A Voice in the
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At VW we often talk about "pretend christians" and "false prophets." Personal correspondence will often include people's accounts of their own times of wandering from God and coming back. Sometimes there is confusion about the distinction between "wandering Christians" and those who have never received Christ as Redeemer. If a person wandered, and then hears that "once saved-always saved" is not Scriptural, they worry that their wanderings may have made them 'permanently' condemned.
In order to clarify some of the misgivings, it seemed good to assemble a list describing the various kinds of people there are at any given time, showing Scriptural basis for each. We should keep in mind that "God knows [the] heart."(Lk16:15) And while "man looks on the outward appearance, God looks at the heart"(1Sam16:7) the "Lord knows those who are His."(2Tim2:19)
Twelve Kinds of People:
1) Christian -grown to full maturity and fruitfulness
The ultimate goal. To be "hundredfold" Christians.(Mt13:23) To be Christlike. Of course, 100% fulfillment won't be realized until we are with Him, and we see Him as He is, and are, thus, fully "like Him."(1Jn3:2)
And as there is sin, of which all Christians are guilty from time to time (1Jn1:8), he confesses (1:9) and receives cleansing because of Christ's advocacy.(2:1-2)
Paul writes to them, "I could not speak to you as spiritual but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it...for where there are envy, strife and divisions...are you not carnal and behaving like [mere] men?"(1Cor3:1-3)
The Christian's calling is a "heavenly calling."(Heb3:1) Our citizenship is in heaven.(Phil3:20) Thus, our conduct should not be like sinful man. However, this group is saved. Paul refers to them as "my brethren."(1:11)
Luke 15 best illustrates this person. The prodigal asks the father for the "portion of goods" that is due him.(vs12) He is not walking away, leaving all behind. But he is taking with him what is "his." He goes and squanders everything, behaving lasciviously. But God hedges up his way (Hos2:6). And he is humbled into doing things he would never have drempt; a Jew feeding swine.(vs15)
But then, he "came to himself."(vs17) And he remembers his "father." He is still part of the "family." Returns in repentance, and receives full restoration and fellowship. While he was "lost"(vs24), he was still in the family. He is still a Christian.
The sheep (not goat) was lost, until the shepherd went out and found him,(vs4) half fallen off a cliff and in tatters. Always remained a "sheep" but was wandering away. As the little toddler who decides to run off and "explore" and must be brought back to safety. Or the little one who decides to "leave home" and packs up the suitcase. But then, lunch time and/or nightfall arrives...and he remembers where "home" is.
In each of these cases the guilty one is called a "brother." A Christian. But they are guilty of sin for which the Lord (in 2 cases) removed them from the earth. But the death is not eternal.
What, exactly, is this sin? We are not told. In one case it was immorality. In another, abuse at the Lord's Table. The Lord knows each of His children, and disciplines each as is needed.(Heb12:6-11)
That they were "from us" indicates that the person was "part of" the congregation. They were intermingled just like the "wheat and tares."(Mt13:25)
Until many weeds grow to full maturity they are scarcely distinguishable from the plants intended to be in the garden/field. But once grown to maturity, their fruit is apparent. When they are small, a person often lets the weeds grow, lest he uproot the genuine plant by mistake. In the same way the farmer said to his servants, "No, [don't weed them out yet] lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, 'first gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn'"(Mt13:29-30)
Many of these wither up and fall by the wayside. And people will think they "lost their salvation." When actually, they were never saved in the first place. Others will continue on to the end, playing the part, and will plead with Christ, "Lord, Lord, did we not in Your name...[do all sorts of wonderful Christian service]?" And He will declare, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."(Mt7:22-23)
This group is also "part of" the congregation. They are in the church/s, serving in ministry. But they are not deceived. Many of them actually knowingly worship satan. Have purposely infiltrated the church IN ORDER TO wreak havoc. Their whole design is to PURPOSELY PRETEND to be Christians, while knowingly subtly distorting Truth. Many of them have come in as "former" rock musicians, bringing demons with them directly into the Church. Do we have any Scriptural precedence for this kind of thing?
In 1Kgs22 God had a conversation, and asked, "who will persuade Ahab to go...[be killed in battle]?"(vs20) And a spirit came forward, volunteering to be a "lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets."(vs22) Since we know who the "father of lies" is(Jn8:44), we know this had to be a demon. But the prophets all appeared to be "regular" prophets.
And yet, as we are told to "test the spirits" Jehoshaphat discerned their source and asked, "Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of him?"(vs7)
Of this group we are exhorted, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."(Eph5:11)
Some will retort, "That's Old Testament!" OK then, try this out... "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation. Anyone [in the Old Testament] dies without mercy...of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant...a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? ...now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him."(~Heb10:26-38)
This expression "draws back" means to "timidly retreat, to withdraw oneself, to turn back, to deny." What did Jesus say? "No one having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven."(Lk9:62) And further, "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven." (Mt10:33) One of the accolades for Philadelphia was that they had not "denied" Jesus' name.(Rev3:8) The ones who draw back start following Christ, but decide the cost is too great (Lk14:28), and turn back.
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2Pt2:20-21) It says they "escaped" the world and have a "knowledge" of the Lord. They left the world to follow Christ. That's a definition of "repentance," which is how one is "saved."
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit...if they fall away, to renew them to repentance... since they crucify again...the Son of God." (Heb6:4-6) Since Jesus died "once." (9:28) Among other things, you notice they "partook" of the Holy Spirit. Again, a definition of a Christian...one who has the Holy Spirit.(Rom8:9)
This is the sorriest state for a person to be in. Not only is he worthy of the worst punishment...he is the only catagory of living humanity that cannot [is IMPOSSIBLE] be saved.
So, how many people are in each catagory? Only God knows. To be sure, the predominance of the world population fits into the unregenerate #9 and #10. They've not come to Christ, nor made any pretenses. The rest would obviously fit into the small percentages that statistics label "christian." The sad part is the likelihood of the high percentage of those who fit #7. Deceived Pretend christians. The "sad" part is that most of them don't even realize they are not Christians! We have about two generations of church-goers who have not heard the gospel of repentance. All they have heard is "faith, love and grace." But as we know, Satan believes. And...what good is love and grace? ...without repentance? "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Rom10:17) We have a couple of generations of perverted translations of Scriptures that have been popularized. And while it is possible to be saved after reading them, the preachers have further watered down the Gospel by not teaching even that which is there at their disposal!!
Thankfully, the Lord knows those who are His. He knows the heart. So we do not need to go around with this list, bashing people over the head. But as we are told to discern and relate to certain apostates Scripturally, perhaps this list will help us understand what it is we are observing. First of all, examining ourselves.(2Cor13:5) And then discerning and responding to those who infiltrate. (Acts20:29-31,1Jn4:1) And finally, "on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh."(Jude22-23)
And then, there's the final catagory...
12) Christian -newborn, baby Christians
"but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God."(Rom8:16)
Any of the unregenerate, originating in catagories #7-10, can come to Christ. "The Lord is...longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."(2Pt3:9)
Lest anyone think his sins are "too great" to find forgiveness, Paul wrote, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief...because I persecuted the church of God." (1Tm1:15,1Cor15:9) If He could save Saul/Paul, He can save you!