APOSTASY – Jude 3,4; 2 Thessalonians 2:2-4
For two-thousand years the church has had to deal with apostates. So Jude takes us on a journey to identify apostasy. Apostasy has little to do with the condition of the unsaved world, which had always rejected divine truth, and therefore has nothing from which to depart. Rather apostasy pertains to the spiritual temperature of God’s church.
•Jude 3,4 NLT, “Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
•2 Thessalonians 2:2-4, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first…”
Paul warns his son in the faith, Timothy about apostasy… “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith…” (1 Timothy 4:1). “(Some) Strayed from the faith…” (I Timothy 6:10,21). “(some will) Resist the Truth…” (2 Timothy 3:8). “(Some will) Turn their ears away from the Truth…” (2 Timothy 4:4).
“Apostasy” in Greek is aphístēmi, which is derived from apó, “away from” and histémi, “stand, departure, implying desertion;” literally, “a leaving, from a previous standing.”–Strong
It is generally defined as a “falling away.” But a better definition would be to “stand away,” apostasy is a definite, deliberate stand. It is not an accidental slip or fall. No one stumbles into apostasy! It is a defection from the faith, an act of unpardonable rebellion against God and His truth. The sin of apostasy results in the abandonment of Christian doctrine and conduct, defiance of an established system or authority; revolt, and rebellion; an abandonment or breach of faith. In the first-century world, apostasy was a technical term for political revolt or defection. And just like in the first century, apostasy threatens the Body of Christ today.
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines the word “Apostasy” as, “An abandonment of what one has voluntarily professed; a total desertion or departure from one’s faith, principles, or party; esp., the renunciation of a religious faith.” And it states that an “Apostate” is, “One who has forsaken the faith, principles, or party, to which he before adhered; esp., one who has forsaken his religion for another; a pervert; a renegade.”
Apostasy refers to a departure from known or previously embraced truth. The subject of apostasy has little to do with the condition of the unsaved world, which has always rejected divine truth and therefore has nothing from which to depart. Rather, apostasy pertains to the spiritual temperature within God’s church.
An apostate is not someone who never knew the truth but someone who knew it and rejected it. He is not a true Christian! He may have even been involved in various religious activities. But because he never truly knew Christ, he was lured away by the enticing voices of idols and false religious systems.
Can a true believer apostatize and ultimately lose his salvation? Not if he is truly saved! So many have gone through the motions of salvation, but never really connected with Christ. True believers come into a saving relationship with Christ. “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy”(Jude 1:24). God's power is able to keep the believer from falling. It’s up to God, not us! Our eternal security is a result of God keeping us, not us maintaining our own salvation. Philippians 1:6, “ Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand” (John 10:28-29b).
Our Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Father have a firm hold on us and will never let go! Who could possibly separate us from the grip of both the Father and the Son?
•Romans 8:38,39 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
True believers are sealed: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). If believers did not have eternal security, this sealing could not truly be “for the day of redemption,” but only until the day of sinning, apostasy, or disbelief.
•John 3:15,16, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
If a person were to be promised eternal life, but then have it taken away, it was never eternal to begin with. If eternal security is not true, the promises of eternal life in the Bible would be in error. So, I conclude that apostasy pertains only to religious people, not true believers.
“Scripture often exhorts the church to expose false teaching. That kind of confrontation is not popular today. Many churches, in the name of love, want to forget disagreements and avoid being critical at all costs. Nonetheless, there is a biblical mandate to deal with false teaching. The battle lines were drawn in Israel and in the early church, and they must be drawn today too. Like Timothy we must be warned and instructed to understand what is behind false teaching.” (Apostasy, John MacArthur).
Therefore, an apostate is a defector from the truth-someone who has known the truth, given some show of affirmation to it, perhaps even proclaimed it for a while—but then rejected it in the end. The typical apostate may still purport to believe the truth and proclaim the truth; but in reality he opposes the truth and undermines it. He is a traitor to the faith and an enemy to the Truth. But he wants everyone to think otherwise. Most apostates seek to remain within the church and actively seek acceptance among the people of God. Because everything they do undermines faith and corrupts the Truth. Such people pose a grave danger to the health of the church, even though they usually bend over backward to appear friendly, likable, and pious. That is why Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
Many Christians use apostasy and heresy synonymously, but the two words have different meanings. They are similar…Apostasy is the act of standing away, defecting, departing from the Truth, and rebellion against God. Heresy is based primarily on teaching something in opposition or that which contradicts the truth of the Word of God. The Greek word “hairesis” is translated heresy…Listen to God’s Word about false teachers and prophets:
•2 Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.”
•1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
•2 Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the LORD who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.”
