The Reality of Apostasy

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The English word apostasy is not found in the KJV. However, the concept/idea certainly is:  “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (II Pet. 2:20).
Apostasy means “abandonment of what one has voluntarily professed; total desertion of principles or faith.”  Many deny the possibility of apostasy, but Peter specifically addresses the possibility of apostasy in the verse cited above.
There are three words that begin with the letter “e” in this passage that we want to consider:  escaped, entangle, and end.
One has to escape sin and its consequences before there can be a return to sinful living.  The word escape means: “to flee away from as a fugitive.”  The Christian has escaped several things:  (1) Corruption.  II Pet. 2:19, “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage.”  Lust is the means of corruption.  “…having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (II Pet. 1:4).  The avenues of lust are the eye, the flesh and the pride of life (I John 2:15).  (2) The Christian as escaped from “old sins.”  “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (II Pet. 1:9).  (3) The Christian has escaped “worldly pollutions.”  II Pet. 2:20.  Evil pollutes the mind and body of all people.  The escape from sin is the work of God through His plan of redemption provided in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to atone for man’s sin.  When we obey the truth, we are purified (I Pet. 1:22).  We escape the hold that sin has on us.  Before there can be apostasy, there must be an escape from sin.  Then, apostasy involves a return to a life of sin and disobedience to God.
The word entangle means, “to be ensnared, trapped, or woven in,” as fish are entangled in the fabric of a net.  There are several ways that this can occur:  (1) A Christian could return to the Old Covenant forsaking the law of Christ.  Gal. 5:1.  “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”  Those who do so are characterized by Paul as “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4).  (2) A Christian could return to sinful living.  II Pet. 2:10.  Alexander Pope said, “Vice is a monster of so frightful mien.  As, to be hated, needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”    Apostasy begins in the heart.  When love for God grows cold, iniquity abounds (Matt. 24:12).  Love for the Lord is manifested in resisting temptation, faithfulness in attendance at the worship assemblies, willingness to work for the Lord, pursuit of holiness and many other good things that God directs us to pursue.
Peter states, “…the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.”  There are several reasons for this.  First, the apostate has turned his back on the holy commandment (II Pet. 2:21).  The words of Jesus Christ will judge us in the last day (John 12:48).  The apostate has rejected his only hope.  Second, the apostate has hardened his heart in sin and is difficult to restore (Heb. 3:12 and 6:4-6).  One study of those who have fallen away reveals that only about 10% are recovered and restored to faithfulness.  Third, the apostate has known the best but chosen the worst.  He has sinned in the full knowledge of what he was doing and will bear greater responsibility because of it.  Fourth, the apostate brings greater shame and guilt upon himself/herself.  In II Pet. 2:22, Peter describes the apostate as a dog eating its own vomit and a sow that has been washed returning to the mire.  The pictures are startling.  Every Christian should consider the “end” of apostasy before ever starting down that road.
The antidote to apostasy is Christian faithfulness and growth (II Pet. 1:10-11). After listing eight of the Christian virtues, Peter states, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Be Ye Holy!

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Holiness is a necessary aspect of relationship with God. I will be your God and ye shall be my people.  “Be ye holy for I am holy” saith the LORD (I Pet. 1:13-16).  The people of God are defined by holiness.  Those who belong to God by virtue of redemption (I Cor. 6:19-20) are called to holiness.  Paul states, “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (I Thess. 4:7).  Without holiness, no man shall see God (Heb. 12:14).
In I Pet. 1:13-16, Peter gives several imperatival participles that direct us in living the Christian life.  An imperatival participle has the force of a command.  There are four given in these passages:  be decisive, be sober, be setting your hope on the heavenly inheritance and be holy.
Be Decisive
In v. 13, Peter says, “Gird up the loins of your mind.”  We often say, “Get a grip on yourself.”  We mean the same thing that Peter states.  Instead of falling apart, stay focused and determined.  Be decisive.  Decisiveness precedes action.
Be Sober
Soberness is a steady state of mind which weighs things aright and enables us to make right decisions.  The opposite of sobermindedness is impaired judgment.  When faced with making important decisions about life and following God, we must make good and correct decisions.  We need knowledge of the truth and sound judgment in order to make good decisions.
Be Setting Your hope
Peter says, “…hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v. 13).  Set your hope with finality on the heavenly inheritance.  Peter mentions this inheritance in I Pet. 1:4, “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” Hope and grace are tied together just like faith and hope are tied together.  If we have no faith, then there is no hope.  If we have no grace, then there is no hope.  Consequently, hope and holiness are tied together. If there is no holiness, then there is no hope.
Be Holy
If we have hope, then we purify our hearts before God and pursue godliness and righteousness (I John 3:3).  As obedient children…we are begotten by God through His Word (I Pet 1:22-23).  We are redeemed by the blood of Christ (I Pet. 1:18-19).  Since we have been bought with a price, we belong to God and must glorify God in our body and in our spirit which are God’s.  We pursue God and imitate Him (Eph. 5:1).  We imitate His holiness.  Peter expresses this both negatively and positively.  He states, “…not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance” (v. 14).  To fashion refers to the design of life.  Former refers to life before becoming a Christian.  Ignorance indicates a lack of knowledge of the truth. In the former life, before becoming a Christian, they had lived in ignorance of God and the truth and so pursued the lusts of the flesh.  Now that they have been redeemed, they have a new focus and a new purpose.  They live to glorify God in the pursuit of holiness.  Paul declares, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1).  Positively, Peter commands, “Be holy.”  The contrast is with the former life.  The comparison is with God.  “Be ye holy, for I am holy” is a quotation from Leviticus 11:44-45.  God loves everything that is good and right and hates evil.  In imitation of God, we must hate evil and love good.
The pure in heart shall see God (Matt. 5:8).  The pure in heart eliminate lying, murder, the entire process of drunkenness, indiscriminate divorce, fornication, adultery, cursing and taking God’s name in vain, lasciviousness and all manner of evil.  Christians must strive to maintain the distinctiveness between themselves and the world.  They must maintain holiness or they will never see God.  No holiness, no hope!

