Apostasy Passages in Hebrews

John Owen: “But the design of the apostle in the context leads plainly to another application of these words. It is Christ himself that is spoken of, who was sanctified and dedicated unto God to be an eternal high priest, by the blood of the covenant which he offered unto God, as I have showed before. The priests of old were dedicated and sanctified unto their office by another, and the sacrifices which he offered for them; they could not sanctify themselves: so were Aaron and his sons sanctified by Moses, antecedently unto their offering any sacrifice themselves. But no outward act of men or angels could unto this purpose pass on the Son of God. He was to be the priest himself, the sacrificer himself, — to dedicate, consecrate, and sanctify himself, by his own sacrifice, in concurrence with the actings of God the Father in his suffering. See John 17:19; Hebrews 2:10, 5:7, 9, 9:11, 12. That precious blood of Christ, wherein or whereby he was sanctified, and dedicated unto God as the eternal high priest of the church, this they esteemed “an unholy thing;” that is, such as would have no such effect as to consecrate him unto God and his office. (John Owen, Commentary on Hebrews, vol. 22, p. 676)”

Dr. James White on the apostasy passages in Hebrews:

Do the Apostasy Passages Provide an Over-Riding Theological Matrix?

Though we can hardly enter into a full discussion of all the passages cited in support of a particular theory of apostasy, and though it seems clear that not all of the writers represented in The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism would agree with Pastor Niell on this topic, a brief response to the key passage that is related to our central text (Heb. 10:29) may make our response fuller and more useful.

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:29)

Following John Owen’s understanding of context, we will assume the essential correctness of the position that sees the context of 10:29 as an act of apostasy on the part of a baptized, confessing member of the congregation of Jewish Christians to which the author is writing.[1] Recognizing this immediate context protects the passage from its most common misapplications and brings us to the key issue in our inquiry: in the case of those who knowingly reject their profession of faith and return to Judaism, were these individuals, in the thinking of the writer to the Hebrews, members of the New Covenant, perfected by the death of Christ, sanctified by his blood, who then became imperfect and were lost? Who is the object of the phrase evn w-| h`gia,sqh (“by which he was sanctified”): the apostate or the Son of God? Those who press this passage as a clear indication that the New Covenant can be entered into and yet violated assume that the phrase, which can grammatically be attached to either antecedent, must be applied to the apostate. Continue reading

Many Hear the Gospel with Joy but Don’t Continue in the Faith

“Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You” (Matt. 12:47, NASB). But Jesus answers, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” (v. 48, NASB). Then, indicating His disciples, He says: “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” (vv. 49–50, NASB). Jesus says that His true brother is the one who does the will of the Father, not one who simply makes a decision to follow Him.

We should always keep in mind that nobody forced Judas to become a disciple. Judas chose to follow Jesus; he made his own decision to enter the school of Jesus, and he stayed with our Lord during His earthly ministry for three years. Yet we are told that he was a devil (John 6:70). It wasn’t that Judas was genuinely converted and then fell out of grace and was lost; rather, although he was close to Jesus, he was never a converted man. That ought to give us pause as we consider the states of our own souls.

A little later in the book of Matthew, Jesus gives an explanation of His parable of the sower. It is one of the rare times in the Gospel accounts where we are given an explanation of a parable. That explanation is most helpful because this parable differs from normal parabolic instruction. Most parables have just one point. It is generally dangerous, therefore, to turn parables into allegories, which tend to have symbolic meanings sprinkled throughout the story. But the parable of the sower approaches the level of an allegory as Jesus makes several points of application.

Jesus begins His explanation by saying: “Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path” (Matt. 13:18–19). The first group He is talking about is represented by the seed that fell on the path. In antiquity, at planting time, a farmer sowed his seed first, then plowed the ground. But any seed that fell on a roadway or pathway was not plowed under. Lying on the hardened path, it had no way to take root, and was devoured by birds. Jesus likens the birds to Satan. Many people are like this seed. They hear the preaching of the gospel, but it makes no impact on them. It does not take root in their lives.

