The Truth About Apostasy

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” 

—Hebrews 6:4-6

The weight of these verses are easily felt and unsettling. At least they should be.

Taken in isolation, the plain reading seems to suggest that one can descend and willfully cover the immeasurable distance from the throne of God’s grace to the depths of His disdain. That a seemingly faithful Christian can slip the warm embrace of his or her loving Father and fall to their eternal death amidst the jagged rocks and watery grave created by the wickedly foolish decision to taste His Love and choose perversion instead. And perhaps the scariest part of all—the wage of such decrepitness is said to be a guaranteed, damned fate. A promise of destruction from a stupidly credible source. 

It’s frightening. But is it true?

Can a Christian move from a state of adoption by God and justification, completely forgiven for all their many sins and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to being an object of unrelenting scorn from the God they once called Abba

There’s a serious problem if you say yes.

Where the rubber meets the road

The Bible either agrees with itself or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t—even in one place—it’s not God’s word and we of all people are most to be pitied. And there is a definite case to be made for the eternal security of all those who have truly sought the Son of Glory for life and peace with God. 

If you ever venture past the fifth chapter in John’s gospel, eventually you’ll stumble into a conversation where Jesus elaborates on His mission to seek and save the lost. Why this section is so important in our discussion is because He explicitly outlines who the group is that He is seeking and will come to Him for salvation, along with what that group can expect from Jesus and in eternity. 

He says:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 

—John 6:37‭-‬40‭, ‬47 

The ones that the Father gave are the ones who come. The ones who come and the ones who believe are both raised on the last day because they are the same group. And of that group, Jesus Himself says that He will never cast out anyone, nor lose any—but that all who believe and who are possessors of eternal life (v. 47), for them that life is what it claims to be; eternal. It will never end (starting from the moment they acquire it). Never at any time are the “given ones” who have found their way to Christ, in jeopardy of losing that which God planned for them from before the world began. Christ will lose none.

And that’s just one place amongst many where you can go and find God’s gracious promise of abiding affection in His heavenly word.

To beat that which is dead

But in an attempt to put a nail in this coffin, with the full realization that the best I can do is to grossly under-deliver on the further exposition of this wonderfully encouraging doctrine, I will venture on.

In Romans 5:1, Paul tells us that justification is a present reality for the believer and is resultan from belief in Christ—faith in the intercessory work He accomplished on our behalf. Why this is so important is he goes on later to say that said justification was foreknown and predestined from eternity-past and is just one link in a most blessed golden chain that’s anchored in glory. And to double down, later on in that same chapter, to highlight the secure hope that every faith-filled and justified believer can own (in Christ), Paul decides to list all the things that stand no chance at separating the believer from God’s redemptive and tenacious love, and the list includes (no joke) “anything in all Creation.”

It’s basically a brute fact. The Bible teaches in more than one place that salvation was foreordained and absolutely accomplished for a people that God Himself would personally quicken and pursue until all find rest and refuge in His eternally joyous presence.

Or to put it another way:

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

—Philippians 1:6 

Yes, only those who persist in faith shall inherit eternal life. But who persist in faith? Answer—those whom God is working in, both to will and to work for His good purposes. And God finishes what He starts.

Great! Now what?

If Scripture teaches then that God will surely bring every lamb safely into the pasture of His grace, what do we do with the passages that seem to say otherwise?

John says it the best:

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

Those who come in, profess faith, and afterwards depart—never to return—never had a living faith to begin with. They possessed the appearance of a Christian, but never the substance; never did they have Christ Himself. 

And it has always been this way for God’s people. 

Jacob’s nation was chosen and used by God as a living canvas to explain His marvelous love towards the fallen sons of Adam. Israel was chastised, but never forgotten. Disciplined, but always restored. But not all Israel was Israel. Not every physical descendant of Abraham drew near to his God. And just like in the Old Covenant assembly, the New Covenant Church has within it men and women who profess to be partakers of grace and blood-bought servants of the Most High God, but are in fact tares among the wheat—the religious dead.

It makes no difference. Every single sinner who fails to lay their every hope of being made right with God at the feet of Christ will answer for their every sin when the bill comes due. This is true for everyone. And sadly, there are many souls in church pews all over the globe, unwilling to fully entrust Jesus the Savior with their salvation. Professing Christ as Savior and actually trusting Him to save are rarely at odds, but they can be. And when they are, there’s nothing more dangerous for that person and crucial to address. 

The answer to the apostasy texts

To live a life in the epicenter of God’s abundant blessing (the Church), showered constantly with the benefits of Him dwelling in your midst until you’re wet from head to toe with Gospel-truth, and then to brazenly turn from that truth is a callousing event and on par with murdering afresh the Son of God. A torturous thought for one already in union with Christ, and a serious warning to all who aren’t. I’m convinced that these are the two primary reasons we find Hebrews 6:4-6, and other verses like it, in our Bibles. 

They are warnings.

Such deterring words from the Creator have a Spirit-wrought sanctifying effect on the believer, exhorting them to diligence in making their call and election sure. And for the unbeliever, these sharp words serve as a stern reminder to judge aright the gravity that exists for those who meddle in matters of eternity; which is everyone—but especially them for having been visited by the very words of God. The audience that entertains such cautious utterance about the dangers of neglecting to look intently at Christ and not forsake Him, entertains either inexplicable kindness or the most ominous of omens. And in the end, those who are being sanctified will reap sanctification out of the same well of words that predicted destruction for they who sought not the Savior when He was offered.

Prodigal Saints and a patient Father

There’s one last angle I think we ought to consider. And that’s this—

God sending His Spirit to take residence in the one who believes is His “John Hancock” that secures our adoption, which He likens to a down payment on future exaltation and an irrevocable promise of His everlasting friendship.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

—Ephesians 1:13‭-‬14

And not only that, God has made us His children. 

As in the story of the Prodigal Son, when the son strays, the father doesn’t renounce the son—he waits. He patiently and longingly looks to his son’s return, like God does for His children who have wandered. And as we’ve already touched on, God has ordained for all those who have believed on His Son, whom He has made His children, that not one would fall from His grasp. Not one would fail to return.

And so He’ll wait. God does not adopt to later disown. 

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