There is a danger that has come into the sheepfold; apostates have come in and they probably have always been here. However, with the prevalence of social media, their influence has spread and it is more important than ever before to recognize the marks of an apostate, a person who at one time knew and maybe even taught the truths of the Bible but walked away or a person who consistently teaches false doctrines to the Church. Jude, the Lord’s youngest human brother, points out several signs of an apostate and I want to draw your attention to them.
(This may be a different post than what you are used to from Pulpit & Pen but I write from a primarily pastoral approach so I hope it will be helpful to you.)
Book of Jude (HCSB),
1 Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James:
To those who are the called, loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.
2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
3 Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. 4 For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.
Right away we begin to see the characteristics of the Apostates that Jude warns about…
1.) Apostates are ungodly (v. 4)
When the New Testament writers say that a person is ungodly, it does not simply mean that the person does not know God, it also means that he does not have a character that is consistent with the revealed Person and Nature of God.
2.) They are morally perverted (v. 4)
In the NIV, promiscuity is translated as “license to commit immorality.” Among other things, these apostates teach that there is no need to struggle to overcome sin. The Greek word rendered as contend, or contend earnestly (NKV, NASB) is agonizomai from which we derive the word agonize. Because our sinful nature will not easily be transformed into Christlikeness, it can seem agonizing, at times to give up that sin in order to be more like Christ.
Many, many apostates teach instead that God will give you all the things you want: health, wealth, possessions, influence, etc and all you have to do is “sow the best offering that you can” without any call to true repentance or humility. Examples of such teachers include but are not limited to Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Jesse Duplantis, Rod Parsley, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, Mark Chironna and scads of others. One has even gone so far as to say that anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan. These ignore the command of Jesus to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).
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In truth, you do not even have to teach grace as a license to sin however you please to turn grace into license, all you have to do is refuse to teach the truth of God’s grace, that it saves you from sin and its power not simply that it saves you from hell. And just in case you were going to object and say that such things are not perverted, the definition of perverse is something that is contrary to the generally accepted standard or practice. Since the Bible is our standard, anything contradicting the Bible or anything taught in the pulpit that does not match Scripture is, by definition, perverted.
3.) Apostates Deny Christ (v. 4)
Ultimately, this leads to a denial of Christ; the Jesus taught and embraced by the apostates simply is not the Jesus of the Bible.
Apostates: Past and Present
5 Now I want to remind you, though you know all these things: The Lord first saved a people out of Egypt and later destroyed those who did not believe; 6 and He has kept, with eternal chains in darkness for the judgment of the great day, the angels who did not keep their own position but deserted their proper dwelling. 7 In the same way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them committed sexual immorality and practiced perversions, just as angels did, and serve as an example by undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. 8 Nevertheless, these dreamers likewise defile their flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme glorious ones.
4.) They defile the flesh (v.7& 8)
As we are seeing today, apostates defile the flesh in ungodly and unbiblical ways. Some of my evangelical brethren will immediately point to homosexuality but what about other sins: drunkenness, gluttony (I think I have only heard one sermon on gluttony in 25 years), fornication, domestic violence (yes the Bible actually addresses this topic which I have never in my life heard addressed in the pulpit).
Defiling the flesh refers primarily to sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18) which is a sin against one’s own body, but this is not exclusive. Remember that Jude’s oldest half-brother, the Lord Jesus Himself, even went so far as to equate contemplating the sin with the actual sin itself (Matthew 5:27-28). When is the last time you heard a sermon about sexual lust (lust of the flesh), greed (lust of the eyes), or counteracting the boastful pride of life by being poor in spirit?
5.)Apostates are Rebellious (v. 8)
By not teaching what the Bible actually says, these apostates live in and encourage rebellion in others. A pastor once told me that 1% out of submission is equal to being 100% in rebellion against God. To deny a doctrine, the reality of hell for example (Rob Bell) and to teach that denial to others is absolute rebellion against God. To refuse to yield to the Authority of Scripture is to refuse to yield to the Author. They go hand in hand; authority entails submission.
6.) Apostates Revile holy angels (v. 8)
This is a mark against Pentecostals if I ever saw one. Growing up Pentecostal, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen pastors “bind” satan or command him to do this or that; both of which are patently absurd. If Michael, the highest angel (archangel means chief angel) dares not to speak against the devil, what in the world possesses a “Christian” to do so? There is no biblical justification to think you can command an angel to do anything. Even fallen angels serve at the pleasure of God Almighty and Him alone. They advance His agenda and they fulfill His sovereign decrees and so, not matter how much your favorite teacher might tell you otherwise, you cannot command them to do anything and it is ridiculous to think the opposite.
