Archive for the 'Apostasy' Category

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Out of Heart

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

It is not unusual to meet concerned Christian people who worry about whether they have committed the unpardonable sin. These verses from Jesus bother some folks:

‘Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ (Mark 3:28-29 ESV).

So they should bother them if they have committed this unpardonable sin. However, what is the nature of such a sin that God will never forgive?

What is blasphemy?

Barnard Franklin summarised the New Testament material:

The word “blasphemy” in its various forms (as verb, noun, adjective, etc.) appears some fifty-nine times in the New Testament. It has a variety of renderings, such as, “blasphemy,” “reviled,” “railed,” “evil spoken of,” “to speak evil of,” etc. Examples of these various renderings are: “They that passed by reviled him” (Matthew 27:39). “He that shall blaspheme” (Mark 3:29). “They that passed by railed on him” (Mark 15:29). “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:2). “These speak evil of those things” (Jude 10). It is evident from these that blasphemy is a sin of the mouth, a “tongue-sin.” All New Testament writers except the author of Hebrews use the word (Franklin 1936:224-225, in Butt 2003).

I met one such person on the Internet whose issue was,

Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was put this way from a Christian write up I just found.
The man said,

“The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws for ever with his convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.”
So for me to put it in my head that I was never forgiven was wrong.
To catch up really quick with my story is 10 years ago I thought I made the unforgivable sin and gave up since why would i continue if in my head I was never going to be forgiven. Here I am 10 years later with a burning desire to really follow Christ but once again having to come to some conclusion did I wait too long and grieve the Holy Spirit? Or is the fact that I still have a desire to follow good enough to prove I have hope?
I do know some Christians follow maybe as a child or a teen and then have a falling away only to be brought back at a later time in life.
I surely hope that is me.[1]

My reply to this person was as follows:[2] It seems to me that, based on the sins you have done, you are battling whether or not you have committed a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for which there is no forgiveness. Why is this happening for you? The Scriptures state that such a person is guilty of an eternal sin.

Blasphemy and damnation

What is the nature of this sin that has no forgiveness? If this sin cannot be pardoned, it means the person is damned forever. At the final judgment (Matt 25:31-46), Jesus describes what will happen to the unrighteous who are cursed by God: ‘These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’ (Matt 25:46).

The nature of this blasphemy

Many theologians and exegetes have battled over the nature of this sin.

Henry Thiessen wrote:

The degree to which the soul has hardened itself and become unreceptive to multiplied offers of the grace of God here determines the degree of guilt. Final obduracy is the sin against the Holy Spirit and is unpardonable, because the soul through it has ceased to be receptive to the divine influence (Matt. 12:31, 32; Mark 3:29; 1 John 5:16, 17; Heb. 10:26) (Thiessen 1949:270).

I consider that William Hendriksen’s commentary on these 2 verses explains this blasphemous sin with no forgiveness as well as any I have read. He expounds:

The question is, “How is it to be understood that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unpardonable?” As to other sins, no matter how grievous or gruesome, there is pardon for them. There is forgiveness for David’s sin of adultery, dishonesty, and murder (II Sam. 12:13; Psalm 51; cf. Psalm 32); for the “many” sins of the woman of Luke 7; for the prodigal son’s “riotous living” (Luke 15:13, 21-24); for Simon Peter’s triple denial accompanied by profanity (Matt. 26:74, 75; Luke 22:31, 32; John 18:15-18, 25-27; 21:15-17); and for Paul’s preconversion merciless persecution of Christians (Acts 9:1; 22:4; 26:9-11; I Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; Phil. 3:6). But for the man who “speaks against the Holy Spirit” there is no pardon.

