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Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

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Question #1: 

Hi Bob,

This is a quote that I just saw on facebook that I believe shares about this subject clearly and simply and makes sense to me biblically and I do hope that you agree with it. From many of your writings in your eschatology series, this is your point of view (as I have been re-reading some of the notes that I took on your series).

"We all have shortcomings, hang ups, and imperfections. But when talking about "sinners", we are talking about those who sin habitually, carelessly, and without regard to how it makes God feel. There is no repentance, no faith, and no desire to change. A Christian on the other hand is the complete opposite of that. We live a life that is free from habitual sinning, we walk by faith in obedience, and we desire to change anything in our lives that is not as it ought to be. So we may all sin now and then. But we do not live in sin, and are not controlled by it. This is where scripture says there is a sin not into death. This is a sin that we will see and repent of when convicted. But we walk in the newness of life in Christ Jesus, living "Free Indeed! We serve a different master now."

Have a blessed evening,

Response #1:   

Good to hear from you.

I certainly wouldn't disagree with anything in this quote. The only caveat I would add is that many times Christians (especially ones who are not particularly spiritually mature) take such quotes – which are personal impressions of what the Bible says on a subject and not scripture per se – and then extrapolate from them and apply their own understanding of them to their own lives (which is then at least two steps removed from scripture). I would not want to use this quote to draw any conclusions because it might lead to any manner of wrong ones easily enough. For example, on the one hand I might subjectively take this to mean that Christians can stop sinning altogether (not true), or on the other that if they are plagued by some chronic sin for a long time they are damned (not true). In other words, quotes like this which are long on preaching and short on details and scripture often act as spiritual "Rorschach tests" where the person reads into them what he/she wants – and all too often also what he/she fears. So this is one more case in point to demonstrate that there is no substitute for the Bible as it stands on the one hand, complemented on the other by detailed, orthodox, substantive Bible teaching which provides detailed and understandable explanations of actual scripture capable of heading off reading between the lines things which aren't there.

Hope you are doing well! I pray for you and your family daily.

Bob L.

Question #2:

Does harboring the unforgiveness in your heart guarantee no salvation like the rejecting of the gospel?

Response #2: 

Believers are saved; unbelievers are not saved:

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

If, as believers, we are stingy about forgiving others . . . well, we pray every day for God to "forgive us our sins as we forgive others", don't we? As with everything else, it is always better to do what the Lord tells us to do in all things; any other course generally results in "bumps and thumps and lumps" (at least).

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Please help me.

Response #3:    

Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross "put sin to death" (Heb.9:26) and thus "put an end to death" (1Tim.1:10) for all who belong to Him through faith.

If you're asking me about the situation you described, it doesn't sound like anything at all to me from what you said.

If you're asking me about sin, Jesus died for all our sins and we have been washed clean by His blood – and we are forgiven whenever we confess when we do stumble (1Jn.1:9).

If you're asking me for advice, I would beg you to stop looking for ways to feel guilty about things that are truly of little or no consequence.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4 NIV

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Can you please explain this verse to me:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 7:21 NIV

Response #4:     

The meaning of Matthew 7:21, "only those who do the will of the Father will be saved" is that only believers will enter the kingdom, namely, those who believe in their hearts that Jesus is Lord and put their faith, their trust in Him. Calling Him "Lord" after this life is over (see Matthew 7:22, the next verse) does not save (for before Him "every knee shall bow": Rom.14:11). Merely giving Him lip-service respect in this life (as many do) but without accepting who He is, God and man, and what He has done, dying for the sins of the world, does not save. The will of God is for us all to truly put our faith in Him:

Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."
John 6:29 NASB

"For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
John 6:40 NASB

Yours in Him to whom we have entrusted our lives for life eternal, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

"If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us."
1st John 5:10 NIV

So you think that Romans 14 gives you an excuse to just have "unlimited faith" and do whatever you want? If you put faith that you have not sinned when you did so, then you call Christ a liar and cannot abide in fellowship with Him; your faith is worthless. I believe every word that Christ and the Bible said (not that the two can be separated), but I cannot say that I hate the world. I still love worldly things, even though I am willing to forego my love for worldly things. But I do not confuse my willingness to forego my love for worldly things with the fact that I still love the world. And why do I still love the world? Because deep down inside me there is a desire to live by my own code of righteousness, and not by God's law. I choose to ignore that desire, but the desire is still within me.

Response #5:   

I'm praying for you. The fact that you realize that you are not yet at the point of "going all in" for the Lord is actually a step in the right direction. In truth, in the history of the Church few have done so. Keep fighting the fight and moving forward in this, and try not to make it an all or nothing thing. Better to get a little better at this fight which is the Christian life day by day than to agonize about an all or nothing commitment that never gets decided – few of us as capable of being as committed as, say, the apostle Paul, and none of us can get to that point overnight.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

I wanted to ask you about Living in holiness when one is almost certain that he has suffered detrimental effects to BOTH soul and spirit. I used to be a passionate sinner and I believe that I destroyed my conscience therefore my soul as well. On top of that I've suffered persecution from ruthless, merciless and betraying types of people, therefore wounding my spirit to the highest degree. I believe we are supposed to be alive In both soul and spirit but I don't feel that I have either one. Therefore when I continue in my sanctification I find myself resorting to sin so that I can get comfort from the flesh which is my only source of peace. Satan has done a number on me because I used to have radical faith and zeal. But only those who are holy will see the Lord. My point as I'll restate is that I have an extremely difficult time just existing in my body while living in holiness and I know the Lord is no respecter of persons he will judge us all equally. What could be a possible solution for me...aside from the imaginary thought that if Jesus was here he could work a Miracle on me?

Response #6:    

I want you to know, my friend, that the Lord loves you and that He has already died for all your sins – therefore you are forgiven whenever you confess. There are consequences to sin and there is divine discipline, but that comes to you as a child of God and a member of the family. So do not doubt the complete forgiveness and complete restoration to fellowship with Father and Son in the Spirit whenever you turn back from any mistake. He will never cast you aside . . . as long as you don't cast Him aside (2Tim.2:11-13). Your spirit cannot be damaged.

It is true that bad decisions and bad behavior patterns tend to dig us into a "hole" from which it can seem impossible to recover or ever get out. But that is the devil talking. Just because it is hard does not mean it is impossible. To use an athletic analogy, if we are injured seriously, it may take quite a while to rehabilitate ourselves into running as carefree as we did before. We may first have to walk slowly and with pain, we may have run-walk and start with short distances before we build back up to where we were before. But if we are disciplined and determined, we may amaze ourselves at what is possible. Now with the human body that might not actually be possible, situation dependent. But spiritually, it is always possible to recover, as long as we are still alive.

The thing about sin is that all believers are susceptible to it. You are not unique. Your "brand" of sinning may be different from the next person's, but we all have a sin nature and we are all tempted to sin of one type or another, or many types in a myriad possible combinations as diverse as the human race. Also in common with everyone else in the human race is the fact that you do have free will. You only sin, we only sin, by making a decision to sin. Granted, making bad decisions is easier than making good ones, especially if that has become habitual. However, you can change. You do have to actually determine to engage "to the point of bloodshed", as Paul puts it in Hebrews chapter twelve. That is to say, you have to get deadly serious about it.

