Luke 12:41-48 (NIV) reads:

The Faithful or the Unfaithful Servant

41 Peter said, “Lord, does this parable apply to us, or do you mean it for everyone?”

42 The Lord answered, “Who, then, is the faithful and wise servant? He is the one that his master will put in charge, to run the household and give the other servants their share of the food at the proper time. 43 How happy that servant is if his master finds him doing this when he comes home! 44 Indeed, I tell you, the master will put that servant in charge of all his property. 45 But if that servant says to himself that his master is taking a long time to come back and if he begins to beat the other servants, both the men and the women, and eats and drinks and gets drunk, 46 then the master will come back one day when the servant does not expect him and at a time he does not know. The master will cut him in pieces and make him share the fate of the disobedient.

47 “The servant who knows what his master wants him to do, but does not get himself ready and do it, will be punished with a heavy whipping. 48 But the servant who does not know what his master wants, and yet does something for which he deserves a whipping, will be punished with a light whipping. Much is required from the person to whom much is given; much more is required from the person to whom much more is given.

Did the unfaithful servant lose his salvation or was he never saved to begin with?

  • This has the same answer as your other question.
    – Dottard
    Jan 28, 2021 at 20:44
  • 1
    You are asking us to distinguish between two indistinguishable scenarios, purely from the point of view of speculation. It is a Chinese room question. What could it possibly matter, if no one can ever detect the difference between someone losing their salvation and never having it but just thinking they have it?
    – Robert
    Jan 29, 2021 at 2:02
  • @Robert it matters when you are pondering doctrines such as eternal security (aka osas).
    – user38524
    Jan 29, 2021 at 2:08
  • My advice is not to spend effort trying to distinguish between indistinguishable outcomes. But to each his own.
    – Robert
    Jan 29, 2021 at 2:15
  • 1
    @Robert if I have a passport and a visa and a flight to Europe, will I go to Europe? I certainly intend to. But what if I lose my passport? Does that mean I was never going to Europe in the first place? If I have enough time I might be able to apply for another passport. Does that mean I was the same as the guy that had no intention of going to Europe, never made a passport, never applied for a visa and never bought a flight to Europe? These two guys are indistinguishable to you? Nonsense! Jan 31, 2021 at 5:59

6 Answers 6


Not every so-called "servant of the Lord" has attained salvation.

Matthew 7:21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

It's one thing to say that one knows Jesus; it's another that Jesus knows you.

Luke 12:46 then the master will come back one day when the servant does not expect him and at a time he does not know. The master will cut him in pieces and make him share the fate of the disobedient.

This servant knows his master's orders but refuses to obey. He is disobedient. He has not truly believed.

47 “The servant who knows what his master wants him to do, but does not get himself ready and do it, will be punished with a heavy whipping.

This servant is smart enough to understand his master's will, but delays carrying out the orders. He will be punished heavily but will not be killed as the disobedient one earlier.

48 But the servant who does not know what his master wants, and yet does something for which he deserves a whipping, will be punished with a light whipping.

This servant knows his master but is ignorant of his orders. He is punished lightly.

Did the unfaithful servant lose his salvation or was he never saved to begin with?

The servant who understood his master's orders yet did the opposite, he never truly knew his master. He was never saved to begin with. He belonged to the class of willful disobedient.

  • You did not answer the question: "Did the unfaithful servant lose his salvation or was he never saved to begin with"? Jan 28, 2021 at 22:06
  • The Greek translated “to know” doesn’t mean Jesus had no knowledge of the person, it means they were never intimately aquatinted, like really close friends. It was superficial by comparison but still a relationship of sorts. He was entrusted with a portion of wealth after all. Jan 31, 2021 at 6:05
  • Right. I modified.
    – user35953
    Jan 31, 2021 at 15:28

Pardon me if I am mistaken, but the wording of your question suggests that you are working backwards (from this day and age) to an ancient time when a parable was told to teach Jesus' disciples something important about what to watch out for regarding themselves, individually. Jesus was not asking them to form a judgement on whether this hypothetical character (the unfaithful servant) was 'saved' or not. He was asking them to consider how an unfaithful servant would be judged by his master. The clear point for them was to think on how awful it would be for them, as individuals, to be judged unfaithful by their Master, Jesus Christ, when he returned.

