Apostasy - Nothing New
What is apostasy? Definition of apostasy is to fall away from the faith. Websters says renunciation of a religious faith or abandonment of a previous loyaltly. From very early on in man's history and continuing today, we have seen countless people fall away from the faith. Historically, we see commonalities leading towards apostasy and from our passage today, we are going to glean the agents leading to apostasy because it is not an inevitability.
Theme of the Men's Retreat is Contend for the Faith. If we are going to contend or fight for the Faith, it is imperative we learn from the passages in scripture regarding apostasy and what we as Christians in today's world can do to prevent it and at the same time exercise our faith in Jesus Christ.
Read Jude 5-11.
What is history? It's a story of the event and people of the past. Some Christians have defined it as "HIS Story" or God's story. What makes history so important? History is important for it can bring understanding of our current climate and it is also important because it brings an awareness and desire for change or repetition. If we search through the history recorded in the Bible, we will discover that God created the heavens and the earth. We will discover that Adam and Eve were both created by God to populate the earth. We will discover that Jesus Christ was sent from heaven to be born on earth and to die for my sins. All of these historical events are beyond our ability to recall from direct memory since these events preceded our births. Therefore there is a certain element of faith that must be excersiced in believing the history recorded in the Bible. This is hardly difficult as so many evidences exist that corroborate both secular (non-biblical) and Biblical history to each other.
Now the question becomes, why would God provide so much history in the Bible and in so much detail?
We read of God speaking and light suddenly comes into existance. We read of how God formed man out of the dust of the ground. We read of prophecies in the Bible that predict Jesus' birth, death and resurrection and yet for what purpose? I believe God is trying to show us that history or "HIS STORY" is important and that through historical precedence, we can trust that what God says in the Bible is true. And if the Bible is true, then it becomes a lifeline for us to memorize, to learn from and to live by.
#1. Faithlesness in God leads to Apostasy.
Jude 5 - the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
There are two important things we see here. First is God takes apostasy seriously. Secondly, let's look at the example of the Israelites...
Turn to 1 Cor 1.
Paul the apostle writes of the purpose of the history recorded in the Old Testament using the Israelites leaving Egypt as his example.
1 Cor 1.1-11 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
The Israelites had sought deliverance from the oppression of the Egyptians. After crying out to God for years, God sent Moses to deliver them from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh. God delivered the Israelites through 10 great miracles and a short time later they were at the border of the promised land. They sent spies to scope out the inhabitants and unfortunately 8 of the 10 spies brought back a negative report. It must have broke God's heart.
Let's take a stroll through history lane... The Israelietes were living as slaves to the Egyptians. God turned the water in the River Nile to blood, He overran Egypt with frogs, gnats and flies. He also plagued the Egyptians livestock, covered the Egyptians the remaining livestock with boils, and destroyed their crops with hail, lightning and rain. Later locusts overan Egypt, then the land was covered in darkness that could be felt and finally brought the death of the firstborn for any in Egypt who did not apply the blood of the passover lamb to the doorposts of their homes. It was after all of these supernatural events that Pharaoh finally agreed to let the Israelites go as Moses had faithfully requested despite being rejected 9 times. So as the Isrealites begin their journey to the promised land, they are suddenly pursued by the Egyptian army who desire to bring them back into bondage. Moses and the Israelites were trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army when God through Moses splits the sea into two allowing the every one of the Israelites and all their belongings to cross through on dry land. Having seen the Israelites cross safely, the Egyptian army decided to take their chances by crossing only to find that God closed the opening in the sea and those who attempted to cross perished. This seems so incredible and exciting for the Israelites, it seems difficult to imagine all of this was forgotten when 8 of the 10 spies said it would be impossible to defeat the giants in the Promised Land.
