Can widows lose their salvation?
I Timothy 5:12 says, “Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.”
If this passage were talking about salvation, then we would have a serious contradiction in the Bible. John 6:37 says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and HIM THAT COMETH TO ME I WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT.” Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I WILL NEVER LEAVE THEE, NOR FORSAKE THEE.” The Bible never describes salvation as TEMPORARY, but always as ETERNAL. John 10:28 says, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” If we have ETERNAL LIFE, then we have something which will NEVER END.
Seeming the Bible is so clear about salvation, then I Timothy 5:12 must be talking about something else. To discover what that is, we must look at the context — those verses before and after the verse in question.
The context of I Timothy 5 is dealing with one thing — widows and their daily needs. I Timothy 5:1-16 says, “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any WIDOW have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a WIDOW indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let not a WIDOW be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. But the younger WIDOWS refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan. If any man or woman that believeth have WIDOWS, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are WIDOWS indeed.”
If a widow has a need, then it is the responsibility of her children, all the way down to her nephews, to help meet her needs. Verse 4 says, “But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.” This does not mean that a godly widow is going to go around to the family acting like a beggar. Notice verse 5, “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, TRUSTETH IN GOD, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.”
The above widow is trusting in God for what? If she is a Christian, then she is obviously trusting in God for salvation. But THE CONTEXT IS NOT DEALING WITH HER SALVATION, BUT WITH HER DAY-TO-DAY NEEDS. She is not begging individuals to meet her daily needs (food, clothing, housing, transportation, etc.) — she is trusting God to meet those daily needs.
So when you get down to verse 12, “Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith,” you are NOT dealing with the widow’s FAITH FOR SALVATION, but with that FAITH OF DAILY TRUSTING THE LORD TO MEET HER NEEDS. She has cast it off in what way? Look at the previous verse, verse 11, and you will see. “But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry.”
The picture is this. The Christian widow, when she loses her husband, is very brave and relies daily upon the Lord to meet her needs, at first. The Lord is her security. But as is so often the case, the younger widow will shortly begin to long for a husband. The physical companionship that she sees other women enjoying, and the financial security of having a husband, all begin to work on her. And sadly, it seems like so often that it is some unsaved, divorced man of the world that tries to court her.
The widow then begins to “wax wanton.” Wantonness is often of an immoral nature, but it does have another definition, too, “A pampered person, luxurious self-enjoyment” (Merriam Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary). The overwhelming desire is to have a husband to care for her, and to be her security.
I have watched this very thing happen to middle-aged widows. Their family has a testimony for Christ, but then the husband dies. The widow is strong in the Lord, at first, but then some handsome, unsaved, divorced man who is well-established and financially secure in this world, gets his eye on her. It normally does not take long at all, and suddenly you hear that the man has proposed to her, and unbelievably to the Christians who know her, she has agreed to marry him.
She has cast off her first faith in two ways. First, she has cast off her first faith in the Lord to be her security and to meet her needs. And secondly, she has cast off the testimony of her first faith. She has claimed to be a Christian for all of these years, and has taught her own children to never marry an unsaved person — but that is exactly what she does when she gets lonely and in need.
That widow will have “damnation,” NOT in the sense of losing her salvation, but in many areas of her life. Damnation means, “condemnation to a punishment or fate; to condemn as invalid; to condemn as a failure” (Merriam Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary).
First, that widow will find that all her years of teaching her children are suddenly rendered invalid — of no value; meaningless. She taught them to never marry an unsaved person, but that is exactly what she did. She is thus condemned as a failure in living up to what God says, and what she affirmed all of those years.
Secondly, her life will be condemned to a certain amount of punishment, as God so ordains, because of her disobedience. It may be trials that you cannot see on the outside, that she has to endure — and there will be a lot of trials when a Christian marries an unsaved person.
I have seen Christian widows who have married unsaved men; and their homes which once glorified the Lord, became homes where liquor was kept in the refrigerator; where cigarettes were smoked; and where profanity and using God’s name in vain were commonly heard. You know that, down deep, if they are truly saved, then they are miserable like Lot was when he was living in Sodom. II Peter 2:7,8 says, “And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)”
May God help us to remember the widows in prayer. It is a lonely and difficult life, and we need to help them and encourage them. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”