Apostasy in the Church Part 1
When Wolves Lead the Flock
By Jim Allen
Today, Satan and his entourage of demonic helpers stand unchallenged in many church pulpits around the world. Deception is Satan's most powerful weapon against believers and would-be converts. He cloaks himself in the liturgical vestments of the clergy while using smooth oratory to win over undiscerning believers to doctrines of demons. He is an accomplished speaker, liar and deceiver. He is the master of disguise. From the very beginning of creation, he was the enemy of our soul, and has used deception to change the truth about God into a lie. His burning passion for deception and destruction is relentless. His tactics are deadly and carry the sting of eternal ruin. The church needs to learn and understand just how skillful he is at deceiving believers through false doctrines, half truths, and counterfeit spiritual experiences.
Apostasy began long ago, in the Garden of Eden when Eve embraced the words of Satan and ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6). The apostle Peter warned of apostasy when he said, "...but there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Peter 2:1). The apostle Paul says of these dark ministers of unrighteousness, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 13-15).
The apostle Paul cautions believers to stand firm in faith and keep watch for apostate pastors and teachers who appear holy but inwardly are advancing false gospels, and performing counterfeit miracles, signs, and lying wonders. Paul warns that those who do not receive the "love of the truth" will be led astray by following after signs and lying wonders, which is the result of unrighteous deception (2 Thessalonians 2: 9-10). The principal reason Jesus and the apostles warn about deception is not to provide seminary students with topics for idle conjecture, but to warn believers about deception in the pulpit (Matthew 24:4-5, 23-24). Today is the time when all the forces of the evil are coming against true believers to test their faith as never before. Genuine believers must recognize the trial of their faith will increase as deception deepens. Preparation for apostasy begins now by coming into a knowledge and command of the many forms of deception now deeply embedded in the church.
The Greek word for apostasy is apostasia, which means to turn away from or abandon a belief system once embraced by a person. Eve became an apostate in the garden when she believed a lie, departing from the truth spoken by God. The apostate church does not view itself to be apostate because the term is pejoratively understood; which is to say, people in error do not view themselves in error about their doctrine and herein the power-hold of deception on the heart. For instance, people in a cult or mainline church operating in error will view anyone who leaves them as apostate. In this sense, an apostate fleeing from a religious group operating in error is a good thing. In fact, the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:27 was referring to Isaiah 52:11 when he said, "Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you."
For the purpose of this post, apostasy is the act of turning away from or abandoning the true gospel of Jesus Christ for another gospel. People who profess faith in Christ without possessing a solid, foundational view of the true gospel will be vulnerable to illusory snares set by false religious leaders. One way to think about an illusory snare, and its captivating power, is the monkey snare. In Burmese, villagers hunt for monkeys by removing the contents of a coconut and filling it with fruit or peanuts much desired by the primate. The villager attaches a rope to the coconut and ties it to a tree. When a monkey finds the coconut and reaches inside to remove the fruit, its closed fist becomes the trap. The villager made the opening big enough for the monkey to slip its hand through but not big enough for the primate to withdraw its clenched fist. The monkey's unwillingness to let go of the content seals its fate when the villager approaches to take its life.
Satan and his horde of ministers are setting the same kind of illusory snare for unwary souls who give blind allegiance and devotion to a church or religious group without vetting its doctrine. The Bible teaches believers are to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) — and then to examine those who preach the word to see if the words they teach are true (Acts 17:11). If their words do not line up with the Bible, release the church from your grasp and find another. In Matthew 7:16 Jesus warned that a tree can be known by its fruit and that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:19). Believers who know good fruit will easily spot the bad fruit when it appears, in all of its various and decomposing forms. The warnings by Jesus and the apostles will alert believers to guard against deception by learning how to spot the "coconut traps" iniquitous ministers set up week after week for unwary parishioners.
Stories about deceptive practices carried out behind closed doors in some churches are, although appalling, were foretold in the Bible long ago. The apostle Paul said in Acts 20:29, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." While there remains a remnant of good churches, most others are repositories of apostate assemblies infested with dark heresy. These religious institutions are decomposing corpses that make up the bulk of what the world sees today as church. The world is turning away from the church in great numbers, unimpressed and wanting nothing to do with the foolishness on display. The world sees hypocrisy, greed, and unending confusion from church leaders who cling to incongruous doctrinal views that do more to separate than join the body.
The lost world makes it a point to avoid the proverbial "church experience" because demonic wolves seek to capture and control all who enter the door, using abusive practices derived from twisted doctrine. Although the world's view of the "invisible church" is unknown and therefore mysterious, their view of the "visible church" is known and reason enough to stay away from this person named Jesus Christ. Satan has succeeded in destroying the witness of true Christians because the world lumps all believers into one pile without the benefit of discerning true believers from false. The Bible talks about this scenario in Matthew 13:24-30 whereby God has, is, and will allow the false to abide with the true until such time He separates the wheat and tares from one another.
Since all believers are vulnerable to the satanic snares set within churches, it is imperative for believers, young and old alike, to distinguish the true from the false. Proverbs 18:17 says, "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him." Larry Anderson wrote in an article about an apostate teacher:
How many times have you seen this play out in a court of law? A good defense lawyer can have you convinced that their client is completely innocent. Then comes the cross examination which can leave you even more convinced that the same defendant you were ready to exonerate, is almost certainly guilty. Why, when doctrinal matters are infinitely more important than earthly matters, do we not take the same care to evaluate whether or not they are true? We are so comfortable with our little circle of influence that we just refuse to listen to anybody else. This is dangerous practice. It guarantees that if we ever embrace false teaching we will most likely never leave it. This is a cult like attitude. 
It takes an assertive effort, under the prompting and guidance of the Holy Spirit, for a believer to grow until he or she can discern truth from error. The need to search the scriptures daily to see if these things be true, with help from an open Bible and ever present Holy Spirit, is imperative in the final hours of this age (Act 17:11).
In closing, this post is the introduction to several articles written about the number of false gospels in the church today. By no means are these articles inclusive because each represents the tip of the iceberg, a snapshot of the ongoing and increasing apostasy in the Church. The next article in this series is a look at the "turn of the century" teaching named Under Cover. It is my sincerest hope this series of articles will provide helpful information you can use to spot apostasy in the church.
1. Larry Anderson; Cross Examination: An Examination of the Teachings of Les Feldick
Image: Definition courtesy of etymonline.org
Apostasy in the Church: The Series
Part 1: When Wolves Lead the Flock
Part 2: Under Cover Lies
Part 3: Their Greed, Your Seed
Part 4: A Time to Refrain from Embracing
Part 5: Angels of Light
Part 6: Miracles, Signs and Wonders
Part 7: The Partial Gospel
Part 8: The True Gospel
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