Just to use an example, if a person is a drug abuser, and if said person knew for absolute certain without any shadow of a doubt that if he/she took one more pill, he/she would certainly die without any question, well, let's just say I would not bet on that person taking that pill. He/she might, but the certainty of death has a way of concentrating the mind. After all, how did the devil get Eve to "reconsider"? Precisely by undermining her previous certainty about death. Now of course whatever your pattern is it almost certainly does not involve immediate death and may very well not involve any other immediate, dire secular consequences – it may "merely" be shooting in the foot your spiritual advance and confidence in your relationship in the Lord. But if you got really serious about it, a "rather die" type of certainty, you actually could "stop" whatever it is. And if you just managed to stay serious for a month or so, you would be close to beating whatever it is.

We always have to stay alert and on guard, especially in regard to our areas of personal weakness (especially when we have been doing well – that is also often a time when the evil one attacks), but we can in fact get to the point of managing our bodies and our lives in this world in a sanctified way. The bottom line is that while nobody else can do it for you, you do have the ability and the capacity to get appropriately "tough" on yourself to stop doing whatever is wrong and to start doing whatever is right (and they really are connected: spiritual growth and true sanctification cannot be separated). This requires taking responsibility for the situation 100% – no excuses tolerated (even if otherwise valid). Regardless of past failures or situational perils or troublesome patterns, if you are really serious "to the point of blood / life and death", it can be done. That is something you will have to "own", and own lock, stock and barrel, to win the final victory.

You already have everything you need: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who is capable of defeating any inclination of the sin nature (obviously: Gal.5:1ff.), the truth of the Word of God and all the motivation it provides, and the free will you will be utilizing in any case to make decisions, good or bad. That really is "a miracle" and a grossly under-appreciated one: we have the very image of God, but how will we use it? Be pleased to take up all your spiritual armor and fight this fight . . . "to the point of blood".

Here are some links which may be of some help in this regard:

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Fighting the Fight II: Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

Fighting the Fight I: Accountability, Faith, Sin, Forgiveness, and Reward

Sanctification, Separation and Restraint

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hello, I have been recently backsliding into sin, and I come to God and repent every time I fall. But I feel His presence so far from me now. I want to be close to Him as I used to be in the past. In the past few days I gave God my word I would try not to commit certain sins anymore and change, and I asked Him to take away my salvation and close the gates of heaven for me if I sinned again, only to fall again and not keeping my promise, thinking He would forgive me. But asking God to take away my salvation if I sinned again is something I've never done before and I fear that God took away my salvation? I have repented but this thought and conviction are still in my mind and my heart. I don't want to give up my salvation and I know I shouldn't have said that. I only did it to help me stop sinning, but I fear I have gone too far. Please pray for me and tell me what to do. Thank you, God bless you!

Response #7:   

Dear Friend,

All believers have problems with sin, especially until they get to a certain point of spiritual growth (Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:10). However, individual sins do not eliminate salvation. It is true that falling deeper and deeper into sin can alienate us from the Lord – we become less and less interested in Him and what He says the deeper we go into rebellion. So it is true that sin can lead to "the sin unto death" in extreme cases or even also apostasy – not because of sin per se but because when a believer becomes more and more hardened to the truth, faith may become more and more vulnerable (see the link).

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

As you can see from the verse above – and plenty of other scriptures besides – the issue is one of faith. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, someone who has placed his/her trust in Him for salvation, then you are saved. And the only way to become "unsaved" is by completely rejecting you faith/trust/belief in Him to the point of being an unbeliever – someone who does not believe as opposed to someone who does. That is clearly not where you are spiritually. Indeed, if you were an apostate or on the point of apostasy, you wouldn't care what Jesus thought at all! The very fact that you are agonizing over your spiritual situation guarantees that you are still a child of God, that you are still "in Christ" – and in no particular danger of having that status changed.

(1) So now, there [awaits] no judgment of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the Law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2

All this does not mean that sin isn't debilitating to spiritual growth; it certainly can be, especially the more serious and chronic it may become. But our God deals with us believers as His own loving children – which indeed we are. So we may experience severe divine discipline for our sins (Heb.12:1ff), and such punishment is designed to hurt . . . so that we may be motivated to stop doing it (whatever "it" is).

"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
Luke 15:21-24a NIV

We are forgiven and restored to fellowship as soon as we confess our sins to the Lord (1Jn.1:9), and we have an Advocate for our defense before the Father, Jesus Christ our dear Savior (1Jn.2:1-2).

If I may be so bold, I hear from many Christians who are floundering in their walk with the Lord, often being caught up in some sort of chronic sin from which it is hard for them to escape. The first thing one should know about this is that no non-biblical measures such as you report here will ever be effective in gaining victory over sin. If we are going to get anywhere in this Christian life, it will have to be with the actual truth of scripture, heard, understood, believed and applied in the power of the Holy Spirit. Granted, there are very few places out there in this Laodicean age we are in where the truth is being taught in an orthodox, detailed, substantive way as the primary reason for fellowship (i.e., the way it is supposed to happen according to scripture). Emotional gyration is no substitute for the truth. Only the truth will build you up inside and give you the tools and spiritual momentum necessary to win over sin. In other words, victory over sin seldom comes through mere defensive measures; rather, it takes growing up spiritually and progressing in the truth of the Word to become effective at resisting the most difficult "sins which easily beset" (whatever they may be – everyone is different on this score).

So I commend to you Bible reading, daily prayer, practicing the application of what you know to be true from scripture in your step by step walk with Jesus, and most importantly of all daily detailed in-depth Bible study from an orthodox Bible ministry. You are certainly welcome to all the materials at Ichthys (anonymously and free of charge), but you do need to get the details of the truth of scripture from somewhere. Most places these days make up all manner of odd things which have nothing to do with the Bible. I'm not sure where you may have gotten the idea to ask God to take away your salvation, but at the very least we can say that close attention to a good Bible teaching ministry such as Ichthys would have headed that one off at the pass – because you would know that your salvation is absolutely secure as long as you believe, and because you would have a better idea of the absolute and amazing love the Father has for you and that you have in the Son. After all, Jesus Christ burned in the darkness for all of your sins – and they have all been forgiven. If that is not love, I have no idea what is.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
Romans 5:8-9 NIV

Having died for you, He certainly does not want you to lose your salvation! You can win over sin, but you have to be willing to fight the fight the right way: through spiritual growth. Please see these links:

Peter #29: Maintaining a Sound Christian Offense in our Spiritual Warfare (1st Peter 1:13)

Peter #30: Sanctification in Time: Christian Defense in our Spiritual Warfare (1st Peter 1:14-16 )

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind . . . and especially of believers.

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Hello Robert

Are there any main differences between rejecting Jesus and worshiping false gods?

Response #8:    

Just as in order to accept Christ as Lord one has by definition first to reject all other lords (gods or falsehoods or sinfulness etc.), so also if a person rejects Christ, something false is always accepted in His place (atheism or false religion or whatever). We human beings have free will, but we are constrained by the parameters of our internal makeup and we ignore to our peril the fact that we are in the midst of a spiritual battlefield wherein our eternal futures are being determined based upon what we decide – namely, whom we decide to follow. And we will follow either Jesus Christ – or the evil one (one way or another).

Yours in the dear Lord Jesus who died for all of our sins that we might "be made the righteousness of God in Him".

