Two Types of Apostasy

What is Apostasy?

Apostasy is a drifting of one’s faith in Christ to the point of unbelief. I believe the Bible teaches two types of Apostasy:

Total Apostasy (total unbelief):
This is where a Christian drifts in their faith to the point of total unbelief and a total departure from Christ and the Christian faith. These individuals no longer believe in Christ, and they make a final decision in their heart to totally reject Christ. There is no opportunity to repent, nor do they even want to. There is no return to Jesus and the Christian faith. I further believe that once a person makes this final decision, the Holy Spirit departs from them at that time, never to return.

Passages that support Total Apostasy:

John 15:6  (key passage)
1 Corinthians 15:2
Colossians 1:22-23
1 Timothy 4:1
Hebrews 2:1-3
Hebrews 3:6,12-19
Hebrews 4:1,6,11,14
Hebrews 6:1-9  (key passage)
Hebrews 10:26-31; 38-39  (key passage)
Hebrews 12:14-17
2 Peter 2:20-22  (key passage)
2 Peter 3:17

There may be other passages, but these seem to be the primary and clearest passages that has total apostasy in view. The “key passages” are those that reveal the impossibility of returning to faith and salvation.

Partial Apostasy (practical unbelief):
This is where a Christian still believes – intellectually – but has drifted in his or her faith to the point of living in sin. They believe with their mind, but in practice they live the life of an unbeliever. That’s called practical unbelief. Thus they can be described as practical unbelievers. Their life is characterized by sin instead of obedience to God. They’re no longer believing with a true heart, where salvation occurs. They’re in what’s known as, a backslidden condition.

A person can believe with their mind, but not sincerely embrace with their heart. Thus they return to a life that is self-willed. By the way, I believe many people experience false conversions this way. But here, we’re talking about those who experience a true conversion, but later revert back to their old ways. They’ve been drawn back to the world and no longer have a sincere desire to follow Christ as Lord and King, as they once did. They’re no longer truly concerned about pleasing God. Instead of following Christ and His will for their lives, they’ve returned to pursuing the things of the world again. These individuals still want Christ as their Savior, and still profess Him as their Savior, but they’re no longer sincerely interested in living the Christian life. By their lifestyle, they demonstrate an absence of true faith in Christ. True saving faith is characterized by faithfulness, by obedience. True faith is demonstrated by a true allegiance to Christ.

Since they still believe (intellectually), and have not totally abandoned their faith in Christ – still professing Him as Savior – I believe the Holy Spirit remains and continues to draw them back to true faith and fellowship with Christ. The Bible doesn’t teach that a person goes from being saved to not being saved and then back again, etc. It doesn’t teach that a person goes from being born-again, to dying, to being born-again, to dying, etc. Nowhere does God’s Word indicate a back and forth salvation like that.

Therefore, I believe that when a Christian falls into a lifestyle of sin, yet still professing Christ, I believe they remain in that regenerate state until the day they die — with the Holy Spirit continually drawing them to repentance. If they turn back to Christ and begin living the life of a true Christian again, then their salvation is secure. However, if they die in that rebellious state of sin, then I believe it’s at that point that the Holy Spirit departs and they die spiritually, and go into eternity without Christ.

Also included in this type of apostasy, is the combining of faith plus works, as Paul discusses in the book of Galatians, where the Galatian Christians were being led astray by the Judaizers, who were teaching them that they had to combine faith in Christ with works of the law. Related verses that indicate partial apostasy from this practice (false gospel) are Gal 1:6-9; 4:9-11; 5:1-4 (not listed below).

Passages that support Partial Apostasy:

Romans 2:1-11
Romans 8:12-13
1 Corinthians 6:9
Galatians 5:16-21
Galatians 6:1,7-8
Ephesians 5:3-7
Colossians 3:5-6
Titus 1:15-16  
James 5:19-20
2 Peter 1:9-11
2 Peter 3:9-15

There are many other passages we could include in this list, but these are among the primary that indicate that Christians can, indeed, fall into a lifestyle of sin, which could lead to a loss of salvation. And to be clear, in these cases, there is opportunity for repentance (Matt 6:8-12; Luke 11:1-4; Tit 2:11-15; 1 Pet 3:8-12; Rev 2:4-5). As long as a professing Christian has a sincere desire to get their heart and life right with Christ, then the opportunity is there for them. Jesus will receive them with open arms.
In both types, apostasy is a departure from saving faith. There is true faith, and their is false faith. True faith that saves, recognizes and accepts Christ as both Savior and as Lord, and it’s a faith that must endure:

Matthew 10:21-22
Matthew 24:9-13
Mark 13:13
Luke 21:19
1 Corinthians 15:2
Colossians 1:22-23
1 Thessalonians 3:8
Hebrews 3:14
Hebrews 4:14
Hebrews 6:11-12,15-18
Hebrews 10: 23,35-36
Peter 1:4-5

These verses make it clear that faith must endure. Therefore, that means the possibility for a Christian not to endure in their faith, must be ever present. Only a positional bias can realistically come to any other conclusion.