The Possibility of Apostasy
The issue involved in this study is not whether a child of God may apostatize but can he do so? Is it possible? I do not content that any child of the Lord will fall away so as to be lost but I affirm that there is a possibility of such taking place. Many of our religious friends and neighbors say a child of God cannot apostatize-that such is beyond the realm of possibility. But we affirm that the Word of God abounds in passages setting forth the fact that a child of God can fall so as to be finally lost and God's children are warned again and again of such possibility and that they face such a danger.
May I say, in the very beginning of this article, that I believe in the preservation of the saints. I believe that God's children are kept, preserved, and finally saved, by the power of God. But there is one basic difference between me and those who believe in the impossibility of apostasy and it centers in the answer to this question: are God's children kept, preserved, and eventually saved, by God's power, conditionally or unconditionally? Our Baptist and Presbyterian friends must accept and embrace "Calvanism," even though many of them deny it, and reply, "they are saved unconditionally." For, if they say, "they are saved conditionally" that would involve the certainty of a condition, or conditions, and the possibility that the child of God would fail to meet or comply with the condition. Of course, in this event, that child would be lost since his being saved depended upon conditions which he did not meet. The Bible teaches us that God's children are kept, preserved, and finally saved, by the power of God, but conditionally, and that condition is faith, or faithfulness (I Pet. 1:5), and that we receive at the end of our faith the salvation of our souls (vs. 9). Thus, God's children are told they will be presented to the Lord holy, unblameable and unreprovable in his sight, IF (and that teaches a condition) they continue in the faith (Col. 1 :22-23). So God's children are to be faithful unto death in order to receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). There is no difference between this writer and those who teach the impossibility of apostasy on the condition and destiny of the FAITHFUL child of God. I know there is no power in heaven or hell, on earth or in hades, to cause one single faithful child of God to be lost if he has walked and lived bv faith and finally, at the end of life's journey, died in the triumph of a living faith. Be assured he will hear the Lord say, "well done, good and faithful servant" and he will "enter into the joy of the Lord" (Mt. 25:21-23) for he has complied with the condition whereby God promised to preserve and finally save him. But, here is the issue involving the difference between us and others on this subject: can a child of God fail to meet the condition? Is it possible for him to cease to be faithful? Can he "depart from the faith" (Tim. 4:1 )? Is it possible for him to receive damnation (or condemnation) because he cast off his first faith (I Tim. 5:12)? Can he make shipwreck of his faith and be delivered unto Satan (I Tim. 1:19-20)? Can a child of God err from the faith (I Tim. 6:10), or err concerning the faith (vs. 21 ) and be pierced through with many sorrows? Is it possible for him to deny the faith and thus become worse than an infidel (I Tim. 5:8) ? Can one's faith be overthrown (2 Tim. 2:18) ? Can a child of the Lord cease to fight the good fight of faith as a means whereby he lays hold on eternal life? (I Tim. 6:12.) Now if all of these things just mentioned can NOT be done, if such things are impossible and Christian people are in no danger of such, then the inspired writer wasted his energy and time in writing and warning God's people concerning them! So, despite God's infinite power, he will exercise that power according to his plan. And, according to his plan and will, a child who departs from the faith, errs from the faith, denies the faith, casts off his faith, ceases to be faithful or fails to continue in the faith, will not and cannot be saved. He has failed to meet the condition God stipulated.
In like manner, there is no difference between the writer of this article and those who accept the impossibility of apostasy on the condition and destiny of the BELIEVER-the faithful child of God. As long as he continues to be a believer and is constant in his faith, no power, above or beneath, can cause him to be lost. But, can he believe for a while, and then in time of temptation fall away? (Lk. 8:13.) Is it possible for God's children to be believers (Psa. 106:12) and later this same group of people be classed as unbelievers? (Psa. 106:24.) Can children of God today, like God's children of old, believe for a time and then be guilty of the sin of unbelief? Is there such a possibility? Do they face such a danger? If not, then why are such passages as Jude 5 ; Heb. 3:12, 18-19 and Heb. 5:1, 11 written to children of God? Why is the illustration of Israel used and what is the application made of it by the inspired writer?