Jesus continues, “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (vv. 20–21).

If you go to an evangelistic meeting or watch one on TV, you may see huge crowds thronging to the front of the church in response to the call of the gospel. In fact, I once saw a report about a massive international evangelistic campaign in which millions of people supposedly had made decisions for Christ. When I read that, I wondered how many of those decisions for Christ were true conversions and how many of them were spurious. People like what they hear at these events and can be emotionally moved to make a decision to follow Christ. However, it is an established fact that many of those who come forward at evangelistic meetings soon abandon their commitments altogether. Their spur-of-the-moment responses are often groundless.

I don’t want to be too harsh in my response to reports about the successes of evangelistic events. I recognize that all outreach ministries face the problem of measuring their effectiveness. Churches generally do it by reporting the number of members in their congregations and how much they have grown over a period of time. Evangelistic ministries often do it by reporting the number of people who come to the front, raise a hand, sign a card, or pray a prayer. These ministries want to have some kind of statistic to measure the response people are making.

But how does one measure a spiritual reality? Anyone who has been involved in evangelism knows that we cannot see the heart, so the next best thing is to count the number of decisions that people make. But Jesus warns us about that here in the parable of the sower when He says that many people hear the gospel with joy—but they don’t continue in the faith. This second type of seed falls on stony ground—ground that is so shallow the seed cannot put down roots, and as soon as the sun comes up, the seedlings begin to wither. The result is that they die away and never bear fruit. Jesus tells us that these people fall away because of the tribulations and persecutions that inevitably arise in the way of faith.”

Explaining the third type of seed, Jesus says, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). This seed represents a category of people who also hear and receive the Word, but who are overwhelmed by the cares of this world. Like thorns, worldly cares “choke the word.”

Lastly, Jesus says: “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit” (Matt. 13:23a).

Clearly, then, there are many who respond to the message of the gospel with joy but ultimately do not continue in the faith. Not everyone who hears the Word of God is saved, and the same is true for many who respond to it initially. Those who are genuinely saved are those who prove themselves to be doers of the Word. When the seed takes root and grows, there is fruit.

Among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander

Pastor John, some people look at the verses in 1 Timothy 1:18-20 and say that if Hymenaeus and Alexander once had faith, but now have shipwrecked it, we must conclude that one can lose true faith in Christ.

How would you respond to this claim? Is there more that can be said about these two men, besides, “Since other Scriptures teach perseverance, then we must assume that the faith of Hymenaeus and Alexander must have been a mere profession”?

I think the last sentence in your question does indeed go a long way towards answering your own question, though I believe much more could and should be said.

The 1 Timothy 1:18-20 passage reads:

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

To fully exegete the passage would take far more space than a short blog article would allow for, but I would like to draw out a number of points from the biblical text.
Continue reading

What Romanism Really Is

By Dr. James White – Part 1:

Jason Stellman just announced his defection to Romanism in these words:

More specifically, I no longer see the Reformed doctrines of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide as faithfully reflecting what the Bible teaches, which is why I will, Lord willing, be received into full communion with the Catholic Church sometime in the next several months.

Dr. James White writes: Just a few weeks ago I leaned over and looked Jason in the eye. He was sitting on the couch in my office, a matter of feet from where I am sitting right now. I’m sure he noted with some humor my lava lamps, which would have been directly behind me as I spoke. “If you are going to Rome, go all the way. Mary, Popes, the whole nine yards. Then debate me on it.” He laughed.

