The Bible says a lot about apostasy, even in the Old Testament, so what Bible verses give us the best definition of apostasy?
One sign or evidence of apostasy is that it comes in under cover. It is sometimes cloaked within a biblical doctrine, but subtle differences can have huge implications. The Apostle Paul wrote that apostate teachings were already entering the church, “because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you” (Gal 2:4-5). Of course, this “slavery” is referring to the Jews who were trying to convince believers that they must keep the law. Even though we shouldn’t be lawbreakers, keeping the law is not how we’re saved. We must uphold the law, but this was not the law that the Jews were insisting on. Rather than referring to the Ten Commandments, the Jews were insisting that the Gentile believers must be circumcised, and be put under the Mosaic Law, so Paul asks them, “how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years” (Gal 4:9-10). Apparently the Jews insisted they keep the Jewish feast days and Sabbaths, which were only shadows of the fulfillment in Christ, so they wanted to make the Mosaic Law part of the requirement of being saved, however God is concerned with the circumcision that takes place in the heart (Deut 30:6; Jer 4:4), and not on the outside.
The Apostle Paul was already dealing with false teachers in his day, and near the time of his departure from this life, he warned Timothy that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4). I believe that time has come, but it was still a problem, even when Jude wrote his epistle. He wrote, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:3-4). First of all, the faith that Jude refers to, has already been delivered, meaning it’s completed, and just as this is in the past tense, so it what the author of Hebrews writes; “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1:1-2). God has already spoken, and most clearly through Jesus Christ, and the faith has already been delivered, once and for all, and the reason that Jude had to contend for the faith is because others were still delivering it, but these “deliveries” were not the faith that was once delivered. It was another, but false, gospel. There’s no need for more truth, is there? Is the Bible sufficient for us and efficient for all? If we believe we are still receiving new revelations from God, or that we need new revelation from God, we’re saying, “Sorry God…your Word is good, but it’s just not enough.” By proclaiming new revelation from God, there is a danger of adding too or taking away from God’s Word. The implications of receiving new revelation from God is that they presume to speak for God, but that’s clearly adding to what God may not have said at all, or been just the opposite of God’s will, and therein lies danger (Deut 4:2; Prov 30:6; Rev 22:18-19).
Evil for Good
Just a few decades ago, what society considered acceptable on TV, is now almost called evil, and what was then called evil (like public nudity on TV), is now considered acceptable, and for some, even called “good,” however, God’s ways are not our ways. King Solomon wrote, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD” (Prov 17:15), including those things done by those who will not inherit the kingdom (1 Cor 6:9; Rev 21:8), but now even, “both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the Lord” (Jer 23:11), but the day of His judgment is coming. Isaiah the Prophet wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20)! This shouldn’t surprise as, as Paul had written that “the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Tim 4:1-2), and how that has come true. Jesus saw this coming too when he said “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand” (Matt 24:24-25).
Apostasy can be defined as abandonment or defiance of what was previously held to be true and practiced, and choosing to rebel against those same beliefs and practices, but also, renouncing or disassociating oneself from a particular religion or certain religious beliefs. Those who do such things are considered apostate, however, this should not make them our enemy. We should pray for them, but also expose their false teachings if they’re contrary to the gospel that Jesus Christ brought (Mark 1:14-15), so a last bit of advice from the Apostle Paul in recognizing apostasy is, “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8-9). If someone claims Jesus is not God, Mary was not a virgin at Jesus’ birth, or that we are not saved by grace alone but also by works (Eph 2:8-9), then you’ve got another gospel, which is no gospel at all. The Apostle Peter warned us that “false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Pet2:1-2). Yes, many, not a few.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.