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John 6:

61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit e and life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Did these particular disciples just lose their salvation or perhaps they never had it in the first place?

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  • 2
    If a disciple is 'a follower', but then stops following, they are no longer a disciple. This indicates that merely claiming to be a follower of Jesus is insufficient to prove being a Christian because some disciples stop following, as here, due to not actually believing as a Christian should. This raises intriguing thoughts about gaining salvation and I hope to answer once I return home in a day or two.
    – Anne
    Jul 1 at 16:28
  • Please do. Thanks in advance.
    – Tony Chan
    Jul 1 at 16:30
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  1. This occurred before Jesus' crucifixion and resurrections. Thus, in a transition between the Old and New Testament we do not have a clear-cut time when they where/if they were saved.

  2. We have no details about the individuals who left.

  3. Apparently, none of the disciples understood the purpose of Jesus' ministry at that time.

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;  for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. (John 20:6–9, ESV)

  1. In the transition period Jesus' brothers did not believe him. However we know that James, Jesus' brother later became a pillar of the church. It's not unlikely that these disciples who stopped following in John 6 because of not understanding what Jesus said later return to following Christ after the resurrection.

For not even his brothers believed in him. (John 7:5, ESV)

But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (Gal. 1:19, ESV)

Thus, there are many other questions needing answered before this question can be answered. I suspect we do not have enough information to answer this question with any confidence.

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  • Good answer; +1. Our knowledge is limited and this illustrates that.
    – Dottard
    Jul 2 at 0:13
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If a disciple is 'a follower', but then stops following, they are no longer a disciple. This indicates that merely claiming to be a follower of Jesus is insufficient to prove being a Christian because some disciples stop following, as here, due to not actually believing as a Christian should, or what a Christian should. This raises intriguing thoughts about gaining salvation.

Does the text mention – or even hint at – salvation? Were they saved from what we – in the 21st century – suppose salvation saves believers from? Or was Jesus speaking about something different? The entire chapter needs to be read, to grasp the context and to see that Jesus was speaking about being given everlasting life at the point of truly believing in Jesus and ‘partaking’ of him, by faith.

Chapter 6 starts with the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 with two small fishes and five barley loaves. The next day the crowd that sought him out were told by Jesus not to seek him for literal bread but for that which endures to eternal life. They should believe in the one God had sent (himself). People then referred to the miracle of manna in the wilderness – bread from heaven. Jesus put them right. It wasn’t Moses who gave their forefathers bread from heaven, “but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (vss 26-35). Himself.

That was the point of their unbelief which caused them to fail to understand what he was teaching, which led to them taking offense at then saying they needed to come to him to ‘partake’ of him as the bread of life and to ‘drink’ of him, that they might never thirst again (reminiscent of John 4:10-14 – Christ giving living water to those worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth.)

Jesus said ten times that those who did that would be given everlasting life. (Jn 6:35; 37; 39; 40; 44; 47; 51; 54; 56 & 57.) That life eternal would start at the point of true belief in who Jesus truly is, and go on. Such ones would never be cast out. But Jesus addressed those who had seen him that they did not have true belief in him – they had not come to him. Christ’s promise in chapter 6 is that, “Every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (vs 40).

Clearly, those disciples (followers) who murmured at his further teaching on ‘partaking’ of him, did not believe on him despite having seen him and his miracles, and so they stopped following. Thereby, they proved that the Father had not drawn them to the Son, that they might have everlasting life (vs 44). That is what chapter 6 is all about. Once clarity dawns on this matter of everlasting life, and what this particular belief of chapter 6 is, then we may progress to see what other sections of scripture say about salvation and so built up a more detailed picture.

The answer is that following Jesus and learning about him makes a person a disciple, but not all disciples continue following and learning to the point where they truly believe in Jesus for who he actually is (vss 66 - 69). Only those who do are given the gift of everlasting life, the moment they truly believe – “He that believes on me HAS everlasting life” – vs 47.

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A lot of those people followed Jesus after he had fed the multitude. They were seeking him again for more food…

Jesus was alluding to them that he was the son of man that was going to be sacrificed as the lamb of God. He was basically saying that he's going to be the Passover lamb. His flesh was going to be for the life of the world.

Suppose then, that you should see the Son of Man go back up to the place where he was before?

They still did not believe he came from Heaven.

For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. John 6:33

Jesus answered, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst. But as I stated, you have seen Me and still you do not believe. John 6:35

A disciple is a learner.

It is evident that they did not learn who this man Jesus Christ truly was. The Son of God.

Jesus answered, “Stop grumbling among yourselves. people cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me. John 6:43

The prophets wrote, ‘Everyone will be taught by God.’ Anyone who hears the Father and learns from him comes to me.

The disciples who stayed were the ones who truly learned from God the Father who Jesus Christ was.

The other ones who walked away demonstrated that they had not learned yet who this man truly was, the Son of God from heaven.

Perhaps after he was resurrected they came to learn and became a true disciple of Jesus Christ then. Of course anyone who comes to him and believes in him he never loses.

They still had much to gain and much to learn after they walked away.

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  • Sherrie, pls note the formatting applied to this answer and reproduce it in going forward. If you click edit, you will see the way it is done. Good answer.
    – steveowen
    Jul 11 at 23:43
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The three verses following those quoted indicate that the word "disciples" referred to his followers in general, not to "the twelve":

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Whenever anything unusual happens anywhere, there will be people that want to join in, to be part of it, whether it's a celebration or a riot.

These are not faithful people , listening to and following the message; they are social people listening to and following the messenger. (Remember the groupies in the Jesus Christ Superstar rock opera.)

With respect to salvation, their situation is no different that that of the billions of other people that never followed Jesus, or who have followed a false Jesus.

As verse 65 says, "no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them".

2 Peter 3:9 states that God is "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance". These people have not yet been given an opportunity for salvation. They won't receive their chance until the second resurrection.

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To answer this question one has to establish or reject initially a crucial point: is it possible for a man to lose salvation after having possessed it? And then we must also understand the word “salvation”: if it means always the eternal “fait accompli” so to say, then no! Nobody who possesses salvation can lose it. However, if salvation means a dynamic process of growth in Christ and if this growth is not automatic, so to say, but depends on our free co-action with Him, then we can definitely lose salvation if we deny Christ through cowardice, worldly attachments, laziness - doesn’t matter.

As to the question: in the light of what was said above, some of the disciples had salvation and lost it, at least for that time described by John. Yet, it is 100% possible that afterwards many of them repented ( as e.g. Peter did after his triple denial) and returned to Him. Unfortunately not Judas among them.

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I don't want to get into debates about whether you can "lose" salvation or if you never had it, as these don't seem to be useful distinctions, nor is it fruitful to try to guess who was or was not saved. However, we have this prayer in John 17.6-12 (ESV):

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.

Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.

For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them.

I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

From this passage, I believe that only Judas was lost. Whether others who abandoned Jesus along the way were never true disciples but merely people who followed him around for a while, or whether they returned to Jesus afterwards, or however they will be judged, I don't know.

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