“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” (1 Timothy 4:1).
PREDICTIONS OF APOSTASY, LIKE THE ONE ABOVE, ARE FOUND THROUGHOUT THE NEW TESTAMENT. It was a matter of great concern to all of the apostles. The fact that there would occur a departure from the foundational teachings of the gospel was not something they could think about except with a broken heart.
Here are some other texts that reveal the concern of the New Testament writers about the crisis that was coming (and I hope you’ll take the time to look these up and think about them): Acts 20:29-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-5; 1 Timothy 6:20,21; 2 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:3,4; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 3:1-4; 1 John 2:18,19; 4:1; and Jude 3,4.
Today, it is not hard to see that the apostles were right to be concerned. A great apostasy did, in fact, take place. And it is sobering to realize that most of what goes on in the modern world under the name of “Christianity” is a result of that apostasy.
Martin Luther, of course, is known for having sparked the Protestant Reformation. But although he saw that Catholicism was a departure from the Scriptures, Luther’s work did not result in a complete return to the apostolic faith, and the Protestantism of today is just as much a part of the apostasy foretold by the apostles as the Catholicism against which the Protestants protested.
Clearly, we need to be warned just as strongly as the brethren to whom the apostles wrote in the first century. We need constant reminders and admonitions. Given the human propensity for drifting (Galatians 1:6), there is no hope for us if restoration is not an ongoing priority — and not just congregationally but individually.
Apostasy can be dealt with only by the testing of everything by God’s standard (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and monitoring ourselves with great honesty (1 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Hebrews 2:1). The key is constant recourse to the teachings of Christ and His apostles, coupled with a love that simply refuses to let go of our Savior. If we wish to be God’s people, in this or any other age, we must radically respect His plan for our salvation — and the Scriptures are our only means of knowing what that plan is.
“There is no broader way to apostasy than to reject God’s sovereignty in all things concerning the revelation of himself and our obedience” (John Owen).