This is the eighth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Of all the terms Jude uses to describe false teachers – dangerous reefs, waterless clouds, and wild waves of the sea, to name a few – he stops short of calling them apostates. Yet that is what they are. Hey Jude, what gives?
A closer look at the New Testament’s sparing use of this term may prove helpful, particularly as we broach the thorny subject of apostates’ standing with God. Are apostates backslidden Christians? Shameless pretenders? Or people who once knew Christ but now have willfully rejected Him, thus losing their salvation?
The Greek word apostasia appears only twice in the New Testament. The apostle Paul is accused of apostasy for teaching others to “abandon Moses, by telling them [Jews living among Gentiles] not to circumcise their children or to walk in our customs” (Acts 21:21b).
And Paul warns the Thessalonians not to be deceived by those claiming that the Day of the Lord has already come. “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way,” he writes. “For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thess. 2:3).
Many other New Testament passages describe people who abandon the faith, never to return, for example: Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:19-20); “antichrists” (1 John 2:19); and professing Jewish Christians who are beyond repentance because they have returned to the practice of offering animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins (Heb. 6:1-6).
An apostate, then, is someone who has received the knowledge of the truth, but willfully and decisively rejects it.