The Forum

The Forum

Dear Brother:

Could you please explain the difference between an apostate and an heretic, and tell me can a true born-again Christian become either one or the other.

Yours by grace,

An “heretic” is a schismatic or factious person, according to the meaning of the original Greek word from which it is transliterated. It occurs only in Titus 3:10, where an opinionated person, who persists in pressing certain views to the detriment of the whole counsel of God and of the unity of the Spirit, is to be shunned after repeated remonstrance fails to dissuade him. This instruction occurs in the context of contentions and strivings about the law being termed unprofitable and vain. A closely related Greek word is translated “sect” in Acts 5:17, 15:5, 24:5, 26:5 and 28:29; also “heresy” in Acts 24:14; and “heresies” in Gal. 5:20, where it has the force of “schools of opinion”. The close connection between heresies (sects) and divisions (schisms) is clearly intimated in 1 Corinthians 11:18, 19. A born-again Christian can unfortunately lend himself to the propagation and practice of heretical (sectarian) views, which the Apostle Paul rebukes in the Assembly at Corinth. The “damnable” heresies of 2 Peter 2:1 are the particularly virulent propagations of apostates.

An “apostate” is a person guilty of “apostasy”, the Greek word for which is translated “falling away” in 2 Thess. 2:3. It here implies wilfull abandonment of the truth and complete defection from the faith. It connotes the considered, formal repudiation of a profession that lacked the root of reality. Judas Iscariot is a classic apostate. The anti-christ, as the man of sin, heads the religious apostasy predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2. He apostasizes from Judaism (denieth that Jesus is the Messiah) and from Christianity (denieth the Father and the Son), according to 1 John 2:22. He first appears “like a Lamb” ( a wolf in sheep’s clothing) but soon speaks “as a dragon”, betraying his true colours, as depicted in Revelation 13:11. Jude emphasizes most solemnly the “Acts of the Apostates” —angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, Cain, Balaam, Korah, and a host of others, characterized as “without fruit, twice dead.” Apostates are irrecoverable — “to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” John says “They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 John 2:19). A born-again Christian cannot become an apostate, for God’s seed remaineth in him (1 John 3:9) and to such the Apostle says “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you and things that accompany salvation (Heb. 6:9).