|Messages By Ovid Need|
Why Do "Christians" Fall Away, Never to Return??
I came accost this verse as I was studying in the book of Exodus and the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, Ex 4:21. Paul's warning here should be one of the most terrifying verses in the Scripture for every Child of God, including pastors and teachers of God's word.
Certainly the hardness of the unsaved is discouraging, yet for those who try to remain faithful to the law of the Lord, the real anguish comes from the progressive hardness of the saved. Those who have been around the Lord's work for any length of time are amazed at those who, at one time wore as solid and faithful as anyone, yet have fallen by the wayside. Now they appear to be totally indifferent to all spiritual matters.
As we look at this passage, we will assume that the people were genuinely converted and that they were not caught in the "Ask Jesus into your heart" trap.
Hebrews 6:4-6, Paul addresses this problem with some very strong language, but it is God's word; therefore, we need to develop this a little.
V. 4 opens with For, referring back to the preceding verses. V. 1 opens with Therefore, also referring back to the preceding verses. Tracing the thought back, we find his teaching concerning the High Priesthood of the Lord Christ as summed up in the key verses 5:8 & 9, Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.. Therefore, in Heb. 6:6, Paul is building upon the thought that the Lord Jesus obeyed the will of the Father in spite of all the suffering that He had to endure.
Paul says that there is more than what he is giving, but he cannot give further instruction because of their dullness of hearing, ie. they could not understand more if he told them, v. 11. (check this in MO)
The reason for their limited understanding is given in v. 12, For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again.. Paul rebukes his readers for not growing in the knowledge of and in obedience to the Lord, exemplified by Christ, 5:8, 14.
In other words, they remained immature babies because they refused to act upon the revealed law-word of God. The obvious conclusion here is that, regardless of one's position in the body of Christ (ie. leader or follower), if one refuses to increase in obedience he remains an immature babe on the road to destruction (cf. Ja 1:22); he will become a hardened wreck along the Christian highway of life with no hope of renewal unless the Spirit of God intervenes to give him repentance.
[He 5:12; 6:1, there is more to Christianity than what Christ has done for His people. Paul says that God's people are to go on to what Christ commands of them; they are to go on and take dominion over all the earth in His name. If they do not, they are in danger of falling away to impossible renewal.]
When one refuses to deal with a situation which arises in his life by applying God's law, not only is he refusing to grow, but he is choosing to remain an immature babe in Christ. Furthermore, determination not to return to obedience to the voice of the Lord will lead to a falling away into hardness; he has refused to leave he was in the principles of the doctrine of Christ at that point of his life.
[Notice 5:12. Depending upon their Christian growth, there is a time when a person should be a teacher. Hence, if they fail to grow as they should and become teachers when they should, they not only are in danger of falling away, but they are in trouble with the Lord.]
2 Pet 3:17, 18, gives the command to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is contrasted with being led away with the error of the wicked. In Ph 2:13, Paul defines grace as the God given desire and power to do His will; therefore, growth in grace and knowledge is increased knowledge of God's word and will, as well as increased desire and power to do His revealed will.
In other words, Peter is telling us that if one does not continually grow in knowing, developing, applying and in the desire and power to do God's revealed law-word, he will be led away with error of the wicked. Our primary defence against the desires of the wicked one is continual growth in the grace of God. (Cf. Eph 4:14 & Ja 1:6.)
Paul warns us in Romans 2:1-6, that self-willed proud resistance to the loving leading and admonition of the Spirit of God to repent and do God's word will lead to hardness of heart and ultimate destruction. God never allows man to scoff at Him and His leading.
Heb 6:7-8, let's follow Paul through a little.
As the rain from heaven falls upon the earth, the earth receives the rain, brings forth good fruit and man receives blessings from God; on the other hand, the same rain on the same earth at times brings forth only thorns and briers fit solely for cursing and judgment.
Paul goes on to urges these people to faithful obedience to the word of God by reminding them of 3 things: 1) the example of Christ (He 5:8), 2) the sure promises of God, 6:9-12, and 3) the example of Abraham, vs. 13-15.
