Many of us Christians know of people who made a profession of faith in Christ and then walked away from gospel, walked away from the church, walked away from the interest of God’s word. There are many people whom I knew very well, some were in the ministry with us for many years, walked away from the truth of the gospel and go back to the old ‘false religion’. But it’s a reality, and the apostle 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. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). They are defectors -having the revelation of God, understanding the revelation of God, and then turning their back and walking away from it.
The issue of spiritual defection is recorded throughout the scripture. In the Old Testament prophets crying out to unfaithful Israel, and unfaithful Judah, “”You have backslidden; you have forsaken the Lord your God, you have walked away.” God speaking through prophet Isaiah, “For My people have committed two evils, they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and dug out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”” We see the tears of God over spiritual defection through Isaiah, the weeping prophet. When we come to the New Testament, we see the tears of Jesus when He approached Jerusalem city saying, “If you only knew what you had rejected….” (Luke 19:41). The spiritual defection breaks the heart of God, and it breaks the heart of Jesus.
The spiritual defection
Regarding the subject of this spiritual defection, John gives us very specific reasons in his gospel, in chapter 6. At the end of the chapter John records, “From that moment many of his disciples turned back and no longer accompanied him” (v66). From what moment? “The words I have spoken to you….” (V63). The reason why people forsake Christ because of what He said. Specifically, these are the words Jesus spoke about the ‘Bread of life’ (v32 to v59). It’s not about riches or comfort or relationships or persecution, it is Christ’s teaching drove them out. They were driven away by the truth.
These are the people who do not believe in the sufficiency of Jesus’ death and His resurrection for the forgiveness of their sins (v64). These are the people who go after false religion and place their hope in the ‘work salvation’, and do not believe in the true gospel. These are the people who do not believe in one savior, but go after a co-redemptrix. The death of Christ on the cross is not enough for them, they want to do other things to satisfy God. They had been exposed to the true gospel and they understood it intellectually. But the true gospel offends them, and it’s a stumbling block to them, it is a foolishness to them. They retreat from the true gospel back into the satisfaction they found in the corrupt religion. These are the defectors -the prototypes of Judas.
We cannot assume that everyone who talks about Jesus is a true follower. It is possible to be a disciple who walk away from Jesus. The word ‘disciple’ means a student, a learner, and it could be false follower of Jesus too. John in his gospel in chapter 6 describes characteristics of False Discipleship. He shows the difference between a true and false follower of Christ. True disciple abides, stays, faithfully endures to the end, and demonstrate that he is a part of the church over which Christ alone rules.
A church can always collect defectors by meeting their earthly needs, by preaching a therapeutic gospel, by showing how to fulfill personal satisfaction, but as soon as you start preaching the hard truth of the gospel, they walk away. Those who are casual in their approach to the faith are prone to “drifting” away from the truth. There are sever warning to the defectors in the book of Hebrews, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3). There will be no escape for anyone who neglects this great salvation. If with full revelation you fall away, it’s impossible to be renewed again to repentance (Hebrews 6:4).
Dr. John MacArthur (various teaching)