They were not interested in a non-existent, fictional character. They were not thinking in terms of that one being saved, or not being saved, because ‘Are you saved?’ is a modern-day question that has a lot of baggage attached to it. Yes, the people in Acts 2:37 asked “What must we do?” and they were told to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. But many believers today tell others what they must do to be saved then make a judgement on whether those people get saved, or not, depending on what they do. If that is the approach to Jesus’ parable, the point of examining ourselves will be lost on us.

Christians are told in Romans 14:1-14 to stop judging others, especially those weak in the faith.

“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth… So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

When we read Jesus’ parable with that truth in mind, we will not even ask the question, “Did that imaginary servant lose his salvation or was he never saved to begin with?” He never existed, to begin with!

We will ask, “As Christ is my master, will he judge me as faithful or unfaithful when he returns?”

Tragically, there are some religious denominations that have made an entire doctrine out of this passage, calling themselves “the faithful servant” class, and all who disagree with them “the unfaithful servant” class. But nobody is immune to missing the point of Jesus’ parable about the need to watch ourselves. We can all be so busy looking at other people (confident in our own supposed saved status) that we are judging whether ‘they’ are saved or not. Christ is the Judge. We dare not even think about trying to usurp his role. I’m not suggesting that you are trying to do that – just flagging up the extremes of misunderstanding that can arise if we don’t stick to judging ourselves on this matter, as Jesus’ words require.


Let’s slowly work through this passage. The section your quoting answers a question, asked by Peter, about the parable Jesus had just told. Like many other parables, this one involves a steward. (Servant).

A steward is someone entrusted with administering or managing other people’s wealth or affairs. The possessions stewards control are not their own, and they do not have the freedom to do with them whatever they wish. They are supposed to carry out the desires of those who made them their stewards.

This steward was told to manage these until his master returned. Now back to the answer to Peters question. We find this clearly spelt out in the parallel account in Mark 13.

MARK 13:37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

So, the steward had to watch, and wait for his master. Now here’s the ‘key’ - and then he would/will be judged! So this answers your question - the steward (servant) was not ‘saved’ at the start, in the first place. His ‘judgement’ was not applied until the maser returned, and, as a result of that, he was judged. I say judged, but you seem to want to apply the term ‘saved’. And, you can’t, because of the context.

So let’s briefly look at the context. Jesus is talking about a parable, and parables are all about ‘doing the right thing’ , or in other words, righteousness. Parables [generally] were all about how to live in a Kingdom, and what that kingdom would be based on - right living, doing the ‘right thing’. And, importantly, this is what people will be judged on. (In the Kingdom of Heaven). Works!

Where as us, we believers, living in this church age, we gain our righteousness through Christ. It’s not the same. The point is, you can’t use the term ‘saved’ here, in Luke, with the same ‘meaning’ we apply to it in this church age - which you are trying to do. Hopefully this clarifies why.


I think the original question is not the focus of Luke 12. I would counter, that a modern, or more accurately, a Post- Reformation view is being superimposed on the chapter.

The chapter is not about assurances of salvation and damnation.That conflict is best seen in the context of European wars and politics of the 1500's and resulting legacies.

Jesus is addressing the Jews in person, and those who come after through the centuries. He specifically addresses the fact that he has servants. We who are part of the Kingdom, are servants.

We individual servants are stewards. Stewards will give account and be reconciled at the completion of our assigned duties. These duties must always be understood as having two parts. A here and now, and a hereafter, following a death or end of the age. Death is central to Luke 12.

The question of whether or not the servant was ever saved, is flawed. He is rewarded according to service. A seditious servant, is a servant, as is the faithful. He does not get saved or unsaved.

But in ch.12 we find a servant who is corrupt, violent and acting to destroy the Kingdom. If he attacks the citizens of the Kingdom, he attacks the Kingdom. A sentence is handed down, of death. The servant status is irrelevant, when one attempts to undermine the King.


Personally I don't think it is helpful to look for verses about eternal security or salvation in parables when we have plenty to choose from elsewhere. There is a lot of debate about this particular parable and also eternal security . I say let the scriptures speak for them selves. John 3 , FOUR times promise of eternal security John 6, TWICE John 10, TWICE 1 Ephesians 1 Peter 1 Hebrews 10


Theologically, there are two opposing answers to the question of the unfaithful servant - either he was never 'saved,' so there is nothing to lose, or he was saved but will lose his salvation. However, Biblically, there should only be one answer as Jesus speaks the truth with no double interpretation. Let's examine Jesus' words in more detail.

