2. DOCTRINAL DIFFICULTIES
Those whom Satan cannot seduce to the point of complete denial of all revelation, he sometimes deceives by prompting them to a misunderstanding of that which they affect to accept. Hymenaeus and Philetus are New Testament examples of such - "But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some" (II Tim. 2:16-18).
Demas, companion and co-laborer of Paul, demonstrates the deleterious effects of the world upon one who listens and longs for its allurements. He who began with such high hopes and great promises and in whom Paul placed such confidence, but who faltered and fell, serves as a solemn warning to all who might be disposed to follow in his steps. His beginning and end are chronicled in a few words; a narrative which is significant for what it does not say as well as what it does reveal:
First, Demas is a fellow laborer. Then, he is simply mentioned by the apostle in the next passage. In the last reference to Demas, he has forsaken the imprisoned apostle, the reason assigned being that he loved this present world. How often is his example being imitated today!
4. GREED, COVETOUSNESS, & PERSONAL GAIN
The desire for personal affluence has been the occasion for the apostasy of countless thousands. When the rich young ruler who had come to Him with such high hopes and great promise walked away, Jesus sadly commented - "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:24,25). Then, as now, love for the loaves and the fishes prompts to apostasy when such a disposition is not submerged in the love of Christ and His cause.
5. EVIL ASSOCIATES
Peter must ever serve as a striking symbol of those who, while following afar off, consort with the enemies of Jesus, find common cause with detractors, and warm themselves at the devil's fire. "Evil companions corrupt good morals," and the crowd with which we consort eventually becomes the common denominator of our conduct (I Cor. 15:33).
A number of reasons may be assigned why apostasy occurs. Some are induced to accept the Lord's standard when they are not genuinely converted; they are led to espouse His cause under the motivation of excitement; and when the excitement subsides the incentives which prompted their interest have disappeared. Persuasion is proper only when the judgment has been convinced. Prior to this, it ought never to be exercised. Others, for reasons of popularity, follow for a while but fall away when interest wanes and the way becomes hard. Every cause has its hangers-on; its summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. Some, not thoroughly disciplined, become offended when their attention is directed to the plain teaching of the Bible. Others are superficial in mind and heart, and lack the stability which is so essential to genuine discipleship.
When Jesus observed that many of His disciples "went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you also want to go away?'" (John 6:66,67). There is a pathetic note in this inquiry. Would the others be similarly influenced to forsake Him? How His heart must have been stirred by the reply of the impulsive, impetuous fisherman disciple - "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). When men today, by alien philosophies, worldly inducements and ungodly offers, seek to lead us away, we too, should answer: "To whom shall we go? Only the Lord has the words of eternal life!"