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Sermon No: 21963-Calvinism - Part 7b - Backsliders and Apostates



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SERMON TOPIC: Calvinism - Part 7b - Backsliders and Apostates

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 6 August 2017

Topic Groups: CALVINISM, BACKSLIDING, ARMINIANISM

Sermon synopsis: Last time we saw that it is possible for someone who was a true believer to fall away. Our faith can be shipwrecked.

1 Tim 1:19 … holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.

This next question to consider is whether it is possible for such a person to be restored. This will bring us to the concepts of a backslider versus an apostate.

The Bible differentiates between those who fall away and are brought back (which for the sake of simplicity we’ll refer to as backsliding) and those who cannot be brought back to repentance (which we’ll refer to as apostasy).

Caution: The terms “apostate” and “backslider” are viewed as synonymous by KJV and NASB translators. While the KJV translates passages using the Hebrew word “meshuvah” as “backslide”, the NASB uses the term “apostasy” or “faithless” as an equivalent.

But as the Bible clearly identifies two classes of those who fall away, we’ll stick to using the term “backslider” and “apostate” when making these distinctions – even though this distinction is not made by translators. The distinction is determined by the context.
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ARMINIANISM

& CALVINISM

PART 7b

Last time we looked at the Calvinist doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints.

It is more commonly called “Eternal Security” or “Once saved, Always Saved”.

Calvinism

Arminianism

Total Depravity

Prevenient Grace

Unconditional Election

Conditional Election

Limited Atonement

Unlimited Atonement

Irresistible Grace

Resistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints

Falling from grace

PERSEVERANCE OF SAINTS

Calvinists believe in the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, which holds that those whom God has called can never fall away. Because God chose some to be saved, he keeps them from apostasy and those who do apostatize were never truly born again.

Some non-Calvinists advocate a similar doctrine of Eternal Security teaching that once a person is saved, his or her salvation can never be lost.

Arminians generally believe that salvation is secure and protected from all external forces, but it is conditional on us remaining in Christ, and it can be lost through apostasy. Salvation is conditioned on faith, therefore perseverance is also conditional. Apostasy (turning from Christ) can be committed through a deliberate, wilful rejection of Jesus and renouncement of previous faith.

PERSEVERANCE

If I say that someone fell off the roof, the implication is that they were on the roof. Calvinists effectively argue that if you fell off the roof, you never were on the roof in the first place.

They repeatedly resort to arguments that are logically absurd like, “If a person falls away, they were never saved”. What exactly are they falling away from then? You must hold a particular position in order to “fall away” from it.

FALLING AWAY

Last time we saw that it is possible for someone who was a true believer to fall away. Our faith can be shipwrecked.

1 Tim 1:19 … holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.

This next question to consider is whether it is possible for such a person to be restored. This will bring us to the concepts of a backslider versus an apostate.

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

APOSTASY

Apostasy: a falling away, a withdrawal, a defection.

The Hebrew word is meshubah - turning back.

The Greek word is apostasia - defection, revolt.

In classical Greek, apostasy signified revolt from a military commander. 1 In Christianity, apostasy is a wilful departure from the faith.

One cannot accidentally lose one’s salvation. But one can deliberately walk away from God… Apostates are hardened to the point of not being able to repent (Heb 6:6; 10:26) … Apostasy is deliberately siding with the enemies of Christ (Phil 3:18) despite the knowledge of the gospel. 2

1 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 2 http:// www.bibleissues.org/ apostasy1.html

AN APOSTATE

Theologian Stephen Ashby summarizes the core beliefs of Jacobus Arminius and the Remonstrants as follows:

Prior to being drawn and enabled, one is unable to believe… able only to resist.

Having been drawn and enabled, but prior to regeneration, one is able to believe… able also to resist.

After one believes, God then regenerates; one is able to continue believing… able also to resist.

Upon resisting to the point of unbelief, one is unable again to believe… able only to resist 1 (i.e. the apostate).

