The Bible affirms two important truths that can seem at first blush difficult to reconcile. On the one hand the Bible affirms that all those who are brought to faith in Christ will be kept in the faith, and enter into paradise at their deaths. See I Corinthians 15:58, John 10:28, John 5:24, I John 2:19 and Romans 8. On the other hand the Bible also warns about the dangers of falling away. See Hebrews 6:4-6, Romans 11:17-22, I Timothy 1: 18-19, John 15: 1-2. If nothing can take believers from God’s hand, if those whom He justifies He glorifies, what is going on with those who are cut off, who trample on the blood? Are these warning merely hypothetical, or are we by them assured that what they warn against won’t come to pass? Are they temporarily saved, having received every blessing in Christ, save for persevering grace? No.
Apostasy is real, as is the perseverance of the saints. When God gives a person a new heart that embraces the work of Christ in faith, that person is at peace with God for always. Such a person could never completely fall away from the faith. Apostasy isn’t about those who have been blessed with a faith that trusts in the finished work of Christ alone. Apostasy is what happens when one moves from phenomenologically saved to phenomenologically unsaved, which demonstrates that this person was never ontologically saved.
Big words, I know. Their meanings, however, are fairly simple. All we mean by “phenomenologically” is “as the eye sees.” All we mean by “ontogically” is “as it actually is.” To put it more simply, apostasy is when a person who was a part of the visible church, but not a part of the invisible church, ceases to be a part of the visible church. The profession of faith is either no longer professed, or is deemed no longer to be credible by the elders of the church.
This may seem like rather small potatoes. No one’s soul is actually moving from life to death. That, however, doesn’t make it small potatoes. These lost souls (keeping in mind that at least in some circumstances those who “leave” the faith my yet be saved- see the man excommunicated in I Corinthians, who later repented and is brought back into the church in II Corinthians) are people who were, in terms of the visible church, a part of the body. They are not cut off cleanly. We loved them, enjoyed fellowship with them, and naturally mourn when they depart from us.
As a pastor I have seen men I loved excommunicated for unrepentant, gross and heinous sin. It broke my heart. I have seen whole families simply abandon the church (not our church, not even the Protestant church, but the church). It broke my heart. I have seen multiple families reject the Biblical gospel for the false gospel of Cathodoxy. It broke my heart. People I looked forward to spending eternity with, who I loved because I thought we shared a love for Christ, turned out to be imposters. People whom I hoped to see I heaven appeared to be goats.
Apostasy is real. It happens. It ought to break our hearts. And in turn our hearts must be comforted in knowing that He has never lost one of His own, and will never leave us, nor forsake us.
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