Frequently the question is asked, “Can a true Christian fall away from the faith and become an apostate?”
The word apostasy, from which we get the word “apostate”, is a solemn term indicating a serious error that has arose within the church. It literally means, “a falling away”. In 2 Thessalonians we read, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) This falling away of which Paul is speaking, is a deliberate abandonment of a position to which one had previously held. The word used was very close to the meaning of another Greek word for “divorce”. Again, it speaks of abandonment, much like a soldier’s defection from his responsibility. It is a strong term that indicates vacating truth completely.
So, can a genuine Christian fall away from faith and become an apostate? No. The bible is specific on this subject. Judas, the betrayer of Christ, was never operating in true faith from the start. The apostle John in his first letter wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been with us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (1 John 2:9)
Jesus, speaking of his true sheep said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:28,29)
Sadly, there are many apostate people. Beginning with Judas, church history has been bereft of those professing faith in Christ, only to be found out later to be charlatans, liars, the very wolves of which Paul had warned the elders from the church in Ephesus in Acts 20. They may identify themselves as followers of Christ, but they never actually embrace the truth because they never come to an understanding of it. Why they might be quite active within the church community and proactive in all kinds of outreach programs. They may even become prominent leaders within the church…..but they never truly believe the undivided truth of the Word of God with all of their heart. Like tares among wheat, for a while they may be quite hard to distinguish from the authentic believer.
But those who are standing upon the solid rock of Christ Jesus the Lord need not worry about their eternal salvation. Their foundation is sure, their faith is real, and their lives are bearing the fruit of a truly repentant heart.