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Arminianism

ARMINIANISM

John Wesley disagreed with Arminius in maintaining that all falling away was not final. He writes that “innumerable are the instances… of those who had fallen but now stand upright.”

Wesley writes of the state of salvation:

Q.31. Can those who fall from this state recover it? A. Why not? We have many instances of this also. Nay, it is an exceeding common thing for persons to lose it more than once, before they are established therein. 1

These people Wesley calls “backsliders” as opposed to “apostates”.

1 A plain account of Christian perfection, Section 25, Question 31

WESLEYAN ARMINIANISM

The Bible differentiates between those who fall away and are brought back (which for the sake of simplicity we’ll refer to as backsliders) and those who cannot be brought back to repentance (which we’ll refer to as apostates).

Caution: The terms “apostate” and “backslider” are viewed as synonymous by KJV and NASB translators. While the KJV translates passages using the Hebrew word “meshubah” as “backslide”, the NASB uses the term “apostasy” or “faithless” as an equivalent. E.g. Jer 8:5

NASB: Why then has this people, Jerusalem, Turned away in continual apostasy (meshubah)?

KJV: Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding?

NIV: … Why does Jerusalem always turn away?

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

But as the Bible clearly identifies two classes of those who fall away, we’ll stick to using the term “backslider” and “apostate” when making these distinctions – even though this distinction is not made by translators.

The distinction is determined by the context. E.g. based on this definition, Hosea 14:4 refers to backsliding - not apostasy.

NASB: I will heal their apostasy (meshubah), I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them.

KJV: I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

But the writer of Hebrews warns against apostatizing:

Heb 6:4-6 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Calvinists argue that these people were never really saved (Remember the man who fell off the roof while not being on it?). They try to make a distinction between “tasting” and “eating” but this is clutching at straws. I don’t believe the author of Hebrews intended any such inference to be read into the word translated “taste”.

AN APOSTATE

Cross-referencing the Greek word used for “taste” we see that it is sometimes translated as “eat” (Acts 10:10, 20:11), which repudiates the idea that the two terms should be contrasted.

It is defined in the Strongs (Ref 1089) as follows - “geuomai: to taste, eat”.

The KJV translates Strong’s G1089 in the following manner:

taste (12x)

eat (3x)

TASTE VS EAT

In Heb 2:9 “geuomai” is used of Jesus who would “taste death for everyone”. The idea of “taste” here is that Jesus would experience death for everyone.

TASTE VS EAT

Likewise Heb 6:4 is referring to those “who have experienced the heavenly gift”.

Again in Hebrews, the following warning is given to Christians about apostatizing:

Heb 10:26-31 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 

AN APOSTATE

 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Yet again Calvinists will argue that this is talking about people who were never saved in the first place.

But it refers to those who have been “sanctified” by “the blood of the covenant”. Even by their own argument (that Jesus’ blood was limited to sanctify the elect), this must be a reference to the elect.

AN APOSTATE

In overall context, the book of Hebrews is being written to Christians who were in the New Covenant. Because of persecution, they were being tempted to revert to the Old Covenant (i.e. Judaism without Christ).

This would have been a willing rejection of Jesus, despite knowing the truth, for the sake of convenience and to escape persecution for the sake of Christ. This is apostasy. The writer of Hebrews says that to do so is tantamount to:

crucifying the Son of God all over again

trampling the Son of God under foot

treating as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified you

insulting the Spirit of grace

AN APOSTATE

Are some people who fall away false converts? Yes – but this cannot be applied to all. In the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 we find 4 groups of people:

The seed on the path is a false convert who “hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it”, Eventually “the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart” (v19). The following Scripture applies to false converts.

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

Calvinists mistakenly apply this verse to all who fall away, ignoring the “seed on the rocky place” scenario.

THE SOWER

The seed among the thorns is a believer who is barren and fruitless. This is “the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (v22). This is the believer referred to in the following Scripture.

