Writing to Christians who seemed to be on the brink of apostasy the apostle to the Hebrews was still optimistic: “We are not of those who draw back to perdition but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39). He’s teaching us to be hopeful. Don’t agonize over the weakness of your faith, the holes in your understanding, or the unbelief mixed in with your faith. Be confident in Christ. It is not your faith that makes you lovely to God but only Christ’s righteousness.
“I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.” So was the recent confession by former pastor, Joshua Harris. It is not uncommon for people to fall away from Christianity. But Harris’ recent announcement is particularly troubling. It is hard when a seemingly humble and genuine follower of Jesus, a gifted author, and a pastor of a large congregation falls out of love with the God of Scripture and renounces the faith. It is impossible to say whether Harris’s rejection of the Christian faith is evidence of an unregenerate heart or of serious backsliding of a true Christian. Still, this is a learning moment for us.
Paul used particular instances of apostasy to warn the church and urge believers to press on. He mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander who had blasphemed and “concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck” (1 Tim. 1:19-20). What a terrible image. But Paul wasn’t exaggerating. He had been shipwrecked (2 Cor. 11:25). He knew that apostasy was no less tragic than the sinking of a vessel on which people’s lives depended. These particular apostates punctuate Paul’s charge to the church to “wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience” (19). How can we learn from others’ failures in order to be diligent to resist falling away?
Take Heed Lest You Fall
The surest way to fall away from the faith is to assume you are immune to falling away (1 Cor. 10:12). “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12-13). Jesus charged his closest friends: “Abide in Me… If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15:6).”We have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Heb. 3:14).
Understand the End of Apostasy
Apostasy is not simply a different way to practice faith. Apostates turn off the path that leads to eternal life. Those who renounce faith will be cut off from the tree of life (Rom. 11:22). “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21).