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Posts Tagged ‘Apostasy

Is It Okay To Fear Falling Away from Christ?

I am wondering about this question.  I know that the Bible promises much to believers about out security in Christ (Romans 8:37-39).  I know that Jesus promised to abide with us forever (Matthew 28:20).  I know the promise of the Lord to finish what He has started (Philippians 1:6).  I know the promise of God to forgive me of my sins when I confess them to Him (1 John 1:9).  I know that the Lord promised that no one could snatch us out of His Father’s hands (John 10:29).  I know the promise of Jesus that He would never cast me out (John 6:37).  I know the promise of Jesus as well that whoever believes has eternal life (John 6:47).

And yet I equally know that we are to fear the Lord (Proverbs 1:7; Romans 11:20-22).  We are to live a life of holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).  I know the grace of God empowers the believer to forsake sin (Titus 2:12-13).  I know the promise of God is faithful to not only forgive us of our sins but destroy the power of sin in our lives (Romans 6:6).  Those who are slaves of sin are not His children (John 8:34-35; 1 John 3:4-10).  Romans 8:12-13 warns us that we have an obligation before God to not live according to the flesh lest we die.  Jude 21 tells us that we are to keep ourselves in the love of God.  Even the Lord Jesus warned us to make every effort to enter by the narrow door (Luke 13:24).  Paul the Apostle spoke of disciplining his body lest after he preached to others, he might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

So here is my question again: is it okay to fear falling away from Christ?  I am not being so presumptuous as think that I could never fall away from Christ.  I think of 1 Corinthians 10:12 and how Paul warned us to be careful lest we fall.  I don’t look down on those who have committed great sins and turned away from the Lord and think, “That could never be me.” That would be the pride of Peter and the Apostles (see Matthew 26:31-35).  I can turn away.  I can become engrossed in sin.  I could live a double life of sin.  I could be committing adultery on my wife, stealing from my job, filling my mind with worldliness.  I could be drifting along without prayer, without the Word, without the church, without true discipleship.  I could be faking it to others.  That could be me.  I pray its not but it could be.

I do rejoice in knowing that the promises of God are true.  I rejoice and believe that there is assurance and security in Jesus.  Yet I know that there are no promises given to those living in sin.  To say that I love Jesus but live a life of sin is not acceptable before a holy God (1 John 2:3-6).  My words and actions must go together (James 2:14-26).  This doesn’t mean that I earn my salvation.  Again, Jesus alone is Lord and He alone is the One who died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Yet the Bible is clear that we are to persevere in the faith, to hold fast to Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:11-12).  We must fight for holiness.  I see nothing in Scripture to suggest otherwise.  This is a battle and Satan wants me to turn away from Christ.  Satan wants me to live for me, to do what I want, to be my own god.  This was Satan’s lie to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:4-5).

On the one hand I live in comfort knowing that the Lord is faithful to watch over me and I am saved in Him and secure in Him.  On the other hand I fear the Lord and don’t want to turn away from following Him.  I sense the wickedness in my own heart (Jeremiah 17:9).  I know I am capable of great sins.  I fear that.  I don’t want to ruin the Lord’s name.  I don’t want to be another casualty of war.  I want to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ in all that I do (Colossians 3:17).  I have a long way to go to get there.  For now, I trust in Christ alone to save me and I trust in Him to sanctify me (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  I know that without Jesus, I would surely turn away and live a life of sin.  The Scripture is clear that we are to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).  I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me to turn away from evil and live a life that exalts Jesus Christ my Lord.

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Adam Clarke on Apostasy

There has been much spoken against the doctrine of what is called free will by persons who seem not to have understood the term. Will is a free principle. Free will is as absurd as bound will: it is not will if it be not free; and if it be bound, it is no will. Volition is essential to the being of the soul, and to all rational and intellectual beings. This is the most essential discrimination between matter and spirit. Matter can have no choice, spirit has. Ratiocination is essential to intellect; and from these volition is inseparable. God uniformly treats man as a free agent; and on this principle the whole of divine revelation is constructed, as is also the doctrine of future rewards and punishments. If a man be forced to believe, he believes not at all: it is the forcing power that believes, not the machine forced. If he be forced to obey, it is the forcing power that obeys; and he, as a machine, shows only the effect of this irresistible force. If a man be incapable of willing good and willing evil, he is incapable of being saved as a rational being; and if he acts only under an overwhelming compulsion, he is as incapable of being damned. In short, this doctrine reduces him either to a puncture stans, which by the vis inertiae is incapable of being moved, but as acted upon by foreign influence; or, as an intellectual being, to nonentity.

