Saturday, August 07, 2010

Wandering, Apostasy, and Ananias

Concerning the account of Ananias in Acts, chapter five:

1) Fear of death is a natural and instinctive thing. Death is also not merely a release from the tribulations and evils of this world in which we live; death remains a tragic thing in God’s providence, and this is why we mourn even when Christians pass away.

Death also brings us face to face with our own shortcomings in life, as when someone’s life flashes before his eyes in a near-death experience. This is not a thing to be taken lightly, and any believer who should notice believers falling dead around him would do well to seriously contemplate his own moral conduct and his own heart vis-à-vis the events happening around him.

2) None of us actually knows that Ananias and his wife were not false brethren or false converts. Remember those Scriptures which tell us that these sorts of individuals were real?

Matthew 7.21-23
Matthew 25.1-13
John 6.61-66
John 17.12
2 Corinthians 11.26
Galatians 2.4
2 Peter 2.20-22 (cf. 2 Corinthians 5.17, Hebrews 10.14-17)
1 John 2.19
Jude 1.4,19

3a) However, let’s assume for a moment that Ananias and his wife were some of those who have come to Christ. Why should anyone expect them to be absolutely exempt from consequences of their actions? The prophet David committed adultery and killed Uriah the Hittite. The prophet Nathan later told David that God had taken away his sin (2 Samuel 12.13-14)--but he also told him that David’s son would surely die. So if people reap bitter fruit of their transgressions even in cases where we know that their sin is taken away, should the case of Ananias be very different?

3b) Likewise, the prophet Moses sinned against God; Moses’ sin, as with other sins of the Israelites, was later and in some sense taken away through the ministry of the Levites (Lev 16). But once the Israelites later reached the Promised Land, Moses still had to face a consequence of his action. For one will recall that Moses was not allowed to enter Canaan as a result of his failure to speak to the rock. So why should the case of Ananias be any different?

3c) Likewise, vis-à-vis 1 Peter 3.7, why should believers in general be expected to face absolutely no tough consequences of some moral error of theirs?


As a general response to concerns of 1 Timothy 4.1, 1 Timothy 5.14-15 and 1 Timothy 6.10: what exactly should leave anyone with the impression that only those who believe in Christ are capable of departing from “the faith”?

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7.21-23)

You won’t have people following Christ unless they are first by definition affiliated with “the faith” in one way or another. Yet we can glean from the passage above that not all of such individuals can rightly be deemed as believers at first glance. For if these individuals were people who had “come to Christ” in the sense of John, chapter six at any point in the past, then Christ would have known them (Jn 10.26-29, 2 Tim 2.19); yet it is said that he never knew them.

Such is the case in John 6.61-66 also. Anyone who physically follows and associates with someone who continually offers various teachings is someone who is necessarily affiliated with the sum of these teachings, regardless of whether such a follower believes each and every one of these teachings. This affiliation exists in John 6.61-66:

61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 [What] and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

The presense of associates or affiliates who were also unbelievers is likewise evidenced in the passage. So not everyone who will have turned away from Christ was a believer to begin with. Futhermore, if they turn away from Christ, then you can rest assured that they will also leave behind some aggregate of right teachings about or from Christ: they will have turned away from “the faith.”

Now let’s take things a step further with Galatians 2.3-4:

3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
Make no mistake about it: as an unbeliever you don’t get to infiltrate the ranks of believers and to cause trouble among them unless you first create the false image and impression that you are a believer. Such a false brother necessarily pays lip service to “the faith” or appears to honor the gospel and theological truths which immediately pertain to the gospel, or else his mission of espionage is finished before it begins.

Finally, two more passages:

Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 [Whereof] the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This [is] the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:14-17)
If anyone who is in Christ is a new creature and is someone whose sins will not be remembered, then how would the apostle Peter refer to any of such creatures as dogs or swine that stay true to their nature as dogs and swine? For it is written:

20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2:20-22)
So we have just seen that there are or have been false brethren and people who have turned from Christ and teachings of Christ without having ever believed in Christ to begin with. This means that 1 Timothy 4.1, 5.14-15, and 6.10 don’t make for good proof texts against the teachings that Arminian and sub-Arminian apologists tend to vilify.

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