Was Judas Ever Saved?
May 6, 2007
“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
The disciples were varied lot, some of them fishermen, one a tax collector, and most of them unlearned. But they were mostly Galileans. Judas was not. He was Judas Iscariot, that is, Judas, the man from Kerioth--which is a city of Judah. That may have caused some tension, since traditionally Judeans did not think much of Galileans. Judas apparently did not have much of a relationship with any of the other disciples.
We are told nothing concerning the circumstances of his call or his share in the ministry and miracles of the Apostles. But he was called by Jesus to that inner circle of the twelve apostles. He was one of those in Luke 9 who was given power to heal and preach and he did both successfully. He was there in the upper room on the night Jesus was arrested. When Jesus washed the feet of the other disciples, he also washed the feet of Judas.
But Judas is never mentioned without some reference to his great betrayal. Thus, in the list of the Apostles given in the Synoptic Gospels, we read: "and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him". (Matthew 10:4. Cf. Mark 3:19; Luke 6:16). And in John's Gospel the first mention of Judas is in chapter 6 where Jesus says, "Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil" (70) Then John adds an explanatory note: “He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him”(71). We see in this verse the name of the traitor’s father, Simon. John will further tell us that Judas was the treasurer of the group that surrounded Jesus, and that he was not a good treasurer. He stole from the common purse.
Further, all the gospels tell us that Judas went to the authorities to betray Jesus. Judas took the initiative. He was not approached. He approached them.
Of course, Jesus knew what was going on. In Jh 13:21, jesus speaking to the disciples says, “One of you shall betray me.”, and again in John 6:64 we read, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” There are not surprises here. Jesus allowed the traitor to commit his treason so that prophecy might be fulfilled and God’s plan fro salvation might be worked out.
The actual betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane is one of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible. It is late at night. Jesus is praying; most of the disciples are asleep. Suddenly the temple guards appear with torches. There is confusion, shouting. Then Judas advances on Jesus, embraces him and kisses him, and thus identifies him to the arresting officers. “the kiss of Judas” is a phrase in our language that still signifies the most heinous betrayal.
The ultimate fate of Judas is just as confusing as the scene in Gethsemane. The gospel of Matthew says that when he realized that Jesus was going to be crucified, Judas gave back the 30 pieces of silver that he received for betraying the lord and then went and hanged himself (27:5). But Peter speaking in Acts 1 says that Judas bought a field with the money, then fell down and burst open his bowels and died.
But these textual difficulties are insignificant when compared to the moral and spiritual problem presented by the treachery of Judas. We have many questions about Judas.
For example, Was Judas ever saved? You might ask, What do you mean by “saved?” Let us take a simple definition. The saved have been forgiven of their sins and adopted into the family of God, and are made joint heirs with Jesus Christ. The question is: Was there ever a time when Judas was really and truly saved? He was forgiven of his sins and bound for heaven. Then he willing turned to Satan, betrayed Christ, and lost his salvation.
Like a lot of questions that question about Judas leads us to a more general question. Can we lose our salvation? Can a person who is really saved—we are not talking about any hypocrisy or pretense—they were saved, they were a child of God--Can they lose that and become a child of perdition?
That is the same question that is being asked in our reading today from The Westminster Larger Catechism at Question 79: May true believers “fall away from the state of grace?” In a word, No.
The catechism offers several reasons for the negative answer. “The unchangeable love of God.” In Jeremiah 31:3, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Because God is love, God is faithful; therefore, God will never desert his people. The catechism then mentions God’s “decree and covenant to give them perseverance.” God has promised his people that they will be his people. As 2 Timothy says, “The Lord knows those who are his” (2:19), and knowing his own he covenants with them to keep them to the end. Thirdly, we are told of “their inseparable union with Christ.” Speaking of this same union, 1 Corinthians says, “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our fellowship in Christ was established by our faithful, loving God. Q79 speaks further of Christ’s “continual intercession” for his people. Christ never fails to act for us. And lastly, we are told that the people of God have “the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them.”