1 Cor 3:15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

But the seed on the rocky place is initially a true convert “who hears the word and at once receives it with joy” (v20). But he “quickly falls away” (i.e. apostatises) “when trouble or persecution comes because of the word” (v21).

The seed on the good soil is a true convert “who hears the word and understands it” and “produces a crop” (v23).

THE SOWER

In answering the Pharisees, Jesus makes a statement that has troubled many Christians ever since: the so-called “unforgivable sin.”

Mark 3:28-29 “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

AN UNFORGIVABLE SIN

What troubles people is the suggestion that there is a type of sin that God will not forgive. What is the sin that “will never be forgiven”?

Some see this as a reference to the apostate who cannot be brought back to repentance.

But while similar, it is not the same. Apostates after believing fall away without recovery. In contrast, the Pharisees had never believed.

Nevertheless there are useful parallels we can note between the 2 conditions.

In both cases the person is hardened to the point that repentance is not possible – even in this specific case, after personally witnessing a supernatural event.

AN UNFORGIVABLE SIN

This is a very sobering teaching! But lets’ put it into its Biblical context.

Jesus didn’t address these warnings to his disciples or the general crowd, but specifically to the Pharisees.

Jesus had just cast a demon out of a man. (Matt 12:22-32). In response the Pharisees allege, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” (Mark 3:22).

They did not deny that a miracle had taken place, but rather than acknowledging that Jesus was using divine power, they were so spiritually depraved that they attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan.

“Their problem was not blind ignorance, but wilful rejection,” points out Rick Cornish. (Five Minute Theologian)

AN UNFORGIVABLE SIN

Is it possible that you’ve committed the eternal sin and blasphemed the Holy Spirit unintentionally?

“If you’re worried that you may be guilty of the unforgivable sin, you almost certainly are not,” Rick Cornish aptly points out in his book Five Minute Theologian. “Concern about committing it reveals the opposite attitude of what the sin is. Those who might be guilty wouldn’t care because they have no distress or remorse over the possibility.” 1

Some also worry that maybe they are apostates and thus cannot be forgiven. If you were truly an apostate, this wouldn’t worry you. An apostate in this condition is hardened to the point where they have no desire to repent or to be forgiven.

1 https:// www.biblegateway.com/ blog/ 2012/ 10/ what-is-the-unforgivable-sin/

AN UNFORGIVABLE SIN

Doesn’t this contradict verses like 1 John 1:9, which says that God forgives all sin that is confessed.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

God does forgive all confessed sin, but people in this condition (of apostasy) are so hardened (calloused) that they never repent or see the need for forgiveness. Jesus said of them:

“For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matt 13:15)

AN UNFORGIVABLE SIN

WHY IS APOSTASY UNPARDONABLE?

1 Tim 1:13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.

Paul obtained mercy for his sins because he acted in ignorance. An apostate is a believer who rejects the truth, not due to ignorance - but a wilful rejection of the truth.

Although Paul persecuted the church, was a blasphemer and an enemy of God, he did all this when he was unenlightened and had no first-hand experience of the gospel.

DELIBERATE SIN

2 Pet 2:15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer…

Peter gives Balaam as an example of an apostate. Balaam knew God’s will, but was tempted by the offer of money (Jude 11). He did not sin in ignorance but willingly sided with an enemy of God against God’s people.

DELIBERATE SIN

Jude adds to the list – Cain and Korah

Jude 11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

Cain wanted to serve God on his own terms, opposed and killed his brother who served God in the prescribed way.

DELIBERATE SIN

Korah rejected God’s appointed leaders and incited others to rebellion. Whilst in a state of rebellion and without repentance he and his followers were destroyed in an act of judgment from God (Num 16).

DELIBERATE SIN

Jude gives other examples of apostates, who sinned deliberately despite knowing the truth.

The Israelites who rebelled after experiencing God’s deliverance from Egypt.

