Summary: What work the devil cannot do from without, he seeks to do from within through synthetic saints.

A fellow went shopping for his wife's birthday. He happened to pass by a pawn shop. As he passed by the window, he couldn't believe his eyes. Beautiful name-brand watches were selling for a fraction of their retail cost. With his wife's birthday in his mind's eye, he entered and made his selection. What normally cost several hundred dollars, he was able to purchase for a mere fifteen dollars. He rushed home and proudly presented it to her.

Later that evening during dinner, his wife looked at her new watch to check the time and discovered the second hand going berserk. Then it stopped dead in its tracks. Although the watch looked like the real thing…in every respect, it was a fake. It did not stand up under pressure.

The Parable of the Sower

Such is true of the apostate. This is the point Jesus was making when He told the parable of the sower in Luke 8. The apostate is like the seed sown on rocky ground. This person, when he hears, receives the word with joy but has no roots. For a while he believes, but soon temptation wins out and he "falls away." The phrase "fall away" in Luke 8:13 is the verb form of "apostasy."

Luke's choice of words in the original Greek language is interesting. Referring to stony ground hearers who "receive the word" in Luke 8:13, the word is dekomai. He uses a different word to describe the good ground hearers who also receive the word. The word for "receive" found in Mark 4:20, which is used of the good ground hearers, is the word paradekomai. It is a much stronger word that dekomai and indicates that these people truly welcome the word into their hearts, whereas the stony ground hearers do so superficially.

Stony ground hearers fall away from the truth because they have no roots.

Consequently, they have no fruit. Absence of fruit is absence of evidence of the Christian life. An apostate knows the truth but does not apply it. He "accepts" God's revelation as true but does not make a sincere commitment to it. He “talks the talk,” but he doesn’t “walk the walk.”

A truly born-again person cannot become an apostate. Although he may fall into error or into indifference, he cannot fall away from the faith. Scripture is clear in assuring us that Jesus is able to keep us forever.

A knowledge of cosmetic Christians will certainly help us detect impostors. Tonight I want us to examine the activities that betray the apostate. We will discover what makes this kind of person "tick."

The Apostate "Agenda"

We can best defend against apostates by understanding the nature of their activities.


Apostates creep in. Jude 4 says that "certain men have crept in unnoticed." The word crept means to "slip in secretly, to steal in under cover." The word describing this action carries the idea of slipping in the back door. It is used to speak of one who slips back secretly into a country from which he was expelled. It also paints a picture of an alligator, lying on the bank of a river, and then slithering into the river so subtly, secretly, and silently that he is unnoticed.

These synthetic saints creep into denominations, churches, schools, and organizations. They are in our Sunday school classes, choirs, pews, classrooms, and pulpits. And they are deceitful. Jesus warned us about them and how they deceive when He said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7:15).

The result of an apostate's deceitfulness is destruction. Consider the field of higher education. Of the first one hundred colleges founded in America, eighty-eight were founded for the propagation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, few, if any, of those schools still carry that mission.

Harvard University celebrated its 350th birthday not too long ago. When Harvard was founded in 1636, all its students held to three basic rules. First, everyone was to consider it the main end of his studies to know God and eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, because according to Scripture the Lord gives wisdom, every student was to seek the wisdom of God. Third, every student was to exercise himself in the reading of the Scriptures twice a day so that he could give an account of his profession. That was the aim of the school in its beginning days. That aim has since been abandoned.

What has happened to our schools that were founded on the fundamentals of the faith? Some denominations that founded them have gone the way of apostasy. Jude says that happens because impostors creep in unnoticed and destroy them. That is why we need to contend for the faith today. What were once great, strong schools producing missionaries who went around the world are now dead or dying. And the destruction continues.

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