Security and Apostasy

What security is promised to God's children?

The comforting words of Jesus in the Gospel of John, chapter 10: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."

What do these verses teach us?

That God is greater than any adversary of our souls, and therefore we are safe while we remain in His care.

In other words, once we become God's children, we are then eternally secure?

Only if we meet the conditions. We must give heed to the Good Shepherd's voice and follow him.

What of those who claim to be Christians, yet do not follow Christ in their daily lives?

If they do not obey His commandments, we must conclude they are not Christ's sheep. (John 14:15, 23; 1 John 2:4; Luke 6:46, etc.) Therefore, those who do not follow him are not secure.

If Jesus said no man is able to pluck His sheep out of His hand, or out of his Father's hand, how is it possible to fall away from God?

By refusing to meet God's conditions, or by backsliding into sin. God has done His part toward man's salvation, but it remains for man to do his part to avail himself of this free gift of God. We can liken this to a man caught in a storm. God has provided a shelter, and if man by the drawing of God's Spirit is willing to enter that shelter and remain there, the rain and wind can do him no harm. But as a creature of free will, he can choose to leave the shelter and walk out into the storm.

Are there any examples in the New Testament of believers who fell away from the true faith, or voluntarily turned back to a sinful life?

There are. We will list several here:

(1) "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (II Tim. 4:10).

(2) "Holding faith, and a good conscience, which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme" (I Tim. 1:19, 20).

(3) "But now, after that ye [Galatians] have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?. . .I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain" (Gal. 4:9, 11).

What things are not able to separate us from the love of God?

"For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38, 39).

Note anything missing from the above list? Sin is not listed.

What however can and will separate us from God?

"But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have made him hide his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:2).

"He that committeth sin is of the devil" (I John 3:8).

"Any man see his brother sin . . . . There is a sin unto death" (I John 5:16). What warnings are given us to beware of apostasy?

Here are a few:

(1) "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

(2) "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Heb. 3:12).

(3) "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32).

(4) "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 4:11).

(5) "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (I Cor. 10:12).

(6) "Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness" (II Pet. 3:17).

What emphasis did Jesus place on abiding in Him?

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me . . . If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned . . . If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love" (John 15:4, 6, 10).

What do we make of the teaching, "Once a son, always a son"?

It is faulty. If it were true, we could never become God's children in the first place, for the Bible says we are all born "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3) and with Adam's nature.

Others insist that a child of God cannot fall from God's favor, no matter what kind of life he leads. They say that "Once born, it is impossible to be unborn." Are they right?

This is a dangerous teaching that has given false hope to many a backslidden Christian. Even the analogy is distorted -- the opposite of birth is not unbirth, but death. A child may die, and it is likewise possible for a child of God to fall away from God and die a spiritual death. "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom. 8:13).

What does the prophet Ezekiel write about this?

"But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth accord-ing to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die" (Ezek. 18:24).

What does the writer to the Hebrews declare is impossible?

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:4-6).

What is even worse than to never have known the way of righteousness?

To have known it, and then turn away from it. (See II Pet. 2:20, 21).

To what does Peter compare the apostate Christian?

"To a dog that eats its own vomit, or to a sow that having washed herself goes right back to wallowing in the mire again." (II Pet. 2:22; also Prov. 26:11).

Does the Bible predict a period of apostasy is coming?

Yes, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [of Christ] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition" (II Thess. 2:3).

What did Paul write to Timothy on this subject?

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (I Tim. 4:1, 2).

How can we summarize these teachings?

It is not God's will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9), yet He will not force His will upon anyone. Man is given a free will to choose whom he will serve, and therefore he has his part to do to avail himself of God's free gift of salvation.

Our eternal destiny is conditional not only on our becoming a child of God, but on remaining one --persevering in the faith unto death. "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Cor. 7:1).

"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 1:10, 11).

From 1001 Questions and Answers on the Christian Life Copyright 1992 by Pathway Publishers, LaGrange, Indiana USA
Available from:
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June 22, 2000