As I sadly read the above cited words I could not help but shake my head. Jason knows the Apostles did not teach what Rome teaches on so many things. He knows there wasn’t a single person at Nicea who believes what Rome requires him to believe de fide today, and that he has to buy into a massively complex, easily challenged house of philosophical cards to keep the Roman authority system standing. I do not understand what drives the kind of agnosticism about the authority of God’s Word that has driven him into a system that offers no peace and no finished work of Christ. He refused to defend Romanism when we talked, he only wanted to pose hypotheticals that Rome has no meaningful answer to. But in any case, I can report with honesty that I gave it to him straight: if he went to Rome, he was abandoning the gospel, abandoning his call, abandoning all that is good and right and just and true, for a man-made system of endless penances, alter Christi, non-perfecting sacrifices, satis passio, and enough mythical dogmas about Mary to make the devotees of the Queen of Heaven blush. It will not satisfy, it will leave him empty and forlorn, once that initial “honeymoon” phase is over. When he sees it from the inside, when the glow of the New Convert Syndrome wears off, he will see he has accomplished nothing outside of the destruction of his own ministry and the trust others had placed in him. It is sad to see, but he will have to testify: I warned him clearly, and without compromise. I even asked him, “Has anyone else spoken to you with as much passion?” “No” was his reply.

Immature Christians are often troubled by conversion stories like Jason’s. Look! A minister joined Rome! Look, another joined Islam! Another became a Mormon! Look how many have left the faith and become agnostic or even atheist! There must be something wrong! Such immaturity is borne out of an ignorance of the context of the early Church. The little epistle of First John shows us that even during the days when the Apostles still lived, apostasy was rampant. Opposition was everywhere. False teachers flourished. And the young Christian body could see, out there in the fellowships of the anti-Christs, those who had once stood with them and made a profession of faith. Has Christ failed? Is the Gospel without power? No, the problem here is a false assumption: that it is God’s intention for the church to ever live in ease, without opposition, without false brethren and false teachers to battle, without persecution from the world, and tribulation within. No one who seriously reads the NT literature would come to that conclusion, but sadly, that is the idea many have. John told the young believers,

They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19)

There is a reason for apostasy: “so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” The gospel drives out the hypocrite, the false professor. In fact, if hypocrites and false professors are comfortable in your church, then you have a good reason to question whether the gospel is being preached with clarity and power. Christ knows His sheep. They hear His voice. They do not listen to a man who claims to be the Vicar of Christ, who arrogantly allows himself to be called “Holy Father.” They are satisfied with His Word, which is why false teachers tirelessly seek to inculcate dissatisfaction and distrust in the Word. That is how they get the false disciples to follow them. And we see it happen every day. We should expect to see it happening every day. It is a fulfillment of God’s Word.

Part 2:

More specifically, I no longer see the Reformed doctrines of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide as faithfully reflecting what the Bible teaches, which is why I will, Lord willing, be received into full communion with the Catholic Church sometime in the next several months. – Jason Stellman

Dr. James White writes:

Let’s ponder this a moment. Scripture never directs us to a higher authority than God’s own voice, and identifies itself as theopneustos, God-breathed. Scripture tells us we are justified by grace, by faith, and by the blood of Christ, and that works can never justify. But…that is not what the Bible actually teaches.

What does it teach? It teaches about an infallible Magisterium, and the bishop of Rome; it teaches about an oral tradition no one can identify but which existed outside of the Bible (and, in the case of the Marian dogmas, outside of—everything); it teaches about transubstantiation in all its Aristotelian glory, a never-perfecting sacrifice of Christ, propitiatory sacrifices overseen by men called alter Christus (“another Christ”), purgatory, satis passio, (the suffering of atonement in purgatory), indulgences, and the whole range of Marian dogmas and corollaries including de fide definitions of beliefs utterly unknown to the Apostles or the first ten generations of Christians. Yes indeed, that’s what the Bible teaches because, of course, once you lose confidence in the Word, well, the Word becomes the slave of whatever authority you submit yourself to. And Rome has said it, therefore, that’s what you are to believe.

Compare:

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” – Romans 4:3–8 ESV

(employing a great measure of sarcasm, Dr. White continues….)

