Dialogs and Commentary

Is Apostasy Possible?

In response to a question concerning our understanding of Hebrews 6:4-6 as it relates to apostasy and eternal security.

Heb 6:4-6 (NAS) For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

The "problem" of the text above is not just academic. We have seen it happen.

A few years ago, a minister we knew renounced the faith and now calls himself a "post-Christian". He says he "knows what he is doing" in terms of the ramifications of Hebrews 6:4-6. He has rejected the gospel, Christianity, and Jesus. And this scripture puts such situations into crisp focus.

Of the many flames we get for our Bible study calling people to repent from witchcraft, likely one a day is from someone who has "tasted the heavenly gift" and "trampled it under foot". By this ratio--and direct encounter--we would guess that some 1/3 of wiccans are "exChristians". And so it goes for Mormons, Jehova's Witnesses, and other cults.

So what are we to make of this? How can we be "eternally secure" and yet see people, in plain fact, apostatizing?

Of these real life experiences, some take the view that these "defectors" were never really "born again". And this may be true in a few cases. But this is disingenuous in most, and perhaps a rationalization to force fit the square peg of reality into a pre-fab round hole of doctrinal prejudice.

Does being born in the natural guarantee that you will live? Hardly, even if in most cases birth does result in life. In the parable of the sower, was not the seed good? And yet three out of four did not make it. Jesus was keen to point out these contingencies to us. Is this so hard to grasp, since we have been told it over and over and in so many ways?

The issue here is not of the "sin and lose your salvation" silliness of some groups. Scripture makes it clear that those who seek Him He will not cast out; He will forgive and accept--unless they blaspheme the Holy Spirit. What is in view here is apostasy. It is a deliberate and willful renunciation of the gospel of salvation. Once done, there is NO TURNING BACK--thus the silliness of some UPC Pentecostals. If this verse applies at all, we have to take the conclusion seriously. There is NO MORE remission of sins. Give it up.

Minus the case of apostasy, scripture enjoins us to take our salvation as secure--in that it depends on God's faithfulness, not ours. Thus, to doubt our security in Christ (if we are really seeking and following Him) is to doubt God. It is a failure of faith in the moment. Even this will be forgiven, as we will see in a moment, but we should aim to please God by faith.

Note the "break" in the pattern of conditional statements in the deliberately constructed verse below.

2 Tim 2:11-13 (DVP) Here is a trustworthy statement:

In the first case [11b], we follow and God does for us what He did for Jesus. In the second [12a] our steadfastness is rewarded as you would naturally expect. Jumping down [to 13a] we see that if our faith fails us (and whose does not among us "little faiths") then God will still be faithful, for it is His nature. But notice the third statement in [12b] which seems out of phase with the rest. And what could be more clear? Jesus said just this in Luke 12:9 and Matthew 10:33, among other places, and here it is again.

There is no escaping the clear and repeated descriptions of Heb 6:4-6. People can reject Christ, even after "tasting the heavenly gift"; after having been "made partakers of the Holy Spirit"; after having "tasted the good word of God"; after experiencing Kingdom "powers". How much more clear or descriptive could this text be?

Is Scripture wasting words on some theoretical but not possible contingency--as some have suggested that this is all Heb 6:4-6 means? Is the Holy Spirit sort of pontificating on an unlikely contingency for an imaginary universe that we need not concern ourselves with--as some seriously assert? Or is God speaking words that will judge men eternally?

John 3:11 (NRS) "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen..."

Take the minister, mentioned at the start. In the past, Laura and I have prayed with this man, meditated on scripture, wept, etc. He went to seminary and served in several churches and ministries, hobnobbed with noted leaders of Christianity, etc. Now he has apostatized. On his "Say YES to Jesus" t-shirt he crossed out "Jesus" and placed the word "Being" above it. He milled around the parking lot of his former church placing diatribes slandering God on people's windshields. Shall we now say he was not really a believer to begin with? I cannot believe this for one minute without dulling the reality of the situation. He knows better, but has discovered he does not like God very much. Too holy. Too perfect. Too dead-set on making people like Him, or else. So he has rejected God, and God will reject him.