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Can you please help me? I was saved many years ago then I fell into real bad sin for many years. I hate myself for this. I can't go back to that time. Right after this, I was in the hospital and the Holy Spirit told me not to do something about 3x, but I did it anyway. I didn't heed his strong convictions then I lied about it. I'll never forgive myself for this. I've confessed and repented of this sin.

When I got home from the hospital, strange and unaccountable things began happening and I fell asleep afraid (no drugs or drinking were involved). Then I woke up to something hitting my chest like the Holy Spirit had left me followed by the words - No sins will be forgiven. I Know that this is not in the Bible. I've been so disobedient in my life. Can the Holy Spirit leave a believer? Can he come back? I love Jesus, I don't know what to do. Please help me.

Response #9:   

It's good to make your acquaintance. Let me tell you right from the start that if you do believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, Him who is God and man and who died for our sins on the cross, then you are saved as long as you believe in Him.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

This verse is very clear (and there are many such verses). This verse is absolute (as all such verses are). This verse is the truth. What is often not the truth is what our emotions may tell us. Guilt is not the Spirit. The Spirit works with our consciences to guide us in the truth; we are the ones who inflict feelings of irrational guilt upon ourselves. Do we feel bad about sinning? That means nothing to God. Do we not feel bad about sinning? That also has no particular spiritual impact. What matters is what we believe and what we do about it. If we do sin, we will be disciplined, but our punishment comes from a loving Father who loves us so much that He has already sacrificed His one and only dear Son for us. God has already sent Jesus to die for us. All sin has been paid for. Sinning is disobedience and results in discipline, but that punishment is meant to bring us back, not to turn us away. As in the parable of the prodigal son, God is deeply desirous of our return, no matter how far away the land we went off to. He does forgive, whenever we confess our sins:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NIV

If any "voice" tells us that there is no forgiveness, we know from scripture that this is not true and not of God . . . but comes from somewhere else. Christians need to learn to operate on the truth they have been taught and can read for themselves in the scriptures, and not react to the emotional attacks of the evil one.

If it is any consolation, all Christians, in my experience, have had to deal with guilt about past failures at one point or another, and I receive many emails about this particular concern, namely, "have I done something that cannot be forgiven?" The short answer is "no!" The only sin that cannot be forgiven, the only sin for which Jesus could not die, was the sin of rejecting Him. And that is a sin which by definition believers cannot commit because we do believe in Him. Therefore "abide in Him" and your salvation is secure (Jn.15:1ff.), kept safe through faith (1Pet.1:5).

The long term solution to problems of this sort is spiritual growth. We live in an era where there is not much substantive truth being taught in the churches. So Christians who want to grow up in Christ and really follow Him to earn a good reward often have to turn to other sources. You are certainly welcome to all the materials at Ichthys. Here are a few links which discuss of aspects of the particular question you have:

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and the unpardonable sin

The Unpardonable Sin and Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

What exactly is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

Have I committed the unforgivable sin?

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (in Basics 3B: Hamartiology)

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (in BB 5)

If you are a believer, then you most definitely do have the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:9).

Your fellow believer in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob Luginbill

Question #10:  

Dear Bob,

I have no real specific question this time, but wanted to catch up a bit more, and provide a small update on how I'm doing. I don't have much going on right now, but am about to start looking around for work a little bit. I attend a small church down the road which meets every couple of weeks, though, like the last church I went to, they focus mostly on singing song and praising the Lord. They seem like good people, but I feel kind of bad that I don't know all of their names yet – I can recognize a face almost instantly, but matching names to those faces I seem terrible at.

I must admit that part of me must still be a little uncomfortable about the unpardonable sin, such as earlier today when I was reading people argue over it in the comments section of a web page. I'm doing better, I believe, since I remember when I first came to you about the subject, I felt as though I were literally in shock -in a panic- and didn't know what to do, who to turn to, and was overall feeling almost 'lost'. I feel much more grounded now, and mostly sure, but as I mentioned earlier the subject still seems to make me a bit nervous. I have to mentally remind myself of the story of the Prodigal son, the overall theme of scripture, and that the unpardonable sin is simply rejecting the word of the Lord. I remember reading something, a comment or quote from a Dr Shepard, and you've said something similar before when we first spoke, that "even being concerned about it means you have not done so." It does pain me to see so many people divided, so much fighting and in-fighting among brothers and sisters. Perhaps seeing such division causes me to question myself? My never-ending mental battle to control my mind seems to not help the matter, but we are always going to have to fight against sin.

I guess while I am emailing you again, I will ask for your take on something: Islam. I guess I seek just a general lesson or what you have to say about what it is all about? Do they follow our Lord, but only in a different (or misled) way?

Response #10:    

From my perspective, you are making good spiritual progress. When we are fighting our way up the beach, amid the shot and shell it can be easy to lose track of just how far we've moved inland from the shore. Of course none of us is "there" yet – but that wonderful day will come.

On the unpardonable sin, it continues to be one of the "top ten" questions and concerns I receive email about. I have one 100+ Q/A response file on this (see the link), and some other things you might have missed which are posted (I'll link to them below). I think your use of scripture to fight off all such doubt, guilt and fear is precisely the right technique. We do have to believe those scriptures and know what they really mean – you do, and you see that it does work. One thing to keep in constant mental view is the cross. What Jesus did for us in dying for all of the sins of the entire world – the least part of which sacrifice outweighs all human suffering of all time – is of a greater magnitude than anything we could ever imagine. We need constantly to "dial up" our vision of the cross, and "dial down" our sense of self-importance. And, yes, thinking on any level that anything we have done no matter how "bad" could outweigh what the blood of Christ did for us is just as bad thinking that anything we assume we have done "good" could in any way obviate our need of that sacrifice. The Father is impressed with what the Son did, not with what we have done, good or bad. If we stand on His work, we are saved and safe and have nothing to worry about; if we don't, we are lost. That is what will not be pardoned. But imagining any sin as so bad that the blood of Christ can't cleanse it is wrong and actually blasphemous (speaking of blasphemy). Rejecting one's need of the blood of Christ, His death for us in the darkness in paying the price for our sins, that is what is unpardonable – because only His blood can cleanse from sin. Here are some recent links:

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Struggling with Salvation . . . and Relatives

Salvation Lost and Found

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

On Islam . . . or Buddhism or paganism or shamanism or Roman Catholicism or Mormonism or any other religion or -ism, we know that the real issue is always "what think ye of Christ?" Only those who believe and accept Him, His divinity, humanity and resurrection, and what He has done in dying for the sins of the world, are saved – regardless of any affiliation whatsoever:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

I think that is one more thing I need to keep in mind, that no matter how terrible the sin, Christ's blood washes it all away (if accepted, that is). I'm not saying I forget this, but I think I'm weighing too much still into feelings, and what I am 'feeling', which I'm definitely working on and improving. I believe it was you who told me, or at least I remember hearing from someone, that "Faith is not a feeling. Feelings come later.", and I remind myself of choice and free will. Thank you for the links, and for helping me keep myself in check. You're right that I do not keep track of my progress that much, for I do not want to look back and become lax, thinking to myself "I think this is far enough." I want to keep reminding myself never to stop, that the struggle and the journey are what matters, and that is what you help remind me to do. To keep on-guard. I look forward to the day when the Lord comes, and for us all to actually get to meet Him.