•Galatians 1:6,7, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
•2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
•Romans 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”
•2 John 1:7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
However, whether it is apostasy or heresy, both are devastating to God’s Church. The Scripture warns us that in the last days the church will be inundated with apostasy and heresies: Doctrines of demons, destructive heresies, myths, falsehoods, perverse teachings, commandments of men, human traditions, empty philosophy, vain deceit, speculations, lying spirits, worldly fables, false knowledge and worldly wisdom.
Paul, addressing the Ephesian elders, warns them:
•Acts 20:29,30, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
•1 Timothy 4:1, Paul wrote to Timothy, “Evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” [2 Timothy 3:13). And, he wrote. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.”
•Listen to Jude 3,4: “Beloved while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith…for certain men have crept in unnoticed…ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness (lawlessness) and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The church, even today, is filled with confusion and error. How do we fight this invasion of false doctrine? “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). “And take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). God’s church leaders have a unique responsibility when handling Truth. Even Timothy had a problem differentiating between dangerous philosophy and sound doctrine, in 1 Timothy 4:7 Paul warns, “Reject worldly and old wives tales…” And in verse 1, Paul says, “Till I come, give attention to reading, exhortation and doctrine.” And it is not just the pastor-teacher's responsibility to be discerning, it is every believer's duty! Judge everything, test everything, examine everything very carefully.
“The greatest evidence that man has a darkened mind and a corrupt nature is not the existence of the gambling den, nor the house of ill repute. The greatest evidence is unbelief; the fact that the human heart definitely and positively refuses to listen to the voice of God; that there is a heart which hates the light and loves darkness; and the greater the light which is rejected and refused, the greater the darkness, and finally God who is Love and Mercy can do nothing else. In fact, He must mete out judgment for a race which refuses to listen to His voice…There is not a word as to what theologians teach about the world growing better through the process of evolution, etc., and not a word about righteousness and peace, but the Son of God predicts apostasy “as it was in the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37); and as it was in the days of Lot. Wherever these learned men get their message from, we don't know; they don't get it from the Word of God nor from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ… Now then, let me tell you about this apostasy. The cornerstone of it is the rejection of this Book (The Bible) as the authority of God making known to man the truth which man is to know and by which He is saved…It is only during the last hundred years that you can trace the deliberate satanic attack upon the Word of God to rob the Bible of its divine authority and as soon as that is done all is lost. Everything rests upon the cornerstone–the Bible, the Revelation, the infallible Word of God. Destroy this cornerstone and the whole collapses and that has become the popular thing in Christendom–to attack the Bible, to belittle the Word of God, to show up its supposed errors and rob it of its authority.” (The Apostate Church, Dr. A.C.Gabelein, Methodist Minister, author, Editor of Our Hope, August 17, 1919).
How do you cure the Apostasy? What is the remedy? What is the answer? The cure, the remedy, the answer is the LORD Jesus Christ! Jesus is the cure for the Apostasy! The Apostle Paul knew that, that's the reason he said, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). Jesus Christ saves us from sin. He saves us from Hell. He saves us from Apostasy! Come out of the dying culture of America, and its dying churches! Come out from them, and come in, all the way in to Jesus. He will never disappoint you!
Suggestions to avoid or cure apostasy:
Be Vigilant. It is our personal responsibility to discern false teaching. Every one of us is susceptible to false teaching; no one is immune to the influence and power of apostasy. No matter how spiritual you think you are, you can be led astray, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall...” (1 Corinthians 10:12). “[Satan] walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Do not be led astray by false teachers. Therefore, like a soldier, be aware, be vigilant, and discerning.
Be Ever-Learning. Not like the apostates, who were, “Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). But as true people of God, committed to God’s Word. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”(2 Timothy 3:16,17). ”Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13). How can we recognize false teaching if we don’t know God’s Truth? It is insufficient to be merely aware of doctrinal truth.
Be Sensitive. Practice Koininia, the word for fellowship, simply put it means, “all in the family.” Know your brothers and sisters in Christ so well that you will recognize their struggles with their Christian life. We should be so acquainted with them that we would feel free to ask about their spiritual condition. Superficial relationships have no place in Christ’s body. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Romans 12:15). Statistically eighty-five percent of members of a typical local church only know each other superficially regardless how long they have been in each other’s presence. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26, “The members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
Be Assured. If you have placed your faith in the LORD Jesus Christ, believing that Jesus is God and that He died on the cross for your sins and rose again, then remember that He will “preserve” you, no matter how difficult your circumstances become. God wants us to be assured of our salvation. We should not live our Christian lives wondering and worrying each day whether or not we are truly saved. That is why the Bible makes the plan of salvation so clear. Believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is LORD,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Do you believe that Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21)? Do you trust Him alone for salvation? If your answer to these questions is “yes,” you are saved! Assurance means freedom from doubt. By taking God’s Word to heart, you can have no doubt about the reality of your eternal salvation.