The power to will and the power to act must necessarily come from God, who is the Author both of the soul and the body, and of all their powers and energies; but the act of volition and the act of working come from the man. God gives power to will: man wills through that power; God gives power to act, and man acts through that power. Without the power to will man can will nothing; without the power to work, man can do nothing. God neither wills for man, nor works in man’s stead, but he furnishes him with power to do both; he is, therefore, accountable to God for these powers.

It is only in the use of lawful means that we have any reason to expect God’s blessing and help. One of the ancients has remarked, “Though God has made man without himself, he will not save him without himself;” and therefore man’s own concurrence of will, and co-operation of power with God, are essentially necessary to his preservation and salvation. This co-operation is the grand condition, sine qua non, of which God will help or save. But is not this endeavoring to merit salvation by our own works? No: for this is impossible, unless we could prove that all the mental and corporeal powers which we possess come from and of ourselves, and that we hold them independently of the power and beneficence of our Creator; and that every act of these was of infinite value, to make it an equivalent for the heaven we wished to purchase. Putting forth the band to receive the alms of a benevolent man, can never be considered a purchase price for the bounty bestowed. For ever shall that word stand true in all its parts, “Christ is the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him.”

It is not for want of holy resolutions and heavenly influences that men are not saved, but through their own unsteadiness; they do not persevere, they forget the necessity of continuing in prayer, and thus the Holy Spirit is grieved, departs from them, and leaves them to their own darkness and hardness of heart. When we consider the heavenly influences which many receive who draw back to perdition, and the good fruits which, for a time, they bore, it is blasphemy to say, They had no genuine, or saving grace. They had it, they showed it, they trifled with it, and sinned against it; and therefore are lost.

What a comfortable thought it is to the followers of Christ, that neither men nor demons can act against them but by the permission of their heavenly Father, and that he will not suffer any of those who trust in him to be tried above what they are able to bear, and will make the trial end in their greater salvation, and in his glory!

Slothfulness is natural to man; it requires much training to induce him to labor for his daily bread: if God should miraculously send it, he will wonder and eat it; and that is the whole. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate,” is an ungracious word to many; they profess to trust in God’s mercy, but labor not to enter that rest. God will not reverse his purpose to meet their slothfulness: they alone who overcome shall sit with Jesus on his throne. Reader, “take unto thee the whole armor of God, that thou mayest be able to stand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.” And remember that he only who endures to the end shall be saved.

If to “watch” be to employ ourselves chiefly about the business of our salvation, alas! how few of those who are called Christians are there who do watch! how many who slumber! how many who are asleep! how many seized with a lethargy! how many quite dead!

You have many enemies; be continually on your guard; be always circumspect: 1. Be watchful against evil. 2. Watch for opportunities to do good. 3. Watch over each other in love. 4. Watch that none may draw you aside from the belief and unity of the gospel.

He that is self-confident is already half fallen. He who professes to believe that God will absolutely keep him from falling finally, and neglects watching unto prayer, is not in a safer state. He who lives by the moment, walks in the light, and maintains his communion with God, is in no danger of apostasy.

Will it avail any of us how near we get to heaven, if the door be shut before we arrive? How dreadful the thought, to have only missed being eternally saved! to aim well and yet to permit the devil, the world, or the flesh, to hinder in the few last steps! Reader, watch and be sober.

For want of a little more dependence upon God, how often does an excellent beginning come to an unhappy conclusion! Many who were on the borders of the promised land, and about to cross Jordan, have, through an act of unfaithfulness, been turned back to wander many a dreary year in the wilderness. Reader, be on thy guard. Trust in Christ, and watch unto prayer.

He who changes from opinion to opinion, and from one sect or party to another, is never to be depended on; there is much reason to believe that such a person is either mentally weak, or has never been rationally and divinely convinced of the truth.

