What the Bible actually says about apostasy: Introduction

by Jay Guin

If you think about it, it’s astonishing how far apart the conservative and progressive positions are given how much we agree on. We agree —

  • That Christians must be penitent and obedient.
  • That Christians who are insufficiently penitent or obedient can lose their salvation.

The question on which we disagree is just how penitent/obedient must a Christian be to stay saved? The conservative position remains — after months of blogging — inconsistently defined, but evidently a Christian is lost just as soon as he sins — morally or doctrinally — until he repents by admitting the sinfulness of that conduct and no longer being guilty of that conduct (subject to whatever degree of patience God extends to that Christian).

However, it also appears that a Christian remains saved, by grace, so long as he is walking in the light — which allows for some error due to moral or doctrinal weakness, which error hasn’t been defined for us.

Rather that battling back and forth over proof texts, we thought it would be more helpful to trace how this very question is answered by three different authors —John, the author of Hebrews, and Paul. You see, the question of apostasy is a major theme in the New Testament, and so we are able to cite entire epistles in support of our understanding.

For those new to this discussion, our view is —

There are three ways a saved person can fall away –

  • A Christian falls away when he no longer has faith. “Faith” means faith in Jesus.
  • A Christian falls away when he is no longer penitent. Equivalently, a Christian falls away when he no longer submits to Jesus as Lord. Equivalently, a Christian falls away when he willfully continues to sin.
  • A Christian falls away when he seeks to be justified other than by faith in Jesus.

The arguments that contradict the positions taken by Greg, Phil, and Mac are found coursing throughout the New Testament. We could cite far more proof than we will. Hopefully, 1 John, Hebrews, and Romans will be sufficient authority for our position.

And as we work through the texts, our position will be fleshed out. However, at this point, we aren’t addressing the third bullet — solely because it wouldn’t be fair to pile even more arguments on top of Mac and Phil at this time.

But the fact that we aren’t addressing the third bullet means that there will be some questions not yet answered — particularly when it comes to our understanding of Galatians and many of the passages on factionalism.

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3 Comments on “What the Bible actually says about apostasy: Introduction”

  1. Royce Ogle Says:

    Bullet three…”A Christian falls away when he seeks to be justified other than by faith in Jesus.”

    Wouldn’t this include many of our so called “conservative” friends?

    Maybe you don’t include “staying justified” by some other way…

    Royce

  2. Randall Says:

    “That Christians who are insufficiently penitent or obedient can lose their salvation.” is stated as a point that all y’all agree on.

    I am wondering which ones claim they are sufficiently penitent and obedient? I assure you that I do not measure up. I wonder whether there has been even one day in my life during which I was sufficiently obedient. And as Robert Murray McCheyne stated “even in the tears of my repentance I find myself sinning.” Are CofC folks any better?


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