Declaration of War Against Apostates

by Mike Ratliff

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 3,4 ESV)

Carefully read the passage above my brethren. The writer of the Epistle of Jude is the brother of James, the well-known leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21;18; Galatians 2:9) and, therefore, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. In v3 we read that Jude had intended to write a letter on salvation as the common blessing enjoyed by all true believers. This intent was probably to emphasize unity and fellowship among believers as he reminded them that God is no respecter of persons, however, his plans were changed. He doesn’t say why he “found it necessary” to write something else, but what we have in this letter is actually a call to battle for the truth in light of the appearance and infiltration into the Church of apostate teachers. 

᾿Αγαπητοί, πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος γράφειν ὑμῖν περὶ τῆς κοινῆς σωτηρίας, ἀνάγκην ἔσχον γράψαι ὑμῖν παρακαλῶν ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει. παρεισέδυσαν γάρ τινες ἄνθρωποι, οἱ πάλαι προγεγραμμένοι εἰς τοῦτο τὸ κρῖμα, ἀσεβεῖς, τὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν χάριτα μετατιθέντες εἰς ἀσέλγειαν καὶ τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ Κύριον ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστὸν ἀρνούμενοι. (Jude 3,4 GNT)

Beloved, all diligence making to write to you about the common of us deliverance necessity I had to write to you encouraging to contend for the faith that once having been delivered to the holy ones. Slipped in beside for some men, the of old having been written before this the judgement, irreverent, the of the God of us grace changing into debauchery and the alone supervisor and Lord of Jesus Christ denying. (a personal translation from the Greek text into English of Jude 3,4)

The word translated as “contend” here is ἐπαγωνίζεσθαι the present tense, infinitive mood, middle voice form of ἐπαγωνίζομαι or epagōnizomai, which pictures a soldier entrusted with a sacred task of guarding a holy treasure. That is the dedication and “earnestness” we have the privilege by the grace of God to possess as believers that we my stand in the gap and not give way to apostates (cf 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). What is this precious treasure that we are contend earnestly for, that we are to guard zealously? It is τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει or, literally, “the once having been delivered over to the holy ones faith.” This is the whole body of revealed salvation truth contained in Sacred Scripture (Galatians 1:23; Ephesians 4:5, 13; Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 4:1). Here is v20, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.” This is a call to know sound doctrine (Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 3:16; 1 Peter 2:2; 1 John 2:12-14). It is also a call to be discerning in sorting out truth from error (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22), and to be willing to confront and attack error. This is what it means to contend earnestly for this holy treasure, which is the faith delivered once for all to the saints.

The phrase we have looked at couple of time already here about how the faith we are to contend for was “delivered once for all to the saints” speaks of God’s revelation delivered once as a unit, at the completion of the Scripture, and is not to be edited by either deletion or addition. Scripture is complete, sufficient, and finished; therefore, it is fixed for all time. Nothing is to be added to the body of the inspired Word because nothing else is needed. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of believers now to study the Word, preach the Word, and fight for its preservation.

Who are these apostates? They are false teachers pretending to be true. They attempt to sell themselves as legitimate Christian teachers and preachers and leaders, and they may appear to be so on the surface, but their intentions are to lead God’s people astray (Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29; Galatians 2:4, 5; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Peter 2:1, 20; 1 John 2:18-23). These false teachers are Satan’s counterfeits and their stealth makes them very dangerous to the Body of Christ. This is why God has equipped some of us with the discernment it takes to hear and read them and “discern” that they are false. How do we do this? It is by comparing what they say and write with what the Word of God says. This means that to contend earnestly for the faith in this we must know the truth. When we are intimately familiar with the truth, the false stands out and is easy to spot. The hard part is getting those who have been deceived to listen to the warnings and hear the truth.

I listen to or read some false teacher’s sermon at least once a week and it is something that I detest, but it is amazing how God uses that process to show me all these layers of false teaching I have absorbed in all those years in the SBC as a Deacon and Sunday School Teacher, et cetera. However, when I listen to these fellows now it is incredible how they use the Bible incorrectly. They may read the text, but they twist it. They take it out of context. They force their own meaning over it. They make it fit their sermon topic even though that part of the Bible isn’t even remotely about that. You see, these are all signs of a false teacher. Does your preacher do this? Do you listen to any well known preacher on TV or Radio or Podcast or whatever that does this? Well, you are being setup for deception. You are being fed poison and this keeps you from being able to contend earnestly for the faith.

