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Sunday, September 28, 2014 am                            Basics Index

 

BACK TO BASICS -33
Unity and Denominations
The Danger of Apostasy

This month we have been discussing unity and religious division.  We have described true, Biblical unity; What is wrong with denominationalism, and established that it does matter what we believe.  This morning, as we conclude our study of unity, we want to address the subject of apostasy.    We will define it, find it in scripture and examine how it happens. 

 I.                     What is Apostasy?

a.       Defined – the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.   Based on a Greek word, “apostasia.”  Tyndale’s Bible Dictionary defines it as, “turning against God, as evidenced by abandonment or repudiation of former beliefs.”  The English word is not used in the New Testament (though it is found in the headings of some Bibles), but the Greek word (ποστασία, apostasia)  is found twice,   IS found in scripture, Acts 21:21, “but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
And 2 Thessalonians 2:3, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, (Note: NASU does use the work apostasy).

b.       Warnings of apostasy are found in scripture – both in the Old Testament and New Testament.

                                                   i.      1 Timothy 4:1, the Spirit expressly says that some will depart from the faith

                                                 ii.      Acts 20:29-30 – the Ephesian elders were warned of savage wolves entering in. 

                                               iii.      2 Peter 2:1-2 – false teachers will bring in destructive heresies – many will follow their destructive ways.

                                                iv.      2 Thess. 2:12 warns that a falling away must happen before the Lord return.

                                                  v.      Matthew 24:10-13 describes the time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Among the attitudes He warns about – many will stumble and act improperly, false prophets will rise up and deceive, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end will be saved.

c.        Examples in scripture

                                                   i.      From the sin of Eve and Adam, the murdering of Abel, the rebellious world destroyed by flood and throughout the history of Israel and the Old Testament we see continued rejection of God’s will and apostasy.   Consider:

                                                 ii.      Exodus 32 describes  the golden calf Israel created while Moses was on Mt. Sinai.

                                               iii.      Jeroboam in 1 Kings 12:25-33 erected golden calves in Dan and Bethel.  It resulted in total apostasy against God.

                                                iv.      Israel (and Judah) as a nation both left God to follow after idols.  In so doing, you see complete apostasy. 

                                                  v.      Hymenaus and Alexander (and Philetus) had strayed from the truth, having made shipwreck of the faith – 1 Tim. 1:18-20,  2 Timothy 2:17

d.        It is possible in our lives –

                                                   i.      Hebrews 3:12 – beware – an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.

                                                 ii.      Hebrews 10:26-31

                                               iii.      2 Peter 2:20-22

                                                iv.      1 Corinthians 10:12 – let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall

e.        Churches too can apostatize

                                                   i.      Galatians 1:6-9 – Paul marveled that they would entertain the idea of following a different gospel.

                                                 ii.      The 5 churches of Asia that were espousing error – Ephesus left its first love (Rev. 2:1-5),  Pergamos compromised with the truth (Rev. 3:12-16);  Thyatira had false teachers and immorality in their midst (Rev. 3:18-23); Sadris was described as dead (Rev. 3:1-5) and Laodicea was lukewarm and despised by God (Rev. 3:14-21)

                                               iii.      Consider the current religious climate among “Christendom” (believers in Jesus Christ).  Catholicism developed its current organization over centuries of time, gradually drifting away from the Biblical pattern.
Denominationalism has abandoned the truth, and quite often today in our progressive climate, they are even apostatizing from what little they used to stand for.

f.         It still happens today – sadly, there are many who begin the race but quit before the finish line. 
Also there are churches that once stood firm for the whole truth that have either begun wavering or have fallen much further into various doctrinal errors.  We need to beware of such.

 II.                    How Does Apostasy Happen?

a.       2 Tim. 4:1-4, an oft quoted passage, gives us a good pattern of how apostasy happens.

b.       They no longer endure sound doctrine – apostasy begins with a faulty attitude toward the truth.

                                                   i.      They don’t want the truth anymore. For some reason the truth is not as appealing.
2 Thess. 2:10 speaks of those being deceived “because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.”
The benefit of studying the history of Israel and Judah is to see how God feels about such.
Isaiah 30:9–10, “That this is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the Lord; Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.”
“An astonishing and horrible thing Has been committed in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?
” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NKJV)

                                                 ii.      This happens for many reasons – They are not properly grounded, they quit studying as they ought to, they don’t like the consequences of truth, they have become weak in faith, the word is chocked out by the cares of this world, etc. 

