Cain’s Apostasy

Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Genesis 4. For those that were not with us last week, my name is Michael Dewalt and will be teaching for the next 4-weeks on a biblical theme called, apostasy. I want to go back to deal with one question that I felt during the week was not covered as well as I should have. I will do so briefly now, then we will come back to the reading of Genesis 4, and get into this weeks lesson/lecture. The question was asked last week how an apostate and a heretic were different and if they are? I had in my mind define heretic according to the following, “Opinion or doctrine not in line with the accepted teaching of a church; the opposite of orthodoxy.”[1]

I am going to continue with what I believe to be the correct definition of a heretic[2] and spend the next five minutes in trying to explain its relationship with apostasy. However this can be done in two ways.

  1. Church/confessional heresy – which I was focusing upon last week.
  2. Damnable heresy – which Drew made mention of last week.

Let me give you one example #1 of what some of them would say is a heretic.

  • Belgic Confession says X, Y, Z. –> you disagree with X –> Your dismissed form the Denomination.

However you can see that although one may disagree with one confessional issue, he is still yet not an apostate. Last week when asked the question, this was what I had thought of because of a few friends who have dealt most recently with their churches over these issues – this however is not what I believe to be a true heretic.

A heretic is a person believing in or practicing religious heresy that is contrary to what makes up the gospel and he is damnable for it. It is a person holding to a view, doctrine, theology that is at odds of what is Biblical. So let’s take a look once again quickly at what this would look like remembering what Owen said about apostasy last week. (o) The center being the gospel, and the outside ring being the rest of the doctrines which make up the Christian faith.

  • Person #1 –> denies virgin birth –> he is a heretic of the denom. & an apostate
  • Person #2 –> denies male eldership and demands his wife becomes an elder –> is a heretic of the OPC denom. –> not an apostate…
  • Person #3 –> denies sub. Atonement, is he a heretic, is he an apostate?
  • Person #4 –> denies the singing of hymns, is he a heretic, is he an apostate?

Why is person #1 an apostate – Because he denies the essential truths, which make up the gospel? Remember Owens views of apostasy -To deny that which makes up the gospel. Can one still be a believer and believe women eldership is okay? Yes.

How does this differ from being an apostate? Remember apostasy is a larger picture of leaving the Christian faith. It encompasses false teachers, ignorant people of the gospel, false religions that claim to know God, and heretics that believe in false doctrine that changes the gospel. It is important to understand that a heretic is just a form of apostasy, like a false teacher. I hope I have help explained this better. We are going to move on and I will keep that question and answer time for us at the end like last week, and I will plan to do so every week for us to have discussion and work out our thoughts with one another.

Now go ahead and please follow along as I read from Genesis 4. Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Then the LORD said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

This is the Word of God. Here we have the first account of an apostate from the covenant. I wanted to look at apostasy and the Old Dispensation, due to the time of the class, we are only going to spend the rest of this class looking at Cain’s apostasy.

Introduction to Apostasy in the Old Dispensation

There are a number of themes throughout the Old Testament, but some are more easily seen than others. One reason that certain themes gain more attention than others is because of their reputation through the history of the Old Testament. Major themes that are easily seen include: covenant, grace, man, sin, atonement, redemption, exodus, exile, land, worship, Law, kingdom, and Messiah. However, there is one theme that is weaved in and out of God’s covenants with mankind, like that of the other major themes, yet is not treated the same. Apostasy in the Old Testament may not be one of the most popular themes, let alone even a fully devolved theme, but it was the theme of Israel time and time again. Looking back through the lens that the New Testament[3] gives us on the theme of apostasy, one can easily see Israel’s apostasy over and over both corporately and individually throughout all of the Old Testament. Even more so in how at times individual apostasy can lead to corporate apostasy.

Although the theme of apostasy finds its fullness in the New Testament, one simply cannot leave out the development and examples of it in the Old Testament. Sadly, the Old Testament gives constant examples of both corporate and individual apostasy.  These are seen throughout the Old Testament covenants. There is one exception, however, which is found in the covenant of creation in Genesis 2; for Adam was not an apostate.[4] But from that point on—after the fall of mankind in Genesis 3—it seems as if God came into covenant with man, and man came into covenant with apostasy. From Adam in Genesis 3:15, to David and the kingdom in 2 Samuel 7, each of the next five covenants in the Old Testament have apostates that played a prominent role in the history of mankind—namely Israel—cursing their lineage throughout history. Let’s see who you came up with this past week and if you did your homework or not… (Draw Chart)

Edenic Covenant

Adam

Cain the Apostate, Land of Nod apostasy

Noahic Covenant

Noah

Ham the Apostate, Land of Canaan apostasy

Abrahamic Covenant

Abraham

Esau

Mosaic Covenant

Moses

Israel in the Wilderness apostasy

Davidic Covenant

David

Jeroboam the Apostate & the 10-tribes apostasy

God Himself, time and time again, came into covenant with mankind and there were always both those that obeyed and followed Him, and those that broke off and lived according to their own desires, which God Himself allowed. Just as there were those who represented the covenant on mankind’s side—Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus in the New Covenant—there were also covenant breakers who represented mankind’s rebellion against God like we have just made mention of. To look at it another way: just as the covenants were given to men whom God had planned, in order to progress the plan for redemption for God’s people, there were also men—whom God planned—that would break the covenant and fall away from the LORD into apostasy. This is one area of biblical theology that needs more attention; that is, the progression of the covenant breakers that apostatized from the LORD through the Old Dispensation.[5]

Our Test Case: Cain and the Edenic Covenant

Genesis 3:15 would have given Adam hope that mankind would be given a redeemer because of his sin for all of humanity. It is in Genesis chapter three where the beginning of a number of major Old Testament themes begin, which are heavily talked about, written on, spoken of, and debated time and time again (such as the themes mentioned in this introduction). But by Genesis chapter four, the theme of apostasy roots itself deeply into the history of mankind, and from then on would never leave man alone. From this point on, every time God would make a covenant with man, man would then continue to break covenant with God constantly throughout Old Testament history.

By Genesis four, just years after the fall of man, comes a lineage of mankind that would plunge into following the way of Cain; that is, apostasy. Some scholars (Dr. Herion) make for the argument that God did not accept Cain’s offering simply because it was from the ground which God had cursed.[6] Some (Dr. Herion) scholars either forget, or simply do not use, the Old Testament’s commentary—the New Testament to interpret the Old.[7] Unlike Dr. Herion’s reasoning, or anyone else’s reasoning, ideas, thoughts, or studies, the writer of the book of Hebrews has already answered the most important question of Gen. 4 (Dr. Herion’s so-called profound question), “Why did God reject Cain’s offering?”[8] (Dr. Herion) Many Old Testament scholars miss Cain’s apostasy because they seemingly think it is not permissible to use what has been given to us in the New Testament. Like many issues and theological themes, which begin in the Old Testament, the New Testament helps shed light on answering the many questions that arose over 6,000 years before it. If one was to ask such a question (like Dr. Herion did) “Why did God reject Cain’s offering?—what would your answer be? Would you look only at that text in Gen. 4? Would you only look at that book of the Bible? Or would you look at what is spoken of Cain’s life? To such a question, (what passages do you think will help shed light this morning on Gen. 4) I can think of two passages that are helpful to answer it: Hebrews 11:1-7 and 1 John 3:12. The writer of Hebrews states in 11:1-7:

“11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 11:2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

The answer of Cain’s apostasy is found mainly in verse four—“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain”—it is important to see the overall focus of the whole passage, and to notice how exactly Hebrews 11 sheds light on answering how that Cain’s offering was not accepted, and how he was an apostate of the covenant. How anyone cannot see clearly why God did not accept Cain’s offering is beyond me. The writer here says explicitly, “Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.” But why is it more acceptable? The answer is given in the beginning of the verse—“By faith.” So it was because of Abel’s faith that God accepted his sacrifice, and it was by Cain’s lack there of faith that God did not accept his offering. Any other answer contrary to that which is given here in Hebrews 11:4, is false and should not be accepted. This is why Cain is the first apostate in history. With parents of the covenant, he was born and raised into the covenant that God had made with Adam, in which Cain left, and did not have faith in.