The apostle shows here five degrees of apostasy: 1. Consenting to sin; being deceived by its solicitations. 2. Hardness of heart through giving way to sin. 3. Unbelief in consequence of this hardness, which leads them to call even the truth of the gospel in question. 4. This unbelief causing them to speak evil of the gospel, and the provision God has made for the salvation of their souls. 5. Apostasy itself, or falling off from the living God, and thus extinguishing all the light that was in them, and finally grieving the Spirit of God, so that he takes his flight, and leaves them to a seared conscience and reprobate mind. He who begins to give the least way to sin is in danger of final apostasy: the best remedy against this is, to get the evil heart removed; as one murderer in the house is more to be dreaded than ten without. Every believer in Christ is in danger of apostasy while any remains of the evil heart of unbelief are found in him. God has promised to purify the heart, and the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. It is, therefore, the highest wisdom of genuine Christians to look to God for the complete purification of their souls; this they cannot have too soon, and for this they cannot be too much in earnest. Who can adequately describe the misery and wretchedness of that soul which has lost its union with the Fountain of all good, and, in losing this, has lost the possibility of happiness till the simple eye be once more given, and the straight line once more drawn?

How strange is it that there should be found any backslider! that one who once felt the power of Christ should ever turn aside! But it is still stranger that any one who has felt it, and given, in his life and conversation, full proof that he has felt it, should not only let it slip, but at last deny that he ever had it, and even ridicule a work of grace in the heart! Such instances have appeared among men.

Where there are so many snares and dangers, it is impossible to be too watchful and circumspect. Satan, as a roaring lion, as a subtle serpent, or in the guise of an angel of light, is momentarily going about seeking whom he may deceive, blind, and devour; and, when it is considered that the human heart, till entirely renewed, is on his side, it is a miracle of mercy that any soul escapes perdition: no man is safe any longer than he maintains the spirit of watchfulness and prayer; and to maintain such a spirit, he has need of all the means of grace. He who neglects any of them which the mercy of God has placed in his power, tempts the devil to tempt him. As a preventive of backsliding and apostasy, the apostle recommends mutual exhortation. No Christian should live for himself alone; he should consider his fellow Christian as a member of the same body, and feel for him accordingly, and love, succor, and protect him. When this is carefully attended to in religions society, Satan finds it very difficult to make an inroad on the church; but when coldness, distance, and want of brotherly love take place, Satan can attack each singly, and, by successive victories over individuals, soon make an easy conquest of the whole.

“But he that lacketh these things:” he, whether Jew or Gentile, who professes to have faith in God, and has not added to that faith, fortitude, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and universal love, “is blind,” his understanding is darkened, and cannot see afar off, shutting his eyes against the light, winking, not able to look truth in the face, nor to behold that God whom he once knew was reconciled to him; and thus it appears he is willfully blind, “and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” — has at last, through the non-improvement of the grace which he received from God, his faith ceasing to work by love, lost the evidence of things not seen: for, having grieved the Holy Spirit by not showing forth the virtues of Him who called him into his marvelous light, he has lost the testimony of his sonship; and then darkness and hardness having taken the place of light and filial confidence, he first calls all his former experience into doubt; — questions whether he has not put enthusiasm in the place of religion. By these means his darkness and hardness increase, his memory becomes indistinct and confused, till at length he forgets the work of God on his soul, next denies it, and at last asserts that the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins is impossible, and that no man can be saved from sin in this life. Indeed, some go so far as to deny the Lord that bought them; to renounce Jesus Christ as having made atonement for them; and finish their career of apostasy by utterly denying his godhead. Many cases of this kind have I known; and they are all the consequence of believers not continuing to be workers together with God, after they had experienced his pardoning love.

Here (2 Peter ii, 22) is a sad proof of the possibility of falling from grace, and from very high degrees of it too. These had escaped from the contagion that was in the world; they had had true repentance, and cast up “their sour-sweet morsel of sin;” they had been washed from all their filthiness, and this must have been through the blood of the Lamb; yet, after all, they went back, got entangled with their old sins, swallowed down their formerly rejected lusts, and rewallowed in the mire of corruption. It is no wonder that God should say, “The latter end is worse with them than the beginning:” reason and nature say, “It must be so;” and divine justice says, “It ought to be so;” and the person himself must confess that it is right that it should be so. But how dreadful is this state! How dangerous, when the person has abandoned himself to his old sins! Yet it is not said that it is impossible for him to return to his Maker; though his case be deplorable, it is not utterly hopeless; the leper may yet be made clean, and the dead may be raised. Reader, is thy backsliding a grief and burden to thee? Then thou art not far from the kingdom of God; believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.