Why not? Here, as always when the text itself is not immediately clear, the historical context must be our guide. See Luke 11:15, 18; Mark 3:22; cf. John 7:20; 8:48, 52; 10:20. From it we learn that the bitter opponents of Jesus have been ascribing to Satan what the Holy Spirit, through Christ, was achieving. Moreover, they were doing this willfully, deliberately. In spite of all the evidences to the contrary they were still affirming that Jesus was expelling demons by the power of Beelzebul. Now to be forgiven implies that the sinner be truly penitent. Among the opponents such genuine sorrow for sin was totally lacking. For penitence they substituted hardening; for confession, plotting. Thus, by means of their own criminal and completely inexcusable callousness, they were dooming themselves. Their sin was unpardonable because they were unwilling to tread the path that leads to pardon. For a thief, an adulterer, and a murderer there is hope. The message of the gospel may cause him to cry out, “O God be merciful to me, the sinner.” But when a man has become hardened, so that he has made up his mind not to pay any attention to the promptings of the Spirit, not even to listen to his pleading and warning voice, he has placed himself on the road that leads to perdition. He has sinned the sin “unto death” (I John 5:16; see also Heb. 6:4-8).

For anyone who is truly penitent, no matter how shameful his transgressions may have been, there is no reason to despair (Psalm 103:12; Isa. 1:18; 44:22; 55:6, 7; Mic. 7:18-20; I John 1:9) (Hendriksen 1975:138-139).

Wayne Grudem takes a similar line:

WHAT IS THE UNPARDONABLE SIN?

There are several passages of scripture that speak about a sin that will not be forgiven.  It is described as blasphemy against the Spirit. (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:29-30; Luke 12:10; Hebrews 6:4-6)

Possible interpretations:

(1) Some have thought that it was a sin that could only be committed while Christ was on earth, but Jesus statement in Matthew 12:31 is too general to mean this and Hebrews 6:4-6 is speaking of apostasy that occurred after Jesus.

(2) Some hold that it is describing unbelief that continues until the time of death.  While it is true that unbelief until death will not be forgiven, these verses are not speaking about unbelief in general, but a specific sin of speaking against the Holy Spirit.

(3) Some hold that this sin is serious apostasy by genuine believers.  While there is a case based upon Hebrews 6:4-6, the argument loses strength when considering the context of the gospel passages where Jesus is responding to the Pharisees denial of the work of the Holy Spirit through him.

(4) The most likely interpretation of the unpardonable sin in these verses is that it is an unusually malicious, willful rejection and slander against the Holy Spirit’s work attesting to Christ, and attributing that work to Satan.  In the context of these verses, Jesus is responding to the Pharisees accusation that he was casting out demons by the power of Satan.  This despite of the fact that they were aware of Jesus’ miraculous works and authoritative teaching that was consistent with scripture.  This made their lies especially malicious in nature.  This sin is speaking of one that includes (a) a clear knowledge of who Christ is and the power of the Holy Spirit working through him, (b) a willful rejection of the facts about Christ they knew to be true, and (c) slanderously attributing the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ to Satan.  This explanation fits with the passage in Hebrews 6:4-6 as well because it describes someone who has knowledge and conviction of the truth, but willingly turns away from Christ and holds him in contempt.

These verses speak more to the condition of the human heart than the willingness or ability of God to forgive them.  These people have hardened their heart so much toward God that normal means of bringing them to salvation would not work.  Believers who fear they have committed such a sin should not really worry because the fact that there is still sorrow for sin and a desire to return to God is evidence in itself that they do not fall into this category.[3]

What about purgatory?

https://i1.wp.com/www.clker.com/cliparts/4/d/7/3/1335964111846931012purgatory-md.png

clker.com

Mark 3:29 stated that the person who blasphemed against the Holy Spirit ‘is guilty of an eternal sin’. However, in Matthew 12:31-32, Jesus stated the Mark 3:28-29 theme but with a slight variation:

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matt 12:31-32 ESV).

This different emphasis here is not in Mark 3:29. The person who commits this blasphemy ‘will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come’ (Matt 12:32). Some have used this nuance to promote the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. What is purgatory? The Roman Catholic Church teaches that

Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions (Hanna 1911).

Edward Hanna, in articulating the Roman Catholic position, cited the Council of Trent’s position:

“Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has from the Sacred Scriptures and the ancient tradition of the Fathers taught in Councils and very recently in this Ecumenical synod (Sess. VI, cap. XXX; Sess. XXII cap.ii, iii) that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar; the Holy Synod enjoins on the Bishops that they diligently endeavor to have the sound doctrine of the Fathers in Councils regarding purgatory everywhere taught and preached, held and believed by the faithful” (Denzinger, “Enchiridon”, 983) (in Hanna 1911).

