A Sad Truth of Those Who Fall Away

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)

Today we will look at a highly emotional text of Scripture that I think will stir each of us. It is a passage that we, at least most of us, can understand, and one that should grieve our souls. It is a practical passage that we can read and study, and unfortunately most of us can see examples of it around us. It is one that we should take seriously and consider whether it might apply directly to us. It is a passage that we can read and study and cry out to God, saying, “Lord, let this not be me, let this not be a description of me.” Our passage today is about people who will depart from the faith.

We need to understand that as we sit here this morning, there are many who are leaving the faith and there are others contemplating such a move. There have been some who have sat among us who have left the faith. I don’t mean they just left our church, but they left the faith; there is a big difference between the two.

We can pray, as we study, “Lord, let this not be me, let this not be those I love. Lord, keep me and save me. Lord, let me pray as David did in Psalm 18, let this be my cry not just now but for all my days – ‘The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.'”

Our only hope is in Christ. Do we know that? And yet, so many will walk away, not just a few but many. Will we all, barring a move or death, will we all still be sitting in a Bible-believing church ten years from now with a continuing desire to be more like Christ?

We see many walk away from the faith and we wonder, what is going on? But this is nothing new. In the New Testament we have men like Judas, we read of him in John 6…

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:70-71)

There are others, like Demas whom we read of in 2 Timothy 4…

For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. (2 Timothy 4:10)

There were Hymenaeus and Alexander whom we read of earlier in this book, back in chapter 1…

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)

And while these accounts may seem shocking, we should not be surprised by them nor surprised by more modern day people who have abandoned the faith and chosen something in its place. We can be saddened and we should be. We can grieve but we should not be shocked. Why? Because God has told us this would happen. In fact, though saddened, we can be 100% sure it will happen still. As sure as true believers are forgiven, and God loves His children, and heaven exists, as sure as Christ is coming back, as sure as these things, there will also be more who turn from what they have been taught and have understood. It is as sure as God is true.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1a)

This is not someone’s prediction based on history or someone’s vision of future things. No, this is the Spirit of God who has stated truth: that in the later times some will depart from the truth.

In the various English translations we see words and phrases like “fall away,” “depart,” and “abandon” regarding those who will turn away. This is from a Greek word that means a purposeful, deliberate departure from. It can sometimes refer to a traveler. Like if I say, “We will go to Colorado tomorrow, stay two weeks, and then we’ll all get in the car and depart for home.” Our departure would be a planned one. That would be the plan. Just like we would depart from our vacation in Colorado to come home, so will people depart from the faith. It will be a purposed, planned event.

This is the same word used in Luke 8 regarding the illustration that Jesus gives about various types of soils where seeds were thrown.

5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 8:5-8)

Later when Jesus begins to explain this parable and its meaning, He says this in verse 13 regarding the seed that fell on the rocky soil…

And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. (Luke 8:13)

When He says they “fell away” this is from the exact same Greek word as in our passage which is translated “depart from.” The explanation then is of those who hear the Word of God, they have heard and understood the gospel message. They know what salvation is, that Jesus has come to save sinners and that our obligation is to repent and believe that message. Upon hearing the gospel message they receive it with joy, but there is something missing. There is no real root. They have embraced the message on a surface level, but it has not penetrated their heart and mind. They believe it is true, but have not fully received it for themselves. It is like knowing about Christ but not knowing Christ. Knowing about God but not really knowing God. It may be the kind of belief that even demons have that we read about in James 2 – “even the demons believe and shutter.”

I just want to be sure we understand what this turning away is, what it looks like before we go further. We are not talking about someone who may struggle to believe certain aspects of the faith, of the Bible, or those who may be weak in faith and even in obedience, but who desire to obey. God here is talking about open apostates, those who once professed Christ who have chosen as an act of their will to turn away from the faith. We are not talking about losing one’s salvation but about those who never truly were saved. Maybe they fooled many to believe they were saved, but they never really were saved. So this walking away is not a losing of salvation but a revealing of who they really are.

We cannot allow our faith to be shaken when we see others walk away. It can sadden us, but it should not shake our faith, because our verse says it will be – “Now the Spirit expressly says.” God’s Spirit tells us this will happen. So when we see it we can know that God is not surprised or taken back. This will happen. God is upfront with us about this.

Listen to our Lord’s straight-forward words about what will take place from Matthew 24…

4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:4-13)

Troubles will come and many will turn away.

3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12)

knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. (2 Peter 3:3)

They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” (Jude 18)

And there are many similar passages where God shows us what deceptions will come that will lead many astray in the last days.

It is interesting to attempt to evaluate our day, isn’t it, with what we read here? Many are even now turning from the faith due to an abundance and ease of worldly pursuits, and due to, in our own country, what are becoming clear lines of distinction between Bible-believing, true believers and those who will easily trade in their faith for a more palatable way. It is like, “Christianity was fine when there was not suffering involved, but if there must be suffering with my stated beliefs, then I think I’ll try something else.” I don’t think the true church will enjoy as much popularity in our land as perhaps it did in days past. And with that, many will depart.

Some may say, “But the passage says these things will happen in the later times, so does this apply to us today?” And the answer to that is yes. We are in the later times as the Bible describes it.

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)

He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you (1 Peter 1:20)

The era which began with the coming of Christ through the end of time as we know it today is the later time, the last times. We are in the last times.

11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:11-12)

Now, I want us to finish these verses together, and we will Lord willing next time, but here is what I want us to leave with today. Knowing that many will abandon the faith that they have professed, knowing this from the Scripture and even knowing it from observation of some around us, are we next in line? Or are we crying out to God asking for His grace in us to grow us, to change us, to keep us? Have we truly embraced Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, or are any of us simply on the sidelines of faith going through the motions that we think we should be going through?

Are we here to just please another person, or here to ease our consciences, or to be social, or to fool people? Or are we really in the faith, desiring above all else to know God and to walk with Him as Lord? Are we like the Psalmist who writes in Psalm 42:1-2, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” Is this where we are?

Is He our rock and our fortress, our deliverer, our God, our rock in whom we take refuge, our shield, and the horn of our salvation, our stronghold? These are questions we need to answer. Is He in you and are you in Him?

Are we, are you a part of the “we” mentioned in Romans 5?

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

Many will depart, but none who truly belong to Christ. Now is the time to ask, “Do I belong to Him?” And if not, then today is the day to embrace and receive Him by faith.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Jesus gives us this incredible promise of great hope in John 6…

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37)

Next week we will look more at what is behind much of the apostasy mentioned here, and my hope is it will not weaken but strengthen our faith. So we will pick up next time and continue through verse 5.

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)