Jude 5 … I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.

DELIBERATE SIN

The fallen angels of Genesis 6 who sinned, despite having been in the very presence of God.

Jude 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling— these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

DELIBERATE SIN

After urging his readers to contend earnestly for the faith, Jude highlights the reason: “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (vs. 4). In this one verse, Jude provides Christians with three traits of apostasy and apostate teachers.

First, Jude says that apostasy can be subtle. Jude uses the word “crept” … to describe the apostate’s entry into the church. In extra-biblical Greek, the term describes the cunning craftiness of a lawyer who, through clever argumentation, infiltrates the minds of courtroom officials and corrupts their thinking. 

TYPES OF APOSTASY

The word literally means “slip in sideways; come in stealthily; sneak in; hard to detect.” In other words, Jude says it is rare that apostasy begins in an overt and easily detectable manner… The apostle Paul also speaks to the outwardly pleasing behaviour of apostates and their teaching when he says, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:13-14). In other words, do not look for apostates to appear bad on the outside or speak dramatic words of heresy at the outset of their teaching. Rather than denying truth outright, apostates will twist it to fit their own agenda, but as pastor R. C. Lensky has noted, “The worst forms of wickedness consist in perversions of the truth.” 

TYPES OF APOSTASY

 Second, Jude describes the apostates as “ungodly” and as those who use God’s grace as a license to commit unrighteous acts. Beginning with “ungodly,” Jude describes eighteen unflattering traits of apostates so his readers can more easily identify them. Jude says the apostates are ungodly (vs. 4), morally perverted (vs. 4), denying Christ (vs. 4), ones who defile the flesh (vs. 8), rebellious (vs. 8), people who revile angels (vs. 8), who are ignorant about God (vs. 8), those who proclaim false visions (vs. 10), self-destructive (vs. 10), grumblers (vs. 16), fault finders (vs. 16), self-satisfying (vs. 16), people who use arrogant words and false flattery (vs. 16), mockers of God (vs. 18), those who cause divisions (vs. 19), worldly minded (vs. 19), and finally (and not surprisingly), devoid of the Spirit/ unsaved (vs. 19). 

TYPES OF APOSTASY

 Third, Jude says apostates “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” How do apostates do this? Paul tells us in his letter to Titus, “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:15-16). Through their unrighteous behaviour, the apostates show their true selves. Unlike an apostate, a true believer is someone who has been delivered from sin to righteousness in Christ. 1

1 https:// www.gotquestions.org/ apostasy.html

TYPES OF APOSTASY

The following things can cause believers to fall away (backslide) and ultimately lead to apostasy (if there is no repentance).

Persecution

Matt 24:9-10 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other…”

The recipients of the Book of Hebrews were being tempted to apostatize by returning to the Old Covenant because of persecution.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Temptation

Luke 8:13 (NASB) “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away (Gk: aphistantai).”

Aphistémi (from apo and histémi): to lead away, to depart from, seduce

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Taking offense at Jesus’ teaching

After taking offense at some of Jesus’ harder teaching “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66).

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Repeatedly resisting the work of God in your life

Prov 29:1 Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed--without remedy.

Heb 6:6-8 (NASB) … 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. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

“Before I left the farm,” Moody related about an experience in his early manhood, “I was talking one day to a man who was working there, and who was weeping. I said to him, ‘What is the trouble?’ And he told me a very strange story - strange to me then, for I was not at that time a Christian. He said that his mother was a Christian when he left home to seek his fortune. When he was about starting, his mother took him by the hand and spoke these parting words: ‘My son, seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’ ‘This,’ said he, ‘was my mother’s favourite text’… He went to a little church, and the minister preached from the text, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God;’ and he thought the text and sermon were meant for him. 

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

 He wanted to get rich; and when he was settled in life he would seek the kingdom of God… It was not long before he heard another minister preach from the same text, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God.’ He thought someone must have been speaking to the minister about him… But he said, when he got settled in life, and had control of his time, and was his own master, he would then seek the kingdom of God. Some time after he was at another age, and here went to church again; and he had not been going a great while when he heard the third minister preach from the same text: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God…’ He said it went right down into his soul; but he calmly and deliberately made up his mind that he would not become a Christian until he had got settled in life, and owned his farm. 

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

 This man said, ‘Now I am what the world calls rich. I go to church every Sunday; but I have never heard a sermon, from that day to this, which has ever made any impression on my heart. My heart is as hard as a stone.’ As he said that, tears trickled down his cheeks. I was a young man, and did not know what it meant. When I became converted, I thought I would see this man when I should go back home, and preach Christ to him. When I went back home I said to my widowed mother, naming the man, ‘Is he still living in the same place?’ My mother said, ‘He’s gone mad, and has been taken away to the insane asylum; and to every one that goes to see him he points his finger and says, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God’. 

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

 I thought I should like to see him; but he was so far gone it would do no good. The next time I went home he was at his home, idiotic. I went to see him. When I went in, I said, ‘Do you know me?’ He pointed his finger at me and said, ‘Young man, seek ye first the kingdom of God.’ God had driven that text into his mind, but his reason was gone. 3 years ago, when I visited my father’s grave, I noticed a new stone had been put up. I stopped, and found it was my friend’s. That autumn wind seemed to be whispering that text, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God.’” 1

1 www.wholesomewords.org/ biography/ biomoody.html

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Repeated deliberate sin

Heb 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

In context, the sin mentioned is forsaking fellowship

Heb 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

(NASB) not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Unbelief

Heb 3:12 (NASB) Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away (Gk: apostēnai) from the living God.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Open sexual sin

Rev 2:14-16 … You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Hearing the word, but not obeying it

Rev 3:2-3 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Lovelessness

Rev 2:4-5 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Love of money

1 Tim 6:9-10 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

E.g. Balaam

Jude 11 … they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error...

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

E.g. Judas

Luke 22:3-6 (NASB) And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. They were glad and agreed to give him money.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

An evil society and pervasiveness of moral evil.

Matt 24:12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”

Being lukewarm, complacent and worldly

Rev 3:15-17 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

2 Tim 4:10 … for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me…

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Political expedience as in the case of Jeroboam, and the desire for convenience – by his subjects

Jeroboam was told that God would give him ten of the tribes of Israel to rule because of the apostasy of Solomon.

1 Kings 11:33 “I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth…, Chemosh… and Molech … and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did.”

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Despite being aware of this, once in power, he himself apostatized by given Israel false gods to worship. He was afraid that when his subjects went to Jerusalem to worship they might defect and rebel against him. So he gave them an alternate religion of convenience.

1 Kings 12:28-32 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Desire to please people, rather than God – as with Saul.

1 Sam 15:17-24 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? …Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?” …Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Being unequally yoked in marriage and hence spiritual compromise – as with Solomon.

1 Kings 11:4-6 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth… and Molech … So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Disregard for sound doctrine

2 Tim 4:3-4 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside (Gk: apostrepsous) into myths.

Apostasy is often linked to false and heretical teaching.

Matt 24:5 (NASB) “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.”

Gal 1:6 (NASB) I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

1 Tim 4:1 (NASB) … in later times some will fall away (Gk: apostēsontai) from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons

2 Tim 4:3-4 (NASB) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away (Gk: apostrepsousin) their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

Col 2:8 (ESV) See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

2 Pet 3:17 (NASB) … be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.

2 Pet 2:14-19 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! … For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity…

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

That God takes apostasy and false teaching seriously is evidenced by the fact that every New Testament book except Philemon contains warnings about false teaching. Why is this? Simply because ideas have consequences. Right thinking and its fruit produces goodness, whereas wrong thinking and its accompanying action results in undesired penalties.