When confronted with the Scriptures, interpreted in a contextual way, purgatory fails the test. For a refutation of the doctrine of purgatory, see ‘What does the Bible say about Purgatory?’ (Got Questions Ministries 2014) This article provides some reasons why purgatory is a non-biblical teaching:

Purgatory, like many other Catholic dogmas, is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Catholics view the Mass / Eucharist as a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice because they fail to understand that Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice was absolutely and perfectly sufficient (Hebrews 7:27). Catholics view meritorious works as contributing to salvation due to a failure to recognize that Jesus’ sacrificial payment has no need of additional “contribution” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Similarly, Purgatory is understood by Catholics as a place of cleansing in preparation for heaven because they do not recognize that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are already cleansed, declared righteous, forgiven, redeemed, reconciled, and sanctified.

The very idea of Purgatory and the doctrines that are often attached to it (prayer for the dead, indulgences, meritorious works on behalf of the dead, etc.) all fail to recognize that Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay the penalty for ALL of our sins. Jesus, who was God incarnate (John 1:1,14), paid an infinite price for our sin. Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2). To limit Jesus’ sacrifice to atoning for original sin, or sins committed before salvation, is an attack on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. If we must in any sense pay for, atone for, or suffer because of our sins – that indicates Jesus’ death was not a perfect, complete, and sufficient sacrifice.

For believers, after death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). Notice that this does not say “away from the body, in Purgatory with the cleansing fire.” No, because of the perfection, completion, and sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are immediately in the Lord’s presence after death, fully cleansed, free from sin, glorified, perfected, and ultimately sanctified.

In his exposition of Matthew 12:31-32, William Hendriksen demonstrates why the phrase, ‘will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come’, does not refer to purgatory:

These words by no stretch of the imagination imply that for certain sins there will be forgiveness in the life hereafter. They do not in any sense whatever support the doctrine of purgatory. The expression simply means that the indicated sin will never be forgiven. As to the doctrine of purgatory, supposedly the place where the souls of those who are not eternally lost pay off the remainder of their debt by suffering punishment for the sins which they committed while still on earth, it is clearly contradicted by Scripture, which teaches that ‘Jesus paid it all’ (Heb. 5:9; 9:12, 26; 10:14; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5; 7:14) (Hendriksen 1973:528).

Personal application

For you personally, are you presently and continuously ascribing to Satan what the Holy Spirit, through Christ, is doing in you or others’ lives? In addition, are you continuing to do this wilfully and deliberately?

Or, have you been so convicted of what you have been doing that you have come to Jesus in repentance to seek forgiveness for your sins? Do you have utter contrition for what you have been doing?

The fact that you are here on this forum discussing your sins and concern about the unpardonable sin indicates that you have not turned off the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Please remember what Mark stated: ‘All sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter’ (Mk 3:28) EXCEPT one. That one thing for which there is no forgiveness is if you currently are wilfully accusing Jesus of expelling demons and linking that to the work of Satan (Beelzebul).

Conclusion

When the Pharisees were faced with Jesus’ miracles and the working of the Holy Spirit through him, they credited that power to Beelzebul (the devil). Franklin rightly stated that the Pharisees claimed that Jesus was ‘Satan incarnate instead of God incarnate. It is this, and nothing else, that our Lord calls the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost’ (Franklin 1936:227, emphasis added). By attributing Jesus’ miraculous powers to Satan, the Pharisees were committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Thus, this was a particular sin addressed to the Pharisees in the time of Jesus for which there was no forgiveness .

However, a person can commit another sin for which there is no further repentance. That is described in Hebrews 6:4-6 as apostasy (‘fall away’ from the faith and renounce it). For my exposition of this passage, see the article, ‘Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

Works consulted

Butt, K 2003. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – the ‘unpardonable sin’. Apologetics Press. Available at: http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1218 (Accessed 25 October 2014).