As a friend told me earlier this evening in reference to some very bad false teaching, A Celtic Way, that is very popular with the Acts 29 guys and John Piper, “I’ll tell ya the remnant upon this earth is getting smaller as the days go on. The Lord is revealing this to His Own!” I think she is right.

Soli Deo Gloria!

36 thoughts on “Declaration of War Against Apostates

  1. Sometimes I wonder why I could see things and others couldn’t…but also why it took sooooo long for me to even see the problem. I believe I was blinded because of my lack of true knowledge, my desire to fit in to a church that felt like family, and my ability to assume the pastor said one thing when he actually said another. I brushed off things (like that Rick Warren’s book being used in our church had also used twisted versions of scripture to prove points). Sure, sometimes I would notice something being misused, and it would annoy me but who was I to judge? Then one day a video played “Christians vs Christ Followers.” What was this thing? I had watched it already and knew the ending was “Christian No More…” In our former church they cut that part off, but it was a bit disturbing. Then a man came and spoke, and took the account in John of Lazarus being raised from the dead and turned it into a promotion for small groups and also some psychological meaning. Hearing that we needed small group to take the grave clothes off (grave clothes defined as our life’s problems such as fear of cancer, missing our son who was in Iraq, our depression about a job loss, etc)…hearing this was the beginning of the end of our fellowship in this church. Then there was the search. I began listening and looking up terms the pastors used in sermons. I took better notes, and read the sermon notes online. I discovered our church had all along been moving toward Rick Warren’s PEACE plan. They also were introducing spiriutal formation, and had become a church with a spiritual formation pastor. I learned that Youthfront was into contemplative prayer, and our church youth were attending this camp regularly. When we asked elders and pastors, we mostly got brush off answers. We did find one person who supported us, and we decided to write a letter before we left. We had a final meeting with a pastor and it was amazing, he basically said we needed to interpret John somewhat like we would a parable of Christ. The puropse was to use the stories and use them to help us in our lives (or some such twist). That was it, we knew we weren’t coming back. The next thing we hoped was that our friends would see the problems too. Some have, others give us puzzled looks when we tell them why we left. Some have been very angry with us when we express our issues with certain teachers (like Beth Moore etc) on facebook.

    Oh, I’ve gone too long. But this post really hit me. We are to stand up for truth and protect the gospel as well as share it correctly. Thank you for your work in this area!

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  2. Very well said Christianlady. Thanks for sharing all of it. I recognized quite a bit of what you shared there from my own journey. Yes, when we contend earnestly for the faith these days, it can be a lonely road, but look what awaits us!

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  3. Mike, I think what you say about intimately knowing the Word as it is written, without alterations, is critical.
    This very afternoon my son and I heard a caller on a Christian radio station, and he quoted some scripture that must have been Mormon, or some other false faith, beause I recognized instntly it had not come from the Bible!
    Our people must, must, must read their Bibles until they know it well enough to notice the twisting and “wresting” that is done by the false teachers.
    It doesn’t take that much effort, as The Holy Spirit brings things to rememberance to help us!

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  4. I have been out of the charismatic craziness for almost 3 years now. I also recognized some of what ChristianLady said. I got booted out for asking questions. A huge error on my part. They gave me no answers to my questions and had no problem telling me to move on. Then there was the lies about who I was. But it is and was the studying of God’s Word that brought me the understanding of the truth – through the work of the Holy Spirit.

    What I find now when talking with those who remain is that they are comfortable where they are at and do not want to do the hard work of studing the Bible.

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  5. Hi Mike, Good post sir!! We were told ‘way back when’ that you never pull out one sentence and say ‘See, this is what it says’. They taught us to pull out 5 places where it basically said the same thing in a sentence and then said, ‘There is your proof’. HELLO…….what they did was find 5 verses that fit their little interpretation! And still twisted it all out of context! They are sly devils. We thank God everyday for giving us the eye salve to see all this falseness going on. And like you, the more the Lord grows us up, the more we can see it very clearly. Your studies, and ours 🙂 have been a wealth of information that most don’t even believe. But….we know why. Bless you brother.

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  6. Well said, Christianlady.

