Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Can a Sheep of Christ Ever Perish? (Part 3)

Peter versus Judas
What about Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus? Here we must point out the important difference between a backslider and an apostate. Peter, in self-confidence yet real love for his Master, vowed that he would face prison and death for his beloved Lord. Yet at the accusation of a servant girl he denied his Master with oaths and cursing. Peter sinned, but his faith did not fail (Lk. 22:31, 61-62). How easily we can commit such sins! However, in the darkest hour, in moments of the fiercest temptation, the weakest faith always clings to Christ even while the lips may cruelly deny Him. A true believer may go down into terrible depths of evil and thus lose his joy and usefulness, but there is one thing he cannot do: he cannot, like Judas give up Christ. The new nature which God gave us when we were born again will not allow it.

Judas in his apostate condition sold his Master; Peter denied his Master. Judas was never born again; he never had the new nature within him. He merely followed the lord outwardly. He never had a change of heart. In speaking of Judas in John 6:70-71, Jesus told the disciples plainly, "one of you is a devil." Judas was ready and willing to sell his Master for a little earthly gain.

Sad to say, many new-but-true believers needlessly worry about being lost. They sometimes use the sin of Judas and his tragic end as an example. Many believers have followed in the steps of Peter in denying that they know Christ. But no true child of God has ever gone, nor can go, in the way of Judas, the apostate, and give up Christ. Backsliding is not renouncing Christianity, but failing in the holy separate walk which God desires of His children for their blessing.

Peter was a backslider for whom the Lord prayed and whom the Lord looked (Lk. 22:32, 61). That touching look of grieved and injured love broke the heart of the poor backslider: "Peter went out and wept bitterly" (v62). Soon he was restored to fellowship with the Lord. His true repentance showed that he was a real believer and follower of Christ.. Provision is made in the advocacy of Christ with the Father for the restoration of backsliders (1 Jn. 2:1). But of apostates it is written: "For it is impossible...if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance" (Heb. 6:4-6). A true believer is one who has not only "tasted," but in a spiritual sense has gone on to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man in real appropriating faith (Jn. 6:53). One may taste and perish (Heb. 6), but to eat is to live forever (Jn. 6:51, 58).

The sheep of Christ may stray, but the Shepherd of the sheep will bring him safely to Himself. Judas was not a true sheep of Christ; he was a wolf in sheep's clothing. He willfully sinned and so brought upon himself the awful judgment which cannot overtake even the weakest believer.

In one sense Judas was sanctified (set apart), just like all who profess Christ share in that general sanctification. It embraces all who outwardly separate to Christianity, the only "religion" which provides a Savior. When there is no real change of heart this outward separation to God is given up. This the sanctification referred to in Hebrews 10:29. To sin "willfully" (v26) is to deliberately with heart and mind renounce Christ and become His adversary, which effectively tramples the Son of God underfoot (v29). This is what Judas did when he sold his Master into the hands of those who hated Jesus and tried too destroy Him.

We see an example of this general sanctification in 1 Corinthians 7:14. The unbelieving partner is in a special place of blessing (set apart) because of his or her relationship with a believer. The believing partner prays for the other one and is a testimony as well. These are blessings fort he unsaved partner even though he or she may not realize it. Each one must take the step of faith individually and receive Jesus Christ as Savior for salvation.

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