What is interesting about this passage is that we typically look down on the Israelites for acting in such a juvenille manner and having such a short term memory. Sometimes, we are not too far from acting like the Israelites ourselves. Have you ever had the Elijah complex? God has done a great work through you and a day or two later, you completely blow it? Elijah slew 450 prophets of Baal with the sword and later when he heard word that Jezebel intended on slaying Elijah, he fled for his life. Well what about the 450 prophets he just killed with the sword? Sometimes we have short term memories just like Elijah.
Perhaps this is why Paul begins verse 5 saying He wants to remind us, even though we once knew this. It is not only important to remember what God has done for us and what God has done in the Bible, but to be reminded of these things. The Bible says that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10.17). So in remembering these stories and by being reminded of these stories, our faith grows and proper perspective is developed.
Consider Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has publicly stated the holocost never happened. If we don't remember the truth, then it is very possible the truth will be forgotten.
Now we are going to read some very controversial verses in scripture. Let's read verse 6.
#2. Unequally Yoked Marriage leads to Apostasy.
6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;
The second example of apostasy given us in the book of Jude is those angels who left their proper domain. We are not sure when angels were created, but it is generally believed they were created before mankind. Most likely before mankind's creation, Satan and a third of the angels rejected God as their leader and fell from their position. Rev 12.3-4 says, 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth." Satan is referred to as the Dragon and so often stars in the Bible are symbolic for angels.
Some interpret Jude 6 as the compliment of Genesis 6.1-2. Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
The real question here is who or what is being referred to as the "sons of God". Since this term is not used very much in scripture - it is somewhat ambiguous. The Old testament references this term (4) times - twice in Genesis 6 and twice in Job. In the book of Job, it references angelic beings. In the New Testament it is referenced in Mt 5.9, Lk 20.36, Rom 8.14,19 meaning believers in Christ. Finally, I would like you to turn to Gal 3.26 (read) 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Although there is a case to refer to the "sons of God" in Jude 6 and Genesis Ch. 6 as angelic beings, it seems from the passages in scripture, "sons of God" incorporates both men and angels. Therefore, it makes more sense to view the "sons of God" in scripture as godly men from the lineage of Seth. Seth is the third son from Adam and Eve. Cain murdered Abel and was exiled. Adam and Eve's next son was Seth. It is through the lineage of Seth that Jesus Christ would come. From the commentaries and theology books I read, it appears godly men from the lineage of Seth started marrying the daughters from the excommunicated race of Cain. I would further like to cement this position by the purpose Jude is trying to communicate in his book. Jude is trying to communicate apostasy and how to avoid it. It wouldn't be much of a benefit to learn how angels fell into apostasy, but it would be a great benefit to learn of how men fell into apostasy and the lessons we can learn from them.
Let's consider what was tragic concerning these marriages...
1. They only chose wives based on their physical appeal. (1 Jn 2.16).
2. They chose without advise and consideration. (Prov. 24.6)
3. They were unequally yoked. (2 Cor 6.14).
One thing we know about marriage is it can be an incredible blessing or an incredible curse. This is why missionary dating is so highly discouraged. Missionary dating is dating a non-christian in hopes of converting them to Jesus Christ. The problem with this process is it is always easier to pull someone down rather than lift them up. More Christians have fallen away from Christ through missionary dating that have lead others to Jesus Christ. Consider Samson in the Bible and how a unequal yoke lead to his death. Your relationship with Jesus supercedes every relationship or potential relationship.
#3. Sexual Immorality leads to Apostasy.
Sodom and Gomorrah were cities who gave themselves over to sexual immorality and had sexual relations with strange flesh - probably homosexuality. Jude explains that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the vengeance of eternal fire for committing sexual immorality.
2.1. What sexual immorality was Sodom and Gomorrah judged for? Gen 19:4-5 sums up the sins of the people by stating, 4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” Homosexuality was rampant in this city, but the Bible clearly states this is a sin. For the sake of apsotacy, let's consider homosexuality as part of a composite issue along with other items that belong to sexual immorality.
