The Greek term aphistēmi has a wide semantic field. However, the English term "apostasy" is derived from this term and prejudices its usage to modern readers. Context, as always, is the key, not a preset definition.

This is a compound term from the preposition apo, which means "from" or "away from" and histēmi, "to sit," "to stand," or "to fix." Notice the following (non-theological) usages:

1. to remove physically

a. from the Temple, Luke 2:37

b. from a house, Mark 13:34

c. from a person, Mark 12:12; 14:50; Acts 5:38

d. from all things, Matt. 19:27,29

2. to remove politically, Acts 5:37

3. to remove relationally, Acts 5:38; 15:38; 19:9; 22:29

4. to remove legally (divorce), Deut. 24:1,3 (LXX ) and NT, Matt. 5:31; 19:7; Mark 10:4; 1 Cor. 7:11

5. to remove a debt, Matt. 18:7

6. to show unconcern by leaving, Matt. 4:20; John 4:28; 16:32

7. to show concern by not leaving, John 8:29; 14:18

8. to allow or permit, Matt. 13:30; 19:14; Mark 14:6; Luke 13:8


In a theological sense the verb also has a wide usage:

1. to cancel, pardon, remit the guilt of sin, Exod.32:32 (LXX); Num. 14:19; Job 42:10 and NT, Matt. 6:12,14-15; Mark 11:25-26

2. to refrain from sin, 2 Tim. 2:19

3. to neglect by moving away from

a. the Law, Matt. 23:23; Acts 21:21

b. the faith, Ezek. 20:8 (LXX ); Luke 8:13; 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:12

Modern believers ask many theological questions that the NT writers would have never thought about. One of these would relate to the modern tendency to separate faith (justification) from faithfulness (sanctification).

There are persons in the Bible who are involved in the people of God and something happens to cause them to leave.

I. Old Testament

A. Those who heard the twelve (ten) spies' report, Numbers 14 (cf. Heb. 3:16-19)

B. Korah, Numbers 16

C. Eli's sons, 1 Samuel 2, 4

D. Saul, 1 Samuel 11-31

E. False prophets (examples)

1. Deut. 13:1-5 18:19-22 (ways to know a false prophet) 

2. Jeremiah 28

3. Ezekiel 13:1-7

F. False prophetesses

1. Ezekiel 13:17

2. Nehemiah 6:14

G. Evil leaders of Israel (examples)

1. Jeremiah 5:30-31; 8:1-2; 23:1-4

2. Ezekiel 22:23-31

3. Micah 3:5-12


II. New Testament

A. This Greek term is literally "to apostasize." The Old and New Testaments both confirm an intensification of evil and false teaching before the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22;

Acts 20:29,30; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; 2 Tim. 4:4). This Greek term may reflect Jesus' words in the Parable of the Soils found in Matthew 13; Mark 4; and Luke 8. These false teachers are obviously not Christians, but they came from within (cf. Acts 20:29-30; I John 2:19); however, they are able to seduce and capture immature believers (cf. Heb. 3:12).

The theological question is were the false teachers ever believers? This is difficult to answer because there were false teachers in the local churches (cf. 1 John 2:18-19). Often our theological or denominational traditions answer this question without reference to specific Bible texts (except the proof-text method of quoting a verse out of context to supposedly prove one's bias).

B. Apparent faith

1. Judas, John 17:12

2. Simon Magnus, Acts 8

3. Those spoken of in Matt. 7:13-23

4. Those spoken of in Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8

5. The Jews of John 8:31-59

6. Alexander and Hymenaeus, 1 Tim. 1:19-20

7. Those of 1 Tim. 6:21

8. Hymenaeus and Philetus, 2 Tim. 2:16-18

9. Demas, 2 Tim. 4:10

10. False teachers, 2 Peter 2:19-22; Jude 1:12-19 

11. antichrists, 1 John 2:18-19

C. Fruitless faith

1. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

1. 2 Peter 1:8-11

 We rarely think about these texts because our systematic theology (Calvinism, Arminianism, etc.) dictates the mandated response. Please do not pre-judge me because I bring up this subject. My concern is proper hermeneutical procedure. We must let the Bible speak to us and not try to mold it into a preset theology. This is often painful and shocking because much of our theology is denominational, cultural, or relational (parent, friend, pastor), not biblical (see Special Topic: What Does It Mean to "Receive," "Believe," "Confess/Profess," and "Call Upon"?). Some who are in the People of God turn out to not be in the People of God (e.g., Rom. 9:6).


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