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.”
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.
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).
The passage in Hebrews 6 clearly outlines FIVE characteristics of a true believer:
- 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
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).
Hebrews 6: 4-8, 2 Peter 2:20-21
- 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).
CAN A BELIEVER FALL OUT OF FAVOUR WITH GOD?
-Joseph Mattera, Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York.
CAN BELIEVERS LOSE THEIR SALVATION?