Now remember, that’s unclear. We can’t really know what it means, or trust what it says. We need an infallible interpreter, which has instead given us these clear, compelling and truly apostolic words:

1. The doctrine and practice of indulgences which have been in force for many centuries in the Catholic Church have a solid foundation in divine revelation which comes from the Apostles and “develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit,” while “as the centuries succeed one another the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.”

For an exact understanding of this doctrine and of its beneficial use it is necessary, however, to remember truths which the entire Church illumined by the Word of God has always believed and which the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, and first and foremost among them the Roman Pontiffs, the successors of Peter, have taught by means of pastoral practice as well as doctrinal documents throughout the course of centuries to this day.

2. It is a divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishments inflicted by God’s sanctity and justice. These must be expiated either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or “purifying” punishments.

Thus is explained the “treasury of the Church” which should certainly not be imagined as the sum total of material goods accumulated in the course of the centuries, but the infinite and inexhaustible value the expiation and the merits of Christ Our Lord have before God, offered as they were so that all of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. It is Christ the Redeemer Himself in whom the satisfactions and merits of His redemption exist and find their force. This treasury also includes the truly immense, unfathomable and ever pristine value before God of the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, who following in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by His grace have sanctified their lives and fulfilled the mission entrusted to them by the Father. Thus while attaining their own salvation, they have also cooperated in the salvation of their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.

That is from Indulgentiarum Doctrina, a post Vatican II document defining, and defending, the doctrine of indulgences. I challenged Jason Stellman to read it. He hadn’t when we met. I’ll be honest, I sorta doubt he took up my challenge. Not that reading this kind of stuff will dissuade someone who has lost their foundation and are grasping for anything, but for most folks, these words are sufficient warning of the emptiness of Rome’s non-gospel. They are so plainly non-apostolic, so plainly contrary to everything the Apostles cherished and proclaimed, that to believe them is to show, clearly, the true direction of one’s heart. But, in any case, when you hear a wide-eyed Tiber Swimmer talking about how the Bible doesn’t teach sola fide, remember that what they are really telling you is that you can’t know what the Bible really does teach, and that what you should believe is what you just read from Indulgentiarum Doctrina. And once you realize that, well, you realize what Romanism really is.

Among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander

Pastor John, but now have shipwrecked it, we must conclude that one can lose true faith in Christ.

How would you respond to this claim? Is there more that can be said about these two men, besides, “Since other Scriptures teach perseverance, then we must assume that the faith of Hymenaeus and Alexander must have been a mere profession”?

I think the last sentence in your question does indeed go a long way towards answering your own question, though I believe much more could and should be said.

The 1 Timothy 1:18-20 passage reads:

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

To fully exegete the passage would take far more space than a short blog article would allow for, but I would like to draw out a number of points from the biblical text.
Continue reading

But I have prayed for you…

Luke 22: 31 “Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Peter is about to face his greatest ever crisis. He would indeed be sifted, almost to utter breaking point, yet in the midst of his darkest despair and greatest moments of anguish, he would find great comfort knowing that His Master had prayed for him.

The result of Jesus’ prayer was certain, for it is not a question of “IF” Peter turns again but “WHEN.” Jesus will get His prayer answered; Peter will turn again and when that happens, he is told to strengthen his brothers around him. When at his weakest moment, feeling so cut off from God, feeling he had blown it so severely that there was no hope for him left at all; what a deep abiding comfort it would have been to know that Jesus’ prayers would avail. One day, very soon, he would be used by God again to help fortify the faith of others. It seemed impossible to believe, but Jesus never gave a false promise, and His words were to be trusted. What a vision to keep in view in the midst of his darkest hour. On Christ the solid Rock he could stand, believing the words spoken personally to him, for as he was about to find out, all other ground would indeed be sinking sand. There would be nothing else to hold on to – nothing sure, nothing stable, outside of the promises of God.