We see in Hebrews 11:1 that those who had faith also had their assurance in the things to come. In 11:2 we see the author shedding more light on the center of the passage (faith), stating that it is by faith that one has their assurance of the things hoped for; or on the other hand, receives their condemnation by not having faith. In 11:3 we see that God created everything not out of matter, but out of non-matter, and it is the faith of the person that leads to understanding such truth. Following this, the first example the author of Hebrews has for us in 11:4 is that of Cain and Abel’s offerings telling us that God accepted Abel’s because of his faith, and that he was commended as righteous and his gifts were accepted. To what kind of faith Abel had, the author does not leave room for more questions or multiple answers. In every way the faith that Abel had was a saving faith; and through this faith, he still speaks. In summary, the acceptance of the offering was evidence of God’s acceptance of the person, which “still speaks.” The story of Abel’s faith as recorded in the Bible, still speaks to generation after generation, and still to this day. This mention of Abel’s faith indicates that from the very outset of human history, some Old Testament figures were saved by means of faith in a sacrifice, which was a foreshadowing to the future sacrifice of Christ. This is why I made mention to reading not only Hebrews 11:4, but all of Hebrews 11:1-7. The author of the book of Hebrews reminds his readers by saying, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The question is not merely “Why God rejected Cain’s offering,” but “What saved Abel?” What saved Abel was his faith in giving his sacrifice as a foreshadowing of the coming sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Likewise, we see Cain did not have faith—that is, the faith of a coming sacrifice for mankind to which he would have known from his covenant parents Adam and Eve.

Here is it important to mention that Genesis 4 is not shedding light on why the sacrifice was not accepted, as it is written more for the pivotal point that the line of the wicked (Cain) and the line of The Lord’s people (Seth) was split. However, God did not let the question go unanswered; for when the history of redemption is reviewed by the writer of the book of Hebrews, as we saw earlier, the answer is clearly because Cain did not have faith. In this, not only does the writer of Hebrews destroy the theory/idea that Cain’s offering was not accepted for any other reason, but so does Genesis 3:14. Some would argue that the ground was cursed in Genesis 3:17-19; yet in Genesis 3:14 the animals were cursed also. Genesis 3:14 reads, “The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” Did Anyone (Dr. Herion) else that agrees with this view, not see that both the animals and the ground were cursed? And that even more so, the animals were above everything else? If one’s (Dr. Herion’s) argument were to exist, wouldn’t have Abel’s sacrifice not have been accepted either? For both were cursed at the fall of mankind. When seeing this, that all of creation at man’s fall was cursed—mankind, animals, and the ground—then only the writer of Hebrews’ answer stands: that Cain was without faith in his sacrifice, and because of that, God did not, nor would He ever, allow any sacrifice.

It was Cain that had no faith in his sacrifice of “the fruit of the ground,” that would be honoring to the LORD. Even Cain himself knew from the beginning of his sacrifice that his fruit would have never been acceptable to the LORD. This shows his lack of faith; faith that one day a redeemer would come to save mankind, which was promised to his father Adam. As Genesis 4:3-4 says, “And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” Because Cain did not have faith that a redeemer—Christ—would come to save humanity, his individual apostasy became corporate apostasy that not only affected himself, but his lineage and his land in Nod. For Cain’s individual apostasy would only create a corporate apostasy in his linage.

Lastly the other text in the New Testament that sheds light upon Cain’s apostasy is 1 John 3:12, which says, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” Describing Cain as being “of the evil one” (that is, Satan) clearly shows us that Cain was a follower of Satan and therefore an apostate of the LORD. As John writes to his audience and describes to them what they are to avoid, he does not explain that Cain’s offering was cursed because it was from the ground, or that he happened to not know what to offer the LORD. Rather, John deliberately describes Cain as evil, and that his deeds which were not acceptable to the LORD are not what a Christian is to follow.  Thus, we are left with three major conclusions about Cain’s apostasy: One, he had no faith (Hebrews 11:4); and two, his intentions were nothing but evil before the LORD through the murder of his brother and as he never asked for forgiveness (1 John 3:12) and three he confessed in believing the God of Israel, because he would have never offered a sacrifice if he had not believed there was a God.

In ending I want to make mention, last weeks lecture is up on the blog if you would like to read, as well as the Hebrew and Greek biblical terms used for apostasy throughout the Bible can be found under the “writings” section in the Th.M. section. Like that of last weeks, this weeks lecture will be on the blog tomorrow for those that want to sit down and read through it and so will the paper that goes along with this lecture. All right folks, with that said we have come to the Q&A period, we only have about 10-15 minutes so with that said, who has the first question?


[1] Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 751.

[2] A term derived from the Greek word hairesis, originally an opinion or way of thinking. It was used as a designation of a sect, party, or philosophical school. It is used in this sense of the Sadducees and Pharisees in Acts 5:17 and 15:5. Later Christian usage (from late second century a.d.) understood ‘heresy’ to indicate deviation from the accepted teaching or practice of the dominant Christian community. Something of this sense may be found in the treatment of Christians as a ‘sect of the Nazarenes’ in Acts 24:5, 14 and 28:22, where Christianity is opposed by Jewish religious authorities. Paul used the word for an internal faction within the Christian community (Gal. 5:20; 1 Cor. 11:19).

[3] Cf. The number of passages in the New Testament warning against and dealing with apostasy: Matthew 7:21-23; 10:33; 24:24; Luke 8:5-15; John 15: 1-8; Acts 5:5; 10; 8:13, 20-24; Romans 8:13; 11:20-22; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 4:1; 5:8, 11-12; 2 Timothy 2:11-13, 17-19; Hebrews 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; James 5:19-20; 2 Peter 2:20-22; 1 John 5:16-17; Revelation 3:5; 22:18-19. It is through these passages the theme/doctrine of apostasy is fully built, which gives one a lens with which to look back through the Old Testament for apostasy. After seeing the full flow of apostasy, one can go back to the Old Testament and see the roots of apostasy in Israel’s history.

[4] Adam – Adam did break covenant, and because of that the promise of physical death would occur. However, Adam did come back into covenant with God and followed him outside the garden in the Covenant of Grace.

[5] Old Dispensation: meaning the Old Testament administration of the Covenant of Grace in the 5 Covenants given to mankind. Edenic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic.