The backslider’s soul, before influenced by the Spirit of God, dilated and expanded under its heavenly influences, becomes more capable of refinement in iniquity, as its powers are more capacious than formerly. Evil habits are formed and strengthened by relapses; and relapses are multiplied, and become more incurable, through new habits.

A soul cut off from the flock of God is in an awful state! His outward defense is departed from him; and being no longer accountable to any for his conduct, he generally plunges into unprecedented depths of iniquity, and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. Reader, art thou without the pale of God’s church? Remember, it is written, “Them that are without, God judgeth.”

The backslider’s affections and desires are no longer busied with the things of God, but gad about, like an idle person, among the vanities of a perishing world. Swept from love, meekness, and all the fruits of the Spirit; and garnished, or adorned, decorated with the vain showy trifles of folly and fashion. This may comprise also smart speeches, cunning repartees, &c., for which many who have lost the life of God are very remarkable.

In a state of probation every thing may change. While we are in life we may stand or fall. Our standing in the faith depends on our union with God; and that depends on our watching unto prayer, and continuing to possess that faith that worketh by love. The highest saint under heaven can stand no longer than he depends upon God, and continues in the obedience of faith. He that ceases to do so will fall into sin, and get a darkened understanding and a hardened heart; and he may continue in this state till God come to take away his soul. Therefore, let him who most assuredly standeth take heed lest he fall, not only partially, but finally.

When probation ends, eternity begins. In a state of trial the good may change to bad, the bad to good. It is utterly absurd to say that the day of grace may end before the day of life. It is impossible; as then the state of probation would be confounded with eternity. The Scriptures alleged by some in behalf of their sentiment are utterly misunderstood and misapplied. There can be no truer proverb than, “While there is life there is hope.” Probation necessarily implies the possibility of change.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/14/2014 at 11:13 AM

The Antinomianism of Eternal Security

I was browsing a popular Calvinist site and they stated the following about belief in personal apostasy (though they word it as “losing your salvation”):

If Jesus always does the what pleases the Father of the Father and the will of the Father is that Jesus lose none and that those who are given to Jesus will be raised (to glory), then how is it possible for Jesus to lose somebody by them losing their salvation?” This is a serious issue because there is a hidden danger in the issue of being able to lose one’s salvation. That danger is that you maintain it by keeping the law.

The writer of this post pointed to passages such as John 6:37, 39.  I know they would also point to many more passages that speak of the security we have in Christ.  However, I agree with Dr. Michael Brown here when he wrote in his book, Hyper-Gracewriting about the issue of eternal security:

“How then do we sort things out?  It’s really very simple.  God’s promises are to believers – to those who want to follow the Lord and whose lives belong to Him – not to rebels who have chosen sin and rejected His Lordship.”

Brown goes on to write,

“Find me one verse anywhere in the Bible – just one – that gives assurance of eternal life and blessing to an unrepentant rebel who is living in willful, persistent sin, denying the Lord in an ongoing, hardened way.”

I agree.  The Bible does not offer assurance of salvation to those who reject Christ and His Lordship over our lives.  There are no promises given to rebels.  The promises of God are given only to those who have a saving faith in Christ Jesus.  All of the promises about the security of our salvation are given to those who are already saved, already abiding in Christ.  But the warnings as well!  The many warning passages are given to the very same people who are trusting in Christ alone to save them.

Consider the John 6 passages that the above writer cites.  John 6:40 is key.  It reads:

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

The Greek is emphatic here that the one believing is believing.  The one believing in Jesus has eternal life and the promise is that Jesus will raise them up on the last day.  But the passage states nothing about what should happen if the person does not believe.  Mark 16:16 is clear on this: the one who does not believe will be condemned.

1 John 2:24-25 calls our attention here as well:

24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

Notice that the Calvinist above states that belief in apostasy is dangerous because, in their view, this will lead to keeping the law to keep oneself saved.  In other words, there is nothing we can do to keep ourselves saved.  We must have an antinomian view when it comes to “keeping saved.”  There is nothing we can do.

