April 30, 2012

The Christian & Apostasy: ReDux

Slowly over the past year the IDOTG blog has begun posting regular articles from a number of contributors. Dr. Charlie Bing is among them. Charlie Bing and I have been acquainted since1997. His dissertation, (now in book form) Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response was a significant contribution to my research on Lordship Salvation for my book In Defense of the Gospel, and I cite his conclusions often.

From Dr. Bing’s GraceNotes I have posted articles that have been very helpful on a number of subjects around the Gospel. In April I ran Dr. Bing’s latest article, The Christian and Apostasy. You can view the complete article in its entirety at Dr. Bing’s site Grace Life. Please refer to, The Christian and Apostasy where you may also download it in PDF format.

In his conclusion of The Christian and Apostasy Charlie articulated a view on Christians and apostasy that is not what I argue for in my book. After two days and the counsel of two pastors I appreciate and trust I decided to pull the article. I spoke to Charlie about it and he was very cordial.

A pastor whom I referenced in my previous article explaining that I had pulled The Christian & Apostasy shared with me some of his thoughts on the subject. I asked for and he gave me permission to reprint those here. This man and I don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue surrounding the Scriptures just as I don’t see eye-to-eye with Charlie Bing. These men, however, have edifying things to share.

I understand this issue very well. I have written exegetical papers on many of the key passages. I think there is a paradoxical tension in the Scriptures on this. When a man exercises repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his work on the cross and resurrection, that man is justified. He also is regenerated. He is a new man. He has a new nature like that of Christ. He is indwelt with the Spirit of God who will never leave him. For this reason there are some basic evidences of regeneration. A man may temporarily fall into a very serious sin or in a moment of weakness like Peter deny that he knew the Lord out of fear for his life. Men are not perfectly faithful, but God is. However, we carry it too far when we say that a man no longer genuinely believes the gospel, Christ, the Bible, denies Christ and the Bible, or even becomes the true enemy of the Gospel, but nevertheless is saved. We have to realize that there are many false professors or self-deceived church members who paid lip service to God, yet never genuinely believed and thus were never regenerated. Time has a way of telling. The parable of the tares in Matthew 13 illustrates this. 
I know that there is a terrific danger in telling people that they are justified after they have persevered. We cannot and should not ever say that. At the same time we must tell people that there is a clear regenerative change in the heart of a true believer and that those changes will to one degree or another manifest themselves in their lives. There must be some genuine spiritual fruit for anyone to have a credible profession of faith.
The following are sample excerpts from my book, IDOTG.
Most men on both sides of the debate will agree in principle that a new creature in Christ will set out to do the God ordained “good works” (Eph. 2:10) for the believer. Daily submission to the lordship of Christ should follow a genuine conversion to Christ. There is wide spread agreement that born again Christians will grow in the grace and knowledge of their Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18). Christians will, however, struggle with the flesh, the warfare between the two natures (Rom. 7:15-25) and the besetting sin (Heb. 12:1). Christians will flop and fail in their walk with God, but growth is typically seen to one degree or another. 
Surrender of one’s life in “a living sacrifice” to the lordship of Christ should be the response of one who has been saved by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Although he will sin and grieve the Spirit, he should always strive to be holy and blameless. The Apostle Paul struggled in his Christian experience (Romans 7: 14-25), and you will too.  
A change of life through submission to the lordship of Christ should come as a result of salvation. It is antithetical to the Scriptures to take what should be the RESULT of salvation and make the resolve to perform those things in discipleship the REQUIREMENT for salvation.
In the sample paragraphs above I use the word “should” on purpose, because for me there is not in my mind a clear line where I can look at a man and say, “never saved in the first place.” We see people in our churches that profess Christ and are conforming to Him, but are some of these mere outward appearances only? Is there in fact an unseen heart of an unbeliever lurking under the surface?

Can we say a man who has professed Christ, set out to live for and was growing in Christ, but then fell into sin was never born again in the first place? I don’t know how true believers can renunciate Christ, his professed faith in Christ and, go off into deep sin as if he has no conscience of the Spirit of God. We see cases like this, but does it mean never saved in the first place. I am happy to acknowledge my uncertainty over a man’s eternal destiny in cases such as these. God knows the true condition.

Conclusion: With another view on the Christian and apostasy having been presented here I have returned Dr. Bing’s article to its original position in the April archive. Please return to, The Christian and Apostasy for the complete article.



  1. Lou,

    You state, "Most men on both sides of the debate will agree in principle that a new creature in Christ WILL SET OUT (my emphasis) to do the God ordained 'good works' (Eph. 2:10) for the believer."

    Here's Eph. 2:10:

    "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

    I see God ordaining in eternity past that believers "should" walk in good works. And I've always understood the word "should" here to essentially mean "ought to". You appear to have a different understanding of the word "should" in this verse. In your view, have I misunderstood the meaning of "should" in Eph. 2:10? If so, what in your opinion does that word mean here? Also, I've yet to look at the Greek word "should" is derived from. Do you know if that Greek word supports "will" or "ought to"?


  2. It seem that this issue is answered for us in 2Tim.2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
    We are not called upon to know as God does which persons actually belong to Him. (Beyond ourselves, of curse.)
    What we are called upon to judge, or discern, is having called upon the Name of the Lord (i.e. identified themselves with Him.)are they in fact departing from sinful behavior?
    Consistency is called for as foundational to the Church's present testimony.
    This changing behavior is the required product of profession as before the judgent of people, even if it is false.
    As both profession and practice may be imitations done well enough to deceive us, only God can be relied on to know or judge as to those who truly belong to Himself. This is foundational to the Church's very existence, a foundation on which faith can find rest.


  3. To Jimmy,
    The Greek word you are wondering about is peripatēsōmen which is translated “we should walk.” It is Aorist, Active, Subjunctive, 1st person plural. “The subjunctive mood is the mood of possibility and potentiality. The action described may or may not occur, depending upon circumstances.”
    Hope that helps.

  4. To Jimmy,
    The Greek word you are wondering about is peripatēsōmen which is translated “we should walk.” It is Aorist, Active, Subjunctive, 1st person plural. “The subjunctive mood is the mood of possibility and potentiality. The action described may or may not occur, depending upon circumstances.”
    Hope that helps.

  5. Thank you Brian!

    Do I understand you correctly, then, that according to the Greek the "should" of Eph. 2:10 is NOT teaching the notion that we have biblical grounds to expect that believers WILL set out to do good works?


  6. Jimmy, I would say this where the tension between God's sovereignty and man's free will comes into play. Yes, God expects us to reckon, yield, and obey and we will be held accountable. The expectation is that we are to be about good works. The reality is that, sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn't. Romans 6-8 is a great read in helping us to understand this tension that will always exist in our flesh between the old man and the new man. God has made the way possible for Eph. 2:10 to be the reality in our lives. It's not a given, it's not automatically going to happen once we become a child of God. I am not saying that we are working to keep ourselves saved, far from that. This work is all of God, but there must be a Romans 6 fleshed out in our lives where we have reckoned ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive unto the Lord, that we have yielded ourselves as servants unto righteousness and obeying His Word.

  7. Thanks Brian,

    I guess I just don't see this as a tension between "God's Seveignty and man's free will". Rather, I see this as a struggle inside the believer between the "flesh and the spirit". Thanks again for interacting with the text.


  8. Jimmy, agreed, it is a struggle inside the believer as noted with my old man/new man reference. I say "tension" in a good sense. There are those on both side of this battle who overemphasized one or the other to the detriment of the other rather than keeping the two sides in a balanced tension.