I find it very interesting that He told Peter this, informing him of His intercession for him. Yet in contrast, there’s no record that he had this kind of a conversation with Judas. There’s the concept of divine election right there.

And what happened? Well, we know what happened, don’t we? Peter denied Him, Judas betrayed Him.

Peter came back… Judas never did, for he was never one of His (Jesus called Judas a devil – John 6:70).

And more than this, such is God’s grace that it was not a 10 year probation period before Peter was ever used by God again, but instead, just a few weeks later, in the very same city where he had denied him, he was the FIRST preacher on the day of Penetecost, and 3,000 souls were added to the Church. Astounding!

In Hebrews 13:5, our English Bibles contains the simple statement, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Yet in the original Greek text, it says far more than this. There is a 4 time repetitive statement of denial.

The Amplified Bible gets closest to the original:

Heb 13: 5 for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]

There are times when it seems we are so battle weary that there is seemingly no strength left to pray. I have been there, and I know I am not alone in that. What a comfort it is to know that we have been given a supreme gift in our Great High Priest and His prayers of intercession for us.

“It is a consoling thought that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life; that He is presenting to the Father those spiritual needs which were not present to our minds and which we often neglect to include in our prayers; and that He prays for our protection against the dangers of which we are not even conscious, and against the enemies which threaten us, though we do not notice it. He is praying that our faith may not cease, and that we may come out victoriously in the end.” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology p. 403)

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” – Robert Murray M’Cheyne

John 17: 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

Romans 8: 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Hebrews 7: 22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Can you hear the words of the Master today? Whatever it is you face, hear Him say, “but I have prayed for you!”

Can a true Christian lose salvation?

Years ago I read this article below by Greg Johnson (original source) and found it very helpful. When people have questions along this line (which they often do) I usually start by pointing them here. I like the article for its great simplicity and depths of insight. – John

One major debate within Christian circles is the question of whether or not a Christian can lose his or her salvation. Arminians argue that true believers can sin so much that they lose their faith and perish. Some Christians respond by arguing that once a person professes faith in Jesus, he is eternally secure in his salvation and—even if he commits complete apostasy (“falls away”) and vocally rejects Jesus Christ—will still go to heaven, for “once saved, always saved.” In light of the biblical doctrine of predestination, how should we understand the security we have under God’s care? There have been three main approaches to the question:

1. Classic Arminianism
• One must persevere in faith to be saved.
• True believers can lose their faith.
• Those dying without faith in Christ are condemned.
“The believer who loses his faith is damned.”

2. Antinomianism
• One need not persevere in faith to be saved.
• True believers can lose their faith.
• Those who lose their faith are saved, since they once believed.
“The believer who loses his faith is saved.”

3. Classic Calvinism
• One must persevere in faith to be saved.
• True believers cannot lose their faith, since it’s God’s gift.
• Those dying without faith in Christ are condemned.
• Those who “lose” their faith never had it to begin with.
• God will preserve true believers and they will be saved.
“The ‘believer’ who loses his faith never really had it—or at least it wasn’t in Jesus.”

Proponents of the first two approaches quote biblical references, but each must strain to explain away the other group’s biblical data. How can an Arminian read Romans 8, then tell true believers that they may screw up and go to hell??? Then again, how can Charles Stanley read Hebrews 6 and 10 and tell unbelievers who once professed faith not to worry, that they will be saved??? Any true biblical teaching must “fit” with ALL the biblical data, without pitting one text against another and without having to explain away a single “jot or tittle” of God’s inerrant Word. I believe that only the classical Calvinist model takes into account all of the biblical data.

Arminians are right when they say the Bible teaches that only those who persevere will be saved, and they’re right in accusing Antinomians of easy-believism and cheap grace. Antinomians (they wouldn’t use the term) are right in telling committed believers that they are secure in Christ and “once saved, always saved.” But both of these views are wrong is assuming that a true believer can lose his faith and fall away from Christ. Faith is “a gift of God—not by works, lest any man boast.” Paul was confident that, since Christ had begun a good work in believers, He would continue that work until completion (Phil. 1). John said that those who fell away were never really true Christians, since true believers don’t leave the faith (1 John 2:19).