Franklin, B 1936. The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost: An Inquiry into the scriptural teaching regarding the unpardonable sin. Bibliotheca Sacra, 93:220-233, April-June.

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Hanna, E. 1911. Purgatory. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. New Advent, available at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12575a.htm (Accessed 25 October 2014).

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Hendriksen, W 1975. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Mark. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes


[1] Jayblue1#1. Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Hi there, I have some questions’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7847469/ (Accessed 25 October 2014). Because Jayblue1 made and error and deleted his original post, the content of what is said is gained from its being quoted by ibid., 98cwitr#7. Jayblue1#5 said the Bible passage was from Matt 3:28-29, but it is Mark 3:28-29.

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#37.

[3] Grudem, W 1994 (Systematic theology), ch 24, available at: http://www.thegravelperspective.com/blog/2013/10/23/grudems-systematic-theology-chapter-24-sin (Accessed 25 October 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Continue in the faith to guarantee eternal life

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Great advice. I'm a master at second guessing and ruminating. Just need to let go and trust my intuition.

Image result for "Perseverance of the saints" clipartBy Spencer D Gear

There is often interaction (banter) on Christian forums among those who believe in unconditional eternal security and those who don’t. I engage in some of this as a convinced Reformed Arminian. I had stated that these verses support the view that salvation can be lost:[1]

Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV) is clear enough for me:

4 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, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 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.

We also have 1 Timothy 1:18-20,

18 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, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme (ESV).

So by rejecting faith and a good conscience, some have shipwrecked their faith. Is that too difficult to understand?

Then we have John 3:36,

Whoever believes [continues believing] in the Son has [continues having] eternal life; whoever does not obey [continues not obeying] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains [continues remaining] on him.

What I have inserted in square brackets [ ] indicates the meaning of the Greek present tense. There is only eternal life for those who continue believing in the Son, Jesus, and continue to remain in him. There is no eternal life for those who continue not to obey the Son.

Meaning of ‘in the faith’

There was this reply to another person:

Yes, continuing in the faith is the overriding necessity to finally receive eternal life.

For salvation is a life-long process, not an instantaneous one.
Now, it is necessary to ascertain really what “in the faith” really entails.
I still continue to think it means the same as “in Christ”, but I could be wrong.
Still tryin’ to recover … the Extra.[2]

[3]I agree that continuing in the faith is the necessity for receiving final eternal life. That’s why I prefer the language of ‘perseverance of the saints’ rather than ‘eternal security’.
The ESV translates 1 Tim 1:19 as ‘holding faith’ and John 3:36 as continuing to believe. Second Corinthians 13:5 uses the language this person mentioned of being ‘in the faith’:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (ESV).

I find R C H Lenski’s commentary on this verse to be helpful:

The Corinthians are to apply the right tests to themselves as to ‘whether they are in the faith.’ We do not see how ‘the faith’ can be anything but objective faith: the Christian doctrine and the confession which all believers have. The subjective feature is found in the copula and in the preposition ‘whether you are in.’ One is ‘in’ the objective faith when he has personal, subjective faith and with his whole heart believes the objective faith. The assertion that ‘the faith’ is never used objectively must be challenged as being incorrect.
To try and test oneself is simple enough. A few honest questions honestly answered soon reveal where one stands. There is ‘the faith’ itself, the gospel with its contents. Does my heart receive that, receive it in toto, receive it without change of any kind? Do I reject that or any part of it? Does my heart truly believe this gospel of Christ? Do I trust it? Is my confidence full and strong? (Lenski 1937/1963:1338).

Lenski’s translation of 2 Cor 13:5 is, ‘Start trying your own selves whether you are in the faith, start putting your own selves to the proof! Or do you not fully know your own selves (namely this about yourselves), that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless you, indeed, are disproved! Moreover, I hope that you will know that we on our part are not disproved’ (Lenski 1937/1963:1331-1332).

Conclusion

In spite of the emphasis of Calvinists to support eternal security or once saved, always saved, the biblical stress is on perseverance of the saints. Christians are those who continue to believe and persevere in the faith. Those who don’t continue to believe are lost.

