“Answers About Apostasy”
Introduction: I’m going to be dealing with a doctrine this morning that some of you have never heard of due to the fact that it has been neglected; some of you haven’t heard it preached or taught for years because of the difficulty in defining it and others have heard about this doctrine but do not have a biblical understanding of what it means. There is a great deal of understanding about it. I am speaking of the doctrine of apostasy or you may have heard it referred to as “falling from grace.” Webster defines apostasy as an act of refusing to continue to follow, obey, or recognize a religious faith. 2 : abandonment of a previous loyalty : defection. The Jews considered it
“…a hudud crime, which means it is a crime against God, and the punishment has been fixed by God. The punishment for apostasy includes state enforced annulment of his or her marriage, seizure of the person's children and property with automatic assignment to guardians and heirs, and death for the apostate. wikipedia.org
In the context of Christianity the Apostles, particularly Paul and the writer of Hebrews make it plain that apostasy is possible, not probable but possible. Paul actually uses this term in Galatians 5:4, KJV: "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."... You have fallen away from God's grace." What this means is that the NT teaches that it is possible for a born again believer to lose their faith and be lost. Now let me clear something up before I get started. There is a difference between “backsliding” and apostasy. Backsliding is the process whereas apostasy is the final state of the person who backslides and willfully, deliberately leaves the Christian faith. You can backslide theologically and morally, usually simultaneously in my experience in dealing with people for 46 years as a pastor. The last point is that backslides may repent and be restored but an apostate cannot be restored and will not have a desire to.
Let also deal with one other issue. FWB’s are among a group of believers who were influenced by the teachings of Jacob Arminius who opposed the teachings of John Calvin and who basically taught that you should balance the sovereignty of God with the free will of man. Thus he taught that it is possible for a believer to “lose” their salvation. Arminians include various groups of Baptists, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventist and others. No one would consider Arminianism a cult. I consider myself to be in the reformed Arminian tradition and have taught the possibility of apostasy my entire ministry. That is where we begin today. Let’s read our text.
1 Cor. 10:1-13
10 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Let’s look first of all at:
I. The Address
The first word in verse one is from the Hebrew ward “gar” which is translated for and connects this section with the last verse of chapter 9. “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” The number one rule of interpretation is context. The church at Corinth was primarily a Gentile church although we are sure that there were some converted Jews in their number. Paul uses several different terms to address them. He calls them “brethren,” and the “sanctified” and the “saints.” He recognizes as being believers in every way so that tells us the context of his teaching.
II. The Advantages
Paul uses the Israelites in the Exodus out of Egypt to illustrate that the Jews were the chosen people, the people of God, the people of faith in every way. He lists four of these advantages:
a. They were all under the cloud and passed through the sea. Exodus 13:21-22 “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” Jehovah was in the cloud by day and in the fire by night. He never left them and guide them from encampment to encampment, from water to water,
b. They were baptized unto Moses. Literally they were all immersed in Moses. Baptism is the figure here although there is some obscurity in the overall meaning it is clear that they “all,” received the benefit of this immersion.
c. They ate the same spiritual food. The all ate the “manna” and the “quail” or flesh which Jehovah provided. Again, they all received this advantage.
d. They drank from the spiritual rock. Paul identifies the rock as Christ himself who appears often as the “angel of the Lord” in the Exodus history.
In Scripture we see the use of metaphors, analogies and what is called typologies. These are typologies and serve to inform us that the Jews had shared mutual experience culminating in Christ, the Rock upon who the church is founded and the water that satisfies our spiritual thirst.