If a faithful child cannot cease to be faithful-if it is impossible for a believer to cease to be a believer and be guilty of the sin of unbelief-then no living man can explain the meaning of such passages as Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4. In fact, if a child of God is in no danger of becoming unfaithful or being guilty of the sin of unbelief, even to the extent of failing to gain heaven after while, the entire Hebrew letter is a jargon of idle and meaningless words. So the possibility of apostasy is true. The Scriptures teach it clearly. A child of God can fall away, depart from the faith become guilty of unbelief and, because of such, be lost eternally. This is true because God requires of him that he be faithful unto death. He must meet this condition or he will miss heaven after while. This fact is also stressed in Romans, chapter 11. Those addressed stood in God's favor by faith (vs. 20) but they could, through unbelief, be broken off and lost just as others had been (vs. 23). Thus inspired men tell us that the faithful can become unfaithful, believers can become unbelievers. Such a sin is possible and unless they cast off their unbelief and return to the faith thev will be lost. (Lk. 12:46.)
It has always seemed rather odd to me that if a child of God cannot fall from grace, if it is impossible for such a one to so sin as to be finally lost, then why did inspired men say: (1 ) they HAD fallen (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 6:6, ARV)? (2) Why were they warned about falling and told to "take heed" and "beware" (Heb. 3:12; 1 Cor. 10:12; 2 Pet. 1:17) ? What if I had a sign in my front vard which said, "take heed" or "beware-vicious dog," when I didn't even have a dog and there was no, danger involved ? What would you think of me for sounding such a warning which was empty and meaningless? But, our religious friends and neighbors, in effect, say the same thing about God. Through His inspired penmen He makes known a danger and sounds the warning about the possibility of apostasy (or falling away-2 Thess. 2:3) but many say, "there is no danger-it can't take place-such a thing is impossible." The writer of Heb. 5:1 says, "Let US fear--," but fear implies danger. It would be foolish to use such words and sound such a warning if no danger existed. But a casual study of the context shows us the danger is that through the same sin of unbelief (or unfaithfulness), which characterized Israel of old, God's people of today can fail to gain heaven-the rest that yet remains for God's people. (3) If one can't fall from grace then why did God's penmen tell us what would prevent us f rom falling? (2 Pet. 1:10; Jas. 5:12) and (4) why are we told what to do when we have fallen or others have fallen ? (Rev. 2:5; Jas. 5:19-20.) If we cannot apostatize why are we warned about it and told our fate when we do? (2 Pet. 2:20-21; Heb. 10:26-31.)
Limitations of space prevent us from examining all the arguments (?) used by those who teach the impossibility of apostasy but we would like to mention briefly their two chief proof texts: Rom. 8:35-39 "nothing can separate us from God or Christ" (although the text says the LOVE of God and Christ) ; and John 10:28-29 "they shall never perish neither shall ANY MAN pluck them out of my hand." These two passages do teach that nothing outward and external, apart from man and his desires and will, can separate us or pluck us out of the Fathers hand. But do they mean that not even self or sin can cause such to take place? NO MAN call pluck us, take us away, or separate us, but WE can depart from the faith (I Tim. 5:1) ; WE can err from the faith (I Tim. 6:10, 21) ; WE can err from the Truth (2 Tim. 2:18; Jas. 5:19-20) ; WE can cast off our faith and turn aside unto Satan (I Tim. 5:12, 15) WE can leave our first love (Rev. 2:4-5) WE can turn from God's holy commandments (2 Pet. 2:20-21 ) ; WE can turn frorn our righteousness (Ezek. 18:24-26) ; WE can be moved away (Col. 1:23) ; WE can depart (or fall away) from the living God (Heb. 3:12) (Heb. 6:1-6); WE can walk with him no more (Jno. 6:66) ; WE can allow ourselves to be led off or astray (2 Pet. 3:17; 1 Jno. 2:26 ARV); WE can be drawn away (Acts 20:30); WE can forsake the right way and go astray (2 Pet. 2:15); WE can "swerve" (to miss the mark-deviate from-go astray) and turn aside (I Tim. 1 :6); WE can walk in the wrong way, "after the flesh," and be lost eternally (Rom. 8:1, 4, 6, 8, 13). So, no external being or force, power or agency, "any man," "any other creature," can separate us, but we have just listed over 20 descriptive words and phrases to show what the individual, what SELF, can do or allow to be done. When such takes place man can and will be lost unless he sees the folly of his course, repents and returns to his first love and place of faithfulness and usefulness. But, before we close this study, inay we suggest that it is not only possible that a child of God can apostatize, that he faces such a danger and is warned of such, but it is likely that many will do so. A casual observation of the church and conditions today will convince anyone of this.
