Many evangelicals believe that people cannot lose their salvation due to disobedience. If that is so, why do we need people to "keep watch over our souls"?

Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

  • @disciple I would think that faith does not in anyway conflict with obedience and Christ in no way conflict with this apostolic athority in his Church. The leaders were taught by the apostles and having been so, carry the authority of them and so, the authority given to them from Christ. All relate Christ working with his appointed leaders, using faith and obedience to that faith to spread his church.
    – Marc
    Aug 20, 2015 at 16:32
  • 3
    Nice edit @Mr.B - question is quite clear now. I hope this still captures what you were getting at Marc. If not, feel free to edit further or ask an additional question.
    – ThaddeusB
    Aug 21, 2015 at 3:57
  • I think most Christians believe Jesus keeps watch over our souls, and that if he didn't, we would quickly lose our salvation. Jesus often uses other believers as his "hands and feet".
    – Bit Chaser
    Aug 21, 2015 at 4:32

2 Answers 2


Because although Christians cannot lose their salvation, they can still appear before the Lord in shame rather than in confidence (1 John 2:28). The good shepherds who watch over the flock want them to enter into the best the Lord has for them, and not be "scarcely saved" (1 Peter 4:17-18). Not all Christians will inherit a crown and rule with Christ; that belongs to the worthy.

So the verse is about obeying the leaders so that they'll be able to give a good testimony of your conduct at the judgment seat of Christ. It appears that the Lord will weigh their words, so let them say you obeyed and not resisted, or it will go bad for you.

For instance, if you look at 2 Peter 1:5-11, we see that continuing in sanctification leads to an abundant entrance into the kingdom. Verse 8 begins with "For if," making it conditional. Otherwise we are shortsighted and are not dealing with sin. God makes a difference, but saves both Christians.

  • First John 2:17 seems to suggest that doing the will of God is a component of abiding in Christ. Right before that text 1 John 2:16 the 3 components of sin, is used to suggest that a person is not abiding in Christ. Also 1st John 2:6, 1 john 2:24 suggests Also that you must let what you heard in the Begining remain to be in Christ. John is speaking to believers. If you do not remain "in Christ". And God is not in you, are you saved?
    – Marc
    Aug 21, 2015 at 10:11
  • I don't believe you are reading 1 Peter 4:18 correctly. We are all scarcely saved. Are you suggesting degrees of salvation, different tiers of heaven for those who really manifested faith at a higher degree, predestined from the creation of he world to have more crowns then others in heaven and actually rule other Christians? That hardly sounds like heaven at all. It sounds more like you have accepted a job in the afterlife, before the interview has been completed for a position that does not exist. If you are a Christian and something goes bad for you in salvation, I hope it's purgatory.
    – Marc
    Aug 21, 2015 at 10:27
  • Marc (2nd para) No, I am not :) You are reading much more there than I put in.
    – Steve
    Aug 21, 2015 at 12:58
  • Marc (1st para) The epistle is written to believers, and it is possible to live this life as a believer and end in shame, having lived it for self and not the kingdom. Still saved either way.
    – Steve
    Aug 21, 2015 at 13:00
  • your edit added new problems. 2 Peter 1:9-10 suggests that Christ cleansed us from are old sins not sins after Baptism. Verse 10, that we must do the things listed so we do not fall (from salvation) context in verse 11. Let's not forget 2 Peter 2:20 20 "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first."
    – Marc
    Aug 25, 2015 at 1:40

To those who believe in the perseverance of the saints, "keeping watch over your souls" does not imply "preventing your soul from falling into eternal damnation." Matthew Henry interprets the phrase this way:

They are to watch against every thing that may be hurtful to the souls of men, and to give them warning of dangerous errors, of the devices of Satan, of approaching judgments; they are to watch for all opportunities of helping the souls of men forward in the way to heaven.

There are many things "hurtful to the souls of men," besides eternal damnation – namely, sin. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown suggest that the verse teaches that leaders will have to give account not only for their own sins, but for those of their flock. They see this passage as a parallel to Acts 20:28:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (ESV)

  • when I read Acts 20:28 I see Paul context coming from Acts 20:26-27.This contecxt is more in line with Ezk 3:17-18. He is not talking about sin or of things hurtful to the souls of believers. He is referring to the necessity of proclaiming the Gospel he has passed on to them of a period of 3 years and thier responsibility in continuing that Tradition faithfully. This is made clear in verses 29-30.I'm also very interested in the phrase used above "hurtful to the souls of men". The idea is very Catholic by nature referring to the damage caused by sin and the reparations of the damage.
    – Marc
    Aug 22, 2015 at 10:07
  • @Marc I don't think you'll find many "once saved always saved" Protestants that believe that sin doesn't damage our walk with God. How that walk is fixed, however, will differ from Roman Catholic understanding. Aug 24, 2015 at 23:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .