Apostasy and Falling Away in Hebrews (Joshua Bloor) (2023)



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Can a person lose their salvation? What does it mean to fall away from the faith? In today's Seven Minute Seminary, Joshua Bloor explains an Arminian interpretation of these critical passages in the Letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 2:1; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19–39; 12:1–29).

On the possibility of apostasy, see also: 1 John 5; Rev. 2-3. Read Ben Witherington's lengthy commentary on this possibility here (benwitherington.blogspot.com/2008/02/christian-apostasy-and-hebrews-6.html). Scot McKnight deals with the claim that different kinds of people (i.e. not Christians) are in view in the warning passages here (www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/01/16/warning-passages-ahead-brief-response/).

Several scholars from the Arminian-Wesleyan theological tradition have written excellent commentaries on Hebrews:

+ Letters and Homilies for Jewish Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Hebrews, James and Jude by Ben Witherington III
+ The Epistles to the Hebrews (NICNT) by Gareth Lee Cockerill
+ Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews by David DeSilva
+ Hebrews (2 vols; Word Biblical Commentary) by William L. Lane
+ Understanding the Book of Hebrews: The Story Behind the Sermon by Kenneth Schenck
+ The Book of Hebrews: Its Challenge from Zion by George Wesley Buchanan
+ Asbury Bible Commentary: "Hebrews"


The warning passages in the Epistle to the Hebrews also known as the falling away, passages have provoked lots of scholarly discussion and interest and for our Christian history.

And the reason for this is because when people have looked at these warning passages, they have arrived at completely different conclusions.

And so when we come to apply these scriptures to our own lives, our interpretation really matters because the way we read understand and apply attacks will have great consequences in the way we live everyday life, whether that's in the small things or whether that's in the bigger picture things.

And so where are these warnings? Well, traditionally, there are believed to be five warning passages in Hebrews, although there is debate as to where these occur.

But generally these warnings occur at the start of chapter two in chapters, three and four in Chapter, six in chapter ten.

And in chapter 12, we have five warnings.

But in the short time we have I want to look at the most often cited and most ferocious of the warning passages.

And that can be found in chapter 6 from verse four.

And it says this for it is impossible to restore again to repentance, those who have been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come and then have fallen away since on their own.

They are crucifying again, the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.

And so what we have here is very strong, soteriological language, language of tasting of the eschaton of the age to come.

And with this, the question in our heads is well, can you lose all of this? Can you taste of the age to come? Can you participate genuinely in the Holy Spirit and yet for into apostasy, but I suppose, the main sort of talking point regarding the warning passages is twofold.

Firstly, it's, the question of what exactly is the state of salvation for the recipients to whom the letter was written.

And secondly, the question of what is the author's concern is it that these believers could fall away from the faith and and lose their salvation.

And so when you add these two questions together, you should land with an answer.

And so the first question is, what exactly is the state of salvation for the recipients? Some would say, well, if they fall away, then it wasn't genuine faith, and they were simply counterfeits or robbers have suggested a sort of mixed audience that these warnings only really apply to some people.

The general consensus, though for most scholars is that the recipients were real Christians, the language of tasting of the age to come of participating in the spirit of being God's house that language from the start of chapter 3 of sharing participating in heavenly calling.

And in chapter 5, verse 12, the recipients are told, and actually they should be teaching the contents of this letter by now.

And so seeing the recipients as genuine believers is the likely scenario.

And so if the answer to the first question is that this was a believing community, then the other question we are left with is what is the author's concern? And what do we do with the reality of falling away from the faith it's clear from the type of language used in Hebrews that apostasy was a very real danger within the community.

And as Barnabas Linda suggests Hebrews is trying to pull the recipients from the brink of apostasy.

Now, traditional forms of Calvinism in terms of salvation would point to irresistible grace and the sovereignty of God.

And the resort is the elect are totally secure from falling away.

And this is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.

Now from an Arminian point of view, the sending of the Spirit overcomes, total depravity and through prevenient, grace human will is activated.

And this is where a choice is made on behalf of humankind.

And we see this aspect of freewill with in Hebrews.

