ARE WE IMMUNE TO HERESY AND APOSTASY?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Once, this author was speaking with a dear brother in Christ who had left false religion and came to faith in the Gospel of Grace: “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). For the last few years, the brother had been growing in the Word rightly divided. This author told him he would be praying for him, advising him that he would need to be vigilant not to fall back into his former denominational system and/or other false teaching. The brother replied, “You do not have to worry about me. I will not return to that!”
We would hope—oh, how we would so (!) hope (!)—we would never fall away from Jesus Christ. How we would pray—oh, how we would so (!) pray (!)—we never deny Him as our Saviour and Lord, returning to the evil world system out of which He has called us. We would want—oh, how we would so (!) want (!)—that it would never be said of us that we left the Apostle Paul’s doctrine in favor of works-religion!
In the decade-plus that this author has been in ministry, he has seen people come to faith in Christ and then return to the world as if nothing ever happened. They even become worse than they were before! He has witnessed individuals come to understand Paul’s ministry—and then return to their denominational system. They might have been saved for years or studied the Bible dispensationally for years, but they never continued with that sound doctrine. Unfortunately, some of these were even preachers and teachers! This is the sad tale of various people in Scripture as well.
For example, consider the well-known account of the Apostle Peter insisting that, although all the disciples would forsake Jesus, he would never do it. In fact, Jesus told him otherwise—but Peter argued and boasted that he would die before letting Jesus be executed! All the disciples agreed.
Read Matthew 26:31-35: “ Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.  But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.  Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.  Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.  Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.” Now, turn to Mark 14:27-31: “ And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.  But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.  But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.  And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.  But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.”
Luke 22:31-34: “ And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:  But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.  And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.  And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.” The Bible reveals what ultimately happened concerning Christ’s arrest: “Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50). Exactly as the Lord Jesus foretold, the Apostle Peter denied Him not once or twice but thrice (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62)! It is a bitter reality that even saints are prone to sin and error. Scripture tells the truth—even about its heroes.
We go over to Galatians chapter 4: “ But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?  Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.  I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” Upon hearing and believing the Gospel of the Grace of God, the Galatians had left their pagan works-religion. What happened? False teachers had then entered their assemblies, and the Galatians now “desire again to be in bondage!” They had tossed aside God’s grace and returned to works-religion.
Let us turn back to chapter 1 of Galatians: “ I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:  Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.  For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Again, in the case of the Galatians, these Christians allowed false teachers to move them from God’s grace and over to a performance-based acceptance system (works-religion).
First Corinthians 15:33-34 also reminds us that, if we associate with false teachers or fleshly (worldly) individuals, we too will repeat their errors: “ Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.  Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” This negative influence—pagan philosophy—was one reason why the Corinthian saints were so deceived and immature in their spiritual understanding. Instead of looking at the world through God’s eyes, they used man’s eyes.
We can reflect on Ephesians chapter 4: “ This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,  Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:  Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.  But ye have not so learned Christ;….” Paul’s very purpose in writing to the Ephesian saints was to exhort them not to duplicate the empty thought processes that their pagan neighbors entertained.
We members of the Church the Body of Christ face the same evil world system that deceived and ultimately misled the ancient nation Israel. First Corinthians 10:1-14 is a terrible reality. It was most unfortunate the Christians at Corinth were guilty of repeating Israel’s error of pagan idolatry:
“ Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;  And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;  And did all eat the same spiritual meat;  And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.  But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
“ Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.  Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.  Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.  Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
“ Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.  Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.  Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”
The operative statement is verse 12: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Let us never boast, “Yes, Israel forgot all the doctrine God taught her and the provisions He gave her, but I will never forget God’s Word and all that He has done for me!” Many Christians through the centuries have snubbed their nose at others’ sins, when they themselves were guilty of far worse. How often church members have bragged, “I love God so much, and I am so dedicated to His work!” This is most foolish, as they have been lulled into a false sense of security. It is these people—those focused on self, their feeble love for God instead of His infinite love for them—who will be the first to wind up vehemently turning away from Him in the future. Mark these words well… and never forget the Apostle Peter’s repeated “promise” that he broke thrice!
Paul’s final epistle, his second written communication to Timothy, contains two of the most tragic statements in all the Bible as touching apostasy. “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15). “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus” (2 Timothy 4:9-12). Nearly all the saints in “Asia”—that is, Asia Minor, modern Turkey—had left God’s message of grace through the Apostle Paul! The present evil world system (Galatians 1:4) had even captivated and distracted Demas, a once-dedicated ministry co-worker of Paul himself (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24)!
We will look at one final passage, chapter 4 of 1 Timothy: “ Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;  Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Be careful to note the implication in verse 1: “in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils….” The only way for them to “depart from” sound Bible doctrine is if they first possessed it, or had awareness of it. In other words, they once knew the truth but subsequently abandoned it. This is the very definition of apostasy. By leaving the truth and embracing error, they created a heresy—an offshoot idea and its resultant splinter group.
Indeed, no matter how long ago we trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, regardless of how often we have read the Bible, we are not immune to heresy or apostasy. Even in the physical world, a healthy body is subject to disease and weakness. This will not be totally avoided until we get to Heaven. Still, we need to renew our minds by engaging in personal Bible study on a daily basis: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We must remind ourselves of our identity in Jesus Christ. As members of the Church the Body of Christ, we are not the nation Israel. We are God’s heavenly people, not His earthly people. We do not need Israel’s Saturday Sabbath, Israel’s water baptism, Israel’s confession of sins, Israel’s tithing, Israel’s legalism, Israel’s spiritual gifts, Israel’s animal sacrifices, Israel’s prayer promises, and so on. Let us carefully consider and believe the Pauline Epistles, Romans through Philemon. Otherwise, we will go the way of Christendom—heresy and apostasy.
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