This group of people is also described 2 Thes 2:3. Paul pleads with the Thessalonians to resist the "falling away." The Greek word for "falling away" is apostasia. Not that I know any Greek, but we use the word 'Apostate' to describe this group of people that have "fallen away." The terms "false teacher," and "sons of Balaam" are also used to describe the same group of people.
When reading the NT, it is key to understand this group of people, for many passages are warnings to avoid them. In fact, large portions of epistles are focused on describing and dealing with these people. It was a most weighty subject to the apostles.
Who are they? Why are they viciously attacked? What is their end? What do they look like?
2 Tim 3:1-9 paints a clear picture of who this mysterious group of people are.
Fundamentally, Apostates skew the deity of Christ, and skew the redemption through his sacrifice. Either deliberately rejecting these key aspects of the Gospel, or indirectly by trying to add to them, or denying it's power. Read 1 John 4:2-3, and Phil 3:18-19.
Apostates have not received salvation (2 Pet 2:12-14). They have come to a head knowledge of the gospel, but yet never received salvation. Thusly, their end is eternal separation from God.
Apostasy is not heresy, or ignorance. Heresy if a result of falling into a snare of the devil. Apostasy is a willing 'falling away' from the truth. 2 Pet 2:15 says: "They have forsaken the right way and gone astray..."
Observe how they are described.
1. "They have a form of godliness, but deny it's power" 2 Tim 3:5
We can't make the mistake and believe that these people are far away in Salt Lake City. They look like Christians. They might sit in our churches, pews, and hang out with us. They have an appearance of godliness, yet deny the power that comes along with godliness and the gospel. They look the part, but have not experienced the power of God in their lives; there is no transformation. No fruit. No works to back up the claim to faith.
2. "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" 2 Tim 3:4
They place their own desires and lusts above the will of God. As a result of loving themselves, their own flesh is placed on the altar and obeyed. They have no regard for the law of God.
3. They do "not endure sound doctrine" 2 Tim 4:3
Apostates don't just reject sound doctrine, but they replace sound doctrine for teachers that satisfy their "itching ears." That is, their desires and inklings. Truth from God's word is not tolerated, and they prefer messages that make them feel good; that satisfy that desire.
On a side note, the goal of preaching is not to make people feel good, but to expose the word of God, and to bring conviction and repentance. Seeing that Apostates seem to worship their desire and will, they would naturally shy away from preaching. They seek to be satisfied instead of convicted.
4. "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." 2 Tim 3:7
They have been "learning" for a long time, but they have not graduated the class. They listen to the same sermons over and over, but can never grasp the truth. There is no spiritual progress. Apostates stay in the same 'spiritual' state, and never mature. They are destitute of any real spiritual growth.
This is a tough group of people to think of. We don't want to associate these descriptions with anyone we know, and ultimately "the Lord knows those who are His."
Notice their influence: "For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins," They are dangerous people, and they are aggressive.
Apostates do not hesitate to influence the people around them.
There are many more verses and passages that speak of apostasy, and we could analyze them one by one. I simply want for us to know they exist.
I write these things to you for two reasons.
#1. Compare your own life with this description. Obviously I am not suggesting that you are an Apostate, and don't loose time debating whether you are or aren't. We do not want our lives to represent these fake disciples in any way. The biblical description of an apostate is a description that we can diagnose ourselves with. We can compare our life with that of an Apostate. It is important to know what an Apostate is so that you can spot out any "falling away" in your own life.
#2. Be aware of the fact that this group of people exist, and that they might look like a brother or sister in Christ. Pauls commandment to Timothy is "from such people turn away!" We must be careful not to be drawn away by their message, which satisfied the flesh.
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1
- Jerry Jr.