For example, boost Fanning does a brilliant job of highlighting the conditional clauses in Hebrews, those bits, for example, in chapter 3, where the author says we are God's house.

If we hold firm, we are partakers of Christ if we hold on to our first confidence to the end.

And so in the Christian life, we decide we decide to allow the spirit to work and sanctify us if we don't, then the result is backsliding and then sin crowds, Christ out of our lives as the book of James tells us.

But this is not so bad.

This is an apostasy.

This person can easily come back on the straight and narrow.

But if it gets worse, the further result is total apostasy and the repudiating of Christ, the refusal to accept him.

And then the follow-up question would be if you commit apostasy and turn away from Christ.

If the situation gets this bad, then can you return? Is there a second repentance and Hebrews answers this at the start of chapter 6 and tells us it's impossible? Because what this person has decided by themselves means that they would never want to come back.

And so their fate is their ultimate desire.

But I think it's really important to acknowledge that while the warnings in Hebrews are severe and should be heeded by all believers that ultimately Hebrews is a word of exhortation as we're told in chapter 13 and verse 22 after all, if we keep reeling from the warning in chapter 6, we see the tone change completely in verse 9.

When we read, even though we speak in this way below we are confident of better things.

In your case things that belong to salvation for God is not unjust.

He will not overlook your work.

And the love that you showed for his sake and serve in the Saints as you still do.

And we want each one of you to show the same diligence.

So as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience, inherit the promises, the Olfa cares and loves his community, but has to warn them due to their own unique unique situation and that as God's holy ones we are called to live holy lives, which persevere.


What is apostasy in Hebrews? ›

Apostasy in Judaism is the rejection of Judaism and possible conversion to another religion by a Jew. The term apostasy is derived from Ancient Greek: ἀποστάτης, meaning "rebellious" (Hebrew: מורד.)

What's the difference between backsliding and falling away? ›

Backsliding is a sliding back. Though backsliding is not sudden in onset, it may escalate rapidly. Backsliding is different from falling away or apostasy, which is the extreme end of backsliding. Apostasy or falling away is the act or state of rejecting the Christian Faith and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the biblical teaching on apostasy? ›

apostasy, the total rejection of Christianity by a baptized person who, having at one time professed the Christian faith, publicly rejects it. It is distinguished from heresy, which is limited to the rejection of one or more Christian doctrines by one who maintains an overall adherence to Jesus Christ.

Is backsliding the same as apostasy? ›

Backsliding, also known as falling away or described as "committing apostasy", is a term used within Evangelical Christianity to describe a process by which an individual who has converted to Christianity reverts to pre-conversion habits and/or lapses or falls into sin, when a person turns from God to pursue their own ...

What is the first step of apostasy? ›

One of the first steps to apostasy is to find fault with your Bishop; and when that is done, unless repented of a second step is soon taken, and by and by the person is cut off from the Church, and that is the end of it.

What is the meaning of Hebrews 6 4 8? ›

That's what we are reading in Hebrews 6:4–8. This passage says that there is a spiritual condition that makes repentance and salvation impossible. And it says that this condition may look in many ways like salvation, but it isn't. And it leads to destruction.

What is an example of apostasy? ›

Adultery. One of the most common images for apostasy in the Old Testament is adultery. "Apostasy is symbolized as Israel the faithless spouse turning away from Yahweh her marriage partner to pursue the advances of other gods (Jeremiah 2:1–3; Ezekiel 16). …

What is the cycle of apostasy? ›

The cycle of apostasy begins as the rising generation of the children of Israel forsake the Lord to serve the gods of the people around them. Judges 4:1–16. Barak is commanded to free Israel from Jabin, king of Canaan (4:1–7). He agrees to go if Deborah will go with him (4:8–9).

What to do when falling away from God? ›

How To Stop Drifting Away From Your Faith In God
  1. Put some trust in God. True rest comes from true faith. ...
  2. Re-Learn How to Pray. ...
  3. Find others who can motivate you. ...
  4. Grow in your faith. ...
  5. Learn to endure. ...
  6. Choose any (or all) of the 14 commands listed at the end of the Book of Hebrews:

What is the best definition of apostasy? ›

: an act of refusing to continue to follow, obey, or recognize a religious faith. : abandonment of a previous loyalty : defection.

