Is it correct to address the Father today as, "Our Father which art in heaven"?
The words, "Our Father which art in heaven", are taken from the prayer the Lord taught His disciples. Immediately before the Lord gave the disciples this prayer, He warned them against vain repetition. I judge, then, that the Lord did not intend it to be repeated word for word in the way it is by some congregations today, for it is, after all, a model prayer "Pray then like this" showing us what the range of our prayers should be. In mixed congregations today people as a matter of form are made to address God as, "Our Father which art in heaven", when they know nothing of the new birth. Yet with the right spirit there is nothing inconsistent with a believer today using in prayer some parts of the Lords Prayer such, as for example, "Thy kingdom come", for every believer should desire this.
While the above is true, we should remember that when the Lord taught His disciples this prayer and to address God as, "Our Father which art in heaven", He was speaking to them as subjects of His Kingdom. They were not then members of the Body of Christ, for the Church did not then exist. This makes a difference, because prayer in the assembly should be in the power of the Spirit and the Spirit would lead a believer to address God in the light of the blessing of this present age of grace. Nowhere in the Acts or the epistles of the New Testament have we any example of an apostle or other believer approaching God in prayer with the words, "Our Father which art in heaven". Now we can ask the Father in the name of Christ. The disciples could not do that before Pentecost. The prayer was given to meet the individual needs of the disciples at that time. The prayers of the apostle Paul afterwards would not have suited the condition of the disciples then, but now with the further revelation of truth it is right for the believer to speak to God as "our Father", "our God", or "Lord". See the following: "The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 3.14); "God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Col 1.3); "The Father" (Col 1.12); "God" (Acts 12.5); and "Lord" (Acts 4.24; 9.13). These references should be a guide to us today.
John J Stubbs
If an individual has been saved, received into the assembly and been active there, then denies his faith and actively promotes atheism, can it be said that such is an apostate?
The questioner writes, "If an individual has been saved " it would be better to say, "If an individual has professed to be saved".
It is a salutary thought that it does not necessarily follow that at any given time, all who are "in fellowship" in a local assembly are genuinely saved. No doubt, many who read this answer will have known individuals who were not only numbered among believers but who appeared to be actively involved in the work of the assembly and yet who, at some later date, turned aside and no longer have any interest in the things of God.
However, the questioner refers to one who subsequently denies his faith and actively promotes atheism. This is a most serious matter.
Paul writes, "Now (But) the Spirit speaketh expressly (plainly, clearly), that in the latter times (i.e. the times subsequent to Pauls writing) some shall depart (fall away) from the faith (or apostatise)" (1 Tim 4.1). This denotes not an unintentional fall, but a deliberate withdrawal from the faith (i.e. the body of Christian doctrine) once professed. In giving up what they once claimed to believe, the minds of such men yield to the power of Satanic spirits who deceive, and the teachings of demons are embraced, "giving heed (or assent) to seducing (deceiving, leading astray) spirits, and doctrines of devils (i.e. doctrines which demons teach)" (1 Tim 4.1).
Apostasy is different from error, which may be the result of ignorance, or heresy, which may be the outcome of falling into "the snare of the devil". Thus both error and heresy may be consistent with genuine faith.
It should be pointed out that an apostate is not necessarily one who gives up his profession of being a Christian, but one who forsakes the truths of the Christian faith. Thus Paul speaks of those "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Tim 3.5). It would also appear that those referred to in the opening verses of 1 Timothy 4 did not give up their profession, but rather propagated their own system of doctrine, "Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats"(v.3).
However, the individual alluded to by the questioner would, in the opinion of the present writer, be termed an apostate.
David E West