New Vs. Old

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Steve Turner in his book, Popcultured, makes reference to a psychological ploy used by advertisers to sway consumers. The ploy is called, psychological obsolescence. Turner states that advertisers had to make consumers embarrassed at using clothes or products that were not the “latest thing.” One American advertisng executive of the period said, “What makes this country great is the creation of wants and desires, the creation of dissatisfaction with the old and outmoded” (Popcultured, p. 166). The basic concept advertisers must convince consumers to accept is that newer is better, while older is obsolete. The old adage, “out with the old and in with the new,” applies here.
Could this ploy also be used to target religious beliefs and values? It certainly is. We must be careful that we do not attempt to destroy moral standards that God Himself has commanded. Just because a moral belief is old does not mean that it should be discarded. God-given traditions are still binding on men today. Paul writes, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (II Thess. 2:15). There is a difference between the traditions (apostolic doctrines) of God and the traditions of men. The traditions of men are vain. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:1-9, esp. v. 9). Being stedfast in the apostle’s teaching is an essential aspect of faithfulness to God (Acts 2:42, “And they continued stefastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”).
Conformity to God’s Will necessitates going back to His Word! The culture in which we live is driven by satisfaction of the lusts of the flesh. While some view moral laxity as progressive, in reality it is regressive. We are not moving our culture or community forward when we sink into the depths of wickedness and moral corruption. In reality, we are going back to the time before the flood or back to Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 6 and 19). Rather than jettison the old, we might attempt to learn from it.
Moral progress is Christlikeness! Jesus lived a pure and sinless life (Heb. 4:15, I Pet. 2:21-22). He calls us to follow Him. This means we must listen and obey His teaching and pursue the example He established. He calls us to holiness (I Thess. 4:7). True reformation of human nature occurs only when we answer that call and “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1).

Grace and Holiness

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Grace and holiness are often misunderstood.  Christianity Today published an article titled, “Do American Christians need the message of grace or a call to holiness?” (Dec. 2012, p. 58).  That’s a good question.  Grace is often portrayed as a pushover.  He’s the toll-free number to call in every situation.  Just call 1-800-GRACE and you get off scot-free.  Holiness, on the other hand, is viewed as outdated and prudish.  Holiness is stuffy and a real party squelcher.  How can we better understand both concepts?
Paul states, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid.  How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Rom. 6:1-2).  We are not the only ones who struggle with grace and holiness.  Many did in Paul’s day too.  To continue in sin is to persist in a life of sinful conduct.  Some do not believe that you can live in sin, but Paul makes it clear that you can.  Sin is a transgression of God’s law.  It is lawlessness.  If one gives himself over to a persistent life of sinful conduct, he becomes the servant of sin (Rom. 6:16).  Grace saves from sin.  It saves from the eternal penalty of sin (hell) and it saves from the practice of sin.  Grace secures our salvation and at the same time it sanctifies us to God.  To be sanctified is to be set apart for a holy use.  Jesus Christ redeems us by His precious blood.  We are bought with a price and therefore, we must glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits (I Cor. 6:19,20).
In the Gospel call, there is a call to salvation (II Thess. 2:14).  And, there is a call to holiness (I Thess. 4:7).  The same Gospel, the same call; but two objectives: salvation and sanctification.  Many desire salvation without sanctification.  Many want the blessings of salvation without the responsibility of discipleship.  It won’t work.  You cannot save the soul without dealing with the desire to sin.
The glory of grace is not diminished by the honor of holiness!  Grace is important.  Without God’s grace we could not be saved (Eph. 2:8,9).  But, grace without holiness is a sham.  The honor of holiness begins when we repent.  The Gospel call also contains the call to repentance (Acts 17:30-31).  Repentance is a change of heart.  It takes place in our heart and affects real change in God’s direction.  Repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning to God.  God’s does His part (grace), but we must do our part (repentance).  Repentance sets us out on a new course.  It puts us on the pathway of righteousness.  It is an important aspect of holiness before God.  Paul said, “we…are dead to sin.”  Repentance brings about that death to sin.  We who are dead to sin do not live any longer therein (holiness).  We become the servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:16).
Baptism changes our spiritual status.  Rom. 6:3-4.  The “old man of sin” is buried and a “new man in Christ” is raised from the waters of baptism.  This imagery denotes that baptism is an immersion in water.  A real change takes place in the waters of baptism.  Our sins are remitted (forgiven–Acts 2:38) and new life is begotten (-regeneration–John 3:3-5).  Baptism is the new birth.  We are purchased by God and belong to Him (I Cor. 6:19-20).  We become the servants of righteousness.  This new pursuit defines us in holiness.  As God is holy, so we must be holy (I Pet. 1:14-16).
The glory of grace and the honor of holiness are both a part of the Christian life.  You cannot claim salvation apart from sanctification.