[6] Dr. Gary Herion, “Why God Rejected Cain’s Offering: The Obvious Answer,*” pp. 52-54.

[7] I use the New Testament to help interpret the Old Testament for three reasons: 1. Jesus Christ did in the gospels, 2. The New Testament writers, namely Paul, did in their theology, and 3. Simply, I’m a Christian and evangelical, so I must.

[8] Herion, “Why God Rejected Cain’s Offering: The Obvious Answer,*” pp. 52.

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An Introduction to Apostasy

The next six-weeks at my church I will be teaching a sunday-school series over my Th.M. thesis on apostasy. I will be posting each lecture/lesson that I give the day after I have taught it. Enjoy!

You can read the full-paper that influenced this lecture here.

Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 6:1-12. “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” This is the Word of God.

Let me start by asking a few questions. I will ask you a question about a doctrine, or a theological belief, and then you can answer in your head yes or no if the one who believes such doctrine is an apostate.

Is one an apostate is he denies…

  • Jesus is both God and man (John 1:1,14;8:24; Col. 2:9; 1 John 4:1-4).
  • Jesus rose from the dead physically (John 2:19-21).
  • Salvation is by grace through faith (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 5:1-5).
  • The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
  • There is only one God (Exodus 20:1-3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8)
  • God exists as a Trinity of persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (See Trinity)
  • Virgin Birth of Jesus – relates to incarnation of Christ as God and man.
  • Male eldership and pastorate
  • Fidelity in marriage in heterosexual relationships
  • The condemnation of homosexuality
  • Inerrancy of Scripture
  • Baptism for adults or infants
  • Predestination, election, and free will
  • Communion every week, monthly, or quarterly, etc.
  • Saturday or Sunday Worship
  • Worship with or without instruments, traditional or contemporary.
  • Pretribulation rapture, midtribulation rapture, posttribulation rapture.
  • Premillennialism, amillennialism, and post millennialism.
  • Continuation or cessation of the charismatic gifts

This morning will serve as the first of a five-week study of apostasy. Like that of any first lesson, it will serve as an introduction to our study of apostasy. This Sunday school lesson/lecture may not get into the depth that the introduction of my Th.M. thesis does, nor will today’s lesson be as in depth as the next four weeks. Yet that is the point of an introduction right? – The bringing of a concept into use or operation for the first time. So is it this morning, I plan to briefly explain how the study of apostasy came about in my own life, why the study of apostasy, the questions that need to be addressed dealing with apostasy, what it is I plan to do over the next month, and then end with defining what apostasy exactly is. Like any good introduction, apostasy needs to be define before we start our study, and define Biblically being that our study will be a Biblical Theology of Apostasy.

People today live in the present and yet often look back at the history of anything. They see what is happening during their time, in their church, and within their culture. Yet they often take a look back at what has actually happen in the Biblical history of their Christian faith. What most Christians do not realize is that history helps the church understand people and society, how a society became, the importance in our own lives, moral understanding, provides identity, what skills a Student needs for history development, its use in the world of work, and what kind of history the church should study.[1] For those that are Christians – it is important to understand God’s plan for history because it plays such a large role in what the Lord has planned and predestined to occur for His people.

I started studying apostasy about two-years prior to my actual Th.M. degree. It all started when a seminarian professor of mine stretched my view during a class saying that Cain was an apostate. At the time I did not understand how Cain was an apostate because I had never known that Cain had professed to be a believer in the text verbally. However farther looking into the Scriptures and understanding the Covenant of Grace, I had realized that Cain had totally left that which His parents where apart of – better yet Cain’s offering claimed to know and believe in God, but without having faith in God. This only lead me to further studying exactly what apostasy was, the definition of it, and how God allowed it time and time again throughout history.  One of the largest questions that came to my mind, is why would a God allow those that know him like Cain, fall away from Him?

Why Apostasy?

After studying the issue alone in my free time, during the last year of my M.A.R. I knew that I needed to look further into the issue and that others in the church could use some work on how apostasy was traced throughout the history of God’s plan for the redemption of His people. Better yet the theme of apostasy need to be used within several topics like Natural Law, the Old Dispensation, Romans 11, the New Dispensation and specific text within the New Testament that dealt with apostasy, like Paul’s writings, the letter to the Hebrews and Jude. Recently within 2010 Dr. Robert Peterson’s work called “Our Secure Salvation: Preservation and Apostasy” has done a wonderful work dealing mainly with the warning passage in the New Testament. However what I was most looking forward to was if Dr. Peterson was going to deal with the theme of apostasy its self, tracing its history throughout the biblical covenants. He did not, and therefore I knew I needed to do so. Questions started going through my head back and forth constantly.

My Questions

I decided to make a list of questions that would help with my defining of apostasy, and what it was I planned to answer in my thesis. After reading and studying I decided to make a list of questions I still had not seen addressed with apostasy and defining it. Some of the major questions underlying a proper definition of apostasy are the following:

  • Is apostasy falling away from what once was an orthodox confession?
  • Is apostasy individual or corporately done?
  • Is apostasy breaking the covenants that God made with man?
  • Is apostasy in the Old Testament different from that in the New Testament?
  • Can one be an apostate even though he or she had never claimed to be a believer?
  • Can one be an apostate even though he never wanted to be a believer?
  • Can one be an apostate yet still believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
  • Did God allow Israel to apostatize from Him?
  • Does God plan or allow apostasy?
  • What has God said about the theme of apostasy?

These are just some of the important questions that theologians may ask when interacting with the theological theme of apostasy throughout the Bible. It is these very questions that are answered over the nine chapters in my thesis, and I will only have the next 4 weeks to answer some of them.

My Method

I believe it is best in dealing with apostasy in a chronological way. This I decided to study the subject of apostasy in a chronological order of apostasy throughout the Scriptures. What Dr. Peterson’s book did not deal with was how God allowed apostasy, how God has used apostasy, and apostasy relationship with man in a theological sense. I decided that tracing the theme of apostasy throughout the history of mankind would then allow the reader to see how apostasy has always taken place during the covenant of grace, and its relationship with man and God throughout history. After seeing apostasy this way throughout history, one in the church today can understand the relevant issues in why the church needs to look closer at such a theme and how it ever was and is still yet important issue within the Church.

Definitions

Before starting a study of anything, a word study, figures of speech study, a theology dealing with a specific topic, or a study like this of a biblical theme throughout the Bible, it is of first importance to define it biblically. Although apostasy is a single term in theology, it translates into a variety of terms in the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, the term can have a number of different definitions and theological interpretations within Christianity itself.  For now, it is the biblical terminology that must be looked at before dealing with such issues as I made mention before. After being able to define the term itself according to what God has given in and throughout His Word, then one can trace the theme knowing the verbal-revelation upon which the theology of apostasy is based.