Response #11:   

Good stuff, my friend! Yes, it's a matter of "how much" we believe. Faith can grow or decline, but if we have a genuine mustard-seed's worth we can move mountains. The combination of the image of God, free will, and the sin nature makes it very difficult not to "think more of ourselves than we ought to think" (Rom.12:3). But if we truly had any idea how "big" God was and how small we are . . . and how much He loves us, so much that He judged our sins in His Son . . . many of our mental battles would turn into cakewalks.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hello Dr.,

I hope all is well again. It seems the Spirit is moving me to refresh myself with the coming tribulation and all its trappings. I have a question. I was rereading your commentary on the Great Apostasy and need a little clarification. Here you state in CT 3A:

"The massive number of merely nominal Christians who will quickly put aside all pretense to Christianity during that future time of testing (and then join whole-heartedly in the beast's religious movement) are not a part of this "one third" number. The apostates in question here are, on the contrary, genuine believers in our Lord who will exchange their precious faith for worthless and temporary worldly concerns under the pressures of that terrible time to come (cf. Dan.11:30-35). "

This is really frightening and disheartening. I have read your CT series and it is an excellent Spirit filled work and I believe everything you state is inspired by God for His sheep that really want to grow and be prepared for the time to come but this section gives me pause. These genuine believers (1/3) that will fall away have experienced during their lifetime personal tribulations, trials, tests etc I would assume prior to this unprecedented test in the tribulation. I would assume that they have successfully overcome these tests or they would have not been genuine believers in Christ's eyes. How then can genuine believers apostatize if they have overcome these personal tribulations? They would have read the Word, take it to heart and applied it to their lives as you eloquently state in your Peter Series and all other series where trials and tribulations are mentioned.

For instance, major conservative pastors, say for instance Charles Stanley or others who have walked with Christ for almost all their life how can they apostatize? It makes me wonder do I even have a chance. I am no where near the spiritual growth as some of these believers and my walk with Christ is nascent. I am and have been going through personal tribulations and trying my best with the Holy Spirit help to please God so I am humbly putting myself in the genuine believers category and to think I can still apostatize, is very, very frightening. I guess only the grace of God if he has elected me to be with Him in eternity will I even make it. That goes for my wife and other family members who I know personally love Christ and have a personal relationship with Him.

Thanks for hearing and helping me understand this critical issue.

In Chris our Lord and Savior

Response #12: 

The Great Apostasy most certainly should be a concern, but as is often the case in such matters, those who really are concerned are generally the ones who have nothing whatsoever to be concerned about, while those who aren't concerned are the ones who should be worried. This is the era of Laodicea. It is characterized by lukewarmness, that is, the tendency of believers during this time to be unconcerned with the truth – preferring either ritual and tradition on the one hand, or excitement and entertainment on the other, but in neither case being interested in doing the hard work of spiritual growth.

You are relatively unique – and from your description the proportion of Christians you know skews towards uniqueness as well. Most people "out there" who identify themselves as Christians are not even born again. They have not, in fact, believed that Jesus is their God and Savior, and have not put their faith in Him and His work alone for their eternal salvation. Of those who have genuinely been reborn, most are not interested in the Bible and its teachings beyond a very rudimentary level. If their pastor started actually teaching the Bible (e.g., 50 minutes of study instead of 50 minutes of music and entertainment), they would quickly abandon him and seek out another "church". And so, being spiritual infants, it is doubtful that they have ever experienced genuine testing of any sort of true difficulty (God does not test us beyond our abilities); n.b.: divine discipline for sins is not the same thing; that is corrective in purpose and will only produce growth if reacted to with a proper response (which I find rare out there from what I can see at least).

I'm sure you can see, for example, that most actual Christians today if they do even have any opinion about it or ever think about it at all either do not believe in any of the end times teachings in scripture (amillennialists), or else they think they will be "raptured" out of this world before any of the trouble starts (pre-Tribers). Even a goodly number of those who have this teaching "right" didn't get there through searching but just accidentally belong to a group which happens to be correct on this point (so that how deeply they believe it or even understand it is questionable). In other words, the people like yourself who are genuinely seeking to grow closer to God through His Word and its truths (all of its truths – eschatology is just an example, albeit a pertinent one, and I dare say we would be able to say similar things about Christology or any other area of doctrine) are fairly rare.

So when you say "they've been tested", I would tend to disagree. God only sends genuine testing to those who are able to bear up under it, and the amount of testing immature believers can endure is very minimal. That is why so many of our brothers and sisters in this country who are truly Christian (but not dedicated to the truth) are enjoying prosperity (from the world's point of view) – because they are essentially "sitting it out" on the sidelines of this very important contest. The devil saves his best shots for those who truly are making spiritual headway.

The Lord says He prefers that His followers be cold rather than lukewarm. Why is that? It is because if we are "cold", flirting with turning away from Him altogether, it may be that when He brings discipline down upon us we will repent and get "red hot" in place of our previous "ice cold" approach. That is what happened to me – and by all accounts that is also what happened to you. Those who are "comfortable doing nothing" in terms of spiritual growth may of course have some hard times (possibly on account of their own folly in one regard or another), but if it is not a case of a dedicated Christian attempting to grow in and for Christ, then I would not wish to call the trouble "testing", nor would I wish to ascribe to those who have undergone such things any particular "mettle" which will be able to endure the pressures of the Tribulation.

And those [whose seed of faith fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root [to their faith]. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize (aphistantai).
Luke 8:13

Apostasy is the complete loss of faith. There is no chance in this world that you are ever going to stop believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master – no matter what might befall. However, there are many out there whose commitment is only skin deep (the seed falls on the rock where the soil is shallow and the heat of the day dries up the faith that springs from it and it dies). When trouble comes, they lose faith. And there will be no greater trouble than the Great Tribulation. For many such lukewarm "Christians", it will seem easier and a "better deal" to take the mark of the beast – which action requires a prior rejection of the Lord they once believed in.

The one-third prophesied to apostatize must consist almost exclusively of those who are "lukewarm" now; these sort will enter the Tribulation spiritually unprepared. And why? Because here and now they are lukewarm about the truth and have no great interest in it. If they were interested, they would seek it out and that truth would give them all manner of information about what is about to take place – along, of course, with all kinds of other wonderful insights and information about everything in scripture, about our Lord, and about all we need to live this life for Him. It is the lukewarmness that makes them vulnerable; and the vulnerability is seen both in the lack of truth in their hearts, and the lack of motivation to get it which leads to the deficiency in the first place.

In short, while we may lament all this (and rightly so), you yourself have absolutely nothing to worry about. The fact that you can reach down into your heart and pull out all manner of assurances to ward off the worries that this and other teachings might otherwise bring to mind, shows that you have the spiritual maturity to weather what is coming. And why do you have it? Because, rather than being lukewarm, you are "red hot" for the Lord and for His truth. And as you continue to grow, you will be ever better prepared not only to survive in faith yourself but to help others do the same through whatever ministry the Lord calls you to.

We may have made mistakes in this life, but if they have resulted in the glorification of God by our turning around to serve the Son of God with the remainder of our lives – and glorify Him even if need be with a martyrs death in the Tribulation – then loss has turned into eternal gain.

