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Eternal Security?
Copyright © Tim Warner - 03/2003

Is apostasy possible? This is an important question. According to Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, "Apostasy" is defined as "the determined willful rejection of Christ and His teachings by a Christian Believer [Heb. 10:26-29; John 15:22]. This is different from false belief, or error, which is the result of ignorance." The nature of apostasy requires that one be a believer first, then turn away from God. In one verse King David summed up the entire teaching of God's Word regarding the possibility of apostasy. Just before his death, as he passed the kingdom of Israel on to his son, Solomon, he warned:

1 Chron. 28:9
9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.

The "forsaking" David spoke of was a willful and complete turning away from God. No doubt, he was alluding to the former king, Saul, who forsook God, and God turned away from him. He was not speaking of committing some particular sin. David himself was guilty of adultery and murder. His sin caused him to despair. But, he confessed his sin and threw himself on the mercy of God.

Some may say that this verse does not apply to us because it is found in the Old Testament. But, the New Testament teaches exactly the same thing regarding apostasy. The Scriptures warn that in the last days apostasy will be rampant.

1 Tim 4:1
1 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;

II Th 2:1-3
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

The Apostle warns that apostasy will be so prevalent in the last generation, he calls it the "falling away." Paul did not originate this idea. Jesus mentioned it in His Olivet Discourse.

Matt 24:9-13
9 "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.
10 "And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another.
11 "And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.
12 "And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.
13 "But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.

In the last days, when real persecution comes, many believers will grow cold and abandon the Faith. Only those who continue until the end will be saved.

The parable of the sower demonstrates clearly that not all who receive the Gospel will persevere in their faith until the end.

Mark 4:14-20
14 The sower soweth the word.
15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.
18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

Notice the same language is used of those who fell away when persecution came, and those who bore fruit. Both "recieved" the Word. Those who had stony ground became "offended." This is the same word Jesus used in Matthew 24:10 regarding those who will grow cold and betray one another when persecution comes.

Luke's account is even more clear regarding believers who do not endure when persecution comes.

Luke 8:13
13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away...
15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Notice the contrast between those in verses 13 and 15. Those who will fall away when persecution comes "received" the Gospel. It even says they "believed" for a time. But, the difference between them and the ones in verse 15 is endurance. The word "keep" is the Greek word "katecw" [katecho]. According to Strong's Greek dictionary this word means: " hold fast, retain, seize on." This word has the idea of grasping and continuing to hold on tightly, [see: Heb. 10:23]. Those who grasp and hold onto the Gospel through faith bring forth fruit with "patience." This is the Greek word "upomonh" [hupomone], which means: "endurance,...constancy,...patient continuance." It is evident that those who will eventually fall away already had a serious problem before they believed the Gospel. The soil of their heart was rocky. This type of soil makes growing crops difficult, but not impossible. Those with rocky soil need much more care and cultivation if they are to survive and bear fruit. Rocks can be removed, and tender care given to these struggling plants by caring gardeners. We cannot tell the condition of someone's heart. " looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" [1 Samuel 16:7]. But, we can guard against unbelief in our own lives and try to strengthen our brethren. Someone you know, who appears to be a strong Christian, could be on the verge of abandoning their faith in God. When real persecution comes, and it will, the condition of the root will be what matters, not the pretty leaves.

Jesus even warned His own disciples to "continue in me." His warning was not just idle words, or a hypothetical situation. Jesus told them the final outcome of those who were "in Christ," but chose not to continue "in Christ." The word "abide" in the following verses means: "to continue or remain in a given state or relation."

John 15:1-7
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide [continue] in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide [continue] in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide [continue] in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth [continues] in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide [remains] 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.
7 If ye abide [continue] in me, and my words abide [continue] in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

The words "in me" demonstrate clearly that Jesus spoke of saved people. Since Jesus warned His own disciples to continue "in me," how much more should we be aware of the potential of any Christian to fall away?

Peter came dangerously close to abandoning Christ. On the very same night that Jesus spoke this warning to His disciples, Jesus turned to Peter and said:

Luke 22:31-32
31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Peter was in danger of his faith failing during Jesus' arrest and trial. He denied that he knew Jesus three times. This was his time of sifting by Satan. Yet, thanks to Jesus prayer for his strength, Peter did not totally abandon Christ. If Peter was in such danger, how much more can we be in dire danger given the right circumstances.

Rom 11:17-22
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

Paul was borrowing a parable from Jeremiah 11. In this parable God likened Israel to a good olive tree that He had planted. Because of their unbelief and rebellion, God said He would break off it's branches and burn them with fire. Paul used this illustration to show how unbelieving Jews, who rejected Jesus when He came, had been broken off from the people of God. Believing Gentiles were then grafted in their place, among the believing Jews, as the true people of God. However, Paul sternly warned the Roman Christians not to become to haughty or too secure in their new relationship with Christ and the people of faith. He warned that they too can be broken off if they succumb to unbelief. Notice that they "stand by faith." This means they are continuing in their relationship in Christ through continued faith. If they allow that faith to degrade into unbelief, Paul warns that God will not spare them either. If God didn't spare His chosen people when they fell into apostasy through unbelief, He will certainly not spare Gentiles who follow the same path.

Even Paul knew he was vulnerable to the lusts of the flesh, which can ultimately lead to unbelief.

1 Cor 9:27
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Paul is saying he must keep his flesh in subjection so it does not cause him to loose faith and abandon Christ. The Greek word for "castaway" is usually translated "reprobate" in the KJV. It is found in Romans 1:28, 2 Cor. 13:5,6,7, 2 Tim. 3:8, Titus 1:16, and Heb. 6:8. In the last passage it is translated "rejected." In every single case this word is used of the lost. If Paul was aware of the ever present peril of ultimately being lost through unbelief, we too need to be on guard. 

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