How does a person who believes in eternal security explain the word “apostasy?”
By: Steve Shirley
A: How this word is explained, of course, depends on whether one believes in eternal security or not, as I suspect you already know. Does it refer to a Christian who was saved and is now lost, or does it refer to someone who was never a Christian to begin with? You are asking how one who believes in eternal security could explain it, so that is the viewpoint I will explain here.
The word “apostasy” comes from the Greek word “apostasia,” which means basically “to fall away from or forsake the truth.” How do we describe this? Here is a way to picture it. An apostate would be someone who has taken a bite from an apple, but not swallowed it.
In other words, this is someone who has heard the gospel, and heard that Jesus is the way to salvation. They have acknowledged this, and maybe even prayed to receive Christ (taken a bite out of the apple). However, they have never actually trusted in Jesus, repented of their sins, and surrendered their lives to Jesus (swallowed the apple they took a bite from).
Here is another picture to consider. There is a fire in a tall building, and you are inside near the top. A fireman sends up a ladder to get you out. You can see the ladder is there, you can know that it will save you, you might even be able to reach out and touch the ladder. However, until you actually step out onto the ladder and totally commit yourself to allowing it to save you, you cannot be saved from the fire.
I believe Jesus gives us an example of this in the Parable of the Sower, found in (Mt 13:3-8, 18-23)(Lk 8:4-8, 11-15), when He speaks of people hearing the “word of the kingdom” and having it snatched away, or it doesn’t take root and he falls away, or he is just unfruitful (if we don’t bear fruit or have good works, it shows we aren’t saved James 2:14-26). I see these as examples of what would constitute an apostate.
I remember hearing some time back, that Billy Graham believed that of all the people who came forward to receive Christ at one of his crusades, he thought that maybe 10% of them were probably truly saved. Why isn’t every person who comes forward at a Crusade or an altar call at a church saved? I believe these can be called apostates. People who heard the truth about Jesus and salvation and believed it, but never truly repented, trusted, and surrendered their lives to Jesus (it was snatched away or never took root).
The Bible speaks in a number of places about those who hear the “truth,” but fall away or forsake it. For example, we are told to expect it in the end times:
(1 Tim 4:1-2) Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times, some shall depart from (fall away from: NASB) the faith…
(2 Tim 4:3-4) For the time will come when they shall not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (they will go to teachers who say what they want to hear), (4) and they shall turn away their ears from the truth…
We have many examples in the Bible of these apostates, who knew the truth, the way to salvation, but yet chose to forsake or fall away from it, and therefore, were never saved. For example:
Judas was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. He walked with Jesus, listened to His teachings, knew the truth, and even saw His miracles, yet he betrayed Jesus, and was never truly saved, but instead condemned (Jn 6:70)(Jn 17:12).
Many disciples turned from following Jesus after He told them what it required (Jn 6:66).
We also have examples in the Old Testament where people apostatized from the true God to idols such as: The Israelites (Ex 32), Saul (1 Sam 15:11), Solomon (1 Kin 11:1-10), and Amaziah (2 Chr 25:14-16).
John describes these apostate people by saying, “They went out from us; but they were not of us; for if they had been of us; they no doubt would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest (it might be known) that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction (an anointing: the Holy Spirit) from the Holy One (Jesus), and ye know all things. (1 Jn 1:19-20)
In other words, there are people who can appear to be Christians, but the fact that they failed to persevere with Christian believers, and “went out” from among them, proves they were not Christians (not of us) at all. Verse 20 bears this out when it says but you have the Holy Spirit, which is the sign that proves and guarantees that a person is a true Christian (Eph 1:13-14)(2 Cor 1:22)(2 Cor 5:5).
It is a scary thing for a person to have heard and known the truth, and then to have forsaken or walked away from it. Peter says of these people, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” (2 Pet 2:20-21)
Why is it so bad to have heard the truth, and then walked away, rather than to have not heard it at all? Jesus tells us:
(Lk 12:47-48) And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. (48) But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him much is required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
What does this mean? Jesus is speaking of Hell! And, He is telling us that for the one to whom much was given (the one who heard the truth and walked away from it), his punishment will be greater in Hell, than “he that knew not.”
Hope these examples explain it a little to you.