Tagged: apostates

Can Apostates Be Christians?

The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features Chapter 11: Crossing the Line: Can Apostates Be Christians?

Previously: Is the Rebel Spirit Alive Today?

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Of all the terms Jude uses to describe false teachers – ungodly, dreamers, dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, wild waves of the sea, wandering stars, and discontented grumblers, to name a few – he stops short of calling them apostates. Yet that is what they are. Hey Jude, what gives?

A closer look at the New Testament’s sparing use of this term may prove helpful, particularly as we broach the thorny subject of apostates’ standing with God. Are apostates backslidden Christians? Shameless pretenders? Or people who once knew Christ but now have willfully rejected Him, thus losing their salvation?

Originally, the Greek word apostasia meant rebellion against government. The Apocryphal book of 1 Esdras describes the Jews as “rebels” against King Artaxerxes (1 Esdras 2:23). Later, the term “apostate” is applied to “one who rebels against God.”

As Eugene E. Carpenter and Philip W. Comfort note, “Apostasy, therefore, is serious business. People who commit apostasy abandon their faith and repudiate their former beliefs. It is not heresy (denial of part of the faith), or the transfer of allegiance from one religious body to another within the same faith. Apostasy is a complete and final rejection of God.”

John MacArthur defines apostasy as “the sin of rejecting the gospel for which there is no forgiveness.” He further describes it as “an intentional falling away or withdrawal, a defection.” Apostates, he writes, “are people who move toward Christ, right up to the edge of saving belief,” but then “their interest in the things of God begins to wane, and the pressures and attractions of the world distract them further still, until they have no interest at all. They may turn to another religion or to no religion at all. Apostasy is determined by what you leave, not where you go after you leave. After a person leaves God, it makes little difference where he then goes.”

An apostate, then, is someone who has received the knowledge of the truth, but willfully and decisively rejects it.
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Can apostates be Christians?

This is the eighth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.

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Of all the terms Jude uses to describe false teachers – dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, and wild waves of the sea, to name a few – he stops short of calling them apostates. Yet that is what they are. Hey Jude, what gives?

A closer look at the New Testament’s sparing use of this term may prove helpful, particularly as we broach the thorny subject of apostates’ standing with God. Are apostates backslidden Christians? Shameless pretenders? Or people who once knew Christ but now have willfully rejected Him, thus losing their salvation?

The Greek word apostasia appears only twice in the New Testament. The apostle Paul is accused of apostasy for teaching others to “abandon Moses, by telling them [Jews living among Gentiles] not to circumcise their children or to walk in our customs” (Acts 21:21b).

And Paul warns the Thessalonians not to be deceived by those claiming that the Day of the Lord has already come. “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way,” he writes. “For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thess. 2:3).

Many other New Testament passages describe people who abandon the faith, never to return, for example: Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:19-20); “antichrists” (1 John 2:19); and professing Jewish Christians who are beyond repentance because they have returned to the practice of offering animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins (Heb. 6:1-6).

An apostate, then, is someone who has received the knowledge of the truth, but willfully and decisively rejects it.
Continue reading