A laxness toward moral standards and restraints as well as liberalism toward the complete authority of the New Testament and the all-sufficiency of the church is evidence that there is a departure from the faith on the part of many people. Various attitudes and conditions exist today, which were mentioned by inspired men over 1900 years ago as lying at the roots of apostasy and digression. One of the most prevalent and insidious of these is selfishness. Basically, back of all worldliness (the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride, or vain glory of life) will be found selfishness-the desire for gratification, the desire for gain and the desire for glory. We are more and more self-centered-"lovers of their own selves" (2 Tim. 3:2). Many, more than anything else, are interested in "me and mine"-"what we have and what we can get." We are very little concerncd about the souls -the spiritual needs-of those round about us. But, closely related to this, we are bowing down more and more at the shrine of materialism. We are "modern" Sadducees. We seem interested only in the here and now and act as if the grave ended everything. We are more interested in goods than God, in mammon than our Maker, and in "things" more than souls. Jesus introduced the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 by saying "life does not consist in the abundance of the THINGS that a man possesses." Things are not as important as souls (vs. 20), but Jesus concludes the story by saying everyone else is just like this fool who lays up for himself treasures on the earth and is not rich toward God. (vs. 21.) Anyone who lives for "things" and makes such supreme in his life, is a pagan and will be lost (Mt. 6:19-33.) Remember, the "care and riches of the world" choke out the word and keep it from having free course in our hearts and lives. (Lk. 8:14; Matt. 13:22.) Such things will arrest and destroy our spirituality and cause use to miss heaven after while. Let us live for souls, our souls and the souls of others, and not for things. All material things will soon perish so let us not worship and serve them. Let us lay hold on things more eternal and enduring. The god of pleasure is also turning God's children away from their place of service and faithfulness and many, because of this, have long since been lost to the Cause. Paul said the time would come when men would be "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." (2 Tim. 3:4.) Pleasure also chokes out the Word (Lk. 8:14). These are just a few of the things that plague the church today causing so much indifference on every hand, bringing anxious moments and sleepless nights to gospel preachers, faithful elders and others. Be assured that these things are common among members of the Lord's church today-more evident and prominent than at any time in our lifetime and because of this we say apostasy is not only possible but a reality. It is not only true that some can fall away and be lost but some are doing so. May God help us to see the need of faithfulness, being steadfast, putting the work of the Lord and the cause of Christ first (Mt. 6:33; 1 Cor. 15:58) ; and may we realize that our eternal destiny depends upon it. We, identified as the church of Christ, claim we believe in the possibility of apostasy but I wonder if we do? We have the theory but we deny it in our practice. We live as if we thought a child of God could not be lost despite his carelessness and indifference and regardless of what he did and how he lived. May we all demonstrate, by our faithful lives, that we have the practice as well as the doctrine and we are proving our faith by our works.
Truth Magazine II:12, pp. 1-3