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Apostasy versus the fundamental truths of Christianity - 2 Timothy

Axioms of Christianity: Be Alert for Apostasy

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

Introduction

Timothy was encouraged by Paul by at least two letters, and had been given apostolic authority to deal with issues in the church at Ephesus - many related to doctrinal errors especially a false gospel (A doctrine Paul defines in 1 Timothy).

These two letters remind us that apostasy does and will occur in churches, as Paul had warned the Ephesian church some years earlier:

Know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert (Acts 20:29, 30 ESV)

This message is about how apostasy occurs and how it enters the church

Before beginning this, the message examines the fundamental truths about Christianity.

What is apostasy

Apostasy is the departure from the fundamental truth or the moving away from such truth. Its origin means defection and often is used in the context of "relinquishing of a religious belief".

Heresy is the deliberate choice of another position, noting that heresy need not be apostasy, as Mr Foxe demonstrates in the Foxe's Book of Martyrs.[1]

Since apostasy has to do with departure from the fundamental truth, we need to define the fundamentals of Christianity.

Axioms of Christianity

Axiomatic statements cannot be subdivided any more – they form the ground or foundation from which all other assertions can be drawn. The most basic attribute of an axiom is that it is self evident.

The following are fundamental truths believed by fundamental evangelical Christians, but not an exclusive list of all truths.[2]

  1. There is a God and His name is “I Am”.[3]
  2. God is more significant and important than man: He is Holy, He is sovereign, He is truth.
    1. This means God takes pre-eminence in all things
    2. God's honour is more important than man's honour
      1. Man is never benefited when God is dishonoured
    3. God's ways are better than man's ways
    4. God's love is more perfect than man's love
    5. Disobedience to God is sin
  3. The Bible, that is the Cannon of Scripture, is the Word of God, or put another way The Bible alone is the Word of God (YAHWAH).
    1. This means the Bible was wholly inspired by God and written for our purpose. It is the basis of Christianity, its faith and practice.
    2. Only the Bible can give a true world view.
  4. Sin is disobedience to God and is always wrong, and all wrongs are sin.
    1. Everyone, without exception, who claims to represent the Living God and His Son, Jesus Christ, is morally and spiritually obligated to be in full agreement with God in everything.
      1. This means that is never right to do wrong, for example it is never right to lie.
        1. Therefore, there is never a right reason for doing a wrong thing.
      2. Partial or selective obedience is disobedience – a sin.
    2. Apostasy is sin.
      1. It is always wrong to add support to apostasy.
      2. It is always wrong to give credibility apostasy.
      3. It is always wrong to give authority to the message of apostasy.
    3. God never leads anyone to do anything that is contrary to His Word.
      1. This means that no other source supplants the Bible, even prophets,
        1. True prophecies never contradict the Bible
      2. The corollary is: anything that is not of the Bible i.e. not Scriptural is not spiritual and not of the Holy Spirit.
  5. God's judgments are necessary for man's welfare
    1. The consequence of any sin is death
      1. Death is separation of a person from God for all eternity
      2. Christ’s death can be substituted for ours, should we accept it.
  6. God has created us and called us to glorify Himself.
    1. Therefore, He has called us (those saved and who are true Christians) to his work and to be faithful. The results of our work are God’s business, not ours!
    2. God always measures our work by the Standard of His Word.
  7. God has enemies.
    1. The chief enemy is Satan, who is real.
    2. God’s enemies are our enemies and must be dealt with as God would have them dealt with.

This means

The basis of doctrine is the Bible, which is not primarily a relationship to men and movements, but rather a relationship to the Word of God.

At issue is the absolute authority of the Scriptures over all that we believe and practice.

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 perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.

  1. Doctrine - sets out what is right
  2. Reproof - sets out what is wrong, or not right
  3. Correction - sets out how to put right the wrong
  4. Instruction - sets out the method to stay right.

Our relationship with men and movements is the resulting outcome of the kind of relationship we have with the Word of God. (One can tell a man by his company).

A true believer will separate on the basis of any kind of denial of that which is clearly taught. Uniting in common cause with apostasy can only cause grief and certainly cannot nor can glorify God.

When is fundamental fundamental

One issue we need to deal with is separating out what is fundamental, from what is trivial. The fundamental need to be preserved at all costs

Paul warns the Galatians thus:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one [God] who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6,7 9 NIV)

  • The gospel can be deserted.
  • There is more than one gospel, of which only one is the true gospel, leading to salvation.
  • The perversion of the gospel is by people - mostly people in the Church.
  • The outcome of a false gospel is catastrophic - leading to eternal separation from God.