                                               iii.      I am reminded of Jeroboam as Israel divides from Judah. (1 Kings 12:25-33).    According to the text, this was actually the will of God as a result of Solomon’s idolatrous behavior.  BUT “…Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom may return to the house of David: If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.”” (1 Kings 12:26–27)   His attitude was faulty.  He did not have faith in God as he ought to.

c.        According to their own desires, having itching ears – not wanting the truth, they begin to search for validation of their rejection. 

                                                   i.      They want to establish their own righteousness. (cf. Rom. 10:1-3)

                                                 ii.      They begin to manipulate scripture

                                               iii.      They seek a religion of convenience or popularity.  James 4:1-4 describes those desiring pleasure rather than truth.  Romans 1:25 speaks of those exchanging the truth for a lie and worshipping the creature rather than the Creator.

                                                iv.      They want “positive” preaching – itching ears means they want to be soothed.  (Again Isa. 30:9-10)

                                                  v.      Jeroboam in his false religion appealed to convenience – “it is too much for you to go to Jerusalem.” (1 Kings 12:28)

d.       Heap up for themselves teachers - they will find someone who will enable them.

                                                   i.      Sadly, such is not a difficult task.  In our religiously divided climate, if you don’t like when someone tells you the truth, simply go and find someone who will say you are fine. 

                                                 ii.      2 Timothy 3:1-6 speaks of perilous times where selfish men will flourish.  Vs. 5-6 describe false teachers who creep into households and take advantage of the gullible – who are described as being loaded down with sins and various lusts.  They tell them what they want to hear.

                                               iii.      Wicked King Ahab had some 400 prophets who told him what he wanted to hear.  When  Micaiah the one TRUE prophet spoke, Ahab was angered because he told him the truth – which condemned his behavior.  (1 Kings 22:6)

                                                iv.      King Rehoboam, in his false religion, installed his own priesthood and feasts to make their worship appear similar to the truth.  They adopted what they liked.  But it was a FOREIGN religion to God!

                                                  v.      Sometimes people leave when they hear truth they don’t want to hear.   And they go elsewhere until they find someone who will enable their desires.

                                                vi.      Paul warned the Corinthians not to put up with false teachers (2 Cor. 11:4).  Not even to yield for an hour (Gal. 2:5).

e.        They will be turned aside from the truth, and to fables.

                                                   i.      The ultimate result is apostasy.  The word, “turned aside” is a derivative of the Greek word for apostasy.  It means to reject or repudiate something. 

Man begins following “fables”, a word that means “myths”, that which is fanciful and false. 

                                                 ii.      When they have reached this stage, they are in apostasy.  They are happy in their enabling state even though it is false and rejects all or some of God’s word.

                                               iii.      In Israel, the golden calves became the religion of Samaria (and northern Israel).  A continued study of the kings of Israel indicates they NEVER repented of following those false gods at Dan and Bethel.  When Israel was ultimately carried away by Assyria (ca. 722 BC), it was given as a reason for their failure (2 Kings 17:7-12, 22-23 - “For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.” (2 Kings 17:22–23)

f.         IT is preventable – before Paul described their apostasy, he told Timothy what to do

                                                   i.      2 Tim. 4:2 – Preach the word – in seasons and out of season.  Reprove, rebuke and exhort.  The prevention of apostasy begins with a solid foundation of “sound doctrine”.
Ephesians 4:11-16 describes how leaders within a congregation equip the saints so that they are not “tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine.”
Jude 3 calls for us to “contend earnestly for the faith…”

                                                 ii.      Heb. 2:1-3 – give the more earnest heed.  We must HEED the things we have heard.  Heed means to pay attention to.  The idea is more than hearing and understanding.  It includes applying it.  Do NOT neglect your salvation.

                                               iii.      2 Peter 1:5-11 – we need to be growing spiritually – adding to our faith – virtue (integrity) and knowledge. 

                                                iv.      1 John 4:1- we need to test the spirits whether they are of God. 

Apostasy is a very real possibility.  We are living in times of political correctness.  These attitudes have made their way into “the faith” and far too many are unwilling to boldly confront error.  If we don’t – apostasy is at the door and it WILL happen.  And it is not a question of IF it will happen, but WHEN!  Let us strive to be grounded in the faith.  God deserves it.  The church of Christ needs it.