Let us take a look at several definitions. Princeton defines apostasy “as the state of having rejected your religious beliefs or your political party or a cause (often in favor of opposing beliefs or causes).”[2] The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology published by Inter Varsity Press defines apostasy as a term, “in theological discourse from the open and final repudiation of one’s allegiance to God in Christ.[3] The New Dictionary of Theology (also published by Inter Varsity Press) defines apostasy differently, saying that it is a “general falling away from religion or a denial of the faith by those who once held it.”[4] The late Puritan theologian John Owen defines the essence of apostasy as “a total renunciation (rejection) of all the constitutes principles and doctrines of Christianity.”  While obviously unlikely, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary almost seems to have borrowed John Owen’s language when it defines apostasy as, “renunciation (a rejection) of a religious faith and abandonment of a previous loyalty.”[5]

One of the best explanations I believe I have read is by L.G. Whitlock Jr. defines apostasy as the following,

“[Apostasy is] the deliberate repudiation and abandonment of the faith that one has professed (Heb. 3:12). Apostasy differs in degree from heresy. The heretic denies some aspects of the Christian faith but retains the Christian name. Again, the transfer of membership from one denomination to another of the same faith is not apostasy. It is also possible for a person to deny the faith, as Peter did, then reaffirm it at a later time.”[6]

Reformed theologian R.C. Sproul may give one of the simplest but best definitions (I believe) defining apostasy encompassing that of all it contains by saying,

“Apostasy is not the same as paganism. An apostate is one who, at some point, professed the true God. Apostasy can take place only in the house of God. People become apostates by repudiating the faith they once professed. Whole churches can become apostate. When churches denounce essential truths of the Christian faith, they are apostate churches. Denominations-Protestant denominations-can become apostate.”[7]

Here Dr. Sproul’s definition takes into account a number of theological truths, however there are two points that could be highlighted among the rest. First, he says, “Apostasy can take place only in the house of God.” Secondly, “People become apostates by repudiating the faith they once professed.”  Apostasy therefore, according to Dr. Sproul, is movement away from the Church by those who used to claim fellowship with Christ.  It is different then, than mere unbelief among non-believers, sinful unbelief, or doctrinal imprecision amongst God’s people that does not result in apostasy. Hopefully these definitions help give you an idea of what exactly apostasy is and that you understand how one becomes an apostate.

One thing I did in my thesis (which you can read online) was that before going farther into apostasy and its ramifications, apostasy must be defined in the first chapter and examined in its biblical terminology throughout the Old and New Testament.  How then must the one concept of apostasy be approached in light of the diversity of terms, which are used in reference to it in the Scriptures?

Even a brief perusing of any dictionary will reveal that there is not always just one definition of a word/term or figure of speech. When defining a term or a figure of speech it is appropriate to examine its context, general and theological usage, and examples that are from the text itself. Doing such a study will help not to become biased towards one particular definition of apostasy or any term for that matter. Tracing the doctrine of apostasy throughout the Old and New Testament in its original languages is essential for Christians to understand the gravity and ramifications of apostasy. When apostasy is rightly understood, falling away from the gospel, is, arguably one of the most serious transgression someone can commit. To have claimed God, and then to abandon Him is to condemn oneself to hell. This first chapter will survey the terms used throughout the New Testament and how they were used in both general and theological categories.

This will be available online, at www.gospelcenteredmusings.com under “writings” in the “Th.M.” section. There is the entire 30-35-page chapter (chapter-one) there that deals with both the Hebrew and Greek terms that are used through the entire Bible dealing with breaking the covenant, falling away, and departing from the faith. With hearing the definitions of apostasy that I mentioned before, I ask that you would take some time this week, whatever it is, 10 -15 minutes, an hour, and think of the apostates during the Old Testament. Come back next week with either a list, or the names of those whom you think were apostates in your mind and next week we will trace this biblical theme of apostasy throughout the Old Dispensation of the Covenant of Grace seeing how God used and allowed apostasy. So with that said – one I believe I’ll take any questions that you may have over the introduction. Two if you have any questions that you would like to see addresses over the next 4 weeks on this topic go ahead and ask now.


[1] http://www.historians.org/pubs/free/whystudyhistory.htm access on 05/09/2010.

[2] http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=apostasy, viewed 06/16/2010.

[3] R.C. Ortlund, Jr. “Apostasy,” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Ed. T. Desmond Alexander, Brain S. Rosner, D.A. Carson, Graeme Goldsworthy, and Steve Carr. (IVP: Downers Grove, 2000), pp. 386.

[4] I. H. Murray, “Apostasy,” New Dictionary of Theology. Ed. Sinclair Ferguson, David Wright and J.I. Packer. (IVP: Downers Grove, 2000), pp. 39.

[5] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apostasy.  May 10, 2010?

[6] L.G. Whitlock Jr. from Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (2nd Ed.)

[7] R.C. Sproul, Romans: The Righteous Shall Live By Faith. (Crossway: Wheaton, 2009),  pp. 369.


Demas a Apostate in the NT

Paul writes in Philemon 1:23-24: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.” He again writes in Colossians 4:14: “Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.” Demas, according to Paul’s writings, worked alongside Paul for a time. However, we find Demas mentioned again in Paul’s later writings to Timothy, but not in the same way as before. In 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul writes, “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.”

How did Demas apostatize from the Church? Paul gives the reason as he said Demas was “ in love with this present world.” Demas is the perfect example of how many today fall into apostasy and never return to what they had once tasted and seen. Demas, letting his guard down, allowed the world to fulfill his desires. Through this we see that he was never truly a co-worker with Paul for the gospel, but was merely one who had personally tasted the gospel, yet never fully eaten from it. This was an act of one who saw the gospel ministry first hand beside Paul—watching sinners come to the gospel, spiritual gifts take place, healings, and churches filling—yet fell into the ways of the world, just as easily as anyone today. The feeding of the flesh is extremely easy to fulfill, and is likewise just as hard to quench. Demas, after all that he saw and did alongside Paul, broke away, falling into apostasy in the ways of the world. One can be sure that this must have broken Paul’s heart; but even more so, Paul saw this as an important example to relay to Timothy—that apostasy can happen to anyone, no matter who you are or what you have done; even those that have worked for the gospel can still apostatize from it.

New Covenant apostasy is no different than that of the Old: one may see the work of God first hand, or walk with Jesus here on earth like Judas, see the gospel at work like Hymenaeus and Alexander, or work alongside Paul like Demas, but no man is safe from his own wicked flesh or from the temptation of leaving that which they know is better. It is only God’s children that can remain from falling away, as it is the eternal security the believer has in which they can rest assured of their salvation in the gospel.

Like that of the Old Dispensation and Covenants, there are covenant breakers that the Lord has allowed to fall away and apostatize from the gospel throughout all of history, including in the New Covenant.  For the Church today, apostasy still lives like it always has, but even more in number than ever before. Today, these essential beliefs which constitute the power of Christianity, are being subjected to an unparalleled assault from within the Church itself. The Bible says that in the end times people will mock the promise of the Lord’s return; 2 Peter 3:3-4 states: “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” What is more shocking is that this is done by those that call themselves a part of the true Church. Jesus, Paul, Peter and Jude’s theology constantly teaches, both in warning and render, that apostasy will bite away time and time again at the Church, trying to destroy the true gospel. Today a church may appear godly, but is not truly of God. It believes not the true gospel of the Lord; or it pretends to believe, but will not obey. It is a church that produces no real good fruit, as it may look good on the outside and sound good on the inside, but its members produce no fruit on an individual basis; the members are not taught to proclaim the gospel. Overall, it is a fine religion that does little but serve itself. This kind of church has a form of godliness, but denies the power of God, as it merely tickles the ears of its members with good tidings and refrains from inflicting hell-fire sermons which might offend the sheep;  repentance, holiness, and good works are frowned upon. The fact is that just because countless churches are doing the same things, does not mean they are following God’s Word or His commands. The apostate church creates the great falling away and will certainly disobey God’s commands, and yet appear as an angel of light.