It should be remembered that Satan did not come to the first couple in the Garden with an external armament or supernatural weapon; instead, he came to them with an idea. And it was that idea that condemned them and the rest of humankind, with the only remedy being the sacrificial death of God’s Son. 

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

 The great tragedy is, whether knowingly or unknowingly, the apostate teacher dooms his unsuspecting followers. One of the most frightening verses in all of Scripture comes from the lips of Jesus. Speaking to His disciples about the religious leaders of His day, He said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14)… Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard put it this way: “For it has never yet been known to fail that one fool, when he goes astray, takes several others with him.” 1

1 https:// www.gotquestions.org/ apostasy.html

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Acts 20:28-30 (ESV) Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Matt 24:10-11 (NASB) “At that time many will fall away (Gk: skandalisthēsontai) and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.”

Skandalisthēsontai: NASB usually translates as “fall away”, KJV as “take offence”, Interlinear as “stumble”.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

E.g. teaching reverting to legalism (Old Covenant).

The Galatians were receiving false teaching from people who said they had to be circumcised to be saved.

Gal 5:3-4 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

The Book of Hebrews cautions its audience, who were being tempted to apostatize by returning to the Old Covenant:

Heb 13:9 (ESV) Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Forbidding marriage and eating of certain foods (asceticism)

1 Tim 4:1-3 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods…

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

Teaching license (grace as a means to live in habitual sin) – i.e. Hyper-grace

Rev 2:20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

Teaching Full Preterism

2 Tim 2:17-18 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.

CAUSES OF FALLING AWAY

The state of an apostate is worse than a person who has never known the truth.

2 Pet 2:20-21 (ESV) For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour 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.”

Peter describes them as follows:

These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. (2 Pet 2:17)

THE FINAL STATE

Expanding on what Peter wrote, Jude describes apostates (who still profess Christianity) as:

…blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 12-13).

The term “twice dead” indicates that although they were born again, they are spiritually dead for the second time.

THE FINAL STATE

God destines apostates for destruction.

Isa 65:11-16 (ESV) But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountainI will destine you to the sword… because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.” Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, my servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame; behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart, but you shall cry out for pain of heart and shall wail for breaking of spirit. You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse, and the Lord God will put you to death, but his servants he will call by another name...”

THE FINAL STATE

BACKSLIDING

See NOTE 3

Continuing to backslide without repenting will ultimately lead to apostasy e.g. in the case of Israel there is initially a call to repentance, which is refused.

Jer 3:6-7 (NKJV) The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return.”

So God “divorces” (i.e. the covenant is terminated) Israel for spiritual adultery.

Jer 3:8 (NKJV) “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce…”

UNREPENTANT BACKSLIDER

There are cases in the OT where rebellion against God is treated most severely, by cutting the person off (the OT equivalent of excommunication). This person is contrasted with the one who sins unintentionally.

Num 15:28 (NASB) “The priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven.”

Num 15:30-31 (NASB) “But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.”

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

The verb “cut off” (karat) used here cannot mean “put to death physically” as an atonement for his own sin, as many in the eternal security camp suggest. Moses uses the same root in the phrase “certificate of divorce” (Deuteronomy 24:1). There it means legal and physical separation, not execution, whether carried out by God or man. 1

1 http:// enrichmentjournal.ag.org/ 201101/ 201101_102_apost_backslide.cfm

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

However there are other passages where the outcome for those who fall is positive. The OT relates many instances where Israel falls into sin, comes into disfavour with God, repents, and is restored.

Jer 3:22 (NKJV) “Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings.”

Whether our English translation of the Bible employs the word backsliding or not, all the component parts of what we know to be backsliding are present: a temporary disruption in our relationship with God due to temporary disobedience, which we resolve by repentance, and then a restoration of fellowship with no eternal consequences. 1

1 http:// enrichmentjournal.ag.org/ 201101/ 201101_102_apost_backslide.cfm

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

Some believe the following passage refers to physical death and is typical of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–10) or those alluded to in 1 Cor 11:30. 1

1 John 5:16-18 (ESV) If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

But others see this as another reference to apostasy i.e. spiritual death due to habitual sin. If this is the case, a backslider and apostate are being contrasted.