Hebrews 6:4-6 presents very sobering theology: It is impossible for those who have once been saved (the language is ‘enlightened’, ‘tasted’, ‘shared’) and then have fallen away, to repent again. They have committed apostasy by crucifying the Son of God again and holding him up to contempt.

One of the saddest of such cases is seen in the apostasy of Charles Templeton who in the 1940s was an evangelistic colleague of Billy Graham in Youth for Christ and then departed from the faith [see ‘Charles Templeton (1915-2001)’]. His story is told in his book Farewell to God (1996. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart).

clip_image002

(Courtesy Worldcat)

Or, was it apostasy? Michael Patton has written this sad but challenging article, ‘Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: A Sad Tale of Two Evangelists’.

Could it be that Templeton may never have been a true believer in Jesus Christ and was preaching a superficial Gospel that sounded like the real thing, but it wasn’t? One comment by another person at the end of this Michael Patton article was to point to

the interview former atheist, Lee Strobel … conducted with Templeton. When Strobel asked him about Jesus, he said, ‘he’s the most important thing in my life.’ He stammered: ‘I . . . I . . . I adore him . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.’ Strobel was stunned. He listened in shock. He says that Templeton’s voice began to crack. He then said, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!’ With that the old man burst into tears; with shaking frame, he wept bitterly (see Strobel 2000:21-22).

Recommended

These are some brief articles on the topic that I have written:

Works consulted

Lenski, R C H 1937/1963. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Paul’s first and second epistles to the Corinthians. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers  (limited edition by special permission of Augsburg Fortress).

Strobel, L 2000. The case for faith: A journalist investigates the toughest objections to Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] OzSpen#46, Christian Forums, ‘What Christians must do to keep their salvation’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7828815-5/#post66025716 (Accessed 21 July 2014).

[2] extraordinary#47, ibid.

[3] OzSpen#49, ibid.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 October 2016.

Is it possible for a Christian to commit apostasy?

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Green Salvation Button

ChristArt.com

By Spencer D Gear

Commit what? We don’t hear the word much these days. What is apostasy? In the English language, the definition given by dictionary.com is, ‘a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc’.

A Christian-based definition is that apostasy is ‘a deliberate repudiation and abandonment of the faith that one has professed (Heb. 3:12). Apostasy differs in degree from heresy…. Perhaps the most notorious NT example is Judas Iscariot. Others include Demas (II Tim. 4:10) and Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20)’ (Whitlock, Jr. 1984:70).

Was King Solomon a godly man or not in the Old Testament era? Did he engage in gross sin and confess it? Was he once saved and then lost?[1] Did he commit apostasy?

Contrasting evidence for King Solomon

There are two sides to the Solomon story that this article investivates:

design-blue The first one is found in 1 Kings 3:3, ‘Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places’ (ESV). Do the latter sins exclude him from entry into the kingdom? Yes, he had considerable sins that needed forgiving, but we are told he loved God and followed the (godly) statutes given by his father, David.

design-blue But the other side of Solomon is [2] in 1 Kings 11:1-14 where we find some valuable information to help deal with this difficult issue:

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. 9 And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
14 And the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite. He was of the royal house in Edom (ESV, emphasis added).

We know from 1 Kings 3:3 that ‘Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David’.

BUT, BUT …

This same Solomon chose to love many foreign women who turned his heart away from the Lord. The God who forbade adultery (Exodus 20:14) had that commandment violated by Solomon.

AND THERE WERE CONSEQUENCES of his polygamy, etc. and 1 Kings 14 tells us what they were.
So the lesson is that a person can love the Lord and still be tempted by an adversary and foreign women as in Solomon’s case and depart from following the Lord.

When do people lose their salvation?

This is a valid question that needs answering: ‘At what point do you believe that someone loses their salvation?’[3]

clip_image002 Of course most Calvinists do not believe it is possible to lose salvation. Here are a couple of statements of such a view:

clip_image004 The Westminster Confession of Faith states:

They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof (Chapter XVII:I-II).