Should you stay in a church, once you discover they have become apostate?
In 1887, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous English Baptist minister, “the Prince of Preachers,” had a big problem. He was the leader of the largest single Baptist congregation in the world, the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, which could hold 6,000 people, but that didn’t solve his problem. He and his local church were part of the Baptist Union in Britain. This larger organization, which had many congregations affiliated with it, had been quietly infiltrated by religious liberals. Many pastors in it longer believed the Bible was fully infallible and inerrant in its original manuscripts. They were advocates of higher criticism and the theory of evolution. A number didn’t believe Jesus’ blood atonement was necessary for salvation. They denied that Adam and Eve’s sins lead to the downfall of the human race spiritually and cut off this present evil world civilization from God. Some believed in universal salvation. They even called justification by faith immoral. He decided to publicly challenge the religious liberals in his own church organization through articles in his church newspaper, The Sword and Trowel. Soon afterwards, and very reluctantly, he decided to leave his old larger church organization. This became known as the famous “Down-Grade” controversy, because it was one of the earliest big theological battles between religious liberals and conservative Christians. Spurgeon was the first Evangelical with international influence to declare war on modernism. The Baptist Union was never the same… Spurgeon's actions helped alert evangelicals worldwide to the dangers of modernism and the down-grade.” (John MacArthur: Through the Down-Grade Controversy).
In Spurgeon’s newspaper, The Sword and Trowel, he explained his reasoning this way: “Yes, we have before us the wretched spectacle of professedly orthodox Christians publicly avowing their union with those who deny the faith, and scarcely concealing their contempt for those who cannot be guilty of such gross disloyalty to Christ. To be very plain, we are unable to call these Christian Unions, they begin to look like Confederacies in Evil…It is our solemn conviction that where there can be no real spiritual communion there should be no pretense of fellowship. Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin…The divergence is every day becoming more manifest. A chasm is opening between the men who believe their Bibles and the men who are prepared for an advance upon Scripture. Inspiration and speculation cannot long abide in peace. Compromise there can be none. We cannot hold to the inspiration of the Word, and yet reject it; we cannot believe in the atonement and deny it; we cannot hold the doctrine of the fall and yet talk of the evolution of spiritual life from human nature; we cannot recognize the punishment of the impenitent and yet indulge the ‘larger hope.’ One way or the other we must go. Decision is the virtue of the hour. Neither when we have chosen our way can we keep company with those who go the other way.”
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The Message, “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.”
Now let’s hear the conclusion of the whole matter of apostasy! We are living in the last days. One of the signs in the Bible that shows we‘re living in the last days is, before the rapture takes place, and the great Tribulation begins, and the Anti-Christ is revealed, there shall be apostasy or a falling away from the faith. It is becoming more and more evident, that the apostasy has already begin. Does this sound familiar? “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-7).
“Today our nation is in serious trouble. She is morally bankrupt from years of denying the God of our Fathers. Her decadence has reached the heights of the heaven, with a stench in the nostrils of Almighty God. It seems as though His protective hand, which this nation has enjoyed for over two hundred years, is being removed and we are more vulnerable than ever before in our long history…” (Pastor Mark Groom, Lynchburg, VA).
May God help us, not to be deceived in this last days, Then disciples asked, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:3-6). He also said, “For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).
The Scripture tells us, “Evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” [2 Timothy 3:13]. And, he wrote. “The Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).
•Rejection of the Bible as the inspired Word of God and the authority for our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, (God breathed) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
•Rejection of the Bible’s teaching that Jesus to be the only way of salvation. John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’”. Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” 1 John 5:11-12, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
•Belief that salvation is earned by self effort, or good works. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast..” Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…”
•A rejection of God’s Word, and a reliance on Human philosophy as their belief system. Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” 2 Timothy 4:1-2, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom. Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
•For the most part they have rejected the foundational beliefs of Christianity, the cardinal doctrines of the Word of God: The Trinity, The Incarnation, Resurrection of Christ, Christ’s atonement, Salvation by Grace, Biblical inspiration and inerrancy, Virgin birth, Second Coming of Jesus, Universal sin, Heaven and Hell.
If you are in a church that preaches and teaches anything but God’s Word as it is to people as they are, God’s Word tells you, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
Here’s God’s plan of salvation: Any other teaching is heresy John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Romans 10:9-13, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Salvation is through Jesus Christ, not the church, it is a personal commitment, by faith to Jesus Christ.
It is critical, now more than ever, that every believer pray for discernment, combat apostasy, Jude 3 says, “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The King James Version (KJV); and The Message (MSG);
All of Dr. John’s teaching and preaching materials are free for your use, but an acknowledgement would be appreciated: firstname.lastname@example.org