Is this what the Bible teaches?  I am not suggesting that there are “works” that we must do to keep ourselves saved.  Obviously works do not save us before faith in Christ and they do not after faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; cf. John 6:29).  However, works do display our salvation (Ephesians 2:10).  James 2:14-17 is clear on this:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

While works do not produce salvation, they do flow from salvation.  Salvation is not laziness.  Salvation is not resting in a past experience to get us to heaven (“I said the prayer” or “I was baptized”).  Salvation is not hope in concepts or in doctrines.  Salvation is faith in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11).  Our salvation is based on Him and Him alone.  We look to Him and He empowers us by His grace to serve Him as Lord.  Salvation is a radical transformation of the entire person (2 Corinthians 5:17).

How then do we “maintain” salvation?  By looking to Christ.  By keeping our faith in Him.  Paul preached to the disciples in Acts 14:22:

strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Paul the Apostle wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:24 about saving faith and security:

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

I love what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12-16 (NKJV):

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

Notice that it is God who works in us to produce good works (v. 13).  Yet there is a synergism to our sanctification.  None will debate this other than hyper-Calvinists.  God works in us but we too must obey God (John 14:15).

The book of Hebrews is full of warnings about remaining faithful to the Lord (Hebrews 2:1; 3:6-19; 4:1-16; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 11:13-16; 12:1-29).

I would believe that most Calvinists would agree with me (perhaps disagreeing over various warning passages) but the belief in eternal security as stated above would not produce a joy in resting in Jesus and being faithful to Him.

In conclusion, we Arminians preach that we are saved by faith in Christ (Romans 5:1) and we are kept through faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:5).  We make our calling and election sure by abiding in Christ (2 Peter 1:3-11).  Good works flow from being saved.  They do not produce nor keep us saved but are signs of salvation.  Jude warns us in Jude 20-21:

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

And if we do this we have the promise of Jude 24-25:

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

May we not turn the grace of our God in a license for sin (Jude 4) but let us keep our eyes on Jesus and lay aside all the weight of sin (Hebrews 12:1-2).

 

Watch Out For Antichrist or Antichrists?

Note: The purpose of this post is not to debate the issue related to whether there will be a future leader named by many as “the Antichrist.”  I know many godly people believe this to be true.  I respect their view while I do not hold to that view.  The purpose here is not to elaborate upon the debate over the antichrist as a person.  I am simply wanting to make a point that deception is current.

The word “antichrist” appears only in 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3 and 2 John 7.  In fact, the antichrist is not even called “the antichrist.”  Notice 1 John 2:18:

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

Notice that John doesn’t say, “the Antichrist” but antichrist.  It lacks the definite article to be translated “the antichrist.”  1 John 4:3 goes even further about antichrist:

And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

Notice that John says that antichrist is already in the world!  That is 2000 years ago and John says that antichrist is now in the world.

2 John 7 tells us who the antichrist is:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

These antichrists then were people who were heretics.  They were false teachers (1 John 2:19).  They claimed to be preaching the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42) but they did not abide in their teachings (2 John 9-11).  They forsook the faithful teachings of the apostles (Jude 3-4).

Many in our day want us to be careful to avoid “the Antichrist” but I believe we should avoid antichrists.  The world, since the dawn of the Church, has been full of false teachers.  Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 24:4-5 that many would come in His name.  His warning is not for a far off generation but those to whom He was speaking to (Matthew 24:34).  Even among His own apostles, Jesus was warning them to know that false teachers and false christs would come (antichrists).  These antichrists would come in the power of Satan to deceive many (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

I pray that our heart would be careful to search all things.  No teacher is above error.  I enjoy listening to various Bible teachers and reading their works but we must test all things by the Word of God.  Scripture must be the final authority for it alone is the inerrant and infallible truth of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  The Word of God is the truth of God (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17).  Jesus told us to abide in His Word (John 8:31-32) and His Word keeps us saved (James 1:21).  The Word of God protects us from doctrinal error (1 Timothy 4:16) and from sin (Psalm 119:11).  The Word of God cuts us and exposes us before God (Hebrews 4:12-13).  The Word of God convicts us of sin and reveals to us the path of righteousness.  How vital for us to love the Word of God and to abide in its truth!