1 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

The best example of the difference between an apostate and a backslider are the cases of Judas and Peter.

Peter was a backslider. He denied Jesus, but was brought back to repentance.

Judas was an apostate. He betrayed Jesus and although remorseful, killed himself without being restored to God.

An apostate, like Judas, may openly oppose Jesus and the gospel after having formerly supported it.

Acts 1:16-17 … “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus—he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.”

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

After listing several cases of apostates, Jude refers to those who doubt – either a weak Christian or a backslider, but clearly are redeemable.

Jude 22-23 Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

THE WEAK & BACKSLIDER

Paul instructs the Corinthian church to excommunicate a man living in open sexual sin.

1 Cor 5:4-5 When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

The purpose for excommunication (handing him over to Satan) was for ultimate restoration. After he repented, Paul instructs them to accept him back into fellowship.

2 Cor 2:7-8 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

BACKSLIDERS EXAMPLES

Although some see Hymenaeus and Alexander as a clear case of apostasy because of the term “shipwreck”, when Paul speaks of them he uses the same term (handed over to Satan) that he did with the backsliding Corinthian.

1 Tim 1:19-20 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

It appears that restoration was again the intended outcome - by virtue of Paul’s statement “to be taught not to blaspheme” (not “to be punished for blasphemy”).

BACKSLIDERS EXAMPLES

The Judean king Amaziah initially “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chron 25:2). When dealing with the men responsible for his father’s murder, he spared their children “in accordance with what is written in the Law” (2 Chron 25: 4). He obeyed the prophet of God by dismissing the ungodly troops he had recruited from neighbouring Israel, despite the fact that he had already paid them (2 Chron 25:6-9).

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

But Amaziah turned away from following the Lord” (2 Chron 25:27). When he returned from fighting the Edomites, he brought back their gods, “set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them” (2 Chron 25:14).

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

Unlike David who heeded the rebuke of the prophet Nathan and repented, Amaziah threatened the prophet who rebuked him.

2 Chron 25:15-16 The anger of the LORD burned against Amaziah, and he sent a prophet to him, who said, “Why do you consult this people’s gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?” While he was still speaking, the king said to him, “Have we appointed you an adviser to the king? Stop! Why be struck down?” So the prophet stopped but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”

As a result God delivered “them into the hands of Jehoash” (2 Chron 25:20), the king of Israel. Amaziah was subsequently assassinated, dying an apostate.

APOSTATE VS BACKSLIDER

In contrast, David is a perfect example of a backslider who was restored. He committed adultery and even was party to the killing of Uriah.

Backsliders can be forgiven. When confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding his sin, David responds by saying, “I have sinned against the LORD”, to which Nathan replies, “The LORD has taken away your sin” (2 Sam 12:13). In his Prayer of the Penitent (Ps 51) David begs God, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity” (v9).

REPENT OF BACKSLIDING

There was a need for renewal - “renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps 51:10).

Note that David asks God, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps 51:11), indicating that this was a possibility. He prays, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Ps 51:12) although some teach that he could never have lost it.

Yet he is confident that God will hear him because, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps 51:17).

David repented and was restored, but there were consequences to his sin. Remember that “The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways” (Prov 14:14).

REPENT OF BACKSLIDING

God wants the backslider to return to him.

Zech 1:3 “Therefore tell the people: … ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you’ …

A CALL TO BACKSLIDERS

If you have grown cold and drifted away from God, make right with God today – while you still hear the call of God. Don’t leave it so long that your heart becomes hardened.

Heb 3:7-13 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion… where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

A CALL TO BACKSLIDERS

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http:// www.Lockman.org)




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