It is melancholy evidence of the perverseness of human nature that, in spite of the many warnings of the sacred writings, both in the Old Testament and in the New, there should be those who insist that it is impossible for a child of God to apostatize and fall away from the grace of God so as finally to be lost in hell. Those who have had occasion to investigate the matter inform us that there are more than 2500 warnings to this end in the pages of the Bible. It is, indeed, impossible to read at any length in any portion thereof without meeting with one or more of these danger signals. Jesus often taught that the saints are to exercise the greatest caution in their journey through life and He prayed for Peter and his apostles that their faith might not fail.
Moreover, there are numerous instances in the Scriptures of those who did forsake His banner, abandon His standard, and return to the world. Our Lord never sought to make His teaching palatable to the worldly, nor did He attempt to leave the impression that it was easy to serve Him. On the contrary, He often pointed to the difficulties which His manner of life imposed, and emphasized the hardships which discipleship necessitated. On an occasion when He had taught matters not pleasing to certain disciples, they murmured - "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" (John 6:60). By the words, "hard saying," they meant to describe His teaching as disagreeable, objectionable, contrary to their opinions; and their words, "who can understand it?" signify, "Who will want to listen to such distasteful teaching?"
Though the phraseology differs and the objections may be offered in a different fashion from that which characterized those wayward and worldly disciples, in principle men still object to our Lord's teaching, still find it obnoxious and offensive, and still inveigh against it. There are those who represent His teachings as hard; others, as exceedingly distasteful and objectionable. His teaching on water baptism, for example, is ridiculed, derided, and rejected; the plan of salvation scorned, taunted, and finally ignored. Nor are these attitudes limited to those in the world. There are those in the church who exhibit a similar disposition toward His teaching. Many regard regular church attendance as a burden, a duty distasteful and hard. The Lord's teaching on divorce, kindness to enemies, forgiveness, and the giving of our means are matters which some among us bitterly resent.
So offensive did the disciples (to which allusion has been made) find His teaching that we are informed - "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more" (John 6:66). Here is, truly, one of the most pathetic passages in all the sacred writings. For a group of professed disciples deliberately to choose to abandon the Lord because of their unwillingness to conform to His standard strikingly portrays the depths of depravity to which it is possible for men to descend.
Many have followed in their steps through the years, and continue to do so, the motivating causes being the same. We may analyze them thus:
1. INTELLECTUAL DIFFICULTIES
In a solemn charge to Timothy, Paul wrote - "This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme" (I Tim. 1:18-20). The disposition to array reason against revelation has ever been a characteristic of man; and some, because they are unable to get God into their cranium, conclude that He must not exist! Here is a common cause for skepticism.
We will conclude this study in our next lesson.