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia-remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. 1 Timothy 1:3,4 (NKJV)

  • There are other doctrines, but only one true doctrine.
  • Doctrines may be muddle with fables or endless arguments (see Timothy)
  • Endless disputes do not solve issues - godly edification does
  • Godly edification is biblically based.

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8 NKJV)

The consequence of preaching a false doctrine is being accused or anathema.

Taking the scheme of David C Innes[4] (see Sermonaudio.com website for some of his work) doctrine and so-called doctrines can be divided into four categories. Essentially these define the beliefs and practices by a Christian or the local church. Note that categories 2 - 4 may overlap and hence maturity needs to be used to decide on the triviality or otherwise of an issue; thus the need for mature elders in an assembly (one of the reason Paul writes to Timothy).

1. Bible truths provided as statements.

These are clear statements in the Bible which provide the truth - and there is no interpretation needed, although they must be applied in context. These include the most basic statements defining the gospel commands or statements:

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! Deuteronomy 6:4 (NKJV)

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus 1 Timothy 2:5 (NKJV)

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)

'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:31 (NKJV)

Examples:

  • There is one God, who is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit
  • God created the world, the universe and humans
  • All humans are sinners
  • Jesus Christ entered the world through the virgin birth
  • Christ paid in full the debt our sinning incurred, by his substitutionary death at Calvary
  • The atonement of sin is by the sheeding of Chris's blood (Hebrews)
  • Christ rose from the grave in bodily form and entered heaven from earth (the Gospels) - denied by the Jews (See The Acts)
  • The Lord's supper is to be observed (1 Corinthians 11)
  • Baptism is to be observed (see What is Baptism (December 2011)
  • The precepts outlined in the Bible is fundamental to a Christian's walk & conduct.

2. Logical conclusions from Bible statements

Sometimes the Bible gives a lot of evidence through narrative or statements but not a direct quotable quote. For instance Scripture does not say the trinity is made up of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. However, the text is implicit that this is what the trinity is. Psalm 2 illustrates the three in action. Sometimes logic needs to be applied, for instance, the plain interpretation of Revelation is to take the order of events as given with the time frames specified (days are literal days) - this is both sensible and logical and was how the author intended the Book to be read. Other passages of Scripture such as Daniel also illustrates that this approach, hence we can draw conclusive statements about the millennial reign.

 Examples

  • Premillennial, pretributional rapture
  • Baptism of believers in water by complete immersion
  • Standards of conduct ie manners (these need to be culturally sensitive rather than Western centric)
  • Morality and ethics
  • Marriage, divorce and remarriage
  • Standards of preaching, music and worship
  • The application of Bible truths from column one
  • Elders and deacons

3. Speculation or personal opinions

Some items under this heading may overlap with group 2 or 4 but often can be culturally defined, rather than biblically defined. Often speculation occurs because the source is not the Bible, but some other starting place, such as a guru, or some prominent personality.

Examples:

  • The English translation of the Bible - the Bible offers no explanation of how God was and is preserving his Word, hence which translation to use falls into this category.
  • Traditions of church governance.
  • Models for education (noting the role of parents is explicit - category 1)
  • Diet (noting that gluttony is forbidden etc)
  • Forms of worship (noting that conduct of worship is explicit, but its forms will be culturally diverse)
  • Denominations, although can fall into 2 and 4 (see 1 Corinthians)
  • Clothes (modesty is called for, but the actual form will be defined by culture, for instance what constitutes female clothes as distinct from those for men will be culturally dependent. For example trousers were not worn by men at the time of Jesus.)

4. Petty preferences.

These have no place in church discussion or used for the purpose of deciding right from wrong or determining the truth or otherwise of doctrine. It may however influence the flavour of how things are done - coffee is offered before or after the meeting, may extend to application of the standard of dress, style of preaching (use of electronic projection or notes) etc.

Examples:

  • Time of coffee,
  • How the offering is collected, if collected at all
  • Requirements for church buildings
  • Use of hymn books or electronic projection.

 

Why do congregations move from group 1 truths to group 4 truths

Apostasy in the evangelical church is a process of "gradualism".

