Apostasy: What is it?

Apostasy is defined as 'a defection or revolt'. It is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy (or who apostatizes) is known as an apostate. It is important to remember that apostates never really were saved. 1 John 2:19 says, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

There are two kinds of apostasy. It shows that apostasy is a process. No one wakes up one day and says "Gee, I hate Jesus and I'm not going to church anymore." The first kind of apostasy is a drifting away of the key doctrines of the faith. The second is a complete abandonment of Christianity. Remember, if you are saved, your salvation is eternally secure. If you have submitted to Christ no one can snatch you out of His Hand. (John 10:28 says "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." so we read that if He gives eternal life, then no one can take you away from Him. Equally, because it is He who gives eternal life, mere man cannot nullify His decision.

The primary essential doctrines of the faith one must stick to, According to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, (scriptures supporting them are here) and I agree with these as the essential ones, are--

1. Jesus is God in flesh, and Jesus is the proper object of faith. The Doctrine of the deity of Christ includes:

--The Trinity
--There is only one God in all existence
--That Jesus is both God and man.

2. Salvation is by Grace alone
3. The resurrected Christ
4. The Gospel

They are called the primary essentials because the Bible declares them to be essential to the faith. Secondary essentials are necessary truths, but there is no declared penalty for their denial -- yet they are still essential to the Christian faith. Those include:

--Jesus is the only way to heaven
--Mary's virgin birth

FYI, the recently departed evangelist Billy Graham denied both of the above.

An apostate very slowly starts to doubt the essentials. He or she begins to read and absorb other things that are contrary to those doctrines. Paul called false teachings gangrene because they quickly pollute the body and mind. (2 Timothy 2:17).

The Bible says that at the time of the end there will be a great falling away from the truth. Look to 2 Thessalonians for the prediction regarding the "falling away." 2 Thess. 2:3-7 says, "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way."

The lawlessness is sinfulness and the fact that Paul says it is already at work means that there have been apostates throughout the Church Age, even in Paul's day. The verse I mentioned above in 2 Timothy 2:17 speaks of Hymenaeus and Philetus who spread false teachings, two men who "wandered away from the truth" and became "more and more ungodly". (2 Timothy 2:16; 18). So you see, apostasy is a process.

Sanctification is a process, too. Just as apostates-in-the-making drift away from the faith, either fast or slow, those being sanctified progress toward holiness, either fast or slow. The Lord's people will never, ever be lost to Him nor will they even become apostate. Ever.

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28).

Praise Him for all His ways, His grace, and His priestly ministrations, and His sovereignty that keeps His sheep.


  1. You said, "Secondary essentials are necessary truths, but there is no declared penalty for their denial -- yet they are still essential to the Christian faith. Those include:

    --Jesus is the only way to heaven"

    Wouldn't that (the exclusivity of Christ as the only way to heaven) be a primary and fundamental Christian doctrine?


    1. I personally believe that one to be a non-negotiable primary essential. So does CARM.org. I was quoting the work from CARM.org. They had said that some of the doctrines carry a biblical penalty for failure to believe but the exclusivity one did not carry a biblically stated penalty but is still essential.

      Other ministries have slightly different levels for primary essential and and so on. You can read CARM's reasoning with scriptures here

    2. I read the link you posted. CARM seems to be splitting hairs imo.

      There certainly is a Biblical penalty for failure to believe in the exclusivity of Christ - that wrong belief means one is a demonstrated unbeliever (1 John 5:10); and the penalty is dying in one's sins unless one repents. Repentance would bring one to fully believe John 14:6.

      Refusal to believe John 14:6 also means one has called God a liar, and Scripture says there's penalty for that also... one ends up reproved by God (Prov 30:6).

      I guess when it boils down to it, can one be regenerate and deny the exclusivity of Christ? I would say, no.

      Like I said, I feel they're splitting hairs. That is why I seldom engage in these types of matters. I see it as over complicating something that is rather simple and straightforward.



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