Notice that in Titus 2:11, the grace of God which prevents unrenewable hardness (thus destruction) has appeared to all men. (Titus 2:11, For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world..)
Because this statement about the grace of God will not stand alone, we need to briefly examine its context. Titus 2:14 is a quote from the Lord's words to Moses on the mount; it is the then part of the covenant that the Lord made with His people after He, by Him marvelous grace, redeemed them out of Egypt, Ex 19:5 & 6.
The Lord commanded Moses to explain to His newly redeemed people that His purpose in choosing them out of all other people was to make them a peculiar treasure unto Himself above all the people of the earth, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But this part of the covenant (then -- God's part) was not unconditional; rather, it was preceded by an if. He said that if His newly redeemed people would faithfully obey His voice indeed, and keep his covenant, then they would be a peculiar people unto Himself.
Notice Deu 11:13, 14 & Mk 12:30. The Lord reestablished the if part of the covenant which Paul and Peter were to latter build upon as they reestablished the then part of the covenant. The Lord Christ, Peter and Paul all expanded the if-then covenant to include all of God's people everywhere, Gal 6:15, 16. [See MO, E&T]
The context then of Peter's words in 1 Pet 2:5-9, is something like this: Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, [God has, by His marvelous grace and mercy, chosen and redeemed you above all the people of the earth; therefore, if you will obey His voice and keep His covenant, then ye shall be] an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ... But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Now, back to Paul's instruction to Titus (2:11-14). Paul gives Titus the then side of the covenant between the Covenant Making God and His newly redeemed people. Neither Paul's nor Peter's statement can be removed from their OT or NT context; therefore, the obvious purpose of the grace of God is to provide His redeemed people with the power and ability to keep the if side of the covenant. The purpose of the grace of God that bringeth salvation is to teach His people to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts so that they can live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the present world. The result will be a purified people who love the Lord their God with all their heart.. By keeping the if side of the covenant, they are made a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
[Note then that when a person is delivered by God into hardness of heart without repentance, God is only keeping His side of the covenant.]
This brings us to this question: "What if the person does not obey the grace of God that bringeth salvation which appears to him? [And by salvation we must include eternal life and salvation from, victory over, the world, flesh and the devil in the present.]
God has clearly established an unchangeable law that says that if the lusts exposed by the word of God are not laid aside, the hearer will be hardened in his sin. Furthermore, the more rejection on the part of the hearer, the harder he becomes. When the if part of the covenant between God and man is not kept by man, then the then part will be kept by God. His part includes hardening of the heart and final cutting off the hardened sinner from among God's people, 1 Cor 5.
In other words, the rain from above (the revealed Divine word of God, He 6:7, 8) falls on all people; the same grace of God which brings salvation (from the lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, the pride of life and final consequences of sin-eternal torment) has appeared to all men. Those who receive and act upon it will bring forth fruit, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
On the other hand, the same rain (grace of God from heaven), when resisted by the hearer, brings forth briers and thorns. As the hearer decides over an extended period of time that he will not do God's word, the word of God hardens him further. The same massage (Son) melts one heart while baking another into hardened clay. The curse of sin says no to the word of the Lord causing the word of God to harden the heart. (checkmohere)
Heb 6:6, If they shall fall away.. If a person continuously refuses to act upon what they hear from the word of God over a period of time, he will become harder and harder. He will finally fall away to unrenewable repentance.
Heb 12:15-17, Paul continues his argument by pointing out that Esau's love for the desires of the flesh caused him to chose the desires of the flesh over the promised blessings of faithful obedience to God's will. As a result, Esau failed of the grace of God. Easu repented but not for the sin of choosing the desires of the flesh over the Lord's will.
Now, in conclusion, let me give you some points and tie together some lose ends:
I grew up in a pastor's home, and I have been in or every closely connected with the "ministry" since '65. I can not count the ones who I have seen fall away never to be renewed. At one time they faithfully served the Lord, but now they seem to be almost totally indifferent to the things of the Lord. They still claim to be saved, but if they are it would be "so as by fire," 1 Cor 3:15.
