The Reality of Apostasy

Apostasy, holiness, sin No Comments

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.
Escaped
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.
Entangle
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.
End
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.”

Multi-site Churches of Christ

Apostasy, Church of Christ No Comments

     At present, I am aware of three congregations among the churches of Christ that have developed a multi-site arrangement for church government.  The first churches to form this type of governmental arrangement were the Highland Oaks church and the Pitman Creek church.  The Highland Oaks church is located in the northern suburbs of Dallas, Texas and the Pitman Creek church is located about 14 miles away, in Plano, Texas.  The merger will result in a congregation that shares a common staff, eldership, treasury and vision, but be located in two different places (see the Christian Chronicle, One Church, Two Locations, by Erik Tryggestad, February 21, 2008).
     Another multi-site church was developed in the fall of 2008 by the Southwest church in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  The minister at the time was Jimmy Adcox who called the congregation a “hybrid, multi-site, church plant.” The church started a separate worship service on the campus of Arkansas State University, a school of about 12,000 students three miles from the church building (Christian Chronicle).
     The third multi-site church is located in Michigan.  The Rochester church of Christ in Rochester Hills, Michigan launched a multi-site arrangement in March, 2008 when they developed a new site at Mohawk Elementary School in Macomb, Michigan.  The new group is under the oversight of the elders at Rochester and share the same staff, mission, and treasury.  Patrick Mead is the current evangelist at Rochester and does double duty between the two locations (check out the web-site for the Rochester church of Christ–www.rochestercoc.org). 
     Several observations concerning this new development among churches of Christ is in order.  First, we must ask before we implement any type of new organizational structure for the church, “Where is the Scriptural authority for doing this?”  In the apostolic age, each congregation was autonomous (self-governing).  Elders and deacons were appointed in each local congregation (Titus 1:5).  The wisdom of this arrangement is seen in that there is not a concentration of power in a few men who rule over many churches.  Also, it prohibits the rapid spread of error by forcing each congregation to test new doctrines by measuring them against the truth before accepting them.  Listen to the testimony of Mosheim as recorded by J. W. Shepherd in The church, The Falling Away, and the Restoration, page 56, “During a great portion of this century (second) all the churches continued to be, as at first, independent of each other, or were connected by no consociations or confederations.  Each church was a kind of small, independent republic, governing itself by its own laws, enacted or at least sanctioned by the people.  But in the process of time it became customary for all the Christian churches within the same province to unite and form a sort of larger society or commonwealth; and in the manner of confederated republics, to hold their conventions at stated times, and there deliberate for the common advantage of the whole confederation.”  These conventions developed into synods and church councils.  The laws agreed upon in these councils were called “canons” or “rules.”  A marked departure from the truth began by changing the organizational structure of the church which led to the change in the source of doctrine for the church.  Churches were now governed by synods and councils and not the Word of God.  In regards to apostasy, there must always be a first step!  Second, we see the audacity and arrogance of men who believe that they have devised a better organizational system for the church than what God has ordained.   Man’s good intentions do not trump obedience to God. This lesson is clearly taught in I Samuel 15:22-23, “Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”  Saul disobeyed God by keeping sheep alive for sacrifice rather than utterly destroying them as God commanded. Saul was rejected by God because he rejected the Word of God.  Will our church leaders reject the Word of God too!   
     A change in church organization without Scriptural authority to do so is a usurpation of the authority of Almighty God.  It can only lead farther away from the truth.
     (Update: 4/23/2009.  The satellite of the Rochester Church of Christ known as Christ Church: Macomb held its last service Jan. 25, 2009.  It continued to meet on the campus of Rochester College through February and then disbanded).