J. I. Packer

J I Packer (photo courtesy InterVarsity Press)

clip_image004[1] J I Packer’s theology on the ‘perseverance of the saints’ is:

‘God is adequate as our keeper. “Nothing…can separate us from the love of God,” because the love of God holds us fast. Christians “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Pet 1:5), and the power of God keeps them believing as well as keeping them safe through believing. Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you’ (Packer 1973:310, emphasis in original).

clip_image002[1] The contrasting view is that of Arminianism which provides biblical evidence that salvation can be lost. A couple of examples are:

clip_image006 Stephen Ashby, a Reformed/Classical Arminian (like Jacob Arminius), concludes that ‘if one becomes an unbeliever, which is not probable but yet is possible since he or she is a personal being, then God removes that individual from the true vine, Christ Jesus (John 15:2, 5). Hence, the singular act of apostasy is irreversible (Heb. 6:4-6)’ (Ashby 2:187).

clip_image006[1] Another Arminian, John Wesley’s, view on eternal security[4] was:

The sum of all is this: If the Scriptures are true, those who are holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself; those who are endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience; those who are grafted into the good olive-tree, the spiritual, invisible Church; those who are branches of the true vine, of whom Christ says, “I am the vine, ye are branches;” those who so effectually know Christ as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world; those who see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and who have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, of the witness and of the fruits of the Spirit; those who live by faith in the Son of God; those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly (John Wesley Elements of Divinity, ‘Perseverance of the saints’).

Hebrews 6 and losing salvation

The reason given in Hebrews 6:4-6 for losing salvation (‘falling away’ from the faith) is apostasy. The Greek word used confirms this: parapesontas, aorist participle of parapipto, which Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning as “fall away, commit apostasy” (1957:626). It is a point action (aorist tense) of committing the act of apostasy. This meaning is affirmed by Thayer’s Greek lexicon: “to fall away (from the true faith)” (1962:485).

So, based on this passage from Heb 6:4-6, we can say that it is possible for a true believer to fall away from the faith, commit apostasy, and lose his/her salvation. If that happens, it is impossible for those who commit apostasy to be restored to repentance.
What’s the evidence that Solomon committed apostasy?

Colin Brown’s examination of the New Testament evidence, based on the original Greek language, was:

Apostasy
(Gk. apostasia, rebellion, abandonment, apostasy; from apo, away, and histe4mi, stand). The deliberate repudiation of belief once formerly held. An apostate is one who thus abandons Christianity. In the post-NT church apostasy, murder and adultery were regarded for a time as unpardonable sins. Later it become pardonable only after great (in some cases, lifelong) public penance (Brown 1975:51).

If you equate ‘turning their heart away from God’ with ‘deliberate repudiation of belief once formerly held … one who abandons Christianity’, then I can accept that this is a definition of apostasy. However, apostasy is a deliberate abandonment of faith formerly held, in my understanding.

For a fuller discussion of the issue of whether salvation can be lost, see my article, ‘Once saved, always saved or once saved, lost again?

A possible contemporary example of apostasy

Michael Patton has written this sad but challenging article, ‘Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: A Sad Tale of Two Evangelists‘. There is evidence here that Templeton may not have been intellectually convinced of the Gospel. See this excerpt from Charles Templeton’s, Farewell to God (1996).

clip_image008

Courtesy McClelland and Stewart (publishers)

‘All our differences came to a head in a discussion which, better than anything I know, explains Billy Graham and his phenomenal success as an evangelist.

In the course of our conversation I said, ‘But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.’

‘I don’t accept that’ Billy said. ‘And there are reputable scholars who don’t.’

‘Who are these scholars?’ I said. ‘Men in conservative Christian colleges[?]‘

‘Most of them, yes,’ he said. ‘But that is not the point. I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible. I’ve discovered something in my ministry: When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of the theological dispute, so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s word.’

‘But Billy,’ I protested, ‘You cannot do that. You don’t dare stop thinking about the most important question in life. Do it and you begin to die. It’s intellectual suicide.’”

‘I don’t know about anybody else,’ he said, ‘but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me’” (Templeton 1996:7-8).

