This article has to do with those who, though they have once known the way of salvation, fall away from the first principles of their profession and become renegades, so far as the faith of God’s elect is concerned. An apostate is one who ceases to walk in conformity with the principles of doctrine he once believed, and so falls away. As a basis for what we shall write, we want to use the second chapter of second Peter, which gives as good a description of apostasy from the doctrine, faith and order of the apostles as can be found anywhere in the New Testament. It is impossible for any child of God to fall away from the covenant of election which was made in Christ Jesus before the world began. Once in the love of God, always in the love of God. There cannot possibly be any apostasy so far as one’s falling, out of the hand of God and being finally lost. Not a drop of Jesus’ blood was shed in vain. All that the Father gave him shall certainly come to him, and there is no power sufficiently able to pluck one of them out of the Father’s hand. This is proved by the line of thought in the sixth chapter of Hebrews, where it is shown that if it were possible for any of God’s people to fall away from God the only way they could be renewed again to repentance would be for the Son of God to be crucified anew for them. This could not be, because such a repetition of the crucifixion of the Son of God would be putting him to shame, in that it would be a confession on his part that the work which he did the first time was not satisfactory, or was not perfect enough to eternally secure those given him to redeem. Thus, inasmuch as it is impossible for Christ to be crucified afresh, just so it is impossible for the redeemed to ever fall away so as to be finally lost. But the second epistle of Peter, especially the second chapter thereof, treats of the falling away of those who depart from the principles they once professed to believe, and though they are still the children of God, and cannot· ever be cast away so as to be finally lost from Jesus Christ, they do in this earthly life become followers after their own lusts, or become bewitched of their own theories and opinions so far as to preach for doctrines their own inventions, thus departing from the old paths of apostolic doctrine and order which they once professed. All such characters are anathema to the true church, and are not to be fellowshipped by those professing the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. The gospel procedure of the church of God as set forth by Christ and the apostles condemns all such, and they are not to be received into our houses, neither are we to bid them godspeed, lest we, too, be partakers of their evil deeds. We cannot understand how any one can read the second chapter of second Peter and conclude that these false teachers are not children of God. The description of them given in this chapter cannot be made to fit any but those who have once known the way of salvation but have fallen away from the professed faith which rightly becomes those who walk in that way. In the first verse, these false teachers are to secretly bring in among the saints awful heresies, even going so far as to deny the Lord that bought them. This shows clearly that the Lord bought them; that is, had redeemed them with his own blood, but that they afterward denied him. If the Lord ever bought any with his own blood except those chosen in him before the world began, we have never seen it anywhere in Scripture; and we believe Christ suffered for the elect only, therefore these must have been among the elect. By bringing into the church these heresies, these who forget and deny the Lord who bought them bring destruction on themselves; that is, they bring upon themselves the swift judgment of those who desire to continue steadfast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free, and become destroyed to the love and fellowship of the church here in the world. We have not time and space to comment upon each one of the verses in this chapter, but our readers will note that Peter described the safety of the true church in the midst of these false teachers by showing how Noah was saved from the wickedness of the antediluvian world, and how Lot was delivered from the wickedness of Sodom and. Gomorrah. Just so will God spare his remnant now in these latter days when the little flock is so terribly beset with apostate men who have fallen away from the advocacy of the principles which they once Professed, and have gone after their own vain traditions and imaginations. Just as God in the old dispensation was determined that his servant David should always have a light before him in Jerusalem, and so spared Judah from the general falling away which befell Israel, so now God has purposed that the spiritual David, Jesus Christ, shall until the end of time have a remnant loyal to him, even though they be scattered and peeled. It is not to be wondered at that some fall away from the gospel order and principles, the great wonder is that all of us do not fall away, and that any are left to hold aloft the banner of truth, for surely were it not for the grace of God there would be no steadfastness in any one anywhere. These apostates are called in the thirteenth verse “spots” and “blemishes,” and sport with their own deceptions, even while they associate with the children of sound doctrine and order, their deceptions not yet being uncovered sufficiently to bring down upon their heads the swift destruction which shall cut them off from the fellowship of the church. In the fourteenth verse these who fall away are called “cursed children.” Children, therefore, even yet, but children under condemnation, for “cursed” means “condemned.” These are under condemnation, not by the law of Moses, nor yet by the law of sin and death, but are condemned by that law of Jesus Christ which dictates the order and doctrine of the church here in the world. Every principle of gospel doctrine cuts off from fellowship with the visible church all who fall away from following in the principles of that doctrine, and all who disobey the order of God’s house. Coming down to the twentieth