Apostasy, Right Ahead!

Now that two public Christians have renounced their faith, some thoughts about the other 99% of us:

Apostasy is a possibility for every single Christian.

Every single Christian is at risk.

Every single Christian is in constant risk.

Now: How can I, who believe in eternal security, say this? Aren’t we supposed to tell everyone that “I have absolute security of my salvation?”


The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” in no way eliminates the doctrine “there are people who have profess Christ, are baptized, join the church, do good works, and then walk away from it.” Apostasy happens all the time, but the thousands of other people who slipped away this month may have just kept it to themselves.

What confuses us, at least in the tradition I grew up in, is that we have a messed-up set of labels. I was taught that, if a person wanders away from church, from walking with Christ, from faith, that that person is “backslidden”. But I cannot find in the Bible that “backsliding” in that sense is in the vocabulary of the gospel. Sliding away from Christ is not a case of someone saying something like, “Well, I was on a low-carb diet, but I backslid!” No, when a person rejects Christ – or passively, just slips away from Christ – that person is in eternal peril. I refuse to give any comfort to a backslidden person, only warnings of danger! In fact, I know of no way to distinguish between backsliding and apostasy, except that the apostate is possibly more open about his or her state. In that case of Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson, I am horrified that they lost their way – or tossed it away – but at least they were frank about it.

I read one article by a man who suggested that Harris couldn’t have really been serious, that he would snap out of it. What an odd interpretation of someone who has openly renounced Christ! The Bible has it that Christ will renounce him before God on Judgment Day, period (Matt 10:33).

“I see that hand!”

Another problem, and much more toxic, is this idea that, once you raise your hand to accept Christ, it does not matter what happens from then on, you are saved eternally.

Although I would rather not mention his name, I am obliged to quote Charles Stanley, who teaches a serious error:

God’s love for His people is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from the faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand.… [We] are not saved because we have an enduring faith. We are saved because at a moment in time we expressed faith in our enduring Lord…Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy…believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation, for God remains faithful. [1]

Please read that again carefully.

I looked around to see if Charles Stanley has recently commented on Joshua Harris’s or Marty Sampson’s defections, but found nothing. However, I can see no way out of saying that according to his doctrine it should be framed like this:

Even though Joshua Harris is now an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy. Marty Sampson was saved at the moment that he expressed faith in our enduring Lord; he has lost his faith but will retain his salvation.

And to be logically consistent, we should rewrite the New Testament texts as well!

Those that endure to the end will be saved. But, no problem! So will those who do not endure to the end.

Timothy, some have rejected the truth and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith, but no problem! We can raise the Titanic!

…you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication. But, no problem! She said she believed in Christ, so no Lake of Fire for Jezebel!

(Matt 24:13, 1 Timothy 1:19, Rev 2:20-21, very broadly paraphrased!).

The Reformed doctrine, correctly I believe, teaches that “endurance” in the faith is a necessary part of security of salvation. My security does not lie in my feelings. My security is in Christ. If I am not in Christ, I have zero security. (This works equally well for the genuine believer who is having doubts, although this is a topic for another day!) And when we share our faith and ask the question, “Can you know that are saved?” our position should be, “Yes, since I know who Christ is”, not “Yes, because I know my own heart!”

Charles Spurgeon expresses this wonderfully, and he was a man who most certainly believed in eternal security: “true believers shall not apostatize, but shall stand fast, and shall be kept even to the end.” Still, he warned his flock against apostasy! “…it is a great and solemn truth that every child of God will hold on until the end, but it is an equally solemn truth that many who profess to be the Lord’s are self-deceivers, and will turn out apostates after all.” [2]

His thoughts in Morning and Evening for the morning of January 19 are sublime, here is the link.

Cling to Christ!

[1] Charles Stanley, from the chapter “For Those Who Stop Believing,” in Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? (Nashville: Nelson, 1991), 74, 80; also from the chapter “Faithful to the Faithless,” 93, 94.

[2] Spurgeon Quotes on Apostasy, https://www.girdedwithtruth.org/spurgeon-quotes-on-apostasy/

“Apostasy, Right Ahead!” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, San José, Costa Rica

16 thoughts on “Apostasy, Right Ahead!

  1. I think the NT is clear that it is possible to lose your faith.
    Technically you might construct a theology wherein that is impossible for ‘true believers’, but in practice then no one can tell who is a ‘true believer’, only after the fact that someone has persevered until the end.