Why did the apostasy have to happen? ›

The Great Apostasy happened after people rejected and tried to change the pure truths and organization of the Church established by the Savior.

Does apostasy mean turning away from the Lord and his prophets? ›

The Lord often removes His prophets from among those people who reject them. When prophets are no longer present, truth, priesthood authority, ordinances, and Church organization become corrupted, changed, or lost (apostasy).

What is the punishment for apostasy in Christianity? ›

In Christianity, those who committed apostasy were shunned, excommunicated, tortured, or had their civil rights suspended. Many passages in the primary Islamic religious text, the Qur'an, are highly critical of apostasy. To this day, some Muslim countries still carry out the death penalty against apostates.

What happens to apostasy? ›

Apostasy from Islam is not considered a hudud crime. Unlike in other schools, it is not obligatory to call on the apostate to repent. Apostate males are to be killed, while apostate females are to be held in solitary confinement and beaten every three days till they recant and return to Islam.

Is apostasy the same as blasphemy? ›

As can be seen from the above list, what is generally termed blasphemy often falls under the rubric of apostasy in classical Islamic law. In other words, insulting the Prophet or denying the existence of God are considered acts of apostasy, without a separate category of acts being defined as acts of blasphemy.

Is apostasy a mortal sin? ›

Additionally, some mortal sins are considered so severe that the church punishes them with excommunication. These include apostasy (deliberate renunciation of the faith) and the desecration of the elements of the Eucharist.

What are the roots of apostate? ›

The word apostate originally comes from a Greek word that meant "runaway slave." Now, apostate has a religious or political tone to it, so someone might call you "a political apostate" if you ran for office as a Republican during one election and then ran as a Democrat in the following election.

What is the synonym of apostasy? ›

Synonyms of apostasy (noun defection) abandonment. dereliction. disaffection. estrangement.

What is the lesson from Hebrews 4 12? ›

12 – “BECAUSE the word of God is living and active . . .” So let me summarize. The goal is to enter God's rest. The goal is to receive salvation and peace and joy and confidence of eternal life and forgiveness of sins.

What is the lesson of Hebrews 6 19? ›

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where, Jesus who went before us, has entered on our behalf. An anchor attached to boat or ship, keeps it from drifting.

What does Hebrews 6 9 12 mean? ›

There is no way to exaggerate or overestimate what you could achieve by the grace of God if you were living in the full assurance of your hope in Christ.

What is a simple sentence for apostasy? ›

1. After Sue underwent her apostasy, she declared herself an atheist and never returned to church. 2. John's apostasy of his religious beliefs was a great disappointment to his devout parents.

What is the difference between apostasy and heresy? ›

Heresy is distinct from apostasy, which is the explicit renunciation of one's religion, principles or cause; and from blasphemy, which is an impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things. Heresiology is the study of heresy.

Why was there an apostasy in the Bible? ›

Many good people believed in God and Jesus Christ and tried to understand and teach truth, but they did not have the full gospel or priesthood authority. As a result, each generation inherited a state of apostasy as people were influenced by what previous generations passed on, including changes to Christ's gospel.

How many times did the Israelites turn away from God? ›

Seven times in over 300 years! And why did the nation of Israel sink into this downward spiral of disobedience and judgement? It was a matter of THEIR EYES! The Hebrew language is very literal.

How do I come back to God after falling away? ›

Here are some ways to help you find your way back to Him:
  1. Talk to Him. Just as with any other person in your life, communication is essential to strengthening your relationship with God. ...
  2. Study the scriptures. ...
  3. Listen for Him. ...
  4. Show gratitude. ...
  5. Be mindful.
Jul 2, 2016

How do you trust God when everything is falling apart? ›

Here are five tips for trusting Jesus when your world is falling apart.
  1. Pray honestly. God already knows how you really feel, and what you really think (Hebrews 4:12-13). ...
  2. Find people who love Him. ...
  3. Be vulnerable. ...
  4. Turn to Scripture. ...
  5. Remember the times He has been faithful. ...
  6. Do not lose heart.
Jun 15, 2020

What does God say when you lose everything? ›

3 God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he'll have compassion on you; he'll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. 5 and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again.

