Is it possible for a Christian to commit apostasy?

Green Salvation Button

By Spencer D Gear

Commit what? We don’t hear the word much these days. What is apostasy? In the English language, the definition given by is, ‘a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc’.

A Christian-based definition is that apostasy is ‘a deliberate repudiation and abandonment of the faith that one has professed (Heb. 3:12). Apostasy differs in degree from heresy…. Perhaps the most notorious NT example is Judas Iscariot. Others include Demas (II Tim. 4:10) and Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20)’ (Whitlock, Jr. 1984:70).

Was King Solomon a godly man or not in the Old Testament era? Did he engage in gross sin and confess it? Was he once saved and then lost?[1] Did he commit apostasy?

Contrasting evidence for King Solomon

There are two sides to the Solomon story that this article investivates:

design-blue The first one is found in 1 Kings 3:3, ‘Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places’ (ESV). Do the latter sins exclude him from entry into the kingdom? Yes, he had considerable sins that needed forgiving, but we are told he loved God and followed the (godly) statutes given by his father, David.

design-blue But the other side of Solomon is [2] in 1 Kings 11:1-14 where we find some valuable information to help deal with this difficult issue:

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. 9 And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
14 And the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite. He was of the royal house in Edom (ESV, emphasis added).

We know from 1 Kings 3:3 that ‘Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David’.


This same Solomon chose to love many foreign women who turned his heart away from the Lord. The God who forbade adultery (Exodus 20:14) had that commandment violated by Solomon.

AND THERE WERE CONSEQUENCES of his polygamy, etc. and 1 Kings 14 tells us what they were.
So the lesson is that a person can love the Lord and still be tempted by an adversary and foreign women as in Solomon’s case and depart from following the Lord.

When do people lose their salvation?

This is a valid question that needs answering: ‘At what point do you believe that someone loses their salvation?’[3]

clip_image002 Of course most Calvinists do not believe it is possible to lose salvation. Here are a couple of statements of such a view:

clip_image004 The Westminster Confession of Faith states:

They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof (Chapter XVII:I-II).

J. I. Packer

J I Packer (photo courtesy InterVarsity Press)

clip_image004[1] J I Packer’s theology on the ‘perseverance of the saints’ is:

‘God is adequate as our keeper. “Nothing…can separate us from the love of God,” because the love of God holds us fast. Christians “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Pet 1:5), and the power of God keeps them believing as well as keeping them safe through believing. Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you’ (Packer 1973:310, emphasis in original).

clip_image002[1] The contrasting view is that of Arminianism which provides biblical evidence that salvation can be lost. A couple of examples are:

clip_image006 Stephen Ashby, a Reformed/Classical Arminian (like Jacob Arminius), concludes that ‘if one becomes an unbeliever, which is not probable but yet is possible since he or she is a personal being, then God removes that individual from the true vine, Christ Jesus (John 15:2, 5). Hence, the singular act of apostasy is irreversible (Heb. 6:4-6)’ (Ashby 2:187).

clip_image006[1] Another Arminian, John Wesley’s, view on eternal security[4] was:

The sum of all is this: If the Scriptures are true, those who are holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself; those who are endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience; those who are grafted into the good olive-tree, the spiritual, invisible Church; those who are branches of the true vine, of whom Christ says, “I am the vine, ye are branches;” those who so effectually know Christ as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world; those who see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and who have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, of the witness and of the fruits of the Spirit; those who live by faith in the Son of God; those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly (John Wesley Elements of Divinity, ‘Perseverance of the saints’).

Hebrews 6 and losing salvation

The reason given in Hebrews 6:4-6 for losing salvation (‘falling away’ from the faith) is apostasy. The Greek word used confirms this: parapesontas, aorist participle of parapipto, which Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning as “fall away, commit apostasy” (1957:626). It is a point action (aorist tense) of committing the act of apostasy. This meaning is affirmed by Thayer’s Greek lexicon: “to fall away (from the true faith)” (1962:485).

So, based on this passage from Heb 6:4-6, we can say that it is possible for a true believer to fall away from the faith, commit apostasy, and lose his/her salvation. If that happens, it is impossible for those who commit apostasy to be restored to repentance.
What’s the evidence that Solomon committed apostasy?

Colin Brown’s examination of the New Testament evidence, based on the original Greek language, was:

(Gk. apostasia, rebellion, abandonment, apostasy; from apo, away, and histe4mi, stand). The deliberate repudiation of belief once formerly held. An apostate is one who thus abandons Christianity. In the post-NT church apostasy, murder and adultery were regarded for a time as unpardonable sins. Later it become pardonable only after great (in some cases, lifelong) public penance (Brown 1975:51).

If you equate ‘turning their heart away from God’ with ‘deliberate repudiation of belief once formerly held … one who abandons Christianity’, then I can accept that this is a definition of apostasy. However, apostasy is a deliberate abandonment of faith formerly held, in my understanding.

For a fuller discussion of the issue of whether salvation can be lost, see my article, ‘Once saved, always saved or once saved, lost again?

