In December, I read that the UK “census shows number of people in England and Wales who are not religious has risen to 14.1 million, almost double from 2001.”
It got me thinking about faithlessness and what we are told about in 1 Timothy 4:1
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,”
I always found it interesting that the verse reads ‘the Spirit expressly says’. In other translations it reads ‘the Spirit clearly says’, and ‘the Spirit explicitly says.’ One would think that the Spirit is always clear and expresses exactly what He wants to say. I mean, it would still be authoritative enough if the verse read “The Spirit says that in latter days…” But that adverb ‘expressly’ always gets me. In interpreting His word when I come up against something like that, I come to a full stop. If the Spirit expressly says something, then it behooves us to pay attention to it.
The Greek word for ‘expressly’ is an adverb which is a derivative of rheo, meaning “command.” OK, that’s pretty strong.
So the upshot is the Spirit commands us to know and understand that in latter days some will depart the faith.
We can rest assured, that God’s numbers are not diminishing. It isn’t a weak religion where people can come and go and God #fail. Not at all. Whom He saves is saved. If they depart from the faith they are actually demonstrating that they never belonged to God in the first place. (1 John 2:19).
Oftentimes a departure from the faith is called apostasy. We are told that apostates will increase in number just before the Second Coming (Of Jesus, Not Obama. Sorry, I had to get that in there). 2 Thessalonians 2:3 has the verse:
“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,”
The Holman Bible Dictionary defines apostasy as “the act of rebelling against, forsaking, abandoning, or falling away from what one has believed.
Old Testament The Old Testament speaks of “falling away” in terms of a person’s deserting to a foreign king (2 Kings 25:11; Jeremiah 37:13-14; Jeremiah 39:9; Jeremiah 52:15). Associated ideas, however, include the concept of religious unfaithfulness: “rebellion” (Joshua 22:22); “cast away” (2 Chronicles 29:19); “trespass” (2 Chronicles 33:19); and “backslidings” (Jeremiah 2:19; Jeremiah 8:5). NAS uses “apostasy” in Jeremiah 8:5 and Hosea 14:4 with the plural in Jeremiah 2:19; Jeremiah 5:6; Jeremiah 14:7.”
It seems clear to most of us that the Lord is revealing that many who adopted a form of godliness but had denied its power (2 Timothy 3:5) are being stripped of their falsely spiritual cloak and are being revealed for whom they actually are.
An essay recently on iCNN, the citizen input channel of their news media’s online arm, recently published an essay that has reportedly garnered the second highest number of hits ever.
Posted on January 14, 2013, it has received 9,100 comments. Over 60,000 have recommended the essay on Facebook. A competing essay on iCNN titled “Why I raise my children WITH God”…has received a tenth of the number of comments and a third fewer recommends on Facebook.
People are apostatizing, and rapidly. The gap is widening so there can be no fence straddlers for very much longer.
We know what atheism is. It is people like the woman who wrote “Why I Raise My Children Without God”, they are people who never believed in God in any form for any time because they theorize that God does not exist. They have great faith in their theory.
It seems clear that we also know what apostasy is. It is people who (seemed to) believe for a time, and then abandoned any pretense of believing in their version of God. Muslims can apostatize. Buddhists can become apostate. But for the purposes of this essay, we are discussing people who claimed to believe in a risen Jesus as savior, but after a time, abandoned that belief and either went on to something else or simply became what they always were: atheist or agnostic.
But I have another question about who an apostate might be.
I wrote recently about old Eli, the temple priest whose record in the bible never revealed a sin that he personally committed, but he and his sons were killed for the sons’ sins. The sons were taking money from congregants, taking the choicest meats, and then taking women. Eli was not participating in this travesty, but he knew about it, and did nothing. That last thing is what God seemed upset about. The sons were killed for their part in the sinful behavior and Eli was killed because he didn’t do anything about it. (1 Samuel 2:29, 1 Samuel 3:13.)
What God said to Eli was that Eli was honoring his sons above God. I think we forget who we sin against, when we sin. All sins are against Jesus. (Psalm 51:4). The prodigal son said to his father that he’d “sinned against heaven, and against you.” (Luke 15:21)
In Revelation 2:21 Jesus said he had something against the church at Thyatira. “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.“
They knew there was sin, they knew the sin was destroying their church, and they did nothing about it. So Jesus had a condemnation for them. If it was today they would probably sit around saying “touch not God’s anointed” and “judge not” and “aren’t we so humble, in our tolerance.” Tolerance in the wrong direction is actually a sin. Think about it.
Paul condemned a situation in Corinth, where a man had his father’s wife. Paul condemned the sin and severely chastised the person performing the sin. But the church body was also chastised for tolerating it. Paul called them arrogant.
“You are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn?” (1 Corinthians 5:2)
Paul chastised them for boasting. The Corinthians were going around boasting about their gifts and their status and their works, and yet they were tolerating a gross sin. Their boasts were resting on a corrupted pedestal. If it were today, I would venture to say that they’d be boasting about their tolerance and their humility not to “judge.”
So the question is, is a person apostatizing if he tolerates gross sin but does nothing about it? Like Eli, Thyatira, and Corinth? If a person can tolerate such sins against Jesus and not do anything about it, are they actually loving Jesus as they should? Are they growing lukewarm, or even cold? If a people who actually know what sin does to a person, allows a person to continue in that sin, do they love that person if they do nothing to help them?
Does a false tolerance and an overdone spiritual correctness mean that love is growing dim? That they are apostatizing?
I don’t know if the definition of apostasy can be given to that kind of behavior. I’m just asking. I do know that Jesus condemned it the three biblical examples I used. At root, it means that they honor the sin more than they honor Jesus.
After Jesus threw out the moneylenders in the temple, “His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Psalm 69:9; John 2:17)
Barnes Notes says, “Its meaning is, that Jesus was affected with great zeal or concern for the pure worship of God. The zeal of thine house – “Zeal” is intense ardor in reference to any object. The “zeal of thine house” means extraordinary concern for the temple of God; intense solicitude that the worship there should be pure, and such as God would approve. Hath absorbed me, or engaged my entire attention and affection; hath surpassed all other feelings, so that it may be said to be the one great absorbing affection and desire of the mind.”
No matter what the exact definition of apostasy, zeal for God should consume us. Is our worship pure? Are we intensely concerned that no leaven is spoiling the lump? (The charge Paul gave to the Corinthians in the above passages). Do we tolerate a devastating pattern of sin in our own life, or in our church? You are not doing yourself, Jesus, or your brethren any favors by adopting a false sense of humility and refusing to address obvious and entrenched sin in God’s house. The bible is clear on that.
Dearest ones who have addressed sin, or tried to, in God’s house, He understands the toll zeal takes:
“My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words.” (Psalm 119:139)
The writer of Hebrews lets us know that there is nothing Jesus hasn’t gone through first that He isn’t intimately familiar with in us. (Hebrews 2:17). He understands the toll it takes to be zealous for God, and He has made many promises to those who persevere in the purest worship they can offer, the most zeal they can give, and the best attempts at rooting out sin. Here is one of those promises-
“He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:8)
Take heart. He is coming soon.