The most pitiful man in the world is one who, having known and obeyed the truth, turns from it and resumes a worldly life. Here is a man without excuse. He has placed himself away from God. Like the prodigal of Luke 15:11 ff, he has traveled into a far country where trouble and strife await. This lost soul has not been separated from God by others or even by Satan, but by his deliberate choice. How sad.
Consider four examples of those who have apostatized.
Apostate: The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
This young man lived in comfort and plenty, yet he was unsatisfied. When he comes of age, he demands his share of the father’s estate. He sought freedom from his father not knowing that he would soon be bound to his own poverty and despair. Upon traveling to a far country, he finds himself befriended by unworthy scoundrels happy to spend his money. The money ran out, and so did the friends. Only then did the young man discover his own poor state.
It was at this moment he realized the error of his choices.
“How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger” (Luke 15:17)!
Despite his impoverished solitude, this young man enjoys the clarity of thought. He knew what he must do. He must go home! (Luke 15:18) He arose and found his father waiting for him. The father would not go with him into despair but waited for his return. When he returned, a joyous banquet awaited.
He chose to leave. It was up to him to choose to return.
Apostate: Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)
A married couple entangled in the world. They saw the commendation of Barnabas when he sold land and gave the money to the church (Acts 4:36-37). Desiring the praise of men yet unwilling to part with worldly gain, they hatched a scheme to lie. Their story was simple: Sell a plot of land and give part of the money to the church. But they would lie by claiming they had given all the money from the sale. Now they could profit and receive praise.
Oh, the errors we make when we seek the praise of men and not Jesus! Oh, the errors we make when greed rules our lives! Pause and consider the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 6:6-10.
Both Ananias and Sapphira died immediately when confronted with their lies. These were among the first Christians. They saw the works of the apostles and may have even seen the risen Christ. Yet, they fell back and were lost because of their greed.
Apostate: The Once Enlightened (Hebrews 6:4-8)
The Hebrews writer envisions a Christian who falls. Notice the description in Hebrews 6:4, 5.
- Tasted the Heavenly Gift
- Shared in the Holy Spirit
- Tasted the goodness of the word of God
- Tasted the powers of the age to come.
Can anyone truly believe these were not Christians? They were! But more to our point, they fell away. They became crucifiers of Christ (Hebrews 6:6)!
What a contrast. From the light of His love to the darkness of sin. Truly, the one who knows the Lord and leaves him is pitiable.
Apostate: The Vomiting Dog (2 Peter 2:20-22)
Peter writes plainly in 2 Peter. In our present text, 2 Peter 2:20-22, he uses a grotesque illustration to make his point that a Christian who falls back into the world is a nauseating spectacle. We need not amplify his illustration of a sickened dog. We note that this describes the state of a person who once knew the truth and, later, rejected it. If the illustration parallels man and dog, we would also see the parallel of sin and vomit. What a horrid though true thought.
Two additional phrases are worthy of our consider.
“the last state has become worse for them than the first” (vs. 21)
“it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness” (vs. 22)
How sad to think that there is a state worse than that of the alien sinner. There is a condition more damning than the ignorant heathen who has never known salvation. What can be worse than being lost? Being lost after you knew the truth. Being lost with the knowledge of what you turned your back on. We beg the weak and failing Christian to come home. Find strength for your travails in Christ and do not fall back into the world.
To the errant soul who has already left his Lord, we likewise plead. While there is breath left in your body, there is hope. Like the father of the prodigal son, Jesus stands looking for your return.