June 1, 1986 Issue
by William St. John

"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." John 6:66-69.

Many of the people who followed Jesus, had misconceptions concerning Him. Often, their preconceived ideas were at variance with the person and purpose of the Christ. The people expected a king, He came as a servant; they expected a physical, earthly kingdom, His kingdom was spiritual; they expected the restoration of physical Israel, God's chosen people, and instead, spiritual Israel, the church, began and became God's chosen people.

In John 6, Jesus taught some things that caused many to stop following Him. Many had followed Him because of the loaves and fishes. When Jesus emphasized the necessity of complete obedience, they turned away. Like many today who emphasize "feelings" and an inaccurate conception of "love", while minimizing the word of God and the necessity of obedience. Jesus then turns His attention to His inner circle, the twelve, and asks, "Will ye also go away?" Jesus never forced anyone to be His disciple; and here, He gives the twelve the opportunity to leave Him.

In I Corinthians 11:19, the scriptures state, "For there must be also heresies among you;, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." Paul states in I Timothy 4:1, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits." Heresies and departures from the faith have been with us ever since the first century. Jude wrote, "contend for the faith", and Paul wrote about those who were, "reprobate concerning the faith" (Ju 3 & II Timothy 3:8).

As I begin to look around and consider those who have left the faith in just the last few years, it seems that the question is not, "Will someone depart from the faith?"; but, "Will ye also go away?" As David said in Psalm 119:53, "Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law." Since the restoration movement began in America, many have departed. Men have departed from the faith to accept the errors of denominationalism and innovations in the work and worship of the church (Missionary Societies, mechanical instruments of music, Sunday school or Bible classes, individual communion cups, the modern day "pastor system", etc.). Others have left for money, fame or physical lusts. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15, ASV). Those who do not keep Christ's commandments, do not love Him. Regardless of how men try to soften this statement, it is still true. If you love Christ, you will keep His commandments, and if you don't keep His commandments, you don't love Him. John said, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." If you do not keep the commandments of Christ, then you hate Christ. Maybe you don't think so; but nonetheless, you hate Him. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." There is no middle ground. Either you are a servant of God or you are a servant of sin. Those who depart from the faith, hate God. Even those who have left for other beliefs and false worship, hate God. The men of Bethel, considered themselves faithful worshipers of God (Amos 7:13), while in reality they were steeped in the sin of idolatry. Many today believe they are still being faithful to God, while in reality they have departed from the faith.

When people depart from the faith, they tread under foot the Son of God. They count the blood of Christ, which saved them from their sins, as though it were common or unholy, and they insult or do despite to the Spirit of grace. The punishment that awaits them is more grievous than death (Hebrews 10:28-29).

Many feel that departing from the faith, only affects them. This is not so. When we depart, we put Christ to an open shame (Hebrews 6:6) and we grieve and insult the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30 & Hebrews 10:29). The apostle John wrote, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (III John 4). Obviously, it causes great pain to those who are faithful, when someone leaves the truth. Personally, I had much rather hear that a dear brother or sister has died, than to hear that they have departed from the faith. Paul stated that we are not to sorrow over those who have died (I Thess 4:13); but, those who depart from God are a source of great sorrow. Jesus, the man of sorrows, must have grieved when Judas betrayed Him and when Peter denied Him. The fact that Israel as a nation, had rejected Christ, was a source of great heaviness and continual sorrow to the apostle Paul (Romans 9:2). Paul said of the Thessalonians, "We are comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith. For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord" (I Thess 3:7-8).

When someone I know leaves the faith, it is as though part of me dies. Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to establish them concerning the faith. He wrote, "For ye are our glory and joy."

Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timothy, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed there unto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know" (Thess 2:20 & 3:1 4).

Sometimes people who depart from the faith, offer the excuse that brethren offended them. It is certainly true that we can cause others to stumble, to offend, or to be made weak (Romans 14:21 & I Cor 8:10-13). But it must be clearly understood, that those who are offended are weak and do not love the law of God! In Psalm 119:165 it is stated, "Great peace have they which love the law: and nothing shall offend them." John wrote of some who "went out from us" in I John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." Some of the accusations that are made against the people of God may be true; but, NOTHING justifies leaving the church or departing from the faith. If those who left really loved the truth, they would not leave.

We live in a time when many people, even some members of the church, belittle the word of God and emphasize "feelings". The Bible still assures us that the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul (Psalm 19:7);that the scriptures of God are able to make us wise unto salvation and perfect (II Timothy 3:15-17); and that the person who continues in the perfect law of liberty will be blessed (James 1:25). The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus did something that the law of Moses could not do; namely, it freed us from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2-3).

We are in a war against sin. Those who depart from the faith are cowardous traitors. In Philippians 3:17-19 Paul wrote, "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example. (For many walk, of who I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)" When someone falls in battle, one of two things happens to the others either they become dismayed and may retreat, or else they become more determined than ever to fight to the last man. I urge each of you to become more determined than ever. As Paul said, these things must happen, that they which are approved may be made manifest. Our faith must be tried. Do not let those who have departed from the faith dismay you. As God said to Joshua, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." I ask those of you who have departed from the faith, "To whom shall you go?"

My purpose in writing this article is two-fold: 1, to set forth the truth about those who depart from the faith, namely, that they do not love the truth nor the Son of God, and 2, to encourage the faithful to remain faithful. As Paul wrote, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong" (I Cor 16:13). There have been many faithful preachers and brothers and sisters who have encouraged me greatly by their faithfulness. To these, I express my very deepest love and appreciation.

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Falling Away

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