Over the years, I’d watch various friends slip away from solid Biblical teachings, either embracing liberal theology or denying the Lord altogether. Some had been in high leadership positions (a few were even pastors) and appeared to know the Bible well. Many were with me at the Bible College in Wales. I served with others in various ministries.
With each departure from the faith, I’d grieve, wondering how these dear friends could fall into deception. They read the same Bible I read, yet ultimately they turned from its teachings to pursue yoga, homosexuality, Catholicism or even atheism.
But in the past five or six years, I’ve come into contact with the Biblical teaching of false conversion. Of course, Jesus taught very explicitly about false conversion in His parables, but I had difficulty making the connection.
There are several parables I could cite today, but I’ll confine myself to one of the better known ones.
24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’ ~~Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV)
The grain in this parable represents true Christians, while the weeds represent false converts. Here, the false converts remain with the Church until Judgment Day. Or so it seems.
Since Jesus will rapture the Church before He brings judgment on the world (as Elizabeth Prata explains), perhaps the gathering of weeds refers to the apparent falling away of people who always appeared to be true believers. Admittedly, I haven’t read any commentaries on Matthew 13:24-3, but it fits with 1 John 2:19.Whether soon after conversion or many years later, false converts will be separated from the Church, proving that they never really had saving faith in the first place.
False converts may put on a good act for years, or even decades, but eventually something happens that causes them to prove that their true allegiance is with the world, the flesh and the devil rather than with Christ. It always hurts to see their rejection of the truth, and sometimes the change takes us by surprise.
It’s especially devastating when the false convert has been in ministry with you. I’ve experienced this tragedy more than once, watching people who even held positions of leadership over me turn back to homosexuality, sometimes even denying basic doctrines like hell and salvation only through Jesus Christ.
Knowing that these beloved friends never really had salvation doesn’t take away the pain of seeing them reject the Lord, but at least it clears up a lot of the confusion. I grieve over the directions their lives have taken. I know that they settle for so much less than they could have had in Christ, and I fear for their souls. But at least I understand that they never knew Him. That knowledge gives me hope that some day they might come to true salvation. What a splendid hope!