As we abide in the Word, the Word keeps us focused on the Lord Jesus.  We hear His voice (John 10:27).  Scripture is the voice of God.  The Bible should be how we question all things.  I don’t care if the teaching comes from your favorite trusted theologian.  Turn to the Word of God to test their teachings.  Don’t accept blindly what a teacher tells you.  Turn to the Word of God to make sure they are faithful to the Word of God.  Don’t be deceived by a teacher who quotes a lot of Bible verses without also opening the Word of God to make sure what the teacher is saying is faithful to the Word of God.  Acts 17:11 tells us that the Bereans examined Paul’s teachings by Scripture to make sure what he was saying was true.  The Bible calls them “noble-minded” for this.

Instead of looking for “the Antichrist,” we should be looking for antichrists.  Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29-30 that wolves would arise from among them to deceive the church.  These antichrists among us are whom we should be careful to avoid.

My advice: abide in the Word.  This is the only sure guard to keep us from falling.  We can know truth from error by learning and hiding the Word of God in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15-16).  The Word of God alone is able to protect us from antichrists and I am thankful to God for His holy Word.

Apostasy (or Whatever) is Always Tragic

I have been a disciple of Jesus since 1992.  Over those years I have seen many people come and go in regard to Christianity.  I could tell you one sad story after another of people who fell away from the faith.  We could debate whether they were ever saved to begin with but what is the point?  Apostasy (or whatever) is always tragic.  It should break our hearts to meet “former” Christians who once seemed to love the Lord, hungered for His presence, spent countless hours in prayer, and witnessed to others.  Some of my friends who have fallen away include men who once preached the gospel (whether they were saved is another issue but they did preach the gospel in truth).  I have known guys I went to college with who once loved to gather and pray and today they are shells of what they once were.  I have had friends ruin their marriages by adultery and left their wives for other women (and their faith as well).

Apostasy is always tragic.  Whether you deny they were saved or not, let’s agree here that they must repent.  We long for them to repent!  I pray you do.  We should not gloat over a person falling away from Christ.  We should weep and it should warn us as well (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Humility must be maintained when it comes to how we view “former” Christians.  Proverbs 16:18 reads, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Proverbs 18:12 reads, “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.”  Galatians 6:1 reminds us to watch ourselves when we are dealing with someone caught in any transgression.  Galatians 6:3 is clear: “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”  We must guard against the temptation to look down on those who fall away.  We can become prideful and think that we will never sin like they have sinned.  We boast they were are secure in Christ and that  nothing will ever turn us away from following Jesus (like Peter in Matthew 26:33).  But beware of this. Beware of pride and an attitude that says, “I will never fall into the same sin they did.”

I assure you that those who have turned away from Christ, at some point, probably never dreamed they would.  I can still remember the prayers of one man I know who fell away and how earnest he was in his prayers.  This man would go witnessing with me in college.  He would often cry out for revival in our nation.  Yet today he is living in complete rebellion against God.  He wants nothing of the kingdom.  Nothing!  He claims to be agnostic now and believes Christianity to be nothing more than a joke.  Yet if I could go back to 1996 and talk to this man I am sure he would have said that he loved Jesus, would never fall away and would assure you that he would always be a child of God.

I am not writing this to scare you or myself.  I pray daily for the Lord to help me hate sin.  I don’t want to sin (1 John 2:1).  I want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Yet I see that it is easy to slip into pride and think that I won’t fall away from Christ.  I won’t give in to sin.  I will be strong when temptation comes. I will stand secure in Christ.  I pray that I will but I must rest in Christ alone to help me.  I cannot overcome sin by my will power.  I cannot overcome sin by promises.  I overcome sin by the grace of God (Titus 2:12).  I remain steadfast in Christ through faith in Him and a focus upon Him (Hebrews 12:1-2).  I fear Him lest I deny Him (Romans 11:20-22).

I don’t live in insecurity.  I do trust the promises of God to keep me (Jude 24-25) but I also look to Jesus alone to help me overcome (1 John 5:1-4).  I know that I am not saved by my works but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save me (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7).  My salvation is found only in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:3-6) and I rest in His work (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:10, 14) knowing that He saved me and He is sanctifying me for His glory (Ephesians 1:3-14).