In every case that I can think of, I can place my finger on where I feel they not only resisted the teaching of God's word in their spirit, but openly rebelled against it. Maybe their circumstances were difficult so they yielded to them; maybe the desires of the flesh were too strong, so they went back to the old loves and desires. But for whatever reason, there was a point that they no longer were willing to sacrifice their personal desires to the word of God.
I knew a pastor who was at one time tremendously used by the Lord, but, by his own admission, the Lord told him to do something, and his pride prevented his obedience: "I am too important in God's plan to do what He is telling me to do." He stubborn self-willed pride resulted in his total destruction (and many of those around him), though not death.
1) From my personal observation, there seems to be three classes of people particularly susceptible to the falling away of He 6:6;
A) many who have attended Bible College no longer see a need to study the word of God,
B) those with strong charismatic personalities see no need to depend upon the Spirit and word of God;
C) church staff members feel that they have "arrived," and need no further growth in grace.
2) There are different degrees of rebellion; some areas of saying no to the Spirit are more dangerous than others bringing swifter destruction. The presently hardened Christian at one time had the grace of God, but there was a point where they refused to submit their fleshly desires to the word of God. They made a choice against the word of God; their choice for the enemy turned them from God's grace. They are now hardened clay; their hearts only bear thorns and briers; they are dry wells and waterless clouds.
3) The word of God apart from the grace of God will only harden the heart of the hearer. It is significant that in the confrontation with Pharaoh, his heart grew harder and remained hardened in spite of the ten plagues. Obviously, all of the mighty signs and wonders in the world will not change one hardened sinner's heart.
In other words, no amount of worldly wisdom will convince anyone of anything having to do with genuine religion; genuine God-honoring religion is a function of the Spirit of God. [In Lk 16, the warning of judgment to come only made the unjust steward more determined in his evil ways.]
Therefore, we should not be discouraged at the blindness, hardness and indifference to the word of God around us. We have been warned by the Lord Himself! We must pray for the Lord to reveal His grace in the heart of the sinner, 2 Cor 4.
The hardness to the point of no renewal is the result of the sinner saying no over an extended period of time to the if part of the covenant; God spoke and spoke, the individual said no and no. The result is hardness and indifference to all spiritual matters.
4) Change must take place in the heart; thus, conversion, both in spirit and works, is totally a work of the Spirit of God, Jn 6.
5) The greatest fear in the life of any child of God should be of the Lord removing His hand of Grace and mercy for just an instant permitting:
A) blindness and inability to see and apply the law-word of God, and
B) allowing us to follow our own desires resulting in the hardening of our own heart. Blindness and the following our own desires will lead to sure destruction.
6) We will either grow in grace and knowledge (knowledge of and the ability in the application of God's law, and the desire to do God's revealed will), or we will grow harder in our rebellion. The same message of grace appears to all hearts producing either fruit or thorns. The same Son softens or hardens depending upon the action taken upon His message. The sun shines and the rain falls everywhere; thus, there is no natural ground. Either we will grow in our obedience to God's law-word or we will harden in disobedience.
7) Correction can be made by going back and confessing the sin.
8) We affect far more people than just ourselves.
9) One of our greatest dangers is that when the ground starts to bring forth fruit for the Lord again, we go back into the same hardness and rebellion.
10) Finally, resistance to God and His command-word must result in fearful judgment. "Each conviction suppressed, each admonition stifled, each loving offer rejected, tends towards increasing spiritual insensibility, and that in which it ends."
It is extremely sad to see this hardness happen in those we love.
Is there any hope for them? Certainly! There are two options afforded by God's word:
A) hardness and death (Gal 6:16; 1 Jn 5:16 &c.), or
B) go back and confess the original sin where where the leading of the Spirit was rejected.
Our hope and prayer for these people is that, God in His mercy, will see fit to shed His grace upon them, open their eyes and once again give them the strength to overcome the sin and renew their covenant with Him.
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