A main focus in Paul’s letters to Titus and Timothy is that of warning—that is, a warning of apostates and the false teaching done by them. Paul very clearly understood this and saw it as a crucial warning, which was much needed in that time, and is still needed today. Paul’s prophetic charge to the church of Thessalonica is still what the Church deals with every day until the second coming of Jesus Christ. It is a warning and yet a comfort to the Church that deals with apostasy at large today in the New Covenant. 2 Thessalonians 2 reads:

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”


Hymenaeus & Alexander

Hymenaeus was an opponent of the Apostle Paul, and was associated with Alexander in 1 Timothy 1:18-20. Alexander was a Jewish coppersmith who, with Hymenaeus and others, promulgated certain heresies regarding the resurrection (1 Timothy 1:19; 2 Timothy 4:14), and made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience. Paul excommunicated him, as is seen in 1 Timothy 1:20.[1]

Paul J. Achtemeier makes mention on Hymenaeus’ heretical beliefs which made him an apostate: “With Philetus, Hymenaeus held that the general resurrection was already past (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-2). Gnostic dualistic assumptions probably supported an anti-Pauline spiritualizing of the Christian hope and a denial of bodily resurrection.[2] A. F. Walls adds to Achtemeier’s comments above saying,

“It had not, however, evoked repentance when 2 Tim. 2:17 was written. The error of Hymenaeus and others, described in clinical terms as ‘feeding like gangrene’, was still much in Paul’s mind. It involved a ‘spiritualization’ of the resurrection (including, doubtless, the judgment), doctrine always repugnant to the Greek mind: there were similar misunderstandings at Corinth earlier (1 Cor. 15:12). Such ideas took various forms in Gnostic religion: cf. the claim of the false teachers in the Acts of Paul and Thecla 14 (combining two ideas): ‘We will teach thee of that resurrection which he asserteth, that it is already come to pass in the children which we have, and we rise again when we have come to the knowledge of the true God’ (tr. M. R. James, Apocryphal New Testament, p. 275).[3]

Hymenaeus and Alexander worked together to mislead and falsely teach others into apostasy, claiming to be true believers of God, yet they did not follow the true teachings of the New Covenant Church about Jesus Christ, and for this they were handed to Satan for his workmanship and not that of the One whom they thought they knew. While writing to Timothy, Paul saw fit that he be well aware of those that were claiming to be believers of God, yet proclaiming another gospel—these being apostates that falsely teach, misleading others under their apostate teaching. Like that of Judas, Paul makes specific mention of those that are under Satan’s work; in 1 Timothy: 1:18-20 he says,

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on 1 Timothy, says,

“As for those who had made shipwreck of the faith, he specifies two, Hymeneus and Alexander, who had made a profession of the Christian religion, but had quitted that profession; and Paul had delivered them to Satan, had declared them to belong to the kingdom of Satan, and, as some think, had, by an extraordinary power, delivered them to be terrified or tormented by Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme not to contradict or revile the doctrine of Christ and the good ways of the Lord.”[4]

For the Church dealing with apostates today, it is crucial to understand the relationship that occurs between those that are in the Church and those that merely claim to be in the Church. If a believer knows an apostate, it is natural to want to fight to bring them back to the gospel that was left. However, Paul sees that it is perfectly acceptable that there is a time, after much has been done, to let the apostate leave to go to their master whom they serve—Satan—and let them be, yet remaining aware of them and their false teaching. Simon Robinson gives a pastoral approach of looking at this, saying, “This may seem hard but it is the loving thing to do because it enables the people concerned to realize the seriousness of their rebellion against God and it will also serve as a warning to the rest of the church not to follow such examples.”[5] Matthew Henry also brings to light the primary purpose of the New Testament Church, and her dealing with false teachers/apostates:

Observe, The primary design of the highest censure in the primitive church was to prevent further sin and to reclaim the sinner. In this case it was for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.[6]

Today in the New Covenant, the Church deals with those that claim to preach and teach the Word of God, proclaiming they are saved by Jesus Christ, but are misleading thousands of men and women with their false teaching of the gospel. However, it is the true Church’s job to understand that these people are a work of Satan, like that of Hymenaeus and Alexander who worked together against the gospel. As Paul helped equip Timothy to be prepared for these men, the same must be seen in the Church today, in that pastors and elders must continue to prepare the Church for those that falsely teach and lead others astray from the truth of Jesus Christ.


[1] M.G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

[2] Paul J. Achtemeier, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), pp. 413.

[3] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), pp. 492.

[4] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), 1 Ti 1:18–20.

[5] Simon J. Robinson, Opening Up 1 Timothy (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2004), pp. 31.

[6] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), 1 Ti 1:18–20.


Judas Iscariot the Apostate

Judas Iscariot[1] is the most well known apostate of the New Dispensation. There is one particular branding which the New Testament Gospel writers all make mention of when mentioning Judas Iscariot—that is, “The Betrayer.”

  • Matthew 10:4 – “Simon the Canaanean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
  • Mark 3:9 – “and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
  • Luke 16:6 – “and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
  • John 18:5 – “They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.”  Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.

In every Gospel account, Judas is remembered and mentioned as the betrayer; an apostate.  He was one who followed Jesus, worshipped Him, learned from Him, and yet at the end of Christ’s ministry was still controlled by Satan. R. P. Martin compares Judas and Jeroboam’s apostasy, saying, “We may compare the case of Jeroboam I, in the OT, who is mentioned with horror as the one ‘who made Israel to sin’.”[2] What is comparable is that both were a part of the covenant—tasting it and seeing it first hand—yet they made a covenant with themselves which they would rather follow. Jeroboam, under Solomon (a type of Christ), broke away from the Davidic Covenant and lead Israel into sin. Judas, under the teaching of Jesus Christ, broke away from the New Covenant, continuing to lead mankind into sin.

One may ask how anyone could possibly apostatize directly from faith in Jesus Christ after spending three and a half years living and learning with Him. The answer is found in Luke 20:1-6, which tells us exactly how such apostasy takes place:

“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.”

Matthew Henry comments on these verses saying,

“It was the devil’s work, who thought hereby to ruin Christ’s undertaking, to have broken his head; but it proved only the bruising of his heel. Whoever betrays Christ, or his truths or ways, it is Satan that puts them upon it. Judas knew how desirous the chief priests were to get Christ into their hands, and that they could not do it safely without the assistance of some that knew his retirements, as he did. He therefore went himself, and made the motion to them, v. 4. Note, It is hard to say whether more mischief is done to Christ’s kingdom by the power and policy of its open enemies, or by the treachery and self-seeking of its pretended friends: nay, without the latter its enemies could not gain their point as they do. When you see Judas communing with the chief priests, be sure some mischief is hatching; it is for no good that they are laying their heads together.”[3]

It is the same today in the New Covenant: apostasy is the work of Satan, drawing away those who have seen the gospel first hand and capturing them into his darkness. It was Judas’ long history of habitual sins—namely stealing and thievery—which John makes mention of in his Gospel in 12:6 saying, “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” Andrew Knowles also makes mention of Judas’ problems with money as he says, “There are many possible reasons why Judas betrays Jesus. He loves money. John tells us that Judas is an eager but dishonest treasurer (John 12:6). Is he so desperate for money that he will sell his master?”[4] Habitual sins can sear the heart to the point that it no longer feels repentance; instead becoming a lifestyle that leads one who has tasted to gospel to live apart from the gospel and leading away from Christ into apostasy.

