A Reprobate Mind
Can a Christian be turned over to a reprobate mind? I just wonder because there are some people who seem to fall away from God and never desire to go back.
One thing that seems to trouble many believers is the thought of finally falling away from God – being “turned over to a reprobate mind” as you have put it. It also seems the potential is very great when someone who professes to be saved falls away from the faith. Then, we realize how weak and sinful we are. But we also need to realize how great the grace of God is.
Let’s look at the word reprobate for just a moment. A primary meaning of reprobate is “rejected.” Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it as “not enduring proof or trial; not of standard purity or fineness; disallowed; rejected.” This is also a Bible definition found in the verse you quoted:
Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them. Jeremiah 6:30
Silver that was unable to be refined was considered worthless, i.e., reprobate, and was to be rejected. Because of Israel’s refusal to get right with God, they are compared to reprobate silver because God had rejected them.
But rejection is only part of the definition. In Romans 1:28, we read of those who “God gave …over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” Here, the meaning is not only of rejection but abandonment. These people had gone so far in sin, “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,” and so God gave them what they wanted. They did not want God, righteousness, holiness, cleanness, or purity, so God “gave them over.” These people are reprobate because of their hatred toward God.
Now, the question is, were these people really saved? It would do well to compare the traits of saved people with those of the reprobate. Saved people are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) who have repented of their sinful life (1 Thessalonians 1:9) and who bring forth the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). Their attitudes toward God, Christ, the Bible, and sin have changed, and this is manifested in their daily lives. They desire to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), love the brethren (1 John 3:14) and to keep themselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27). Oh sure, saved people fall short, but they will confess their sins (1 John 1:9) to maintain fellowship with God.
The reprobate on the other hand wants no real knowledge of God (Romans 1:28). Instead of living holy and bringing forth good works, their lifestyle is manifestly different from the saint. Paul says they are “… filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful” (Romans 1:29-31). Could it be said that a saved person, washed in the blood of Christ, was a hater of God? Do the saints invent evil things? Reprobates are without understanding, yet John tells the saints concerning false prophets, “ye need not that any man teach you” (1 John 2:27). Paul goes on to say that these people know full well the judgment of God upon those who do these things, yet they continue to do them. Further, they not only blatantly sin against God, but “they have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:32). No, there is a great gulf fixed between the reprobate and the child of God.
But to get to the heart of your question, what about those who profess salvation yet turn away?” After all, the people we just described hate God and have no qualms about openly showing their hatred for him. The more I read the Bible, the more I see the distinction between true believers and those who only profess to be. Let’s consider a few scriptures:
16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
Paul says these people, who professed they knew God, were reprobate. How can this be? The answer is found in the context of the preceding verse:
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. Titus 1:15
The “they” of verse 16 are previously described in this verse as “unbelieving.” Yes, they professed to know God, but they were reprobate. Why were they reprobated? Because they did not believe. These people were never saved. The same can be said for those described in 1 John 2:19
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 1 John 2:19
Those who left the faith were “not of us.” They were never saved. Now this teaching lines up with the words of our Lord himself. Consider this text:
John 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
Notice the implication. Those who continue in the word of Christ (i.e., those who are truly converted to God through repentance and faith) are Christ’s disciples indeed; therefore, those who do not continue in his word are not his disciples. This means that a great number of people who have made an intellectual or emotional “decision” and finally fall away were never truly born again.
Since Christians continue in Christ’s word, they could never be turned over to a reprobate mind. A believer may get to the point where his faith is weak or fall into sin and, consequently, go so far as to forget “that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9), but he could never be rejected or abandoned by God. The scripture says that “if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13). In John 6:37, we read these comforting words, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” The Lord Jesus has promised that he will not cast out – not reject – any one who comes to him. This blessed assurance from the lips of the Saviour himself leaves out any possibility of reprobation. And Christ says to those who are saved “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). It should be a great blessing to know that the believer will never be rejected or abandoned by God. The Lord “knoweth them that trust in him,” and you can be assured they will never be reprobated. Thank God for His wonderful salvation in Christ.