(15) The saying is true and worth careful consideration: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and I am among the foremost of them. (16) But it is for this very reason that I was shown mercy, that is, so that in me first and foremost Christ Jesus might demonstrate the full measure of His patience [toward unbelievers] as a pattern for those who are [likewise] going to believe in Him for eternal life."
1st Timothy 1:15-16

Have no fear. You are on the right track, my friend. Jesus will take your fear away as grow closer to Him and become more consistent in your walk with Him. He has already led you through the valley of the shadow of death. Know that He will always lead you safely through to exactly the right place of blessing the plan of God has marked out for your from eternity past – and in the end to your inheritance in New Jerusalem.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

I am absolutely terrified about my spiritual condition. I was baptized at a young age but even as a teenager was sinning extremely often and stopped for times but started again and later stopped. I don't struggle with these sins still. I feel this was apostasy since I sinned regularly against what I knew was right. It was a pattern. I have asked for forgiveness of these sins and I trust Jesus as savior but I feel like God won't accept my plea of forgiveness and I can hardly live with myself.

Please give me guidance.

Thank you

Response #13:    

Dear Friend,

Let me assure you that the Lord forgives all believers who confess their sins to Him:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NIV

God does not lie; His Word is truth. Therefore, if you have confessed any sin to Him, He has forgiven you every single time. That does not mean of course that there is no divine discipline for sin – indeed there is (and the more serious and chronic the sin, the more intense the discipline; please read Hebrews 12:1ff.). But when the Lord disciplines us, He does so as one disciplines one's own dear and beloved children, to teach them to do better, not to destroy them for having done wrong.

Many "prodigal sons" become anxious about sins and mistakes and failures of the past, but if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you most certainly have eternal life in Him. Please understand that it is not a matter of how you feel. It is very common for believers to feel guilty about past errors, and often about errors long past, especially if we are now experiencing troubles. The devil knows this very well and is a past master of using guilt to manipulate us. But believers who are growing in the Lord understand that this life is not about what we see or hear or feel -- it is all about what we know through faith in the truth to be the truth.

So you are saved – no worries. You did not become an apostate – an apostate is someone who was once a believer but has come to reject Christ and has reverted by his/her own choice to being an unbeliever. Since you are a believer, you cannot be an apostate, just as an apostate by definition does not believe in Jesus Christ. What matters is not the past in any case, but where you are right now: as a believer in Jesus Christ, you have salvation which is just as secure as your faith in the Lord. Now is the time to forget the past and move forward in Jesus Christ to honor Him and earn a good reward:

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

For peace on these matters what is important is spiritual growth. If we are moving forward with the Lord by learning His truth, believing it and putting it into practice, we will be less likely to make the same mistakes over and over again, and we will also build an enduring foundation of truth which acts as a bulwark against all manner of negative emotions and false teaching (with which the world these days is awash), not to mention producing growth and spiritual character which honors our Lord and leads to eternal reward.

You are certainly welcome to all the materials at Ichthys, and I do advise attaching yourself to some doctrinally orthodox teaching ministry where the truth is taught in a deep and substantive way. Learning and believing the truth of the Word of God is the basis for all spiritual growth and the solution to all things – all things which believers need to consider important, that is.

Here are a few related links which may be of help (and please do feel free to write me back about any of the above):

Doubting Salvation and Questions of Sin

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Struggling with Salvation . . . and Relatives

Salvation Lost and Found

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Being Saved: Security, Apostasy, and the Sin unto Death

Fighting the Fight II: Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #14:  

Thank you so much for your quick response! My concern is still this that by sinning a lot one shows lack of belief from God to save them of the sin or temptation which would still be apostasy? I always thought I had to stop myself of my own will. I wish I was older when saved. I thought heaven was guaranteed from baptism alone. And not through future actions. I have literally been near suicide over this.

Response #14:     

I want to assure you that you can have peace. Peace comes from the truth and from believing the truth . . . as opposed to speculations or false teaching or what the devil suggests working with our guilt feelings. As a believer, you are saved. Apostasy is the total loss of faith so that there is no real difference between an apostate and an unbeliever (except that the apostate was once a believer but has now rejected Christ and returned to his/her "vomit" as it says in second Peter). Many believers err. Read the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32): almost all Christians at one time or another stray far from the Lord, and so far that they fear He won't want them back. But what does the father (symbolic of our heavenly Father) say in response to the son's protestation that he is no longer worthy to be a son?

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
Luke 15:22-24a NIV

When you came back, you too were restored to fellowship. Worrying about the distant past is something no Christian should do. David sinned terribly in committing adultery with the wife of a trusted subordinate and then had the man murdered – but not only did he not lose his salvation but is regarded by the Lord as one of the greatest believers of all time (and so he is). Mind you, he suffered discipline from the Lord for fourteen years, but he never lost the joy of his salvation because he was unwilling to relinquish it – and the Lord loves and honors that. So you too need to let go of guilt and the past, and embrace the truth of all the wonders that belong to you as one who belongs to Jesus Christ. He died for every one of your sins and so you have been forgiven – and restored to fellowship too when you confessed them. Now is the time to move forward spiritually through faith in the truth of the Word of God. Such forward progress will bring you peace and will also result in great reward for all eternity; it is also the only way to truly honor the Lord who redeemed us from our sins (see the link).

In the Name of the One who has saved us from all of our sins, past present and future, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hello,

I was wondering if there was anyone at your site with whom I could correspond about serious concerns I have regarding potential apostasy.

Thank you for your consideration.

Response #15:   

I would be happy to correspond with you. I will be out of town until sometime next week, so apologies in advance for any delay in response.

To put the matter succinctly, biblical apostasy is the complete loss of faith where a believer totally abandons trust, faith, belief in Jesus Christ and reverts to being an unbeliever. If your concern is for yourself, the mere fact that you have written about this shows definitively that you are not an apostate. Mostly I hear from fellow Christians on this subject who have fallen into a bad lifestyle or become tangled up in some habitual sin or have a wrong idea about certain Bible passages (in Hebrews, usually). But all believers are saved.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

Only unbelievers are not saved – and an apostate is an unbeliever who used to be a believer:

"But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away."
Luke 8:13 NKJV

Here are some links for your consideration wherein these matters are discussed in more detail:

Being Saved: Security, Apostasy, and the Sin unto Death

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death, the Conscience and Sanctification

In BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

The Process of Apostasy (in CT 3A)

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

Hang in there, my friend. God wants all to be saved, and, like the prodigal son, most believers wander far from Him at one time or another in their lives. The important thing is to come back.

Yours in the One who died for every single one of all of our sins, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #16:  

Bob,

I greatly appreciate your response to my inquiry! And as you guessed, my concern is for myself. Would you be willing to hear about some of the details of my story and tell me what you think? My family and I would be eternally grateful.

God Bless,

Response #16:    

I would be happy to correspond with you further about this. However, the issue is really very clear: if you believe in Jesus Christ today, you are saved – regardless of what happened yesterday. The opposite in the case of apostasy is also true: if a person does not believe in Jesus Christ today, that person is not saved – regardless of what happened yesterday.

I do understand the power of guilt, fear and worry. I have had innumerable conversations with believers over the years who are intent on torturing themselves over things done or not done in the past. But for Christians, as I often remark, the only yesterday which matters is the one wherein we became one with Christ; and the only tomorrow which matters is the one wherein we will be with Him forever. Therefore, today we should be living one day at a time for Him, not worrying about the future, and not neurosing about the past, but concentrating on growing in Him, progressing in our walk with Him, and serving His Church today . . . "as long as it is called today".