    Mike…sometimes “a lonely road but look what awaits us!” This is why God expects absolute obedience and listening to his voice. When he calls us out of deception, it’s time to get out. When he calls us home, I won’t waste one minute looking back because there is so much to look forward to!
    Some people complain that we’re always harping about apostates. But that is part of life down here. If there wasn’t so much going on, we wouldn’t have to contend with it so much.

    It does make me sad when I think about so many who have chosen a different route than the narrow way to accomplish God’s will. It makes me sad that men who started out to preach the gospel were turned from the simple gospel to people pleasing, Satanic delusions, pragmatic and complex teachings, mystical entanglements and corrupted, prideful religious systems. Oh yes, they still hold to certain gospel elements, but they are soon buried amid all the confusion and compromise.

    Even as we walk along, there is the continued call for us to come out and be separate, to come out of Babylon so that we will not share in her sins. The choices we make today will reveal who we have chosen to please; God, man or self. And of course, any sacrifice we are called to make to stay on the narrow way, is not even worth comparing to the reward! Soon….

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  7. I took an on-line theology course “the Theology Program” @ bible.org….wow! were my eyes of understanding opened!
    Every so called” Born Again Christian” needs to take a theology course…I have been telling everyone I run in to..Systamatic Theology…it will get you off the wide is the path and get you on your way to the straight path and narrow gate…Praise God for his word. I am of the Reformed persuasion camp. People don’t “study” the word, they want to be spoon fed…as the saying goes :no pain no gain…..
    Bless you all…..

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  8. There are so many layers of false teachers today. There are the men who are so seeker oriented they have obscured the gospel, but they themselves may be saved. Then there are men like Rob Bell and Doug Paggit who with every passing day seem to further bring into question their regenerate condition (God knows). But the most profound of all are the increasing number of heretics that claim that Jesus can be found in all religions.

    “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.”

    And while we expose false teachers, let us not be deceived ourselves into believing we have arrived. Our main pursuit must still be a personal seeking of the Lord Jesus Christ. In many ways we have much ground to cover before we can claim to “know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death”. I openly confess it is much easier to identify false teachers than it is for me to be made conformable unto His death.

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  9. RE: “The hard part is getting those who have been deceived to listen to the warnings and hear the truth.”

    That is very true and can be very sorrowful when contending for the faith.

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  10. “They may read the text, but they twist it. They take it out of context. They force their own meaning over it. They make it fit their sermon topic even though that part of the Bible isn’t even remotely about that.”

    I tried a new church about a month ago…yes. This is so true. It was a church that I thought would be ok, but I won’t be stepping foot in that one anyway again.

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  11. Thanks and Amen Scooterpop – yes, when you get into the Word that way, it changes everything because the Holy Spirit is at work transforming you according to the Will of God (Romans 12:2).

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  12. Rick, I, like the Apostle Paul, know fully that I am the chief of sinners and that has not changed from the moment of my salvation to this day. The only good work I do is by God working through me as I deny myself and take up my cross and follow Christ. Through this, I obey and do good works and this includes discernment and teach the word. It is God working through me. When we lose that realization and start thinking it is us doing it then we are BIG trouble.

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  13. Thanks, Mike!

    It’s confusing to see a pastor and his wife, who used to be very solid and with whom we were close in our college days, now heavily involved in the prophetic movement. They call their congregation a “prophetic people” and follow Bill Johnson at Bethel and all the apostles and signs and wonders stuff. I have been listening to their sermons. They are telling their congregation that they are interested in something people do at Bethel called the treasure hunt. Evidently this involves groups of people from Bethel going up to strangers on the street or in shops and telling them things about themselves that these people could not have known. Or they ask them if they have a sore back, for example, and if they say yes–then that is the treasure, or supposedly the Holy Spirit’s leading, and then they tell them God wants to heal them. They tell them Jesus loves them…but no gospel, no sin, no talk of the coming wrath. Is that how we are supposed to minister the gospel? A psychic hotline sort of thing? The pastor’s wife spoke recently and repeatedly said she wants more of God, more of God. She apologized to the congregation because the portion of scripture she was reading to them was so long—4 verses. She wants to raise people from the dead like they claim they do at Bethel. To hear her speak you need to get on board with what she is doing or you will not be “pulling down the heavenly realm into the earthly realm.” I think their scriptural basis for that is the Lord’s prayer–on earth as it is in heaven. This is so sad to see.

    How does this happen to once good ministers of Christ? May we humbly come before God every day and pray that he keep us far from deception and ask for more wisdom and discernment and that He would show us what is true and what is false as we read the word and pray.