1. To whom is Jesus telling the parable?

Clues in the context indicate that Jesus was addressing the disciples. In verse 42, Jesus responds to Peter's question, using specific terms such as 'the faithful steward' (ὁ πίστος οἰκονόμος) and the 'wise' (ὁ φρόνιμος), whom He will set over the household of Jesus to oversee everything and provide the ration of 'wheat in season.' Jesus was initially speaking to His disciples, as well as ministers and pastors of His church. In Acts 6:1-7, we observe the distinctive roles of Apostles and deacons, filled with spirit and wisdom, each assigned specific duties to serve the members of the Church.

2. Special relationship of the 'servant' to the Master

It is essential to notice that the 'faithful, wise steward' (verse 41) is further identified by Jesus in verse 42 as a blessed 'servant' (δοῦλος) — a bond slave. This term is specific to the New Testament and is used to describe believers redeemed by the blood of Jesus, who are considered the property of Jesus and willingly live under Christ's authority. In the New Testament, 'δοῦλος' (doulos) has three figurative uses: the Christian of God; Christians to other Christians; Christ of God. Therefore, the status of 'servant' in the parable is that of a 'bond-slave' of Christ, the Master, not a mere temporary hireling.

3. The 'faithful' and 'unfaithful' servant

In the parable, Jesus contrasts the 'faithful' and the 'unfaithful' based on their 'faithfulness' in mindset and follow-through with their assigned duties.

While the 'blessed' servant was loyal and faithful to his Master in His absence, consistently carrying out his given duties day in and day out without deviation, the unfaithful servant behaved to the contrary.

Contextually, it is evident that the 'unfaithful' servant acted 'badly,' driven by his own thoughts and decisions. In addition to neglecting his duties, he further committed evil by engaging in debauchery and abusing other servants. In verse 47, Jesus states that the servant 'knew His master's will but did not (μὴ) get ready or act according to His will.' It was entirely his own volition that led to the dishonor of his Master and the dereliction of his sacred duty. Jesus emphatically states that 'that' (ἐκεῖνος) servant 'will receive a severe beating' and will be 'cut in pieces and placed with the unfaithful' or unbelievers (ἀπίστων) — a figure of speech for the loss of salvation. This challenges the theological position that 'he never was saved to begin with.'

4. Is it Biblical that 'once saved' loses it?

Fundamentally, this question delves into the tension between God's Sovereignty and Human Free Will, or Open Theism.

From the book of Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures are filled with intricate, dynamically interwoven narratives of God's sovereignty and human autonomous free-will actions. Without this tension, the Scriptures would have consisted only of Genesis chapter 1, the creation narrative.

God, who decreed 'Creation,' also decreed the plan of redemption for fallen humanity. Creating Adam and Eve, the father and mother of the human race, in the image and likeness of God, He, in His sovereignty and Omni-attributes, granted the autonomy of free will to the human beings He created. He blessed them, saying, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it,' making us agents in charge of His creations and beneficiaries of His blessings.

However, the Scriptures show that people change:

God did not predestine this change, but human beings fell into sin and turned into enemies of God. Israel, the chosen people, broke the covenant. His chosen people rejected Jesus, who came to His own, and believers turned to apostates, etc.

In His parable of the 'sower,' Jesus illustrates that even when the good seed falls on 'good soil,' it can yield varying harvests—100 folds, 60 folds, and 30 folds. This demonstrates that believers can differ in their obedience thus different fruit-bearing. The branch grafted into Jesus, 'the true vine,' may, on its own volition, stop bearing fruit, leading to its eternal demise.

Though beyond our understanding, God's grace has been resisted by man. Israel refused to return to God despite numerous calls from Yahweh through His prophets. Jesus was rejected by the chosen people of God, and Jesus wept over the imminent destruction of the Holy City. Scripture foretells great apostasy in the last days.


Biblically and contextually, Jesus in this parable implies that the 'unfaithful' lose his salvation, though it might be challenging some long-held theological assertions.

Solar Scriptura! Soli Deo Gloria!

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