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hi Bob, just got to your website and I find it a blessing indeed. I was wondering if you could help me with addressing the 'once saved forever saved' truth of the cross.

Response #17:   

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks for your good words. As to your question, as believers we have absolute spiritual security . . . as believers. When it comes to controversial "doctrines" it is not an uncommon thing for the truth to lie in the middle of two opposing sides. That is the case here. On the one hand, those who teach that our salvation is hanging by a slender thread and that it only takes one mistake (or one "big" mistake, however they may define "big"), after which the person is then "lost", do not have scripture on their side. However, it is also most definitely the case that scripture provides many warnings for believers about the very negative potential consequences of turning back and turning away from the Lord. That is because while all believers are saved, those who do not have a saving faith in Jesus Christ are not saved – and that is true even if they did have such a faith "once upon a time":

"Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away."
Luke 8:13 NIV

By our Lord's own words, it is possible (there is in fact a whole category of individuals to whom this applies) to "believe for a while", but later on to "fall away" from the faith, that is, to no longer believe. That it the definition of apostasy.

The mistake made by "pins and needles" salvationists is to relate this falling away to some list of sins they find particularly offensive. However, while sin may play a role, people abandon the faith for all manner of reasons, and not just because they may wish to live a life of wild lasciviousness instead of one of sanctification. In the verse above, our Lord mentions "testing", and it is in fact a very common thing for people to "blame God" when something disagreeable happens in their lives, and to fall away from the faith as a result. That is of course "sinful", but it is not the sort of situation those who want to make salvation insecure imagine.

The mistake made by the other camp is to ignore or willfully misinterpret many verses and passages in scripture which clearly warn of the eternal consequences of apostasy. Yes, our salvation is absolutely secure . . . as believers. The problem this second group has is in their definition of "believer". In the New Testament, a "believer" is "someone who believes". But for those who teach "saved-no-matter-what", a "believer" is someone who "once believed" even if they now most definitely do not believe. That is a mistake indeed, a very dangerous one to make at any time, and particularly now as we find ourselves on the cusp of the Tribulation (wherein the Great Apostasy will claim one third of the true Church; please see the link).

Our ability and responsibility to keep making decisions does not end when we are saved; if it did, there would be little reason for the Lord keeping us here on earth after salvation (cf. Jn.17:5-19). But we are left here, to test us, to see what is really in our hearts (cf. Deut.8:2), to see if being with the Lord for all eternity is really what we desire most of all. For those like yourself who are concerned with this issue, salvation is almost never in doubt . . . because you will indeed "persevere" with faith intact until the end.

But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:13 NIV

The above is a very brief treatment of the issue. Here are some links which to postings where this is covered in more detail – and do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Being Saved: Security, Apostasy, and the Sin unto Death

In BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"

False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I

False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II

False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III

As He says very clearly . . .

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, the One who died for all our sins what we might have life eternal in Him.

Bob Luginbill

Question #18:  

Thanks for the very quick reply, God bless you! I have a follow-up question; please is that to say that if one is saved and then after that though he still believes, continues in some form of sin, he still is part of the flock?

Response #18:    

You are most welcome. As to your follow-up, I can say that after salvation it is not uncommon for many believers to drift along instead of moving forward spiritually. We all sin, stumble and fail, even as believers (Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:6-10). Blessedly, the Lord has given us the means to recover fellowship when we do sin (confession to Him: 1Jn.1:9). It is certainly true that some sins have more deadly consequences than others, and that becoming involved in a pattern of debilitating sin is just that: debilitating to faith. However, I would resist couching things in the terms described here so as to avoid confusing the true issues (as many do). There are many groups out there today which define sin only as things which they personally find reprehensible (some of which are not even sins), while not understanding how wide and deep the dark waters of sin go (so as to ignore that many of the thoughts and words and deeds they express are just as sinful as the "list" they proclaim).

All believers belong to Jesus Christ and are part of His "flock"; only those who fall away when their faith completely dies out are no longer a part. If a person is straying far but yet believers, that one out one hundred is still very important to the Lord, and He will most certainly search for the lost lamb, with great rejoicing in heaven when the wayward individual returns to the flock and a good walk with the Lord (Lk.15:4-32).

So there are many aspects to these issues. I invite you to have a look at the study which attempts to sort them all out, at the link: Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Robert

How are you? I came across your site and have been trying to read here and there. I read something about you that caught my attention and wanted to ask you directly. I understood that you believe salvation can be lost? I have believed that my entire life and the Church I have been part of my whole life does as well. However in the last few years, I've noticed an overwhelming amount of folks that believe once saved always saved. I can't remember the scripture that made me think as I do, my memory is not as good as it used to be. But I believe that we all make mistakes but the LORD is faithful to forgive us when we sincerely ask forgiveness and try to refrain from sin. If we fall again, we repent again. But are to make a sincere effort to change.

JESUS is the way, truth and life no man comes to the FATHER, except through JESUS. The lake of fire is the eternal destination of all those who fail to accept JESUS and repent and/or take the mark of the beast during tribulation. We are saved through faith not works lest any should boast. There is so much I don't know but wanted to include what I believe and ask Do you believe the same? ake care and GOD bless you

PS also we are awaiting the rapture of the Church which is a sign less event pretribulation? And beliefs on rapture timing and osas doesn't mean folks that believe different aren't truly saved as long as we all agree on what matters salvation only through JESUS.

Response #19:   

Very good to make your acquaintance. I was brought up in a Presbyterian tradition, then cut my theological teeth in an "OSAS" environment. So when I departed from these teachings it was strictly the Bible that caused me to do so, and of course the Holy Spirit directing me to follow what was clearly written there. Here are some links at Ichthys which will fill in the details on that:

False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I

False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II

False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III

Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology

The essential point which you are absolutely right about is that believers are saved, but unbelievers are not saved:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

How then can salvation be lost? Simply put, only if faith is lost. If a believer stops believing, that is, gets to the point where they have absolutely no faith left and no longer believe in Jesus Christ, His perfect person His perfect work for us on the cross, then said person has reverted to being an unbeliever – and only believers are saved:

And those [whose seed of faith fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root [to their faith]. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize.
Luke 8:13

Note that our Lord attributes this process, called apostasy, to a failure to endure testing with faith. Sin does sometimes play a role in apostasy; e.g., when a Christian gets tired of repenting and confessing and wanders far enough from the Lord they become very vulnerable in their faith. But more often than not where devotion to sin is involved rather than disappointment with God (blaming Him for trouble and failing that test so as to abandon Christ), the sin unto death intervenes before apostasy sets in. These matters are outlined at the following links:

Being Saved: Security, Apostasy, and the Sin unto Death

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death, the Conscience and Sanctification

In BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

The Process of Apostasy (in CT 3A)

This does, in fact, happen all the time. But it is an even bigger issue for us today on the cusp on the end times because during the Tribulation fully one third of the lukewarm Church which enters the Tribulation will lose faith and abandon Christ under the terrible pressures of those seven years. Which brings us to another issue, namely, the so-called rapture. It is true that we believers who are alive when the Lord returns will be resurrected without tasting physical death. However, the Lord returns at the end of the Tribulation, not before it. That is His only parousia, namely, the second advent. The pre-Trib rapture was another false doctrine I had to abandon in good conscience because, as in "OSAS", scripture very clearly does not support it at all. Here are some links on this:

When is the Rapture?