For those we know who have turned away from Christ, let us pray for them to repent.  Whether they were never saved to begin with is another issue altogether.  We believe that a person is saved through Christ Jesus but they must remain in Christ to be saved and remain saved.  Even my Calvinist brethren teach that a person who does not persevere in the faith is not a true disciple of Jesus and I agree.  A true disciple of Jesus is one who keeps their eyes on Jesus and looks to Him alone to save them, to keep them, and to give them eternal life (John 8:51).  Let us pray for those who have turned away to truly come to know this Savior and find rest in Him.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/16/2014 at 8:07 PM

Short Thoughts on Apostasy

Someone asked, “Must one hold to apostasy to be an Arminian or can one hold to eternal security and be an Arminian?”

I have met both.  I personally reject the teaching of eternal security apart from a living faith in Christ.  I do believe that in eternity, we shall forever be sealed to our Master but for now, I hold that a person is saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and kept by faith (1 Peter 1:5).  I know the Calvinist will counter that the faith we have comes from God and thus He is able to keep us but none will deny that our faith is well our faith.  God doesn’t believe for me.  Certainly I agree that His grace enables me to believe and I am saved by His grace but this does not negate personal responsibility (a point that nearly all Calvinists agree with me on).  We are responsible to believe and through belief, we are saved but this faith is not a dead faith.  It is not a faith in facts about the gospel or faith in the writings of Arminius or Calvin.  Our faith must be a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (James 2:14-26).  The gospel produces works (Ephesians 2:10).

The problem is that there are many apostasy passages in the New Testament (not to mention the countless warnings in the Old).  We must do something with them.  In my estimation we have three options.  We can:

  1. Ignore the warning passages altogether.
  2. Make the warning passages not aimed at disciples of Jesus but either unsaved or “half-saved” (as I have seen taught on the warning passages in Hebrews).  Teach they are hypothetical and can never really happen to the truly saved.
  3. Accept the warning passages as real and deal with each of them as such.  This is my approach.

I have met Arminians who say that if you hold to “once saved, always saved” you are in grave error since you will no doubt teach that sin has no bearing on the life of a disciple.  These Arminians fear that eternal security will lead to cheap grace and antinomianism.

I have also met those who have told me that I am not saved because I reject eternal security.  They believe that such a view as mine leads to “works righteousness” since I teach that perseverance is necessary for final salvation.  I have met most of these guys on Twitter and they are relentless in tweeting over and over and over again that if you hold to apostasy, you are not saved.

Charles Spurgeon had written on the doorpost of his college, “Holding fast, I am held.”  That is my motto as well.  Where can I go?  Jesus is the one who gives life (John 6:68).  I cling to Him (John 8:51).  I long for Him (John 15:1-11).  I know I am held in Him by His grace (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39). I look to Him alone to save me and keep me (Hebrews 12:1-2; Revelation 3:5).  I know I am hidden with Him (Colossians 3:3).  He is my life (Colossians 3:4).  I have no fear in Him (Romans 8:1).  I am confident in Him (Philippians 1:6).  But I do fear Him (Proverbs 1:7; Romans 11:20-22).  I do not want to abuse His grace (Titus 2:12; Hebrews 10:26-31).  I pray that I would be able to say with Paul the Apostle in 2 Timothy 4:7:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

Why “Never Saved To Begin With” Doesn’t Always Work

We all have known someone who claimed to follow Christ for years.  Some of them were prayer warriors, evangelists, pastors and teachers, elders, leaders, examples to the flock, deeply committed to sound doctrine, etc; and yet they fell away.  Some of them went into cults while others fell into immorality and sin.  I have personally known many people who once were bedrocks for the gospel and today they are shells of what they use to be.  I have personally prayed with, evangelized with, and worshiped with people who today are not following Christ.  And it is possible that, according to Calvinism, you are one of those people.  It is possible that you could fall from grace and turn away from Jesus though this would prove, according to Calvinists, that you were never saved to begin with (1 John 2:19).  After all, it is possible that both you and I are people found in Matthew 7:21-23 or John 6:66.  We must not be prideful about this as Paul the Apostle points out in 1 Corinthians 10:12.

