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[color=#000000" size="3.5" face="times]John tells us that at one point many of Jesus' disciples went back and walked with him no more (John 6:66). The Bible uses several different terms to describe the act of a Christian turning away from the Lord and his Cause. Among them are "falling away" (I Tim. 4:1), false brethren (Gal. 2:4), "going onward and abiding not in the teaching of Christ" (II John 9), "being entangled in sin and overcome" (II Pet. 2:20). In our commong language we use the words "apostasy and backsliding."
Some turn back to their old life of sin and wickedness. Peter likens them to pigs that had been washed clean, turning back to the muddy mire of their pig pen and to dogs eating their own vomit (I Pet. 2:22).
Some turn away to sullen bitterness and despair. This often is the result of some great disappointment, some bad experience in life or with fellow-Christians. They did not get the desired answers to their prayers. They felt abandoned by God or perhaps betrayed by fellow-Christians. Their faith was blighted and they turned away from God. Jude describes them as "wandering stars for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever" (Jude 13). Such lost souls are to be pitied.
Some turn away to embrace competing denominational churches and beliefs. They have lost their sense of attachment to Christ and his one beloved church, yet they don't want to be counted with atheists and infidels. They want the social benefits of a church family and the respectability of being called "religious." So they seek out an alternative church that better suits their personal wants and desires. Some liberal preachers follow this shameful path in hope of finding employment.
Some become bitter enemies of Christ's church and devote themselves to slandering and attacking her. Not all who turn back are content with simply walking away. Their love turns to hatred. Men who once served Christ and his church with zeal and devotion, now spend their waking hours plotting and scheming against her. They do every thing, in their power to discredit and destroy that which they once labored to promote. Such conduct is the ultimate folly. How can finite man hope to prevail against the infinite God. How can his puny words hope to win against the powerful word of Jehovah that created and will one day destroy the universe (II Pet. 3:7-10). All such labor is shameful and fruitless. The ruin will be theirs, not God's.
Some apostates linger in the midst of our brethren and seek to subvert and undermine the church and lead disciples away with them (Acts 20:29). During the Civil War, Southern sympathizers living in the Northern states were called "copperheads." They were likened to the dreaded copperhead snake whose mottled brown color allows them to hide until their unsuspecting prey is within striking range. Such false brethren are often found lurking in Christian schools where as teachers they have access to young Christians whose faith they can easily subvert. They especially work on young preachers, preparing them for destructive rather than positive work in the church.
Some have become rank unbelievers, renouncing God, the Christ, the Scripture and Christianity in general. I have encountered a few cases of men who once served as preachers of the gospel, who later abandoned the whole of Christianity to embrace anti-Christian atheism.
The author of Hebrews wrote, "For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:4-6), They have made themselves the hateful enemies of Christ. Their hearts are so bitter that they cannot be brought to repentance. They are like a field that receives God's refreshing rain and yet brings forth only thorns and thistles. Like the farmer occasionally burns off the unwelcome briars, so Jehovah will destroy those apostates with the fire of judgment (Heb. 6:7-8). Such turn-coasts will rue the day they turned on their Creator and Savior. Unbelievers will have their place in the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8).
Whatever their course of action, those who turn away from Christ and his church must understand that only those faithful unto death will receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). With their names stricken from the book of life, all the rest can only look forward to the eternal misery of hell (Rev. 20:15; 21:8). JHW
"We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the one who turns back the soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake." (C.S. Lewis).[/color]
John Waddey, Editor
Christianity: Then and Now