Parousia

The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory

No Rapture

Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith

Misplaced Faith in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture

I'm happy to discuss all these matters with you further (reading some of the links first will be helpful). I am going be out of town for a while, so please don't take offense if it is a minute before I get back to you.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #20:  

Hi Robert,

I was rereading one of your emails and have a question. You said:

"In example of Luke 8:13 above the verb translated "fall away" is actually aphistemi, the word from which our "apostasy" is derived, and means literally "stand aside" or "rebel"."

If "rebel" means apostasy then that is what I did by falling back into unrepentant sin for so long knowing it was sin and not going to church or praying or not being convicted or anything. I absolutely believe in the bible and the gospel and Christ and I believe I was saved when I first believed but I just can't seem to gain any assurance that the Lord is willing (he is certainly sufficient and able), but willing to forgive me for all those sins after believing and following him. Isn't that apostasy as well? It doesn't matter what you fall back to but who you fall from?

I pray for Him to forgive me but I can't seem to have any assurance in my heart that He has. No sense of peace that He has. I'm not sure what all that means. Sure Peter denied Him momentarily but quickly repented. I didn't repent for a long time. Doesn't that matter or change things?

Response #20:    

Apostasy is losing one's faith entirely and becoming an unbeliever, someone who does not believe that Jesus is the Christ (and in the case of an apostate someone who no longer believes that Jesus is the Christ). That is the spiritual rebellion, namely, casting Christ out of one's heart so as to no longer consider Him the Lord / God who died for our sins. Whether the person in question becomes an atheist or a Buddhist (or whatever), apostates are no longer Christians because they no longer believe in Jesus Christ.

All that is different from committing some sin or other. Peter certainly sinned when he denied Christ. If denying Christ the way Peter did didn't result in him being thrown out of the Church, it is safe to say that no sin in and of itself is going to result in God denying us. Just because Peter quickly rallied back would be of no consequence if sin produced renewed condemnation. Why would a time-lag matter? If we sin, it's not as if we can say five seconds later "I didn't mean it"; just as if we were to commit some heinous crime and say immediately afterwards, "I was only kidding" (Prov.26:18-19).

Sin is only an issue here because sin erodes faith. So there is a linkage, but faith is the king-pin which holds things in place. If a person keeps yanking on the pin, eventually it will come out. If a person erodes his/her faith long enough, eventually he/she will stop believing. And while all believers are saved, only believers are saved.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

Jesus offers all who belong to Him peace – but peace is not automatic any more than anything else in the Christian life is automatic. Peace is something that has to be grasped through faith, just like almost everything else (see the link: "Attaining Christian Peace"). 

So now that we have been justified by faith, let us take hold of the peace [we have] with God [the Father] through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1

As is also often the case, it is often really not possible to attack complicated issues like this head-on. Spiritual growth has to proceed on a broad front. One cannot take a "treat the symptoms" approach and expect grand results. But if a Christian commits him/herself to growing up spiritually in Christ, all other issues and kinks will be worked out over time. As we believe this or that point of truth, it begins to build up with all the others into an edifice of faith strong enough to withstand any flood.

Keep moving forward, my friend, and the Lord will bring you to that peace you seek.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Correct me please if I'm wrong but in Hebrews were those Jewish believers not going back to Judaism to keep their possessions and place in society and to avoid being unsynagogued, not necessarily because they didn't believe the truth of the gospel? Would this not change the meaning of apostasy? Just curious. I mean change/expand the meaning if apostasy. Therefore wouldn't a return to sinful practices or the world be the same thing? Am I confused here?

Response #21:   

If I am understanding your question correctly, let me say emphatically that when our Lord says in Luke 8:13 that this category of person " believes for a while and in time of temptation falls away", He means precisely this: they believe in Him, but later on they stop believing in Him. That is the only way "believe [only] for a while" can be interpreted (at least correctly). So if a person stops being a believer in Jesus, said person is an apostate; but if a person sins but does not stop believing in Jesus, that person is a sinner (and will incur divine discipline, including severe punishment depending on the type and duration of sin and also on the willingness to repent or not, among other factors), but not an apostate.

So it doesn't have anything to do with the fact of a believer being Jewish or not – or an unbeliever being Jewish or not – or an apostate being Jewish or not. Salvation has always been the same: "of faith" (Rom.4:1ff.). Before the cross believers, like Abraham, looked forward to the promised Sacrifice which would result in the forgiveness of their sins (Rom.3:1ff.). After the cross, we see Jesus plainly and what He has done for us (Heb.2:1ff.). But faith/belief is the same, and either we believe or we do not. We are "justified by faith" (Rom.5:1ff.), but without faith it is impossible to be pleasing to God (Heb.11:1ff.).

Faith has always been faith (believing in God / Jesus); apostasy has always been apostasy – at least understood in the biblical way: abandoning faith once possessed. If a person does that, that person is not saved, because we are only saved "by grace through faith" (Eph.2:8-9); but if a person does not throw away their faith/belief in Christ, said person is not an apostate (regardless of how thorough a mess he/she may have made of their Christian life).

The Jewish believers in Hebrews were involved in a gross sin by going back to the rites of Judaism which proclaimed a Messiah not yet come and a sacrifice for sin not yet made – and that is blasphemous in the extreme once Christ did come and did die for all sin. So, yes, these individuals were flirting with disaster, and that is why Paul wrote such a strong, anonymous letter to them. For these believers, things were going to end one of three ways: 1) apostasy (if their compromise had led to complete loss of faith and reversion to their prior status of unbelief); 2) the sin unto death, if they were unwilling to repent and change – but also unwilling to let go of their faith (God does not allow His people to have it both ways for very long); or 3) – what we hope happened – taking Paul's words to heart and rejecting their incipient moves back to Judaism even in the face of persecution:

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation.
Hebrews 6:9 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus who died not condemn the world but to save it (Jn.3:16-18) – a gift we receive through faith alone and retain through faith as long as it abides.

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Robert, hope you are well.

Can you explain to me how we can be so sure God forgives willful sins like mine when Numbers 15 said no forgiveness to the willful sinner. They were to be cut off from their people, no sacrifice, their sin remains on them. What if the guy who collected firewood on the Sabbath repented? How would he have been forgiven? Scripture says no.

Thanks,

Response #22: 

Under the Law, all violations were punishable by physical death. Neither this scripture nor any other scripture says that such persons lost eternal life. Moreover, the Law was never carried out to perfection; in fact, it is clear that it was almost never carried out in such circumstances (this is the ONLY recorded case of any such summary execution for a simple violation of the Law). During the time of the Judges up until the return from exile most of the time Israel behaved as if there were no Law at all – and when small portions of the Law were abided by, it was only occasional and always arbitrarily so. No doubt for that very reason on the day of Atonement the sacrifice is carried out for "all the sins of the people"; and also most of the sacrifices of the Law are for "sins of ignorance" – precisely because willful sin was always punishable by death.

By the "willful sin" standard, of course, not only could no one be saved, but no one would be left alive. Instead of "will the last person to leave please turn off the light", we would have had, in the event of complete compliance, "will the last person alive please execute him/herself" – because there is no human being alive who has not committed a willful sin (which is a sin done deliberately as opposed to being done in ignorance). What we have in your case is very common, namely, a Christian who is disturbed by some particular sin he/she has deliberately done in the past, one which is particularly shocking or egregious in his/her eyes; meanwhile he/she has committed countless other willful sins that don't worry him/her.

