Conversations with a Calvinist on apostasy

Spencer D Gear

Lake of Fire

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By Spencer D Gear

If you want to see some heat generated in theological discussions, just raise the issue of the possibility of apostasy with Calvinists who believe in perseverance of the saints. These folks who believe in once saved, always saved (OSAS) – which is not good terminology – do not want to come close to believing that it is possible for a genuine Christian to be lost again and to be lost eternally with no further opportunity for repentance.

What, then, is apostasy? Apostasy refers to

defection from the faith, an act of unpardonable rebellion against God and his truth. The sin of apostasy results in the abandonment of Christian doctrine and conduct. With respect to the covenant relationship established through prior profession of faith (passive profession in the case of baptized infants), apostates place themselves under the curse and wrath of God as covenant breakers, having entered into a state of final and irrevocable condemnation. Those who apostatize are thus numbered among the reprobate. Since the resurrection of Christ, there is no distinction between blasphemy against Christ and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt 12:31-32; Heb 6:4-6 ; 10:26-29 ; 1 John 5:16-17) [Karlberg 1996].[1]

I made the post to a Christian forum in which I dealt with Hebrews 10:26-27, which states, ‘For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries (ESV).


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In response to another person, I wrote:

They should cause us all to be concerned about our continuing to ‘go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth’ (Heb. 10:26). This verse, along with Heb 6:4-8, confirm that apostasy is a genuine possibility for some who have been Christian but choose to sin deliberately and reject the Lord.

These verses and the others you quoted cannot be excluded when continuation or loss of salvation is considered.[2]

A Calvinist responded, ‘We all sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth’.[3] How should I reply?

Therefore, this is what we can expect from God if that is what we :

26 Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. 27 There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies (Heb 10:26-27 NLT).

The NLT has gotten the essence of the Greek present tense with ‘continue sinning’ and this is deliberately. This is deliberate sinning that continues on and on.[4]

The same Calvinist responded:

The passage isn’t talking about losing salvation. It’s sad that you think the Great Shepherd could lose His sheep.
The writer is talking to Jews. If they reject Christ, their sacrificial system will not benefit them. That’s why there remains no more sacrifice for sins.
But hey, only have conversations with those who agree with you. That way you’ll never be challenged.
(Oh, and the 1 Tim passage says nothing about them losing their salvation.)[5]

My response was:[6] The passage is doing more than talking about losing salvation. It is talking about the believer who commits apostasy (repudiates the Christian faith), for whom ‘there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins’. That’s the apostasy from which there is no return, as Heb. 6:4-8 confirms.
It’s sad that you think the Great Shepherd is not telling us the truth when he writes about committing apostasy in Heb 6:4-8 and Heb 10:26-27 for which there is no return to repentance.

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The context of Hebrew 10:26-27, no matter how much you want it to refer to Jews, tells us that the writer to the Hebrews is writing to Christians. We know this from these verses in Ch. 10:

clip_image012[2] Hebrews 10:10, “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (ESV)

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:15, “And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us….”

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:19, “Therefore, brothers and sisters since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,”

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith….”

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering….”

clip_image012[2]  Heb 10:24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:25, “Not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.…”

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:26, ‘“For if we go on sinning deliberately….”

This Calvinist did nto seem to like the challenges that I to his view on apostasy, which was that no Christian can commit apostasy as once they are saved they will persevere in the faith and not lose salvation. However, that is not a consistent view maintained in Scripture.

Mark Karlberg’s (1996) article on apostasy continued:

G. C. Berkouwer[7] comments: “We must underscore the deep seriousness of the biblical warning against apostasy after enlightenment’ and after the knowledge of the truth.’ This is the apostasy which reviles the Spirit of grace and despises the Son of God and crucifies the Man of Sorrows anew” (p. 343). Berkouwer is correct to refute the idea that this sin against the Holy Spirit is a mysterium iniquitatis (“a mystery of sin”), a sin difficult, if at all possible, to define precisely in the Bible.

Apostatizing from God’s redemptive covenant is an act of unpardonable transgression and rebellion. All other sins are forgiven on true repentance and faith. Those who fall out of fellowship with the saints are restored to full communion through confession of sin and reaffirmation of faith in Jesus Christ. Excommunication, as a final step in the process of ecclesiastical discipline, is undertaken in the hope of restoring the wayward sinner who has fallen into grievous sin ( 1 Co 5:1-5).

Israel of old repeatedly broke covenant with God. By impugning the name and works of Yahweh, Israel despised her calling and proved to be a stubborn and disobedient nation. Pentateuchal law identifies covenantal faithlessness as apostasy (see, e.g., the curses of the covenant pronounced on Mount Ebal by the Israelites in Deut 27:9-26). With respect to temporal blessing in the land of promise, restoration of Israel to divine favor after covenant breaking was always a consequence of divine grace and mercy, not because of meritorious works on Israel’s part.

In biblical prophecy apostasy is an eschatological sign of the impending day of the Lord, a precursor of the final day of judgment. Ancient Israel’s experience of divine wrath and displeasure served as typological foreshadowings of that latter day. The increase in apostasy in these last days of the church’s wilderness experience is associated with the appearance of the “man of lawlessness” ( 2 Th 2:1-3).

For a detailed examination of the possibility of a Christian committing apostasy and being lost forever with no opportunity for repentance, see my exposition of Hebrews 6:4-8, ‘Once saved, always saved or once saved, lost again’.

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Works consulted

Karlberg, M W 1996. Apostasy, in W A Elwell (ed), Baker’s evangelical dictionary of biblical theology. Available at, (Accessed 8 July 2013).



[1] Karlberg (1996).

[2] Christian Forums, Congregation, Christian Communities, Baptists, Heb 6:4-6, OzSpen #13, available at: (Accessed 6 July 2013).

[3] Ibid., Hammster #14.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #15.

[5] Ibid., Hammster #30.

[6]Ibid., OzSpen #34.

[7] Karlberg stated that this referred to the book by G. C. Berkouwer, Sin.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.