At one of the most intimate times in the history of mankind—Jesus eating with His disciples at Passover, transitioning the Old into the New Covenant—it is made clear that there was one amongst them who had already betrayed Jesus. Luke 22:20-23 states:

“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.”

Just as stunning today as it was at the time, Jesus was in the middle of telling His disciples of His coming death and let it be known that there was one in their circle who would apostatize. As Jesus spoke of these events that were to come—His betrayal by Judas and His death—they were of no surprise to Him, as He both knew and planned how every last detail would play out.

One of the most critical questions about Judas’ apostasy is “why?” Why would he apostatize from Jesus after being a disciple of His?  One way of perceiving Judas’ apostasy is by understanding the redemptive historical approach of looking at the history of the Bible. In this we see that in God’s will He had made plans that His Son, Jesus Christ, would be betrayed by one of His disciples, and that it would be Judas whom Satan would take hold of and blind from the gospel. In fact, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament:

  • Psalm 41:9 – “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

With this in mind it is common to question whether it was Judas that apostatized from Christ, or was it God that had planned his future to apostatize? Considering this, one must not be lead to a misunderstanding of God’s sovereignty and man’s accountability. What takes place from the hands of evil men is not done by God, but is allowed by Him. Man is still accountable for his actions even though God knows and allows man to continue in sin. So are those in the New Covenant any different from Judas, since God does not prophesy one’s future today? Of course the answer is an astounding “no,” because mankind himself prophesied his own future when Adam took part of the fruit in Genesis 2. This is better said by Paul in Romans 5:12-13, as he explains, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.” Like Adam in the garden walking in perfect communion with God, and like Judas learning from Jesus’ teaching, all of mankind can easily fall into sin; but with Judas, it was his habitual sin that lead him into a life that would allow Satan to overtake not only his body, but also his soul, leading him into apostasy until his death. It is very important to see that no man, including even the disciples of Christ, is safe from the work of Satan. Once one has committed into apostasy—hardening their heart—it is impossible for them to return. As in Judas’ example, upon realizing what he had done he could not repent for his actions and decisions. Matthew 27:3-5 says,

“Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.”

Reflecting on this, Acts 1:15-20 helps the Church today to look back at the act of Judas’ apostasy to show how God uses the evil of mankind for the good of His people and His plan of redemption for His elect. Acts 1:15-20 states:

“In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,  “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’”


[1] Cf. for a study of Judas’ life and apostasy: The difficulties associated with the variant details of the death of Judas are discussed in BC, 1.5, pp. 22–30; cf., too, Arndt, loc. cit. and s.v. ‘Ioudas’, 6; K. L¸thi, Judas Iskarioth, 1955; D. Haugg, Judas Iskarioth in den neutestamentlichen Berichten, 1930; J. S. Stewart, The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ, 1933, pp. 166–170; P. Benoit, art. ‘La mort de Judas’ in collected works, ExigËse et Thiologie, 1961; B. G‰rtner, Iscariot, E.T. 1971.

[2] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), pp. 624.

[3] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), Lk 22:1–6.

[4] Andrew Knowles, The Bible Guide, 1st Augsburg books ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001), pp. 495-96.


NT Warnings of Apostasy

Although the theme of apostasy can be traced throughout all of human history, its theology and the fullness of it is found in the New Dispensation—namely in the theology of Paul as he delivers warnings of false teachers,[1] and also in the theology of other New Testament writers Peter, Jude, and John. In Paul’s writings there are a few warnings that stand out among the rest, such as in Acts 20:28-31 where he sends a warning to the elders at Ephesus saying,

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.”

Paul once again warns the church of the “great falling away” and the “man of sin” at Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 as he says,

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or ea letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness* is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”

In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul describes to Timothy both how a man will depart from the faith and how some will not endure sound doctrine in 1 Timothy 4:1-3:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”

and 2 Timothy 4:1-4:

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

As mentioned, there are more than just Paul’s warnings about those that will fall from the truth and teach a false gospel. Peter—in 2 Peter 2:1-2—warned his readers of the false teachers to come who will bring destructive heresies and whom many will end up following:

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.”

In Jude’s theology of apostasy he warns his readers of the false teachers who were even present during that time in the church, who crept their way in, turning the grace of God into lewdness and denying the Lord God and Jesus Christ. Jude 3-4 states:

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Lastly, John’s theology matches the New Testament theme of apostasy as he also warns the church of it, specifically as he mentions the “antichrists” who had come—in fact, had already come during that time—and as such, John saw that the Church was living in the last hour before Jesus Christ’s second-coming. 1 John 2:18-19 reads:

“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

These warnings of apostasy through the New Testament writers also brings to light Jesus’ teaching to His disciples that apostasy was already underway during His ministry here on earth, when He stated in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Another one of Jesus’ great predictions of what will take place before the end is characterized by tribulation which will occur in such a way that many will apostatize from the faith, as Matthew 24:10 says, “then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.” Here in Christ’s teaching one can see that until His second coming, apostasy will continue to take place within the Church. With this teaching, it is very evident in the letter to the Hebrews—from the very opening of the letter—that Jesus Christ occupies the ultimate position in the redemptive purpose of God, as Hebrews 1:1-4 reads,

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

This is what the Old Testament looked toward, and is that which the New Testament believers apostatized from—that is, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Because of the nature of this, the letter to the Hebrews insists that one cannot reverse apostasy; a teaching found in Hebrews 6:4-6[2] and 12:16-17. This, which those in the Old Dispensation broke away from and lost covenant, is that the same in which those in the New Covenant, during the New Dispensation, break or fall away from as well. Paul deals with this in his teachings in both Galatians 1:7-9 and in 1 Timothy 1:1-5. Paul explains to the New Testament Church that they would have among them those that claimed to live and teach the gospel, but in actuality preach a hypocritical gospel. Passages like 2 Timothy 4:3-4 and Acts 20:29-30 (as Paul deals with the elders at Ephesus) show that there were those that mislead the church from the truth of the gospel. It is important here to look at who the major New Dispensation apostates are, just as we did with the Old Dispensation in chapter three.


[1] For an in-depth study dealing with New Testament warning passages Cf. Robert Peterson, Our Secure Salvation: Perseverance and Apostasy, P&R Publishing: Philisberg, 2009), pp. 101-94.

[2] Hebrews 6:1-4 will be dealt with deeper in chapter 8. Cf. for a study of the Hebrews “warning passages”: Robert Peterson, Our Secure Salvation: Perseverance and Apostasy, P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, 2009), pp. 157-77.