In the Law regarding all these things what God is trying to tell us is: "But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for 'the just shall live by faith' " (Gal.3:11 NKJV). The Law leads to repentance, because it seals everyone up under the sentence of sin and death (Rom.3:9). But Christ is the fulfillment of the Law – for all of us who are believers (Rom.10:4).

Since we are not under the Law, moreover, these verses have no direct application to us. If they did, we should be put to death for any violation that was not accidental – although, practically speaking, that never ever actually happened, even in Israel. What can we say about that? That God is loving and merciful. Does He ignore sin? Certainly not. Christ paid for all of our sins, therefore God is just in forgiving all who come to Him in seek of forgiveness, to the unbeliever leading to salvation through faith, to the believer leading to restored fellowship through confession.

It's not about sin. It's about faith in the One who died for sin.

What sin do you think God is too weak or too stingy to forgive? He honors what His Son did as far superior to anything we have done.

Christ's sacrifice is magnificent and awesome beyond anything we know or understand. He died for whatever sin or sins trouble you – and for the ones which don't. He has already paid. Refusing to accept that His blood shed for you (His spiritual death for all those sins on the cross) is capable of cleansing you when you confess does Him a disservice.

Have faith in the truth of His death for you.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:  

Thanks for always being there Robert, it's appreciated. When I read the exhortations to live a holy life by Jesus, Peter, Paul, John (like 2 Peter 2:20) I can't believe I committed so much sin callously and often times indifferent thinking I was ok while doing it. I am vexed as to how or why I was able to do that. I guess I condemn myself so I expect God to do the same. And there are a lot of commentators out there that would agree.

In answer to your question, I guess the sins I'm not sure of God being willing to forgive are high handed ones. There is a difference between willful and high handed sins to my understanding.

I'm afraid that in having gotten entangled in sin/the world again and knowing things I was doing were sinful but was doing them anyway for long periods would be the high handed ones? A German theologian, I believe Helmut Koester said "it is facile to believe God forgives every sin no matter how serious it is".

Would this not be speaking of high handed sin?

Response #23:    

If this were really an issue for believers, don't you think the Bible would say more about it? If it were really so easy to lose salvation, wouldn't that be directly put in scripture and not instead so enigmatic that it has to be pieced together from a verse here and another there and backed up by questionable secondary comments and conclusions? Isn't the whole reason that we are here on earth to decide our eternal future? Is your God a God who tries to confuse people, who tries to get them to stumble, who has no patience with them when they fail, who gets so upset when they make certain mistakes that He takes back His promises, who cares more about your behavior than what His dear Son did in dying in the darkness for that behavior, whatever it was? Thankfully, my God is not like that at all. His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness thunders forth from every page of scripture. That other "god" only exists in the little minds of little men. Truly, our God is so magnificent and so "big" that the human mind cannot even really come up with a construct to properly comprehend Him and His love – for He is love. That other little "god" has no place in the Bible – and no proper place in the lives of genuine Christians (at least beyond the point of very basic growth past spiritual infancy).

You know that God is love. He does not want to condemn anyone (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9), and He gains no pleasure from their condemnation (Jn.3:17).

You know that Christ actually has already died for all sins (1Jn.1:2).

You know that if we confess our sins, God always forgives them (1Jn.1:9).

These truths – and the logic of these truths – certainly trump any of the sort of arguments you are determined to find to condemn yourself.

Why not rather be grateful for God's forgiveness of you?

Didn't Christ die for you? Isn't that enough? It is indeed enough, but you have to be willing to accept that blessed truth.

Confess and forget, my friend, and then move on.

Please see the link in BB 3B: "Sinning Arrogantly"

Your friend in Jesus Christ who died for all of our sins that we might be saved, sinners though we are.

Bob L.

p.s., there is no indication that Uzzah is not saved (2Sam.6:7); if I jump off a twenty story building, I am going to die – physically – reaping the consequences of my foolish and sinful action (but it wouldn't keep me out of heaven).

Question #24:  

Robert, thanks. I read the section on sinning arrogantly. Forgive me, but is this not what I did? Sinning for years (drinking, lusting, using foul language, not attending church or reading my bible or praying) then repenting for a period only to fall back again and be unconcerned? Thinking the whole time I couldn't lose my salvation.

How can I know - what proof do I have now - that I didn't 'cross the line' you mention? It sure sounds to me like I did. I'm just looking for some objective evidence I didn't. If I did cross that line it would be too late no matter what.

So I read the whole section on apostasy and into the sin unto death. Can you explain to me how I can be sure I did not commit apostasy since you said it is characterized by returning to your former lifestyle which I did for quite a while? If I was committing the sin unto death, would the Lord not just have taken me out?

Yes I never stopped believing in the bible, or the gospel or in Jesus but I certainly stopped obeying Him and wasn't concerned about my sin (which as you mention got increasingly worse) because I believed once saved always saved. In light of everything you wrote in that section, please help me to see where I have concrete hope that I did not cross that line. What do I have to anchor to?

Response #24:     

I am a little confused by your opening statement. I think you should read the section again. The issue is not one of behavior but one of faith; behavior is only an issue in so far as it debilitates faith. If a Christian does not lose faith, that Christian is not an apostate. And it is possible to lose faith without being involved in a dissolute lifestyle. Put simply, the two things are not connected in the way you are assuming (as I have tried to show you many times now). So please read it again since you have clearly misunderstood the whole point of it. I have always been consistent whenever I have written about apostasy to describe it in the true biblical way as a total loss of faith. That is to say, an apostate is not a believer. An apostate is someone who has ceased to believe and has returned to his/her state of unbelief:

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Romans 11:22-23 NIV

Believers who do not persist in faith are cut off; unbelievers who do not persist in unbelief are grafted back in to the family of God.

The solution to unbelief is belief. If a person is a believer, that person has no need to believe again; said person may need to repent, confess, and reconstruct their spiritual life from the ground up – you are not the first person to experience that (in my observation it is almost more common than not).

Also, I have always been consistent in saying that apostasy is not an issue of sin. Sin may be a contributing factor, but there are perhaps more believers who fall away out of disappointment with God (not doing what they feel He should be doing and not trusting Him to be working all things out together for good) than from attraction to gross sin.

Believers are saved; unbelievers are not saved. You are witness that you never lost faith – therefore you were never an apostate (biblically defined). You may well indeed have been a prodigal son. We know how that one turned out, blessedly.

If a person is a believer NOW, that person is in no danger of damnation – unless said person loses faith entirely LATER. For only believers are saved.

I would anchor to the promises of God. He promises you salvation. He promises you forgiveness. He promises you that He will never forsake you. Just make sure you never forsake Him – which is what apostasy is, namely, turning your back on the Lord by no longer considering Him your Lord.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!
Acts 16:31

This is not about how good or bad a servant you or I or anyone else is – this is about whether or not a person is a servant at all (as only believers are).

The entire Bible speaks to the security of those who believe (and the opposite fate of those who do not).

 
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength!
Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV

I am not convinced at all by any of the "proofs" I have ever heard to the contrary. They not only don't hold water when examined, but they certainly cannot negate all of the promises of God or the truths about His character . . . or the death of Christ for all our sins.  He is our anchor.

People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 6:16-20 NIV

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

 

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