Beware of Apostasy
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams…says, ‘Let us go after other gods’…you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams” (vv. 1–3).- Deuteronomy 13
Advanced technology has brought many benefits in the form of easier travel and communications. It is now relatively easy for those of us in the West to go anywhere in the world. Thus we can easily keep ourselves up to date on world events and what is going on in the lives of our friends and family who live far away. Yet there has been a downside to this progress. Television lets us see what is happening in other countries, but it also lets false teaching from Mormons, New Age gurus, and the health-and-wealth gospel into our homes. The Internet allows us to do research with greater ease and speed, but it exposes us to misinformation as well. In our day, aberrant teaching is far too accessible to people across the globe.
Erroneous teaching has been a problem for the covenant community from almost the very beginning. We read in today’s passage the warning Moses gave the people of Israel about false prophets just before the nation entered the land of Canaan. Even if the person who claims to speak for God is able to do great signs, Moses says, the people are not to follow the “prophet” if he wants to worship other gods (Deut. 13:1–3). The priority of sound teaching is a principle that we find throughout Scripture. As fallen human beings we are normally inclined to follow the gifted and charismatic teacher. The Lord, however, places a priority on the truth, not the abilities of the instructor. People might do great things, but they are never to be followed into the service of a different god. In fact, even if an angel himself were to preach another gospel, we must never follow it (Gal. 1:8–9). A teacher whose message consistently fails to line up with the essential doctrines of the Word of God must be rejected.
False teaching is dangerous to the Lord’s people because it can lead people into apostasy. An apostate is one who has committed the deadly sin of professing faith in the one, true creator God and then later denying His profession. The problem of apostasy was so bad in ancient Israel that the Lord eventually brought the curse of exile upon the nation. Let us beware of error lest we too succumb and suffer the same fate (Rev. 2:12–17).
Of course, we realize that anyone who abandons Christ did not ever have saving faith to begin with (1 John 2:19). Nevertheless, this truth should not make us complacent; rather, it should encourage us to demonstrate the reality of our faith and pursue earnestly the truths of God that we may “inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:11–12). Take time today to pray for your soul, asking the Lord to keep you in the truth and preserve your faith until the end.
Passages for Further Study
1 Timothy 1:3–4
2 Timothy 4:9–10a
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