7.) Essentially, Apostates are ignorant (v. 8)
The behavior we have discussed so far demonstrates and absolute willful ignorance of both the Things of God and of His Person. To know Him as He is demands that one is to submit to Him. Look to Revelation chapter one and see the reaction of John when he saw just a picture of the Resurrected Christ and you will see what kind of response a true knowledge of God the Son results in.
9 Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these people blaspheme anything they don’t understand. What they know by instinct like unreasoning animals—they destroy themselves with these things.
8.) Apostates are continually having vain ideas (vs. 8-10)
Continuing with the idea of ignorance, apostates have vain/foolish ideas. Word of Faith teachers, for example, tell you that you can name and claim your promise from Scripture and activate a response from God based on your faith. This is hubris and is no different than the idea of “binding satan.” I have heard them justify this nonsense by saying all the promises of God are yea and amen. That is only half the truth and is therefore not the truth. All of God’s promises are yea and amen but only in so far as to the person(s) they apply to. I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you is a very true promise but it only applies to the Nation of Israel for that is whom God made the promise to.
It is utter vanity and foolishness to presume anything upon Him Who sits upon the Throne. Do not allow yourself to mistake God’s patience for tolerance. Every person living will have their appointed time before the Throne; the Righteous will see the Bema (the Judgment Seat for rewards) and the wicked and apostates will see the Great White Throne as Heaven’s court dispenses eternal justice.
9.) Apostasy leads to self-destruction (v. 10)
What is the natural end result of apostasy? Self-destruction. God does not have to directly do anything to these, all He has to do is say to them, “thy will be done” and step aside. How many ministries have been damaged and even destroyed by ministers who thought they could get away with this or that? I would list names but that is impractical.
I can say from personal experience, getting your own way can be deadly, to your soul as well as your body. After all, there is a way which seemeth right unto a man and the end thereof is destruction. (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25)
11 Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion.
The Apostates’ Doom
12 These are the ones who are like dangerous reefs[e] at your love feasts. They feast with you, nurturing only themselves without fear. They are waterless clouds carried along by winds; trees in late autumn—fruitless, twice dead, pulled out by the roots; 13 wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameful deeds; wandering stars for whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever! 14 And Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied about them: Look! The Lord comes[f] with thousands of His holy ones 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict them[g] of all their ungodly acts that they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things ungodly sinners have said against Him. 16 These people are discontented grumblers, walking according to their desires; their mouths utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage.
10.) Grumblers (v. 16)
11.) Fault finders (v. 16)
12.) Self-seeking (v. 16)
13.) Arrogant speakers (v. 16)
14.) Flatterers (v. 16)
I will deal with all of these together: they are person centric and reflect the oldest sin in the book, pride. Pride is that sin which caused Lucifer to lose his place in heaven and it will do you the same favor. Pride looks at another, finds his/her deficiency and then exalts self because you don’t have that particular deficiency. It causes one to puff up and think of oneself more than he/she really is. Pride, the oldest known sin, is the truest and surest mark of the apostate. No matter what other signs you see, the Christian that demonstrates pride is on treacherous ground and in real danger of going where one does not want to be, apostasy.
17 But you, dear friends, remember what was predicted by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 they told you, “In the end time there will be scoffers walking according to their own ungodly desires.”
15.) In a sense, apostates are mockers (v. 18)
2 Peter 3:4, They will say where is the promise of His coming. I would add to that, they will say things like no serious Christian believes in Hell or, no loving, tolerant Christian rejects gays, or they will dismiss the creation account as a myth/a metaphor.
Mark it out, every single apostate has some passage or doctrine that he does not like and by dismissing it, they make a mockery of God…for now.
19 These people create divisions and are unbelievers, not having the Spirit.
16.) Cause division (v. 19)
18.) Without the Spirit(v. 19)
Apostates cause division in the church because they are worldly minded and they are worldly minded because they do not have the Holy Spirit and they do not have the Holy Spirit because they are worldly minded.
It’s a vicious cycle once you walk away from the truth of Scripture and only the Holy Spirit can bring you back.
Exhortation and Benediction
20 But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. 22 Have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. 24 Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.
Beloved, you may be reading this and say that you have seen some of these signs in your own life. That is both good and bad news. It is bad in that a propensity toward apostasy may exist but it is good in that the Holy Spirit is doing His work of convicting sin. What should you do if you see signs of apostasy in your life or if you are following a False Teacher? Repent right away. If the Holy Spirit is convicting you, agree with Him immediately and confess that sin. He will restore to communion with Him and you can continue to grow in grace.
Until next time, ahava v’shalom (love and peace)
[Guest Post by Matt Sherro of Exploring the Truth]