For the most part I think that “never saved to begin with” is just an easy answer to a hard question.  After all, I would admit that there have been many I have met and even discipled in the church whom I thought were not truly saved.  It is true that people can be false converts and never have repented of their sins.  Repentance is largely played down these days in the seeker sensitive church era that we are in.  Rather than preaching Matthew 3:8, we preach easy believeism and call people “saved” whom have never truly repented of their sins nor seen the need to repent (1 Timothy 1:8-11).  We have failed to call people’s attention (almost weekly in our sinful society) to 2 Corinthians 13:5 and asked people to make sure they are walking in the grace of God.  Hebrews 3:12-13 exhorts us all:

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 10:19-25 has three “let us” points that the writer wants to make.  Each of them are discipleship in nature.  Notice the text:

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The purpose of meeting together for the disciple of Jesus is not to listen to a sermon nor to sing songs.  It is to help us continue in our fight, to be encouraged by other disciples in this race.  We need other disciples to help us remain disciples of Christ because of this sinful world that we live in and walk in (1 John 1:7).

However, back to my point in this post.  I find that the old “never saved to begin with” is not a pat answer for every person who turns away from Christ.  It may sooth us but it doesn’t really answer the question.  Why is it that a person can be deeply committed to Christ outwardly (none of us but God alone can see their heart; 2 Timothy 2:19) and then embrace a life of sin to reject the gospel?  What happened to them?  Where did they begin to lose the battle against the flesh and the world (1 John 2:15-17)?  It is not a theologically issue since I have known both Arminians and Calvinists who have turned away from Christ.  I have known evangelical pastors who left their wives and children and churches for a woman.  I have known evangelical men who have embraced homosexuality.  I have witnessed women fall prey to ungodly men time after time after time.  And to simply say they were never saved to begin with is a pat answer but in my heart, I have watched these people and have seen them preach the gospel, seen them weep over the lost, seen them pray, seen them teach the Word, sat for hours with them and talked theology.

I believe that apostasy is very real.  I believe the warnings of Scripture are there to truly warn us not to forsake Christ for the flesh or this world or lies (Galatians 1:6-9; 6:7-9).  I believe the promise of God is seen in Romans 11:20-22 where we read:

20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

We need to stand before the disciples of Jesus and preach that He is faithful to His promises (Romans 8:38-39) but we likewise must continue in the faith (Acts 14:22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 12:21-13:5; Galatians 5:1-4; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 2:12-15; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:1-4; etc.).  As the writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 2:1-4:

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Or as Jesus Himself said in Revelation 3:5-6 to the church in Sardis:

5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Jesus calls us to be His elect and also to be faithful to Him (Revelation 17:14).  Let us admit right now, no matter where you stand on the issue of eternal security, that salvation is found in Jesus alone (John 14:6).  All unbelievers will be cut off for their rebellion against a holy God (2 Thessalonians 1:8-12).  Salvation is found only in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23) and to be outside of Jesus is to be lost (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Salvation is a work of God (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9) that He wrought in our souls by faith in His Son (Titus 3:5-7).  Salvation is not accomplished by my power.  Jesus has done the work of salvation (Hebrews 10:10, 14) but we must abide in Him to be saved (John 15:1-11).  Let us agree on these issues.

I do pray often for those whom I have known who have turned away.  It does break my heart that so many have turned away from Christ.  Only God knows their hearts and can judge whether they were ever saved to begin with.  I do know that they must repent of their sins (Hebrews 10:19-39).  I do know that sin will destroy lives (James 1:12-15; 5:19-20).  I do know that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and we must repent to be reconciled back to the Father (Psalm 32:1-5; 1 John 1:9).  Repentance is not merely feeling sorry about our sins but turning from them toward Christ (Galatians 5:16-17).  If we are called of God, we must be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Holiness is not optional but is only accomplished by the grace of God working in us (Ephesians 2:10).  I do fear God (Proverbs 1:7) and I do hate my sins.  I do long to be just like Jesus Christ in every way.  I do long to follow Him completely and forever.  I do pray that He would continue to help me to hate sin and pursue Him with all my heart (Mark 12:29-31).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/06/2013 at 8:21 PM

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