False Teaching the Gospel = Apostasy

Rob Bell a pastor at Mars Hill, Grand Rapids, Michigan says that our gospel message today is completely contrary to the Bible. He states,

Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker. This has huge implications for how people present the message of Jesus. Yes, Jesus can come into hearts. But we can join a movement that is as wide and as big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems. God’s Desire is to restore all of it.[1]

Not only has Rob thrown the salvation of God’s elect out, but he has incorporated everyone including the unelect with the elect, in the work and redemption of Jesus Christ.  In this corporate process, one-day restoration will come to ALL that has been corrupted.  However many other doctrines change in Bell’s theology.  Bell also has said,

“By this I do not mean cosmetic, superficial changes like better lights and music, sharper graphics, and new methods with easy-to-follow steps. I mean theology: the beliefs about Gods, Jesus, the Bible, salvation, the future. We must keep reforming the way the Christian faith is defined, lived and explained.”[2]

Statements like this are not meant for Scripture nor for teaching the Gospel, but only false teaching at its’ best. Mr. Bell you can change your house, your car, or the way you dress (which you do so often), change your plans for your dinner date, things that are changeable can be changed. Things which are not changeable should not even be considered to be changed. Absolutes like God Himself, Jesus Christ, the theology, salvation for His elect, and the future events that will take place one-day, are not subject to change because Scripture does not change them, but only makes them after the character of God Himself, the unchangeable.

False teachers has lost the meaning behind Scripture, lost focus of Scripture, and lost focus of teaching the absolute truth to today’s hearers.  Essential doctrines should not be changed, nor can they simply because one says they are like that of Mr. Bell.

The point of the matter is, when one starts changing these doctrines, he or she has changed the gospel its’ self. When one changes Scripture to fit what they think, and what they want it to mean, they’ve lost not only the truth, but also they’ve lost the need of the gospel for their own lives. One cannot change biblical doctrines; in doing so they lose a purity of the gospel. Scriptures are meant to reprove, rebuke, or exhort man back to Christ. Belief otherwise is not the same gospel.  A person cannot change God, Jesus, and the Bible and still have a correct view of the gospel. Furthermore, salvation cannot be altered as Rob Bell has attempted to do.

In the postmodern culture today, men have always wanted to change the Scriptures to their itching ears as Paul told Timothy. They have sought after a means of intellectual knowledge for their own sake, and not the sake of the gospel. Paul warned Timothy of this time when men would not “endure sound doctrine.” Men would leave the faith, and seek after their own pleasures, and for their own wants. Men would “turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turn unto fables.” Liberal theology, with its thoughts and philosophical mindset behind Scripture, has no valuable contribution to the field of theology. Rather, it harms the gospel, leads people astray, and distains them for condemnation. Galatians 1:6-9 summarizes apostasy well.  It does us well to heed the words.

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, ‘If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.’

How well are you preaching and teaching the truth of the Gospel and all of its doctrines that it consist of? Preach Christ crucified and may the Gospel 1st be offensive to man’s nature, and secondly be saving to man’s soul.


[1] Rob Bell,. Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 109-10.

[2] Ibid. p. 12.


How Can I declare someone as an Apostate?

Not that anyone should want to, but if a Presbyterian goes Baptist, he is NOT an apostate (Okay Scottish covenanters).  He is what I came up with…

Primary Essentials (Nature and work of Christ) – Cannot deny and be Christian since they are explicitly stated as required in scripture.

Secondary Essentials – (Nature of God) Cannot deny and be Christian.

  • God exists as a Trinity of persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (See Trinity)
  • Virgin Birth of Jesus – relates to incarnation of Christ as God and man.

Primary Non-Essentials (Bible, Church ordinances, and practice) – Denial does not void salvation, yet principles are clearly taught in scripture.  Denial suggests apostasy….

  • Male eldership and pastorate
  • Fidelity in marriage in heterosexual relationships
  • The condemnation of homosexuality
  • Inerrancy of Scripture

Secondary Non-Essentials – does not affect one’s salvation relationship with God.  Debated within Christianity.  Denial or acceptance does not suggest apostasy.

  • Baptism for adults or infants
  • Predestination, election, and free will
  • Communion every week, monthly, or quarterly, etc.
  • Saturday or Sunday Worship
  • Worship with or without instruments, traditional or contemporary.
  • Pretribulation rapture, midtribulation rapture, posttribulation rapture.
  • Premillennialism, amillennialism, and post millennialism.
  • Continuation or cessation of the charismatic gifts

Can you be an Apostate without being an Actual Believer?

 

6. Apostacy, or a manifest falling away from God to the devil, whom he believed and obeyed rather than God; and whom he set up in the place of God, separating himself from God.  He did not ask of God those things which he was to receive; but, by the advice of the devil, he wished to obtain equality with God.  The fall of man, therefore, was no trifling, nor single offence; but it was a sin manifold and horrible in its nature, on account of which God justly rejected him, iwth all of his posterity.
 
Taken from Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Publishing, reprint of 1892 edition), 34.
Here is my question… 

John Owen on Apostasy – Part Two

For the next 13 to 14 weeks, my plan is to go through John Owen’s work on Apostasy and address each Chapter the following way:

Thesis – Will be John Owens own thesis from taken from each individual section.

Outline – Will be an outline showing the importance of John Owens points tin each chapter in dealing with apostasy.
Summary – Will be a brief summary giving a rundown over each individual chapter.

 

I. The nature of apostasy from the gospel declared, in an exposition of Hebrews 6:4-6

Theses:

“Intending an inquiry into the nature, causes, and occasions of the present defection that is in the world from the truth, holiness, and worship of the gospel, I shall lay the foundation of my whole discourse in an exposition of that passage in the Epistle of Paul the apostle unto the Hebrews, wherein he gives an account both of the nature of apostasy and of the punishment due unto apostates; for as this will lead us naturally unto what is designed, so an endeavor to free the context from the difficulties wherewith it is generally supposed to be attended, and to explain the mind of the Holy Ghost therein, may be neither unacceptable nor unuseful.”

Summary:

In his first chapter, John Owen gives an introduction to the background and history of the Nature and Cause of Apostasy from Hebrews 6:4-6. Out of all 13 chapters, this is the longest and the one with the most substance due to its framework which it lays out for the continuing 12 chapters. He begins with giving the context and the description of how apostates had once been touched by the gospel, but leaving it in this way they could never come back to constitutional rights of the gospel. Owen then gives the characteristics, obedience, and faithfulness that one is to live by as a believer, and continues on to the rights, privileges, and blessings that the believer is to have – including illumination, a tasting of the gospel, receiving the Holy Spirit, receiving the Word of God, and being able to stand against the powers of the world.

            Owen then begins dealing with the text of Hebrews 6:4-6 itself, detailing a number of areas that are often mentioned in debate, such as: are these true believers, spiritual privileges, and if they fall away. Here Owen works with exactly what this text says of apostasy and how it is impossible to bring one back from it to repentance. He focuses on three major areas in this section: all events depend on God, things are impossible because of who God is, and, things are possible and impossible with God who appoints all things to happen. In these sections Owen deals with both issues of how it is possible for one to come back to the gospel after leaving it, and how one cannot come back to the gospel, both emphasizing God being in control over all things for His reasoning only. Lastly, Owen ends with an explanation about the fact that if man alone tries to bring the one who has left the gospel back to it, no matter what man may do, it is impossible. He points out that one cannot “renew” another back to right relationship with God, unless God Himself has done the work of the gospel inside the one who had tasted it. Owen finishes with 2 final thoughts: to continue always to preach the gospel and make that gospel clear to all men, and how man alone cannot come to repentance of his apostasy.  

