By: John MacArthur,
Departing from the faith happens today just as it did in the Old Testament and in the church at Ephesus, where Timothy was when Paul wrote this epistle. There are always people who understand the faith intellectually and behave according to the revelation of God but have no heart for living to please God. Hebrews 3:12 says that those who depart from God demonstrate an unbelieving heart.
Paul states in 1 Timothy 4:1 that some–like Judas, Demas, or the disciples of John 6 who walked no more with Christ–”shall depart from the faith” (Gk., aphistēmi, “to remove yourself from the position you originally occupied”). Apostasy isn’t an unintentional departure or someone struggling with doubt. It is deliberately abandoning truth for erroneous teaching. “The faith” refers specifically to the body of Christian doctrine, not the act of believing. Some will depart from “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). People who understand and outwardly affirm Christian doctrine but don’t have a heart for God are prime candidates for being seduced by demons away from the faith.
An apostate is not someone who never knew the truth but someone who knew it and rejected it. He may have even been involved in various religious activities. But because he never truly knew God, he was lured away by the siren voices of the demons behind idols and false religious systems.
False religion propagates doctrine energized by seducing spirits. The Lord Himself says in Leviticus 17:7 that whatever men sacrifice to idols is in fact being sacrificed to demons (cf: Deut. 32:17; Pss. 96:5; 106:36-37). In 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 Paul says that those who come to the Lord’s Table and then worship at some pagan religious shrine are fellowshiping with both the Lord and demons.
False religious systems and the various idols that accompany them are focal points for demonic activity. We should not naively think that a false religion is simply a collection of misguided ideas. Realize that behind the scenes are fallen angels seducing people from the truth into eternal hell.
The Word of God clearly teaches that apostasy is a demonic seduction, that idol worship is actually worship offered to demons, and that false teachers are the agents of demons. The battle is fought by God and His truth against the devil and his lies. God calls people to Himself through the truth, and Satan tries to lure people away from truth with his hellish lies.
Scripture often exhorts the church to expose false teaching. That kind of confrontation is not popular today. Many churches, in the name of love, want to forget disagreements and avoid being critical at all costs. Nonetheless, there is a biblical mandate to deal with false teaching. The battle lines were drawn in Israel and in the early church, and they must be drawn today too. Like Timothy we must be warned and instructed to understand what is behind false teaching.
taken from: MacArthur, John. The Master’s Plan for the Church. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991., pp. 139-141.
• Understanding the Seducing Spirit from Qualities of an Excellent Servant by John MacArthur.