As for us, how should we respond? Should we pass final judgment on him? Is not God's word sufficient for that? He knows it as well as we do; shall we teach him what he already knows?

Perhaps your question is not academic, but personal. Perhaps you think you have committed "the unpardonable sin" and apostatized. If so, and if there is any spark of love for God left in you, then go with it as the last striving of the Holy Spirit. It may well be your last chance. For all of us are some mixture of faith and doubt, and yet God is saving us and enduring all of our continued sins because He is in covenant with us. Only let us not deny Him--or if we have already, let us quickly repent if the Lord so leads us.

2 Sam 12:21 (GLT) And his servants said to him, "What is this thing you have done? You fasted and wept because of the living boy, yet when the boy is dead, you have risen up and have eaten food?" And he said, "While the boy was alive, I fasted and wept. For I said, 'who knows? Jehovah may be gracious to me and the boy may stay alive.' And now he has died. Why this, that I should fast? Am I able to bring him back again?"

In the situation with the minister, mentioned above, we have not lost all hope. God can save to the uttermost, and we cannot judge his eternal soul. Still, we must take the form of his words seriously and treat him in obedience to scripture as an apostate, and warn him (if he gives us another chance) that he had better "kiss the son" in a very different sense in the future, than he has in the past.

Ps 2:11-12 (NKJ) Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

Luke 22:48 (NRS) But Jesus said to him, "Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?"

This subject has a lot to do with the fear of the Lord and with the sovereignty of God. It is with these thoughts I will leave you to reflect on your state of peace before Him with whom we all must deal. For sin and failure come to all of us. The question is not so much of sin, but of whether or not we believe in the Son of God. If we do, we receive His love, and this puts us at peace with our Creator and "covers a multitude of sins".

For what does it mean to "lose your salvation"? Salvation is Jesus' name, Yeshua (Mat 1:21). If we run back to Jesus, we have salvation. Salvation is a person, not merely a concept. We either have Him or we don't. And if He still beckons, let us leap at the chance of allowing Him to establish peace with us.

Consider that Jesus prophesied that both Judas and Peter would sin grievously. Taken on the whole of Jesus' recorded teaching, Peter's sin of denial may well have been the worst of the two. Had not Jesus clearly said, "If you deny me I will deny you before the Father"? (Mat 10:33). And yet Peter was restored. Judas was not. Why? Both had the unique privilege of walking and talking with Jesus in intimate friendship and encounter. Judas saw the supernatural miracles, cast out demons, etc. (We are told that he was dipping into the till, but not that he alone was not given the Spirit among the Twelve. In fact, Acts 1:17 tells us specifically that Judas "shared in our ministry".) He was given much grace, but Jesus said His destiny was set ahead of him. Jesus even told him to go and do what He did (John 13:27).

If we have sinned in some shameful way, will we be a Peter or a Judas? Of this we can be sure: God knows the beginning from the end, and not one person that He has chosen will fall from His grasp. But He also knows who will eventually spurn Him, even after "tasting of the heavenly gift". He knows who is chosen eternally, we do not. Thus, let us not arrogantly presume our own destinies unless God has spoken to us. Rather, let us acknowledge His great power and election, and live our remaining days in godly fear and complete reliance and dependence on Him. For it is really up to Him, not us. And what He has chosen will play out as inexorably for us as it did with Judas and Peter.

We will see what God's will is for us in the days to come.

Job 23:13 (NIV) "But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases."

Prov 9:10 (GLT) The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom.

Ps 115:3 (NIV) But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

Ecc 8:3 (NRS) Do not be hasty to go from before him. Do not take a stand in an evil thing, for he does whatever he pleases.

Rom 9:20-21 (NKJ) But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Col 1:21-23 (NRS) For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him--provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel...

2 Pet 1:10 (NIV) Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble.

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