The Peril of Apostasy
According to Webster “apostasy” is “the renunciation of a religious faith” or “the abandonment of a previous loyalty.” The word “denunciation” is offered as a suitable synonym. The Greek word from which we get the word “apostasy” is the word “apostasia” which is found only twice in the New Testament – Acts 20:21, where it is translated “forsake,” and II Thessalonians 2:3 where it is rendered “falling away.” The Biblical concept of apostasy, however, is found quite often in scripture. Paul, Peter, James and Jude all express grave concerns regarding the dangers of apostasy, warning that those who have departed from the faith will aggressively endeavor to corrupt faithful believers, often using deceptive tactics. Jude’s warning is stated in explicit clarity: “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). It is a sobering reminder of the persistent danger of apostasy.
If the danger is that great, why do we not hear more about it from the pulpits of our churches?
The answer to that question rests in the spiritual condition of the church today. Paul warned Timothy of the dangers of apostasy when he said “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” (I Timothy 4:1). Paul addressed the issue again in II Timothy 3 when he warned that “in the last days perilous times shall come” (II Timothy 3:1). After briefly describing the heart attitude and practice of those who call themselves believers, Paul tells Timothy that the identifying characteristic of these apostates is that they will have “a form of godliness” while “denying the power thereof:” (II Timothy 3:5).
Unfortunately, the mindset of present day Christianity often reflects the attitude identified in another warning offered to young Timothy by the Apostle Paul. II Timothy 4:3 says “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.” The undue emphasis on political correctness which is so prevalent in our society has had a subtle, yet effective influence on our churches. Churchgoers are no longer interested in doctrinal truths or biblical warnings, and messages dealing with apostasy are neither pleasant nor popular. The result is that our media is filled with feel good preachers, who deliver positive, uplifting messages which tickle our ears, avoiding anything that hints at conviction, guilt or negativity.
The message of salvation is indeed a positive message, and being a Christian is characterized by hope, and joyful anticipation. We live, however, in a world system that is controlled by the great deceiver, Satan himself, and his goal is to utterly destroy everything that is good. His most effective messengers are those who at one time gained a following by embracing the truth, only to abandon it later, taking those same followers with him. They are many. And we as believers have a scriptural mandate to sound the warning.