For instance if the banning of the word "blood" and "virgin" in music sang in our churches happened 20 years ago there would have been a cry disbelief and of foul play. But, this has been achieved by gradually removing these words, so they now are abhorrent to the neo-(liberal)-evangelicals.[5]

The late Charles Woodbridge stated: Apostasy proceeds progressively with a change in:

Mood, then -

Method, then -

Message, and finally -

Morals

David C Innes states that apostasy is:  a change from a posture of confrontation to a posture of accommodation.

  • Apostasy argues in its early stages from the ground of "good", incrementing to evil along a path of miniscule changes, leading to a vast deviation from the truth (like boiling a frog in water - if done slow enough, the frog never notices).
  • Apostasy argues good from a high-moral ground. Moses struck the rock, because the people needed water, but disobeyed God with the consequence of being excluded from the Promised Land. It is always better to obey God than to attempt to do good.
  • Apostasy moves a clearly taught truth that must be believed to a statement that is optional.
  • Apostasy moves Bible statements as objects of doctrine to a vocabulary that sounds good, requiring no faith to exercise, nor obedience to God.
  • Apostasy hates separation. Separation is ordained by God and must be applied correctly - the current debate on tolerance of homosexuals falls into this class of evil.
  • Apostasy argues that disobedience to God is acceptable if it maintains the numbers in a congregation.
  • Apostasy is often out-come driven: but history tells us that the out-come may be immeasurable in the generation that now lives. The outcome or our work is for God's good not ours - His standards and not ours therefore applies.
  • Apostasy can start from alliances, associations and companions that can be critical in determining the ultimates destiny.
  • Apostasy moves doctrine along a path beginning with a conviction for which we would die, to a preference strongly believed, to a mere preference which some uphold and finally to no obligation whatever.
  • Apostasy moves obedience to the Bible from a clear statement of belief, to an opinion that is believed, and finally to an option with no obligation whatever. Indeed the option may be counter to the Bible.

The ultimate outcome is always determined by the principles that govern the immediate course of action.

 

Consequences of apostasy

At its worse, apostasy will send men and women to hell, and at its least will separate perpetrators from communion with God.

You do not have to be a wicked man or woman to do untold, immeasurable damage to the cause of Christ

Some of the consequences of apostasy include:

  • The displeasure of God
  • Denying of God's sovereignty
  • Rejecting the Scriptures
  • Denying the gospel
  • Using biblical vocabulary but does not believe the intent of the words
  • The congregation becomes outcome driven - usually church numbers - rather than govern by principles
  • The ultimate aim to glorify God is substituted with an aim glory people
  • Ineffective evangelism, and hence a lost opportunity to take the saving knowledge of the gospel to the community.
  • Moves "Come out from among them and be ye separate saith the LORD" to ecumenicalism, giving credibility to men of any persuasion.
  • Allows proliferation of divorce, adultery, sexual immorality, feminism and homosexuality due to lack of teaching and practice of separation from the world.
  • Therefore adapts the world's culture.
    • The local congregation loses is identity with the Lord God Most High.
  • Biblical morality is replaced with situational ethics
    • Ethics becomes situational - the end justifies the means
  • Entering apostasy and idolatry is easy and can be quickly accomplished. Recovering from apostasy and idolatry is almost impossible.
  • Carelessness by one generation can produce untold damage on many generations to follow.
  • Peace at any price, in particular disobeying God, will ultimately loose everything.

 

Summary

Our attitude must be to keep the biblical truths as written in Scripture.

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:12,13 (NKJV)

Our aim is that of Pauls - by the end of our life we should be able to say:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7, 8)

Endnotes

[1] An edited version can be found at < http://www.ccel.org/ccel/foxe/martyrs/files/martyrs.html > Accessed 10 August 2014.

[2] Note that many non-Christians, and in particular the media will hold that fundamentalism is a radial idea being an organized, militant movement etc - rather than the definition that I apply here - adherence to strict beliefs or set of principles.

[3]T here are clearly set of self evident phrases that describe God and His attributes - these can be found in Scripture.

[4] Dr. Innes, pastor of Hamilton Baptist Church, San Francisco, California (see Sermonaudio.com for some audio files of his messages)

[5] Which, incidentally does not mean "Christian", but means a position on the political landscape.>

David L Simon (14 February 2010 CCC - Last sermon as member of CCC)
Note that this sermon was based on the work of David C Innes, Hamilton Baptist Church, California
Edited 18 February 2012, Edited 14 January 2017
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