Outline:

I.               The Nature of Apostasy (Exegesis of Hebrews 6:4-6)

A.   The History of Apostasy

B.    Exegesis of Hebrews 6:4-6

1.     Context of the Passage

2.     Apostasy Described

1.     Characteristics of Salvation

2.     Believers Follow in Obedience

3.     Believers Live by Faithfulness of God

C.    The Great Privileges

1.     Having Spiritual Illumination

2.     Tasting the Heavenly Gift

3.     Partakers of the Holy Spirit

4.     Tasting the Word

5.     Powers Over the Coming Age of this World

D.   Apostasy and the Text of Hebrew 6:4-6

1.     All Future Events Depend Alone on God

2.     Some May never Return to the Gospel

3.     The True Believer Should Help to Renew Those who Fall

E.    Bringing Apostasy to Repentance

1.     Preaching the Gospel Clear

2.     Renewing Fallen Individuals to the Gospel


     [1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 7 (Banner of Truth Trust: London, 1965), p. 11.

 


John Owen on Apostasy – Part One

Why John Owen, the Puritan?

Puritans – you know, those people with crazy hair, wearing black and white outfits with some type of white ruffle around their neck, perhaps wearing a goofy looking cap, always making large families, and living in villages all by themselves as they tried to reform the Church of England… at least, that’s what may come to mind for some people. However, truthfully it seems that there has never been another group of individuals in history that can quite compare to the Puritans, who, spanning for over 200 years, knew the Scriptures, loved the Scriptures, and lived them out as they did. Their work ethic makes many of those today who are in seminaries, ministries, and even those in the pulpit, look lazy. The lives of the Puritans confirmed them as believers that were sold on a purifying doctrine and worship to the Christ. This they took extremely seriously as they continued to bring about the Reformation that Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin had started so fervently. With the intentions that the Puritans had – that is, for the Scriptures to spread to all of mankind – they did not take apostasy lightly. John Owen explains the problem of apostasy best when he addresses the reader to The Nature and Causes of Apostasy from the Gospel. He states:

Religion is the same that it ever was, only it suffers by them that make profession of it. What disadvantage it falls under in the world, they must at length answer for those in whose misbelief and practice it is corrupted. And no man can express greater enmity unto or malice against the gospel, that he that’s should assert or maintain that the faith, profession, lives, ways, and walkings of the generality of Christians are a just representation of its truth and holiness.

If one would want to further study the topic of apostasy, it is always best to look at those who have gone before them and written reliable material on the subject. There are a number of different men such as Samuel Eyles Pierce, A. W. Pink, Horatius Bonar, Gardiner Spring, and today’s Richard Phillips, that have written thorough pieces and dealt with the topic correctly, and are well worth the time to read. As for the Puritans’ writings on the topic, one may easily go in a number of different directions. It would be good to take the time to look at Thomas Brooks, Ebenezer Erskine, Thomas Boston, and Richard Sibbes. However, when delving into the topic of apostasy it is most important to spend some time on the greatest work done on it by the “Master” of it himself: John Owen. In the seventh volume of his works (printed by Banner of Truth Trust), Owen has a massive 259 pages dealing with apostasy.

Today in the 21st century John Owen is known for a number of different topics and areas like, Mortification of Sin, Biblical Theology, Communion with God, The Glory of Christ, The Holy Spirit, his seven-volume work on the book of Hebrews, and his sixteen-volume set of works. Additionally, people may often think of Justin Taylor’s passion for Owens’ works, namely, Communion with the Triune God and Overcoming Sin and Temptation. On top of all that, Own is also known to be the cause of almost every seminarian’s complaint, “I cannot read his lengthy sentences!” No matter how many degrees one has, what seminary one graduated from, or how brilliant one is, it is always hard to grasp the long-winded mind and thought of John Owen brought forth through the ink of his pen. But that is exactly why this chapter is being written – so that you, the reader, will get a review of the often-overlooked writing on apostasy that Owen did, and how then to relate that to any man living today.

john_owen2With that said, there is not much of an introduction needed in describing John Owen. A man of Welsh decent, born in the town of Stadhampton, Oxfordshire, and a student of Queen’s College, he was born and raised a Puritan. John Owen was a husband, father, and, most of all, a man of God who spent his whole life studying the Scriptures. He lost 10 of his 11 children at birth, and later his 11th to drinking herself to death. John Owen knew suffering – that is for certain. The importance of John Owens’ sufferings in this matter (Apostasy) is to see how easily Owen himself could have turned hard-hearted toward the gospel and become an apostate. However, John Owen never lost sight of his victor, Jesus Christ. He took his work, ministry, and study very seriously – living out his faith in Christ.

When one speaks or hears about the Puritans, it is hard to not think or have at least one mention of the most popular one: John Owen. The church, throughout her life, has been given a number of gifted and talented individuals with minds like nothing else, and which are even more powerfully seen when they use it while suffering for the kingdom of Christ – as John Owen did. Owens’ work can still be used today for all who may be dealing with apostasy or an apostate, as many living in this postmodern culture claim the title of “Christian” but show no fruit or sign and are then branded “Apostate!” For that very reason, the Nature and Causes of Apostasy from the Gospel should not be overlooked when dealing with Owens’ works. In the world we live in today, Owens’ tremendous work on apostasy brings much aid in helping one see the importance of the power of apostasy and how to deal with those that have become apostates.

 

Learning From John Owens’ work on Apostasy

            Often times, people overlook those who lived before them and have deeply studied the Scriptures. Some think with culture change – times passing away – what one had said hundreds of years ago is not needed or not “good enough” for today’s times. People even say that what may have been true then is not true now. That is exactly why John Owens’ work is a “must read” for our culture, as Christianity continues through the paths of time that tries to consume those who are a part of it.

For the one who is solid in their walk and is living a life that is pleasing to the Lord according to His law, this is particularly important in mainly two ways. First, in times where the world is progressing, it is vital to know the truths of the Word and have proper doctrine that is in obedience to what God has intended for His people through His Word given to them. Secondly, in a culture where people call themselves “believers” by their own standard and own beliefs – and not that of what God has intended – one must be able to discern what is and is not the true mark of a believer who lives out the Scriptures in accordance with them, practicing them in obedience.

John Owen wrote 13 different chapters/sections focusing on the nature and causes of apostasy. To deal with them all here could easily lead to a book in itself; maybe even multiple volumes on each area. However, this short chapter’s aim is to bring out the main points of John Owens’ work on apostasy and show the importance of the truths of it today. In each of John Owens 13 sections I plan to give a thesis, outline and summary, of John Owens work on dealing with apostasy.

Click below on the “Read More” for the footnotes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Looking for Books on Apostasy

Working on a chapter of a book that I plan to have done in the next two years on Apostasy. 

Asking you, for help. If you have an idea of a book, that I may not know of, please give me the title and author so that I can get it, and take a look! I am looking for books namely on the topics of Man’s Mind and Apostasy, worship and apostasy, the pastor and apostasy, and defenses against apostasy.  

PS- Do not tell me John Owen, vol. 7… I already know that!