A possible contemporary example of apostasy

Michael Patton has written this sad but challenging article, ‘Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: A Sad Tale of Two Evangelists‘. There is evidence here that Templeton may not have been intellectually convinced of the Gospel. See this excerpt from Charles Templeton’s, Farewell to God (1996).


Courtesy McClelland and Stewart (publishers)

‘All our differences came to a head in a discussion which, better than anything I know, explains Billy Graham and his phenomenal success as an evangelist.

In the course of our conversation I said, ‘But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.’

‘I don’t accept that’ Billy said. ‘And there are reputable scholars who don’t.’

‘Who are these scholars?’ I said. ‘Men in conservative Christian colleges[?]‘

‘Most of them, yes,’ he said. ‘But that is not the point. I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible. I’ve discovered something in my ministry: When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of the theological dispute, so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s word.’

‘But Billy,’ I protested, ‘You cannot do that. You don’t dare stop thinking about the most important question in life. Do it and you begin to die. It’s intellectual suicide.’”

‘I don’t know about anybody else,’ he said, ‘but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me’” (Templeton 1996:7-8).

Michael Patton’s comment was:

Templeton, as his own story makes plain (p. 3), never truly reached a point where he was intellectually convicted of the truthfulness of Christianity (what the reformers called assensus). Assensus represents the conviction we have in our minds. Assent of the mind is vital to our faith. Graham, according to this testimony, had enough assensus to make a decision. He was not going to be an eternal “tire-kicker” with regard to Christianity. Sure, he could have waited, like Templeton, until every possible objection to the faith was answered, but this would amount to a failure of modernistic irrationality. We can never have all our questions answered. At some point there must be a sufficiency in probability (‘A sad tale of two evangelists’).

My sense is that Templeton may never have been a true believer in Jesus Christ and was preaching a superficial Gospel that sounded like the real thing, but it wasn’t. One comment by another person at the end of this Michael Patton article was to point to

the interview former atheist, Lee Strobel … conducted with Templeton. When Strobel asked him about Jesus, he said, ‘“he’s the most important thing in my life.” He stammered: “I . . . I . . . I adore him . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.” Strobel was stunned. He listened in shock. He says that Templeton’s voice began to crack. He then said, “I . . . miss . . . him!” With that the old man burst into tears; with shaking frame, he wept bitterly (see Strobel 2000:21-22).

When discussing apostasy online, a person wrote: ‘The word [for apostasy] also means “rebellion” … easier to understand. There are a number of instances when Israelites rebelled and died. Do you believe Solomon rebelled or got addicted to sin or was even deceived by sin?’[5] But …

As for Solomon?[6]

The lexicon meanings of apostasy from Arndt & Gingrich, and Thayer, are that the word used for ‘fall away’ in Heb 6:6 means falling away, apostasy. Rebellion has different connotations in English to apostasy.

We have evidence that Solomon loved God, was walking in the statutes of his father, David, and then committed gross sin with ungodly women and in serving other gods.

I do not have unequivocal evidence from the OT or NT that King Solomon committed apostasy and was damned, never to return to repentance. We have evidence that Solomon committed sin in engaging with ungodly women, serving other gods, but I don’t know Solomon’s ultimate destiny as I don’t have all of the evidence.

We do know this from a book of the Bible that states it is based on some of the proverbs of Solomon:

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction

(Proverbs 1:1-7 ESV, emphasis added).

The introduction to the English Standard Version’s Book of Proverbs states that ‘because Proverbs is a collection of writings it has multiple authors, but most of the book is attributed to King Solomon. Individual proverbs date from between the tenth and sixth centuries B.C.’ (ESV 2001:634).

This I do know from Heb 6:4-6 that it is possible for people to fall away from the faith, commit apostasy, and can never be restored to repentance.
We see a very sad example of this with Charles Templeton. See: Charles Templeton’s “Farewell to God

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[7] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Ashby, S M 2002. A reformed Arminian view, in Pinson, J M (gen ed), Gundry, S N (series ed). Four views on eternal security, 135-205. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Brown, C (ed) 1975. New international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 1: A-F.[8] Exeter, Devon U.K.: The Paternoster Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Corporation.

Packer, J I 1973. Knowing God. London, Sydney, Auckland, Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton.[9]

Strobel, L 2000. The case for faith: A journalist investigates the toughest objections to Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles (a division of Good News Publishers).

Templeton, C 1996. Farewell to God: My reasons for rejecting the Christian faith. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.

Thayer, J H 1962. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Whitlock, Jr., L G 1984. Apostasy, in Elwell, W A (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology, 70. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.


[1] What provoked this article was a thread started in Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Was Solomon saved?’ Available at: (Accessed 11 February 2014).

[2] This is part of my post at ibid., OzSpen#37.

[3] Ibid., Hammster#38,

[4] I am using ‘perseverance of the saints’ and ‘eternal security’ as synonymous terminology.

[5] Christian Forums loc cit, Edial#61.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#63.

[7] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

[8] This was translated, with additions, and revisions, from an original German publication, theologisches begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament, ed by L Coenen, E Beyreuther, and H Bietenhard.

[9] In the USA, it was published by InterVarsity Press in 1973. See: (Accessed 21 February 2014).


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.