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2; KJV), to stay clear from turning into a reprobate (1 Timothy 1:19, NLT, with emphasis added below):

“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.”

Now, what is the fate of Christians who become reprobates? The sixth chapter of Hebrews (verses 4 to 8; NIV; with emphasis added below) warns of their eventual doom:

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless (adokimos; ἀδόκιμος) and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”

This idea is consistent with how the Lord dealt with reprobates among His people in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 6:26-30; KJV; with emphasis added below):

“O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us. I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way. They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters. The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away. Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.”

Given the serious consequence of turning into a reprobate, it is important to learn how a Christian can degenerate into such a state.

Generally, a person doesn’t turn into a reprobate overnight, but over a period of time, when he/she does not repent of sin, but willfully persists in it (Romans 1:18-32; American Standard Version, with emphasis added):

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate (adokimon; ἀδόκιμον) mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.”

How then can believers avoid turning into reprobates?

Firstly, you must no longer allow “your sinful nature control your mind”, but, instead, allow “the Spirit control your mind” (Romans 8:6; New Living Translation). The Apostle Paul adds that allowing the former to control you leads to “death” and the latter to “life and peace”.

Secondly, you must no longer “conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2, NIV) – or to put it more simply, to “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2, New Living Translation).

In addition, you must exercise self-discipline (1 Corinthians 9:27; Jubilee Bible 2000 version; with emphasis added):

“But I keep my body under, and bring it into subjection, lest preaching to others, I myself should become reprobate (adokimos; ἀδόκιμος).”

Lastly, you must make every effort to confirm your calling and election by continually adding the following qualities over your faith (2 Peter 1:5- 10; NIV; with emphasis added below):

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

In conclusion, a Christian in whom it is evident by his/her action and behaviour that the Lord Jesus Christ never did or no longer lives in him/her is a “reprobate” (adokimoi; ἀδόκιμοι) (2 Corinthians 13:5; KJV). Sincere Christians must guard against turning into reprobates by applying the principles discussed above.