Consider what the Bible says in Gal 5.19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Let's also consider 1 Cor 6.9-11 which state 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
2.2. Why does God put such a great punishment upon sexual immorality? If you will, let me speculate 3 points here. First and foremost we belong to God. He is our maker and He is jealous of us. And when we serve other gods (even false gods of sex and pleasure) it is our denial that we belong to God. The scriptures teach if we deny Him, He will deny us. Second the damage that sexual immorality causes others physically and emotionally is catastrophic. Third, the damage that sexual immorality causes to us physically and emotionally is catastrophic. Perhaps this is why we read this in Romans chapter 1
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
So we see a two-fold punishment regarding sexual immorality. The first is the physical consequences that it leaves behind and the second is the spiritual consequences that remain for those who don't repent. Those who don't repent from sexual immorality will not enter the kingdom of heaven. There was a situation in the Corinthian church where a man was in a sexual relationship with his mother-in-law. The Corinthian church accomodated such a person and felt proud about letting this person remain in church. However, Paul said deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
#4. Hatred, Greed and Rebellion lead to Apostasy.
vs. 8 - 10 8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.
These dreamers are those who reject reality and live in a make-believe world. I was at an AGC convention 2 weeks ago when they told us those european elite scientists who in the late 70's said global warming was going to destroy the world as we know it had actually published an article that said global warming caused by man ended in the mid 90's. Apparently, they published this work under the radar.
This is the only place in scripture where we learn of the body of Moses. God had told Moses that he could look upon the Promised land, but could not enter it. So it is generally believed Moses died in Moab near Mt. Nebo. Here Michael the archangel did not come against Satan directly, but said the Lord rebuke you. This is similar to David not defeating or coming against Saul because Saul was the Lord's annointed. Perhaps Michael, like David, said the Lord rebuke you because Lucifer was once God's annointed. One thing I know for sure, that although Satan is a defeated foe of God, I don't ever want to go toe to toe with him directly. I always want God to stand between me and Satan. So I don't have a problem saying the Lord rebuke Satan, but I have a difficult time saying I rebuke you Satan. I want the the Lord to fight him directly because I know the Lord will win.
Way of cain = way of hatred for Cain hated Abel. Balaam is the way of greed. Korah perished because he tried to rebel against God's established authority through Moses by trying to force Aaron into the leader Moses was. It's my opinion since they were Levites, they would reason Aarons leadership would soon to their leadership of the Israelites.
Summary: Apostasy takes many forms.
1. Losing faith in God means placing my faith in that which will fail.
2. Unequally yoked means I will be brought down instead of lifting others up.
3. Sexual Immorality will separate me from my faith in God.
4. Hatred, Greed and Rebellion lead to apostasy.
Apostasy is a process that usually doesn't happen overnight. Jude 5-11 identifies these steps as those which lead to apostasy. These are the steps which we as Christians can be aware of and avoid at all costs.
But no longer are we the same person we were before Christ. 2 cor 5.17-18 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Through Jesus Christ we are no longer the same person. We have a new nature and He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
I would like to end on a note of a brother in Christ who committed anti-apostasy. This story is taken from Foxe's book of Martry's...
Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, hearing that persons were seeking for him, escaped, but was discovered by a child. After feasting the guards who apprehended him, he desired an hour in prayer, which being allowed, he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented that they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place.
The proconsul then urged him, saying, “Swear, and I will release thee;—reproach Christ.”
Polycarp answered, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?” At the stake to which he was only tied, but not nailed as usual, as he assured them he should stand immovable, the flames, on their kindling the fagots, encircled his body, like an arch, without touching him; and the executioner, on seeing this, was ordered to pierce him with a sword, when so great a quantity of blood flowed out as extinguished the fire. But his body, at the instigation of the enemies of the Gospel, especially Jews, was ordered to be consumed in the pile, and the request of his friends, who wished to give it Christian burial, rejected. They nevertheless collected his bones and as much of his remains as possible, and caused them to be decently interred.
Apostasy is a choice - choose Jesus not apostasy!