    Our nephew is in a megachurch that is currently teaching them how to hear God’s voice and how you have to work at it to become proficient at it and that it takes practice, using the be still and know that I am God scripture to tell them you must be still. Then comes the list of all the things you need to do and or give up, so that your reception is clear to hear the voice. Oh, and if you have a big, hidden, unconfessed sin in your life then this will keep you from hearing the voice. Evidently, all the “little” sins we commit every minute of the day do not matter…there was no mention of that. They say this will bring you close to God but it is a distraction, leading to further distance from Christ.

    So far our family/friends don’t really want to change their beliefs or churches. They politely listen to us talk about false teachers, but I am guessing they do not want to believe they can be deceived, so they dismiss us. Praying seeds are being planted.

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  14. Diane, I have no answer to how a solid appearing pastor and his wife could fall into that except that they have fallen under the teaching of a deceiver. I would only be speculating on how they could have been set up for that fall, but I would guess that it had something to do with a compromise to become more “people pleasing” or “man-centered” for some reason. This causes lukewarmness and that is not true Christianity at all.

    That stuff you nephew is in is ridiculous. The church my daughter and son-in-law are offered that class too. I find it amazing that the visible church has so lost sight of what true discipleship is, which has nothing to with self-effort and law keeping. No, it is about humbling ourselves before our Lord knowing that without Him we can do nothing. Then we are usable in the Kingdom. I find it amazing how God works through me despite my own sinfulness as I walk in repentness by the grace of God.

    In any case, those who do not hear the truth are in the Laodicean church not the real church.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  15. Diane – If I may humbly give my perspective. Sometimes people get bored and uninterested in the basic gospel and the foundational truths of Scripture. And then instead of digging deeper into the established wellsprings of eternal truths and the Person of Jesus Christ, they go searching for the “new” and the “sensational”. I have been guilty of that myself, but by God’s grace I have found that brokenness and a prayerful seeking of Christ along with a complete openness to the Spirit’s circumcision of my own flesh leads to a deeper committment to the Lord Jesus.

    We do not need to look for different pastures, we need to break up the fallow ground in the true pastures that are replenished by the Great Shepherd.

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  16. Mike, I am convinced that no man, who was “solid in the truth,” suddenly becomes deceived and falls into false teaching. No, there had to have been cracks in the foundation from the beginning. Take Piper, for example. He hasn’t suddenly gone loopy. If you go back and listen to his teachings from 10 to 20 years ago, you find that his belief system was skewed already. Much of what he taught was true, but he also taught lies about our nature, that we all have a part within us that is alive and connected to God — we just have to find it.

    It is cracks such as these that become larger over time. As the foundation begins to crumble, we then see the problem and are shocked. However, if we had more closely examined the foundation in the beginning, we would not be so shocked at the downfall. Instead, we walk around the structure and look at the building rather than the foundation. We see the “works” of the builder and are impressed, but we fail to go over the foundation with a fine-tooth comb.

    We should always be inspecting our own foundation as well as those of others. As we inspect the foundations of others, let us be quick to correct the mistakes — fix the fissures — of our own foundations as well. As you said, it is humility that is the key.

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  17. “In any case, those who do not hear the truth are in the Laodicean church not the real church.”
    My grandmother used to say, “People see what they want to see, and hear what they want to hear”.
    It’s not just our church family, and friends who ignore the Witness of Christ; it happened back during His walk on earth, when He was falsely accused, and crucified.
    Today, I found out that all the persecution has given me quite a “backbone”, and enabled me to be really hard-headed about religious freedom issues.
    It seems true that these Tests and Trials come for the purpose of developing us, and fitting us for His service!

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  18. Hi Mike,
    You mentioned becoming more man centered and they do preach a kind of gospel where the emphasis is on people and bringing people into the kingdom of God by ministering to their economic needs–they have a lot of outreach goals about claiming the city for Jesus and so forth, so you are right. They preach a lot about loving your neighbor and then mix it with this crazy stuff.

    Rick, your comment about being bored reminded me that she mentioned in this particular sermon how bored she had been lately and how she felt depressed and far from God and how we need to press into more of God. Your comment made sense to me. Thank you very much.