What is the sin that is unforgivable? ›

One eternal or unforgivable sin (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit), also known as the sin unto death, is specified in several passages of the Synoptic Gospels, including Mark 3:28–29, Matthew 12:31–32, and Luke 12:10, as well as other New Testament passages including Hebrews 6:4–6, Hebrews 10:26–31, and 1 John 5:16.

Where in the Bible does it talk about the falling away? ›

Before the second coming of Christ, the Bible is clear there will be a “falling away” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Many Christians believe there will come a massive revival before the rapture, but the Scripture does not back up that belief.

What was lost in the Great Apostasy? ›

We refer to it as the Great Apostasy. After people rejected and killed the Savior and His Apostles, the Lord's priesthood authority and His Church were lost from the earth.

What countries punish apostasy by death? ›

Currently, there are six nations that maintain the death penalty for apostasy only: Malaysia, Maldives, Qatar, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

What does it mean to fall away? ›

: to withdraw friendship or support. : to renounce one's faith. : to diminish gradually in size. : to drift off a course.

What is the fastest growing religion in the world today? ›

Studies in the 21st century suggest that, in terms of percentage and worldwide spread, Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world.

What do you call a person who abandons his religious faith? ›

The correct option is A Apostate. Apostate : a person who renounces a religious belief or principle.

What is an example of undoubted faith? ›

The example of all the three steps of undoubted faith is following, if someone tells you that there is a fire on the mountain, you may believe in, but by seeing this scene with your eyes will make your belief stronger.

How does one convert to Christianity? ›

How to Become a Christian
  1. Believe that you are loved and accepted by God. ...
  2. Admit that you are a sinner. ...
  3. Acknowledge your sins. ...
  4. Commit your life to Christ. ...
  5. Live a life of gratitude to God.

Does apostasy break Wudu? ›

[Ibn Juzayy states that apostasy also breaks wudu'.]]

How do you stop apostasy? ›

We can also avoid those mists by humbling ourselves, forgiving others, keeping our covenants, partaking of the sacrament worthily each week, and strengthening our testimonies through prayer, daily scripture study, temple attendance where possible, magnifying our Church callings, and serving our fellowmen.

Are the sins of unbelievers forgiven? ›

God Is No Longer Holding Men's Sins Against Them

Sin will kill you, but it's no longer an issue between God and man. Although unbelievers aren't saved, their sin is forgiven.

Can God forgive blasphemy? ›

All sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29). Notice, there is a positive and a negative in what Jesus says.

Why did the apostasy happen? ›

The Great Apostasy happened after people rejected and tried to change the pure truths and organization of the Church established by the Savior.

What are the roots of the word apostasy? ›

Etymology. From Latin apostasia, from Ancient Greek ἀποστασία (apostasía, “defection, revolt”), from ἀφίστημι (aphístēmi, “I withdraw, revolt”), from ἀπό (apó, “from”) + ἵστημι (hístēmi, “I stand”).

Where does the meaning of apostasy come from? ›

It comes from the Late Latin apostasia, meaning “a standing away” or “withdrawing,” from the Greek apóstas(is), “desertion.” The root apo- means “away,” “off,” or “apart.” (Apo– is also used in the similar-sounding but mostly unrelated word apostle, which comes from a Greek term meaning “one who is sent forth.”)

What are the consequences of apostasy? ›

Outcome of apostasy

Many religious groups oppose the idea of atheism or non-believers which could result in boycotts in community, criminal offence or execution. Death punishment is found in the Sharia law in certain Islamic countries.

Where is apostasy punishable by death? ›

In Afghanistan, Maldives, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates apostasy is considered a hudud crime, i.e. crimes that are considered to be against the rights of God, which have fixed punishments; according to Islamic law, apostasy is punishable by death.

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