Scripture teaches that believers must persevere until the end, but also that believers will persevere until the end by God’s grace. As the Westminster Assembly concluded, Christians might temporarily yield to Satan’s temptations, even to excess, but like Peter when he denied Christ three times, God will still restore and preserve the faith of the Christian, a faith which God gave in the first place! Peter went on to be chief among the apostles! Two biblical principles must be held side-by-side:

1. You Must Persevere until the End: God’s Requirement of His People
God does not merely command us to begin to believe for a time, and then fall away. He requires us to continue to believe until the end, living lives of repentance and covenant faithfulness. Granted, He does not ask for a perfect faith, but He does ask for a real faith, one that produces real, lasting change.
• Colossians 1:21-23
• 1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6
• Hebrews 10:26-31
• Hebrews 12:1

2. You Will Persevere Until the End: God’s Preservation of His People
We will persevere because God preserves us. God will keep us from falling—not one will be lost of all those who belong to the Son. True believers are not able to leave Christ, for Christ is at work within them.

• John 6:38-40
• John 10:28-29
• Romans 8:28-39
• Philippians 1:4-6
• Philippians 2:12-13
• 1 John 2:19

This first set of texts cannot be used to refute the second (Arminianism); nor can the second set of texts be used to refute the first (cheap grace). The point that makes the two compatible is the biblical teaching that faith (while commanded of everyone) is a gift from God to His elect. If faith is simply a human action of a free will, then it can be lost. But if saving faith is God’s gift, then it cannot be lost.

Can professing Christians fall away? Yes, and they will perish.

Can true Christians fall away? No, for they are kept by the invincible power of God in Christ.

The Bible teaches us that professing Christians who leave the faith were never truly believers (1 John 2:19; and notice the qualification even in Hebrews 10:39).

“They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” —Westminster Confession of Faith 17.1, drafted by the Westminster Assembly at the request of the British Parliament 1643-47

Responding to Apostasy

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” – 1 John 2:19

Apostasy – how do we handle it? Christians view apostasy according to their understanding of the work of God in salvation. It is just here where we find a great divide of opinion between those embracing the reformed doctrines of grace, and those who do not.

According to the Scriptures, Jesus does not ever lose a single one of His true sheep (John 10:28-30). All the Father gives to Jesus will come to Jesus, and the Father’s will is that all those given to Him (Jesus) be raised up (to eternal life) on the last day (John 6:37-39). I can’t for a moment see Jesus failing to fulfill the will of His Father. He always carries out His Father’s will. So with great confidence I think we can say that all the ones given to Him, will indeed come to Him, and He will then raise all of these up to eternal life on the last day.

Elsewhere, Romans 8:28-30 presents the Golden Chain of Redemption where, in the five links of the chain forged by God Himself, amongst other things, all whom God calls are justified, and all whom God justifies, He glorifies. No truly justified person falls through the cracks and fails to be glorified. God speaks of their final glorification with such certainty that He does so in the past tense “these whom He justified, He glorified”, yet we know that in time, this refers to something that will yet take place in the future. If we can see ourselves somewhere in this golden chain – namely as one who is justified – then all the other things mentioned in the chain, both backwards and forwards, hold true. If we are justified, we were first called, predestined and foreknown. Truly justified people have the utmost assurance regarding their eternal welfare… those whom He has justified, will be glorified, for He who began the good work in them will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).

With that said, how do we understand it when someone has professed faith in Christ for many a year, and was perhaps even a leader in a Church, and yet then renounces Christ? Were they ever truly united with Christ? Were they in all reality a “former” brother or sister in Christ as some would assert? Did Jesus’ work of mediation work only for a time in their case? Did they possess a temporal form of eternal life and then lose it?
Continue reading