Thursday, 14 January 2016

CAN A GENUINE CHRISTIAN COMMIT APOSTASY?

Can a true believer give up his or her faith?

Apostasy is defined as abandonment of one’s faith. Apostates are those who renounce their faith. 

Notice that apostasy is different from backsliding. Believers may sin in a moment of weakness under temptation but that is different from apostasy, which is a willful renunciation of the faith. The seriousness of apostasy is highlighted in Hebrews 6:6: “It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.”

A state of apostasy is worse than a state of ignorance. It means that God’s judgment falls more heavily on those who reject Him after having believed than those who never knew Him at all. “It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life” (2 Peter 2:21).

Two important passages reveal that even genuine believers can give up on God and what they believe about Him. However, some disagree, saying that these apostates were never really converted in the first place.

Let us delve into these two passages:

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.”
(Hebrews 6: 4-8)

“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 overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them”
(2 Peter 2:20-21)

Why do people say that apostates were unregenerate (never really converted) in the first place? The simple reason is that such a position will help to reinforce their ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ (OSAS) stance.

If OSAS adherents hold the viewpoint that apostates were genuine believers initially, then, automatically, their OSAS belief will no longer be valid, which is something the former do not want. 

Truth be told, both passages tell us that there will be genuine believers who chose to turn their backs on God or willfully live in sin—and, inevitably, incur God’s judgment and lose their salvation. http://www.jesuswalk.com/hebrews/apostasy.htm

The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were in danger of abandoning their faith and returning to Judaism. They were exhorted to hold fast to Jesus, who is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrews 4:14 and 5:9).

Though he warned them concerning apostasy (Hebrews 6: 4-8), the author felt that they had not yet reached the disastrous state of no return (Hebrews 6: 9). He hoped that they would earnestly press onwith faith and patienceto inherit the promise of God, which is eternal salvation (Hebrews 6: 11-12 and 10:39).

Thus, the optimism of inheriting God’s promise of salvationprovided they held fast to their faith—was set against the backdrop of a stern warning against apostasy. 

The passage in Hebrews 6 clearly outlines FIVE characteristics of a true believer:

  • Enlightened


  • Tasted the heavenly gift


  • Shared in the Holy Spirit


  • Tasted the goodness of the Word of God


  • Tasted the powers of the age to come

With these FIVE characteristics of a true believer staring at them, how is it possible for OSAS adherents to assert that apostates were never really converted? I am completely stumped. :-)

Thus, the ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ premise is a fallacy and these two passages above continue to be a persistent bugbear—thorn in the flesh—to OSAS adherents.

Another argument against OSAS is this: If genuine believers will never fall away because they are kept eternally safe by God (Philippians 1:6, Jude 24), why did the author of Hebrews go to great lengths to sound out the warning against apostasy? The strong warning suggests that the likelihood of apostasy does exist even among true believers

In fact, this author of Hebrews repeated the apostasy warning a few chapters later: “Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us” (Hebrews 10:26-29).

“The exhortations against apostasy and to perseverance, are urged by many strong reasons. The sin here mentioned is a total and final falling away, when men, with a full and fixed will and resolution, despise and reject Christ, the only Saviour; despise and resist the Spirit, the only Sanctifier; and despise and renounce the gospel, the only way of salvation, and the words of eternal life.”
(Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Hebrews 10:26)

                                                                        
Free Moral Agents

The ability to choose is God’s precious and gracious gift to us. Even after we have become believers, we can choose between pleasing self or obeying God. We can choose between good and evil. Thus, all believers are free moral agents.

Freedom of choice is something that remains with us even after we have become believers. God does not turn us into robots or automatons.

To reiterate, though our ‘spirit man’ has been made new at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17), our will remains neutral. Whether they are men or angels, all of God’s creation can choose to obey Him or rebel against Him. This freedom of choice comes with a catch. Those who rebel against His authority will be held accountable. They will have to face judgment eventually (Jude 1:5-7).

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
(Jude 1:5-7).


APOSTASY IN A NUTSHELL

Hebrews 6: 4-8, 2 Peter 2:20-21

The purpose of this post is to establish 4 important points:
  • Even genuine believers can abandon their faith in God (commit apostasy).
  • That is because they are free to exercise their will to accept or reject God’s way.
  • But they will have to suffer the consequences—God’s judgment and loss of salvation.
  • The above effectively debunks the doctrine of eternal security (OSAS). 

RELATED POSTS

IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
Though believers in Christ are heaven-bound, there are conditions to be fulfilled before we arrive at our final destination and claim our eternal reward. Some say that God will never forsake believers and that nothing will ever separate us from His love (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20, Romans 8: 38-39). But has this ever crossed our minds? God may not leave us but we can walk away from God. It takes two to tango.

TOUGH QUESTIONS FOR FANS OF ETERNAL SECURITY
When you believe in eternal security, that is ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ (OSAS), you are saying that whatever you do or fail to do after you have been saved will NOT affect your eternal destiny. In effect, you are implying that you do not need to be morally responsible or be accountable to God. Is such a mindset compatible with scriptures? 
http://bit.ly/1Q4VQCB

CAN A BELIEVER FALL OUT OF FAVOUR WITH GOD?
Is it possible for Christians to fall out of God’s favour permanently? What can we learn from the exodus generation who failed to enter the Promised Land?

SHOOTING OURSELVES IN THE FOOT
Five ways believers could possibly jeopardise their eternal destiny

SAVED AND SECURE?
Is there eternal security for believers if they deny God or continue living in sin?

EXTERNAL LINKS

The challenge I have with this teaching—ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED (OSAS)—is its failure to interpret individual passages honestly that disagree with this particular system. For example, Hebrews 6:1-8 and 10:24-29 clearly teach that people, after receiving the saving knowledge of Christ, can fall away and lose their salvation. Second Peter 2:20-22 and James 5:19-20 are as clear as tar on snow that a believer can fall away and once again be called sinners who have to be restored.
-Joseph Mattera, Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York.

CAN BELIEVERS LOSE THEIR SALVATION?
Listen to this balanced seasoned teacher, David Pawson. A must-watch video.
He is able to keep us in the faith AND we are to keep ourselves in His love.
If we keep ourselves in the love of God, He keeps what we have committed to Him.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy3tSIg7Gi0

CAN A GENUINE CHRISTIAN COMMIT APOSTASY?
Solid meat. Hard sayings. Many will rationalise that Hebrews 6: :4-8 does not refer to believers; they were unregenerate in the first place. Is it so?
http://www.jesuswalk.com/hebrews/apostasy.htm

1 comment:

  1. A brother, Robert Tan, sent in this comment (unedited):

    Why don't/ can't we just accept what the Scriptures say without try to explain it away?

    There is perhaps no other doctrine in scripture that has as many clear verses teaching it than the fact that one can lose his salvation, fall from grace.

    In Heb.3:12, Paul wrote, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God."
    (So a brother in Christ MIGHT TURN TO UNBELIEF AND DEPART.)

    Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, AS DO Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, MY FELLOW LABORERS. Philemon 1:23-24 ------
    that Demas is mentioned as a fellow laborer (Christian) included in the ranks of Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke and then later CHOOSES to return to worldly things......Demas was at one time considered by Paul a Christian, but later returned to the world as noted in - 2 Timothy 4:9-11 -----

    - Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for DEMAS HAS FORSAKEN me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

    Why the need of so many exhortations for Christian against apostasy?

    ReplyDelete