III. The Admonitions
Verse 5 tells us that in spite of their advantages they were “overthrown” in the wilderness. When I read this passage during my devotional time one word stood out to me in verses 7-10 that explains why God judged them so harshly. Each verse begins with the word “neither,” which is a word of warning to the Corinthian believers and us so that we might learn from their “example.” He warns them about “four failures of faith.”
a. We should avoid idolatry. We remember the Gods of Egypt and the “golden calf” in particular. The question is “…can Christians worship idols?” The answer is a resounding yes if we are careless and do not exercise caution. The Apostle John admonishes believers in 1 John 5:21 to “Little children, guard yourselves from idols' Anything that stands between us and God is an idol. They were “overthrown” for their behavior.
b. We should avoid sexual immorality. The Corinthian believers were aware of how closely akin immorality was to idolatry. The Greek geographer Strabo, who writes around 20 AD:
The temple of Aphrodite (at Corinth) was once so rich that it had acquired more than a thousand prostitutes, donated by both men and women to the service of the goddess. And because of them, the city used to be jam-packed and became wealthy. The ship-captains would spend fortunes there, and so the proverb says: “The voyage to Corinth isn’t for just any man.” There are numerous warnings and admontions in the NT for believers to “flee youthful lusts and flee fornication.” Some fell (23,000) in a single day.
c. We should not “test” the Lord. Many commentaries suggest that the Lord here is in fact the Messiah, the angel of the Lord who they “tried” in the wilderness. They tried His patience time and again. On at least one occasion the LORD wanted to destroy them all but Moses interceded on their behalf. How could these Corinthians “tempt” the Lord? By tempting Christ is meant disbelieving His providence and the goodness of God; and presuming to prescribe to Him how he should send them the necessary supplies, and of what kind they should be, etc. Godtube.com They provoked Him time and again with their disobedience.
Some were “destroyed of serpents.”
d. We should not “grumble.” Grumbling, murmuring and complaining are signs of ingratitude and discontentment. These Israelites are so much like us in so many ways. Some were “destroyed of the destroyer.”
IV. The Assurance
Put simply, Paul was afraid that he might be disapproved, rejected, cast away, deemed unfit to enter heaven. If he had allowed himself to be overcome by his inherently corrupt nature, he would not finish well and might even lose his salvation.
Two questions logically follow when we consider this verse, 1 Corinthians 9:27.
Firstly, is Paul’s fear positive or negative? It is definitely positive for it keeps him from making the greatest mistake in life—to be lost and damned for all eternity.
Secondly, if super apostle Paul feared that he might not make the grade in eternity, how much more ordinary heaven-bound citizens should live their days on earth with godly fear!
Come to think of it, if Paul entertained the thought he could possibly be disqualified from heaven, how much more “spiritual plebeians” like us should be cautious that we might not reach our intended final destination if we fail to fulfil certain conditions (Matthew 7:13,14, Luke 13:24).
Not everyone will agree with this interpretation of 1 Corinthians 9:27 but let me explain why this verse is not just a red herring. Using a single verse to build a doctrine or premise is not a sound principle. So other references that reinforce this particular verse are listed below.
Any believer who continues to willfully live in sin will miss out on heaven if he fails to repent. God is impartial. He is no respecter of persons.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Past faithfulness cannot nullify present sinfulness.
“When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live” (Ezekiel 18: 26, 32).
If a believer fails to endure, he or she may lose the chance of entering heaven.
“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called Today, so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end” (Hebrews 3: 12-14).
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:36, 39). http://limpohann.blogspot.com/
Conclusion: I believe that we are in particularly dangerous time for believers. We are being told that 25% of professing Christians will never return to the church. This to me is a sign of the apostasy or “falling away” that the Bible talks about. It begins with our attendance at public worship and goes downhill from there. Look at Hebrew 10:25-31 with me as we close, especially verse 26…”For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,”
If “we” which is a pronoun that would include the writer, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, continue willfully, deliberately practicing sin, at some point we will reach the state of apostasy where there is no more “sacrifice for sin.”
Hebrews 6:6 “If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
When a Christian backslides either theologically or morally or both and fails to repent after repeated attempts by the Holy Spirit to “draw” them, they harden their will and their conscience is seared they will reach a point of no return. This dear brother is apostasy.
Dr. Livingstone’s guides were either ignorant or determined to deceive him as he traveled with the gospel; he was quoted as saying he would have been better off without them; his compass was the only thing that kept him from going astray.
Jerry White said, "No one is so empty as the one who has stopped walking with God and doesn’t know it."