    The multitude of NT warnings to Christians (!) to a. obey God’s commands b. persevere unto the end c.live a holy live, all are directed to Christians to make decisions in their lives, either one way or the other. They appeal to our free will. They also acknowledge the need to live ‘by faith’ (i.e. our works cannot accomplish that), but also to ‘stay in Christ’. Note that is a command! I.e. we can respond to that by our free will, and either do so, or ignore it. It is significant that John 15 mentions “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned [..] If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ”
    Christians should obey Christ, then Christ is truly Lord in your life. If you only call Him Lord, but do not obey Him, you’re in danger of Mt 7: ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

    MANY will have called Jesus ‘Lord’, however, to their surprise they are lost, because they did not follow Christ’s law.

    Really, start reading all the warnings in the NT directed at Christians. It doesn’t make sense to include these warnings if they have no relevance for Christians.

    1. Thanks Paul, for visiting and sharing!

      I assure you that I have read all the NT texts about falling away, esp John 15, and yes, many who call Jesus “Lord” will perish.

      Blessings! Gary

  2. Gary, there’s something i need to confess.
    People have been saying “The truth will set you free”, and they mean that as in you’l have “peace” and “joy” in keeping the Law. but for me, at it did was bring fear, doubt and feelings of bondage.
    I realized that a lot of these people who say this, that we’re “free” in this legalism, probably have some kind of the same doubt and feelings of bondage deep down.
    Also, something i noticed, I looked at the Hebrew of Genesis 9-3, and the word used for “moving things” can mean creeping things(which refers to rodents or reptiles in the Old Testament), or all animals, period(which would be inclusive of “unclean” animals). which one is right?

    1. Jeffrey, again, I truly appreciate your openness. Take a look, if you have a minute, and one of my favorite verses, Romans 14:17 – “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking (he has been talking about Jewish Christians who kept the food laws, which was their right!) but about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

      Every legalist promises freedom, but it’s a lie. The metaphor that helps me is that, a man is thirsty and needs water. A legalist is the guy who offers him salt water and tells him it is the best to quench his thirst. But what happens? The more he drinks, the thirstier he becomes. And so the legalist says, “Better drink some more”! Eventually, just 2 gallons of salt water will kill him.

      The cure? Spit it out, and take the water that is the Holy Spirit! “Come, everyone who thirsts,
      come to the waters;
      and he who has no money,
      come, buy and eat!
      Come, buy wine and milk
      without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1)

      Blessings! Gary

      1. I agree….
        but one thing is still worying me. in Matthew 7:21-23, the Greek word translated Lawlessness at the end is Anomos, which according to Thayer’s Lexicon means Destitute of the Mosaic Law. Strong’s concordence also says that’s a possible translation. doesn’t this mean those who don’t keep the Law will be thrown into the Lake of Fire?

        1. Hi Jeffrey, anomia (that’s the word in Matt 7, not anomos) has several shades of meaning. It sometimes refers, in Jewish contexts, to “actions contrary to Torah”. But it has a much broader sense as well, that is, an person unrestrained in wickedness. We know that it does not necessarily refer to Torah, since many pagan Greeks used it as well.

          In Matt 7 I would take it to mean “those who work wickedness” rather than “those who disobey Torah.”

          Btw, neither Strongs nor (for the past 125 years) Thayers are good reference tools for word study. I would recommend Mounce, which is new and very inexpensive. https://www.amazon.com/Mounces-Complete-Expository-Dictionary-Testament/dp/0310248787

          Blessings, Gary

          1. Can you answer my second question though? which translation of Genesiss 9-3 is more accurate? is it creeping things, all animals or just clean animals like some claim?(the question is above)

          2. Remes רֶמֶשׂ can mean, to quote the lexicon, “creeping things, moving things — 1. creeping things, 2. sea animals, gliding things. 3. moving things, of all animals.

            I eat them all, up to a point, both kosher and not. Gary

          3. Thank you, but you didn’t answer my question. which rendering is the most accurate given the structure of the text?

          4. I mean by how the Hebrew texts are written, which is the most accurate rendering?
            also keep in mind i’m using strong’s concordance for the definitions of the word remes

          5. Yeah, I think you’re making two incorrect assumptions: One, that, there is a hidden meaning buried in how the Hebrew text is written, and I’m still not sure what you mean by that. Two, that Strong’s dictionary is useful for this type of study.

  3. Seems to me that 1 John has some helpful things to say about assurance of salvation. “We know that we have come to know him if…” These aren’t conditions for salvation, but they are good ways to see if we are in the faith. I agree that we should not give people assurance on the basis of something they said or did in the past.

    Also, I haven’t looked it up, but my guess is that Jn 3:16 is correctly translated when it says, “believes,” rather than “anyone who at one point in their life believed, even if only for a moment…”

    1. Hi Ron, good to hear from you!

      John 3:16 and also 3:15 have a present participle, which implies, I think, the person “is a believer”, but it would not be 100% certain.

      Blessings, Gary

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