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  19. I believe some of the good teachers of the word or the Pastors in church’s that were once teaching sound doctrine and are getting on board with the menagerie of “new and improved” gospel if you will reminds me of the book Pilgrims Progess where Christian and Hopeful were led astray by the “flatterers” and they were warned about this to be careful of…they didn’t even realize it until they got trapped.

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  20. There are many ‘preachers’ and ‘teachers’ that have their own ideas and methods and use bibleverses to proof their ideas. First there is their idea and method, and than they open the bible and use verses to fit it into their teaching. It is eisegesis: “the process of interpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one’s own ideas, reading into the text.”

    I have seen the most crazy examples of eisegesis in the ‘prophetic’ movement…

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  21. @Mike, you are right. It is awesome that God has opened the eyes of many believers. I am one of them… I am so thankfull He took me out of the ‘charismatic chaos’ right in time.

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  22. I believe most of this stuff stems from the Garden, when Satan said ……”ye shall be as gods”.
    People do not want an Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Almighty God in Heaven, and be in authority to HIM. They want to be God themselves. They are not satisfied with the “old paths” as they call it, or the “old hymns”, or the “old Word”. They have to revamp it, rearrange it, write “new” hymns, with new music, look for new experiences to elevate them to a euphoric height of delirium. It is nothing more than the arm of the flesh, in my opinion. It is Rehoboam going to the younger advisors instead of following the advise of the sages. Of course, the old is not exciting, or new, or in your face!
    No, the old is established, and solid, and peaceful and enduring. Give me the OLD!

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  23. We have seen this a lot. Pastors making the scriptures fit their sermon topic. I wonder if they are even taking the time to spend with the Lord and studying over the scriptures. One pastor said he could order his sermons online. Have you ever heard of such a thing. That was a new one to my husband and I. If it werent so sad it would be laughable. We must be studying Gods word for ourselves and spending much time with HIM. In the days that we live it is truly essential.
    I so appreciate this website and Mike your diligence to study Gods word.
    God Bless you

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  24. Pingback: Acts 29 Network and The Celtic Way – Declaration of War Against Apostates « The Reformed Traveler

  25. What an encouraging thread to read here… All these people who God has been bringing out of the haze of being passive, non-questioning attenders, and maturing them into discerning, truth-seeking sons and daughters of God… Simply beautiful.

    It amazes me, the more one studies the landscape of false teaching, both contemporary and throughout history, the more you end up seeing the same lies, the same false teachings, just repackaged and reintroduced throughout the centuries. None of the false teaching today is really all that “new”, it merely has been given a modern twist. Even in all the examples that have been referenced above, we see throwbacks to gnosticism, mysticism, eastern meditation, and so on. Mike is so right, the Enemy operates largely through means of infiltration and subversion, introducing lies that are dressed in the language of the Gospel. This is so foundational for those of us who have been called to stand for Truth, we cannot be fooled by mere religious language, or vague scripture references… We must always look deeper, to examine what is really being taught, and bring it into the light…

    Diane mentioned a church with false teaching that incorporated a lot of “ministering to their economic needs”. I feel compelled to mention to everyone hear just how often I come across this today. I would suggest that the “social gospel” has infected such a vast swath of Christendom today, and with hardly gaining any notice from many of the traditional “bulwarks” of the Faith. It really is a clever form of deception too, one that I believe works in tandum with all these other false teachings, in a way. That is, there is a lot of false teaching that is a bit more obvious, a bit more bizarre, and while these teachings do mislead a lot of people, I think they also sort of work to act as a cover for the assault that is being waged against the true Gospel by this trend toward the “social gospel”. And it is so deceptive, because it is so close to what Jesus taught, but yet flips it all around. The most dangerous lies are the ones that are mostly true, and today we can see this being born out, as everywhere I turn, I hear even very conservative pastors and teachers, preaching and blogging about the need for Christians to be advocates of “social justice”. (think about it, who’s gonna stand up and argue against a call to help poor people?) Essentially, what this does is slowly turn the Christian believer away from looking to an eternal judgement, and eternal reward/punishment, and instead viewing the gospel as merely a question of bettering people’s lives in their temporary, earthly existence. It effectively makes the cross nothing more than a form of protest, some kind of gory political statement that Jesus was supposedly making against the “Empire-builders” of the world…

    I see this false teaching sweeping through all kinds of denominational backgrounds, bible schools, “blogdoms” and so on. I believe it may even be a huge factor in the developement of the Enemy’s “Great Deception”…

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