Having listed these reasons then, the Catechism moves to its conclusion: People who are once saved “can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”
You may have heard this doctrine called “Once Saved, Always Saved.” Sometimes, it is also called “The Perseverance of the Saints.” The saints, in the New Testament sense, are not super-Christians who are better than everyone else. The saints are the people of God. They are made saints, they are made holy, not by their strenuous efforts to be good, but by God. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints does not say that the saints ought to persever in the faith. It says they will persever in the faith.
Now whether you believe this doctrine or not stems from what you believe about how a person obtains salvation. If salvation is a decision I make for Christ. If I make my own free will decision about whether to believe in Jesus or not, then I might change my mind later on, and I might lose my salvation.
I have changed my mind about many things in my life. When I was young, I could not stand squash. I would not touch even the least bite of squash. I hated that stuff. But now, I like squash right well. There are some authors that I once read with great delight, that I would not even consider reading today: Edgar Rice Burroughs is one, Louis Lamour is another. What happened? I changed my mind.
And some folks think that salvation works the same way. It is a choice I make, and I may make another choice at any moment; Hence I am always in danger of losing my salvation. That is why in some churches you have folks who testify to having been saved ten or twelve times. They are constantly being saved and being lost and being saved again.
But notice that The Larger Catechism presents an altogether different attitude toward salvation. In question 79, none of the reasons given for the perseverance of the saints have anything to do with any decision the saints might make.
The Catechism talks about the love of God, the faithfulness of God. It talks about our union with Christ and Christ’s intercession of us, and the presence of the Holy Spirit as an abiding force in our lives. In other words, the Catechism is saying that the basic reason why God’s people are always God’s people is God. The saints persever because God enables them to persever. We do not save ourselves. God saves us. And since God saves us, God is never going to lose us. Yes. Once saved, always saved.
But let us say what this does not mean. It does not mean that that God’s people do not have spiritual struggles. It does not mean that we do not have doubts. It does not mean that God’s chosen people do not sometimes fall into sin. Look at David. He committed murder and adultery. Look at Peter. He betrayed Jesus three times. In fact, all the disciples betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the temple guards showed up, they ran like the French run from the Germans. To say that God chooses his people is not to say that they will thereafter live perfect, sinless lives. They will strive to live that kind of life. They will not entirely succeed.
But our striving to live a godly life is not the basis for our salvation and our decision for Christ is not the basis for our salvation. Salvation is God’s decision not ours. The Westminster Confession of faith says, the “perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election” (17,2). We are always saved not because of a free will decision we make, but because God has already elected or chosen his people and God’s choice, unlike our choice, is never going to change.
Let us think now about John 17:12. the whole of chapter 17 is Jesus final prayer. V6-19 is a prayer for his disciples. In v12, Jesus says, Every disciple you gave me—he is talking to God he is praying to God—he does not say, “Every person who made a free will decision to join my group.” He said to God, you gave me every disciple I have. And I kept them all. I lost none.
But now we return to our original question: Was Judas ever saved? We have an answer to that question in this verse. Jesus says, I kept every one you gave me, except the Son of Perdition, except the one who was destined to be lost. Judas gave the appearance of being one of the chosen. He walked with God’s people. He did some of the works of God’s people, but he was never saved, because God never chose him. And eventually Judas showed which side he was on by giving himself to Satan and betraying Jesus.
It is noteworthy that the term “Son of Perdition” which John uses for Judas in this verse is the same term the Apostle Paul uses for the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians. Paul writes: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (2:3). It is not surprising that Judas would be described as Antichrist. He was certainly that. He was the man of sin, the son of perdition. He once gave the appearance of salvation, but in fact he was never saved.
What about us,
this morning? Are we Judas? Have we walked among God’s people but are not of
God’s people? The answer to that question revolves around Jesus. Have we
betrayed Jesus like Judas? Do we love Jesus? Obviously, Judas did not love
Jesus, he loved Satan and his true allegiance was finally revealed. But if you
truly love Jesus, you can be comforted that you are God’s elect. You belong to
Jesus Christ. And Christ keeps all that were given to him, so that none of them
shall be totally and finally lost. We may think we are lost. We may be nearly
lost; but we stand firm upon the promise of Scripture that Jesus will not lose a
single one of his people. He will not lose us. He will not lose you.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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