Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 13, 1958
NUMBER 40, PAGE 6-7b

Impossibility Of Apostasy Is "Foolish Preaching," No. III.

James E. Cooper, Campbellsville, Ky.

In the past two articles we have shown that the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy is contrary to plain and simple Scriptures, such as 1 Cor. 10:12, Gal. 5:4, and Heb. 3:12. We have also shown by three examples, that it had its origin with no other than Satan himself. In this article we shall consider some passages thought by some to teach the idea of "once saved, always saved." The particular passages to be considered are listed in the Church Manuel designed for the use of Baptist Churches, by J. M. Pendleton, page 54.

Art. XI of the declaration of faith, entitled "Of the Perseverance of the Saints," reads as follows: "We believe that such only are real believers as endure to the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand work which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special providence watches over their welfare, and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." This statement was first "framed many years ago by J. Newton Brown, D.D." and declares that "such only are real believers as endure to the end." That suggests the opposite; those who do not endure to the end were never "real believers." This provides a loop-hole for the preachers who hold to the idea of "once saved, always saved." They realize that some "believers" do not endure to the end. In Acts 8, we read of Simon the sorcerer, who became a "believer," but apostatized. Those who follow this creed tell us that he was never a "real believer." Notice in Acts 8:5, "Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them." In verse 12, we find "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Between verses 5 and 12 Simon is introduced. Verse 13 tells us, "Then Simon himself believed also; and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done." The question is: Was Simon a "real believer" or was he a hypocrite? If Simon was not a "real believer," then none of the Samaritans were "real believers" for Luke says the same of Simon as he says of the other Samaritans. He even takes special pains to point out that Simon "believed," and "was baptized," and "continued with Philip." I maintain that Simon was a "real believer," but that he did not remain faithful to the Lord. He apostatized; he fell from grace. In verse 21, Peter told him that his heart was not right with God. He didn't say that his heart had never been before right before God. In verse 23, Peter said, "For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." In verse 22 he told him to "repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." Notice that he told him to "repent of this thy wickedness." He didn't have to tell him to repent of all his past wickedness, but of "this thy wickedness." Simon is an example of a believer who apostatized. Hence, those who preach the impossibility of apostasy engage in foolish preaching and go beyond the doctrine of Christ.

The creed book gives John 8:31 as a passage to sustain the idea that "such only are real believers as endure to the end." John 8:31 says, "Then Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed," Jesus uses an "if" in this statement. He does not say, "Ye are my disciples indeed whether ye continue in my word or not." Notice that to be a disciple indeed one must "continue" in his word. Can a person continue in something, if he never started? What if a person does not continue in his word? Will he still be the Lord's disciple? This passage is not contrasting "believers" and "real believers," but describing a condition of being a disciple indeed.

The next passage listed in the creed book is 1 Jno. 2:27-28: "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed at his coming." There is not a single thing in this passage that attempts to make a distinction between "believers" and "real believers," nor to teach that a child of God cannot so sin as to be finally lost. The entire context is a warning against deception. Verse 24 says, "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and Li the Father." Why exhort them to let it abide in them, if they could do nothing else? Note, too, that the condition of their continuing in the Son and in the Father is "if that which ye heard from the beginning shall remain in you." In verse 28 he says for them to "abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." What happens if they don't abide in him? Evidently, they will not have confidence, and will be ashamed before him at his coming.

The next passage listed by the creed book is 1 Jno. 3:9, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." John is not teaching the idea of "once saved, always saved" in this verse. To say that he teaches it is to say that he contradicts himself within this single book. In chapter one he says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." He begins chapter two by saying that he writes "that ye sin not. And if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." So, John is not saying that it is impossible for a child of God to sin.

The Williams translation reads, "No one who is born of God makes a practice of sinning, because he is born of God." The expression, "doth not commit sin." literally means, "does not make a practice of sinning." He does not habitually sin as he once did, and the reason given is because the seed, or life-giving principle, continues to remain in him. Luke 8:11 tells us that the seed is the Word of God. and the seed does not remain in a man unconditionally. Heb. 2:1 tells us that "we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." The ASV reads, "lest haply we drift away from them," suggesting that we could forsake God's word and be lost. 2 Pet. 2:21 says, "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it to turn away from the holy commandment delivered unto them." Hence, one can turn away from the seed! As long as the seed remains in him, he does not commit sin.

But, John also says, "and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Some take this to say that it is impossible for him to sin. However, the word, "cannot" does not always mean "impossibility." Jesus pointed out to his disciples that they were the children of the bride chamber, and he said of them, " long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast." (Mk. 2:19). Did Jesus mean that it was impossible for them to fast? No, he meant that it was out of order for them to fast while he was yet with them. They could not afford to fast under the circumstances.

Therefore, 1 Jno. 3:9 does not teach that it is impossible for a child of God to sin. Remember that John had taught in chapters one and two that the child of God can sin, has sinned, and that it is possible for him to sin in the future. Instead of teaching that it is impossible for a child of God to sin, 1 Jno. 3:9 teaches that it is possible for such a person to sin, and warns of the consequence of sinning. Peter said, "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning." (2 Pet. 2:20.)

Another reference listed in the creed book is 1 Jno. 5:18, "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." This passage does not say that it is impossible for a child of God to sin, but it says that he "keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." The fact that he "keepeth himself" keeps the wicked one from touching him. if he doesn't keep himself, the wicked one will touch him.

As we close this series on the impossibility of apostasy, let me exhort you in the words of the apostle Paul. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." (1 Cor. 10:12.) "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." (Heb. 3:12.)