We often hear about the sin of ‘apostasy.’ Encyclopedia Britannica defines this word in Christian perspective as, “the total rejection of Christianity by a baptized person who, having at one time professed the Christian faith publicly rejects it.It is distinguished from heresy, which is limited to the rejection of one or more Christian doctrines by one who maintains an overall adherence to Jesus Christ.”
In Malayalam this word is translated as ‘Vishwaasa-thyagem.’ [cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3] This is different from the word ‘backsliding’ which is often translated into Malayalam as ‘pinmaatam.’ [cf. Hosea 14:4] The following OT passages would illustrate the sin of apostasy. We do not see any ‘sacrifice left’ for this sin, except sure retribution.
APOSTASY - EXAMPLES IN THE OT.
Deuteronomy 13:6-11 “If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, 7 of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, 8 you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; 9 but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. 10 And you shall stone him with stones until he dies, because he sought to entice you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 11 So all Israel shall hear and fear, and not again do such wickedness as this among you.”
Deuteronomy 17: 2-7 “If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing His covenant, 3 who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, 4 and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. 6 Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you.”
The NT also deals with the sin of apostasy. Besides the warning passages in the book of Hebrews, we see the seriousness of this sin in 2Thessalonians 2:3. There we see the ultimate culmination of this sin appearing in full force. 1 Tim 1:19-20, we read about Hymenaeus and Alexander who shipwrecked their faith. Paul handed them over to Satan ‘so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.’
In my previous posting I mentioned about a family who professed to be followers of Christ and got baptized and stayed in fellowship for about 3 years before moving on to follow the Muslim teachings. But there is another example perhaps more compelling than the one I mentioned here. Some of the readers may have heard of him or had read his book. His name is Charles Templeton who was born in Canada in 1915.
I just finished reading his book ‘Farewell to God’. Charles or Chuck, as Billy Graham used to call him dearly, was a fellow preacher with Dr. Graham for few years at the beginning of his ministry. They shared the platform and continued on for some years. As years went by, Charles questioned the authenticity of Christianity and the Bible. He struggled with every doctrine and came to a conclusion that the whole Bible is nothing but a collection of fictional writings. He questioned the creation account, the miracles, the virgin birth, the crucifixion, the resurrection, hell & heaven. He remained as an agnostic until he died in 2001.
In his book he asked; “Is it possible to believe that the Creator of the universe would personally impregnate a Palestinian virgin in order to facilitate getting His Son into this world as a man?” Similar statements filled the whole 286 pages of his book “Farewell to God.”
Here is another dilemma to some of us. Isn’t this a classic example of a ‘saved’ person lost as a sinner? How can anyone teach that the salvation cannot be lost? After reading this book I am convinced that Charles Templeton indeed is spending eternity away from Jesus Christ. His soul must be waiting for the final White Throne judgment, where he will be sent to the lake of fire. He thought his life would ‘cease to exist as an entity.’ [Page 285]
What went wrong with Charles who shared the platform with the greatest evangelist of the 20th century? He witnessed hundreds of souls coming to Christ and he himself may have brought many to Christ! How can anyone say that the salvation cannot be lost?
I am glad that I read his book. I read his conversion story. He thought he became a Christian on a certain night. On page 13 of his book, he described what took place. Before I quote his ‘conversion’ account let me brief you with some of my observations. In his ‘conversion’ account There was no mention of the forgiveness of sin; there was no mention of the cross; there was no mention of the blood of Jesus Christ that ‘washes away the sin.’ There was no mention of his admission as a sinner. He never acknowledged the need for a Savior. Instead, this is what had taken place that night of his ‘conversion.’
“As I went down the hall, I was forming the first fumbling words of a prayer in my mind. I knelt by my bed in the darkness. Suddenly, it was as though a black blanket had been draped over me. The only words that would come were, Lord come down! Lord come Down..
I found myself – I don’t know how much later – my head in my hands, crouched small on the floor at the center of a vast dark emptiness. Slowly a weight began to lift, a weight as heavy as I. It passed through my thighs, my torso, my arms and shoulders, and lifted off. Ineffable warmth began to suffuse my body. It seemed that a light had turned on in my chest and that it had cleansed me. I felt in a biblical phrase, that I could have leaped over a wall.” End of quotes. [Page 13- Farewell to God.]
On the following day he went to his work and he shared his experience to the co-workers. Some ridiculed him. But he felt the need to share it with them. He was counted as a ‘born-again’ kind of guy!
My dear readers, this experience will not make anyone a Christian. In fact, my heart is very heavy with sadness that Charles Templeton was ushered to a Christ-less eternity. I wish he knew what is required for a person to be saved. Chuck never acknowledged his need for a Savior, even after hearing several messages from his fellow preacher, Dr. Billy Graham. He never acknowledged his need for forgiveness for his sins even in subsequent years. Instead, he started questioning the Christian faith. Then on, he was plunging headlong into apostasy.
The sin of apostasy is real. It happened to my friend and his family. It happened to Charles Templeton. I am sure it had happened to many others who I don’t know. The warning passages in the book of Hebrews remind us of the real possibility of such sin. Templeton was indeed sanctified by the word of God, but never was saved.
Is there anyone depending on the ‘experiential conversion?’ Instead of that we need biblical conversion. We need to admit our sinfulness. We need to acknowledge our inability to save ourselves. We need to accept what Lord Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. We need to trust in what took place on the cross. Our sins are transferred over to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the final sacrifice. Those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation will never be lost. Templeton, by his own admission, stated that he did not believe in the cross or the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. He trampled on the ‘blood of the covenant’ and considered as just ordinary blood. Yet, he became a popular ‘evangelist’ in the Fifties, standing next to Dr. Billy Graham.
Going through certain experience or giving up drinking or smoking or commitment to read the Bible [although they are all good] and pray more diligently will not save anyone. It is placing our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins that would give us salvation. Such conversion is the biblical conversion and those converted like that are belonging to the Lord and they will never be lost. They are His own, and He will guard them till the end.