“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth…” (James 5:19-20).
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).
“Moreover, if your brother sins against you…” (Matthew 18:15).
Though there is only one way to heaven (John 14:6), there are many ways to hell. Not only is “Once saved, always saved” a lie, becoming an apostate is within the realm of possibility for every Christian.
James (see yesterday’s post), Paul, and Jesus give three different scenarios of apostasy. Each situation is universally possible and therefore must be guarded against.
Paul describes an apostate Christian who has been taken off guard or succumbed to temptation in a moment of spiritual weakness. Just as David went up to his rooftop one evening and was an adulterer before the next morning’s dawn, sometimes Satan and temptation can spring upon their prey with such force and suddenness, a Christian yields and is overwhelmed by sin.
The spiritually mature—those with meekness, wisdom, humility, perseverance, and patience—need to pursue the path of restoration with this apostate. A balanced blend of tenderness and toughness, goodness and severity, empathy and urgency is essential to extracting the poison of sin out of the wounded heart without wounding it more. Sin can quickly inflict catastrophic consequences. The spiritually mature are fully aware that forgiveness of sin’s guilt does not guarantee the removal of any of sin’s consequences. Helping another to get out from the trap of sin necessitates a willingness to bear one another’s burdens. It is a lofty demonstration of Christ’s love.