Michael Patton’s comment was:

Templeton, as his own story makes plain (p. 3), never truly reached a point where he was intellectually convicted of the truthfulness of Christianity (what the reformers called assensus). Assensus represents the conviction we have in our minds. Assent of the mind is vital to our faith. Graham, according to this testimony, had enough assensus to make a decision. He was not going to be an eternal “tire-kicker” with regard to Christianity. Sure, he could have waited, like Templeton, until every possible objection to the faith was answered, but this would amount to a failure of modernistic irrationality. We can never have all our questions answered. At some point there must be a sufficiency in probability (‘A sad tale of two evangelists’).

My sense is that Templeton may never have been a true believer in Jesus Christ and was preaching a superficial Gospel that sounded like the real thing, but it wasn’t. One comment by another person at the end of this Michael Patton article was to point to

the interview former atheist, Lee Strobel … conducted with Templeton. When Strobel asked him about Jesus, he said, ‘“he’s the most important thing in my life.” He stammered: “I . . . I . . . I adore him . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.” Strobel was stunned. He listened in shock. He says that Templeton’s voice began to crack. He then said, “I . . . miss . . . him!” With that the old man burst into tears; with shaking frame, he wept bitterly (see Strobel 2000:21-22).

When discussing apostasy online, a person wrote: ‘The word [for apostasy] also means “rebellion” … easier to understand. There are a number of instances when Israelites rebelled and died. Do you believe Solomon rebelled or got addicted to sin or was even deceived by sin?’[5] But …

As for Solomon?[6]

The lexicon meanings of apostasy from Arndt & Gingrich, and Thayer, are that the word used for ‘fall away’ in Heb 6:6 means falling away, apostasy. Rebellion has different connotations in English to apostasy.

We have evidence that Solomon loved God, was walking in the statutes of his father, David, and then committed gross sin with ungodly women and in serving other gods.

I do not have unequivocal evidence from the OT or NT that King Solomon committed apostasy and was damned, never to return to repentance. We have evidence that Solomon committed sin in engaging with ungodly women, serving other gods, but I don’t know Solomon’s ultimate destiny as I don’t have all of the evidence.

We do know this from a book of the Bible that states it is based on some of the proverbs of Solomon:

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction

(Proverbs 1:1-7 ESV, emphasis added).

The introduction to the English Standard Version’s Book of Proverbs states that ‘because Proverbs is a collection of writings it has multiple authors, but most of the book is attributed to King Solomon. Individual proverbs date from between the tenth and sixth centuries B.C.’ (ESV 2001:634).

This I do know from Heb 6:4-6 that it is possible for people to fall away from the faith, commit apostasy, and can never be restored to repentance.
We see a very sad example of this with Charles Templeton. See: Charles Templeton’s “Farewell to God

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[7] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Ashby, S M 2002. A reformed Arminian view, in Pinson, J M (gen ed), Gundry, S N (series ed). Four views on eternal security, 135-205. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Brown, C (ed) 1975. New international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 1: A-F.[8] Exeter, Devon U.K.: The Paternoster Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Corporation.

Packer, J I 1973. Knowing God. London, Sydney, Auckland, Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton.[9]

Strobel, L 2000. The case for faith: A journalist investigates the toughest objections to Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles (a division of Good News Publishers).

Templeton, C 1996. Farewell to God: My reasons for rejecting the Christian faith. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.

Thayer, J H 1962. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Whitlock, Jr., L G 1984. Apostasy, in Elwell, W A (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology, 70. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Notes:


[1] What provoked this article was a thread started in Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Was Solomon saved?’ Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7803787/ (Accessed 11 February 2014).

[2] This is part of my post at ibid., OzSpen#37.

[3] Ibid., Hammster#38,

[4] I am using ‘perseverance of the saints’ and ‘eternal security’ as synonymous terminology.

[5] Christian Forums loc cit, Edial#61.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

[7] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

[8] This was translated, with additions, and revisions, from an original German publication, theologisches begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament, ed by L Coenen, E Beyreuther, and H Bietenhard.

[9] In the USA, it was published by InterVarsity Press in 1973. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InterVarsity_Press (Accessed 21 February 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.