Do the Bible's warnings against apostasy imply that salvation is not eternally secure?

The Bible teaches that a person who comes to genuine faith in Christ cannot be separated from the love of God. Romans 8:38-39 summarizes this truth: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." But while nothing can separate us from God's love, the Bible strongly warns against apostasy. Why?

The reason the Bible speaks against apostasy, or renouncing religious faith, is because there are many people who claim to follow the Lord who do not. For example, Jesus answered the Pharisees and scribes of His day with the words of Isaiah, stating, "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:6-7). Though experts at God's law, they did not truly know the Lord.

Matthew 7:21-23 offers perhaps the most direct example of those who claim to know God but do not: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" Jesus described several powerful external indicators that these people were believers, but this did not make them true believers.

Though these people professed with their mouths that Jesus is "Lord," Jesus did not know them. They prophesied, cast out demons, and performed miracles supposedly in God's name—supernatural powers typically attributed to someone with a close walk with God. However, Jesus made the point that some people could even accomplish the strongest religious actions possible (or at least claim to do so) and not be a true believer. These people evidently put on a show of faith without actually experiencing salvation. The end result for them was eternal separation from Christ. In other words, they were judged as unbelievers. Despite their outward actions, they lacked genuine faith.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 the apostle Paul called the church at Corinth to examine itself: "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test." He did not teach them to worry about losing their salvation, but to make sure they had believed correctly in the first place. The warnings against apostasy in the New Testament are not about a person losing salvation, but about making certain a person is a believer and to stand against others who claim to be believers but are not.

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