verse, we find that the children of God, even though they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, do sometimes become again entangled therein and are overcome. In such a case as that, the latter end is worse than the first; also that it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than afterward to have turned from the holy commandment delivered unto them. These, being the children of God, shall in the end be saved, but it shall be as by fire, and through such a terrible refining that they shall wish they had never been born. These are those who have sinned willfully after having come to a knowledge of the truth, and for all such there remains a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation Which shall devour the adversary. Thanks be to God, it is not the wayward child who shall be devoured, but all those things adverse to his peace Which have caused him to wander, those things shall be devoured, and the child brought at last to his eternal home in the bosom of the Father; but no words can express, nor shall be ever be able to describe, the awful anguish and bitterness of soul which all apostates must eventually be brought through in order to purge them of their dross. Their latter state of humiliation and condemnation at the end of this gospel age shall be worse than at their beginning, and it shall be awful for them to have to blush for shame when Christ comes in his glory to be admired in all them that believe. Christ is the avenger of his people’s wrongs, and no one who has ever offended one of his little ones can escape in the end. God is not mocked, and there is sure to be a time of restitution for all these things. The doctrine of Jesus Christ and the simplicity of the order of the apostolic church have been fiercely assailed from the first, and never more so than by those who are themselves the children of God. The creeping in of false teachers leads away those who are unstable souls, and the time comes when even believers will not stand for sound doctrine, and insist on easy or smooth things.
Time and space will not permit us to mention all the heresies that have from time to time assailed the church, but we cannot forbear to mention a few that are bewitching some of the Lord’s people today. One of the ways in which believers today deny the Lord that bought them is when they teach that eternal salvation is all of grace, but that time salvation is conditioned upon one’s obedience to gospel precepts. This is a cunning deception and has led away many. The salvation of the believer here in his journey through time is all of grace, and if he walks obediently to the gospel that very obedience is of grace and is the fruit of the Spirit, and not of self. Another deception today prevailing among the Lord’s people is that which teaches the purpose of God comprehends all good things, but not the evil things. It is an attempt to limit the sovereignty of God over all worlds, principalities and powers, and as such, it is a denial of the Scriptures and an insult to God Almighty, an insult which shall be well taken care of when Christ comes. Another very dangerous inclination abroad at present among God’s people is the tendency among many preachers to over-spiritualize the Scriptures. Now, all of us must know that the Bible is a spiritual book, but we must not go so far as to think it not literally true. To preach Adam as the figure of Jesus Christ is correct, but to go so far as to say there never was any Adam, and never was any garden of Eden; that the Genesis record of creation merely teaches a spiritual lesson, and did not actually take place, all this is exceedingly dangerous. To set forth the spiritual meaning of Noah and the ark is exceedingly edifying to the saints of God, but to say there never was a flood, and never was a literal ark, is to bring in what is not true. Some have even gone so far as to say that a virgin never did give birth to a child, and that the story of Christ’s birth is only a spiritual allegory. This is being preached among Old Baptists in some sections. It is well that we beware of all such. Then, too, there is that dangerous heresy regarding the resurrection of the dead, whereby some have spiritualized it into an ethereal nothing, that it loses all sense of power to edify and becomes a fantastic unreality which the faith of no child of God can lay hold of. There is an experimental knowledge of the resurrection which God’s people have here in this world, and it is very comforting and instructive to hear that phase of the resurrection set forth, but when one goes on to give the impression that there is no resurrection to be experienced by the Lord’s people, except what they have already obtained, when the future resurrection of the body is ignored or openly denied, then it is time to call a halt, for then spiritualizing becomes a dangerous menace to the church.
Finally, there seems to be a growing disposition on the part of some to deny the actual coming of the Lord at the close of this gospel dispensation, and to preach the coming of Christ as a purely spiritual and experimental thing within the range of the church’s life today. We have no wish to deny that Christ did come in the Spirit to set up the gospel church at Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost; we further do not deny that Christ is coming now in the Spirit to quicken his people, each in his own order, from death in sin to life in righteousness, but we do most positively affirm, according to the Scriptures, that Christ is yet to come as he has never come before, and that he will consummate the expectations of this gospel age when he appears to raise the dead, and when those who shall remain alive unto his coming shall not die, but shall be caught up together with the risen dead to meet the Lord in the air. We hope all of us may, by the grace of God, beware of over spiritualizing the sacred Scriptures and thus becoming apostates ourselves. None of us can keep alive his own soul, and only the Lord is sufficient for these things. – L.
Elder H.H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times – Editorial
December 1, 1922
Signs of the Times
Vol. 122, No. 11 – November, 1954