Tag Archives: apostasy

Lessons From Chapter Four of 1 & 2 Timothy — Stephen Scaggs

Elvis has left the building.  A well-known idiom, it means that it’s all over, the show has come to an end.  In his last two epistles to Timothy, Paul is basically saying, “Paul is leaving the building.”  Yet he ends each epistle with an appeal to the glorious hope which awaits us all…when we leave the building.  In the fourth chapter of each respective epistle, Paul tells Timothy that he needs to take his ministry seriously if he is going to be successful as a minister.  Paul is passing the torch in his second epistle to Timothy; he charges Timothy in God’s sacred court to preach the Word.  In this article I would like to share some lessons we can learn from the fourth chapter of both of these epistles.

While these books have general application for all Christians, their primary application deals with preachers.  As preachers, we must be careful not to fall away (1 Ti. 4:1-5).  Rather, we must discipline ourselves (vs. 6-10) and allow our ministry to reflect in both our walk and our work (vs. 11-16).  We must also preach and hear God’s Word faithfully (2 Ti. 4:1-5), finishing our ministry well (vs. 6-8) while preparing ourselves to face life’s winters (vs. 9-22).

How To Behave In God’s Household

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, the real purpose of the letter is revealed.  Paul had presented his purpose in writing in the previous chapter.  He had stated he was writing these things to instruct Timothy on how to conduct himself while administering the affairs of the church (3:14-4:10), while also encouraging Timothy by providing him counsel concerning his own spiritual progress (4:11-16).

Falling Away (1 Ti. 4:1-5).  Paul first discusses the present problem.  Apparently this is an explicit prophecy about apostasy.  Perhaps he is referring to Jesus’ prediction about the apostasy before the destruction of Jerusalem (Mk. 13:22), or to other prophecies Paul had made (2 Th. 2:1-12; Ac. 20:29).  Some in Ephesus were already apostatizing; we know they were already wilting by the end of the first century (Re. 2:4-5).  This present apostasy are people that are not enjoying God and the blessings He provides, but rather denying certain things.

Paul tells Timothy that this warfare is spiritual, something he had already told the Ephesians (Ep. 6:10-20).  Paul told them that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ep. 6:12).  Some of these teachers were following deceitful forces and demonic teaching (2 Co. 11:13-15).  Demonic influence can be blatant and obvious, but also subtle.  Evil spirits continue to work in churches to thwart God’s truth by their demonic doctrines.

Falling away always begins in the mind because the mind is the seat of all facilities for the body.  These spirits are misleading.  The teachings they espouse appear healthy, but they are a recipe for disaster.  They try to get into your head and twist your thinking.  However, God’s people believe and know the truth (4:3).

Falling away leads from the mind to our morals.  The demonic teaching seared people’s consciences (4:2).  Instead of leading them to repentance, their wrong thinking led them to wrong morals.  Biblically speaking, a person that apostatizes can go in two directions: either legalism (2 Ti. 4:1-5) or licentiousness (2 Pe. 2:1-3; Jude 1:18-20).  These Christian teachers forbade marriage and certain foods, probably an early form of Gnosticism.  Some concluded that since the body was evil, we must discipline the body through asceticism (i.e., a rigorous denial of self and pleasure); others concluded that since the body was evil anyways, it did not matter what you did in your body.  These are the results of wrong thinking, stemming from deceitful spirits.

Paul then discusses what Timothy’s perspective should be.  This apostatizing was already taking place and Paul warns Timothy to be on his guard.  In contrast to falling away, the remedy is holding to God’s truths with thankfulness, gratefully enjoying God and his creation.

Literally, these people are hypocritical teachers who speak false things.  When I say “hypocritical,” I suggest “a practical denial of their” inner self (Wieseler).  They concealed their more legalistic convictions, but had an open verbal profession of adhering to the Christian way.  To salve their guilty conscience, they took a hot iron and seared it shut.  The prescription medication for a seared conscience is allowing God’s truths and goodness to melt the inner man — allowing the Bible to confront our sins and enjoying the simple pleasures in life that God gives to every one of us.

Paul mentions gratitude twice in the text.  If we overflow with gratitude (Ep. 5:20; 1 Th. 5:18), our consciences cannot be seared shut.  If we are bitter or grumble toward God, we will doubt God’s goodness and will eventually fall away.  In a practical manner, we can be thankful for our spiritual blessings in our physical joys.  God wants us to enjoy this world with its literature, art, and music; its mountains, oceans, and valleys.  God wants us to share meals, to enjoy marriage, and to participate in the joy of creation.  However, in these things we should not just enjoy the gift, but the Giver of all good gifts.  Yes, we do not need to overindulge or become self-centered (Paul deals with discipline immediately after), but Paul’s point is that all of life is spiritual and sacred.

This extends beyond saying table grace, but to all our life.  Whether we hike in the mountains, enjoy the warm company of family and friends, a concert, or a good book, it ought to exuberate with prayers of thankfulness.

Discipline That Matters (1 Ti. 4:6-10).  Paul’s message to the young evangelist Timothy is that if he wishes to succeed in his service, he must be disciplined in God’s Word and healthy teaching. Perhaps Timothy desired to be disciplined, but he had several old habits into which he just kept falling back. The key to discipline is motivation. Athletes drive themselves relentlessly for years because they are motivated to win that gold medal and all the implications it carries. We must push ourselves to do what we don’t want to do to achieve what we’ve always wanted to be. Our motivation is eternity and all the implications of eternity.

Eternity should motivate us. While Paul does not despise bodily exercise, he is making a comparison between bodily and spiritual; while the body is temporary, the spirit is eternal (4:8). Many live for this life, but fail to live for eternity. Many are obsessed with beauty and health, dietary restrictions, and physical performance, but none of that will change that death is inevitable.

The living God should motivate us. Paul said that he had set his hope on the living God.  He is not merely a projection of Paul’s mind.  God created the universe and all that is in it. Because he is living, Paul could commune and draw strength with him daily. If it is true that God is living and our hope is fixated on him, then the living God should motivate us.

Salvation should also motivate us. Paul tells us that God is the Savior of all humanity, and thus counters the teachers he mentioned before who bound their dietary laws and forbade marriage. In effect, Paul is saying, “God wants to save all types of people, in every place, from every walk of life. He has provided salvation for all, but not all are saved.” Apart from Christ, humanity is alienated from God, but with God humanity has sufficient salvation. This fact of our salvation ought to motivate us.

What is discipline? Discipline is an ongoing process, not a quick fix. Paul uses the verb in the present imperative, stressing continuous action. Discipline involves hard work. Paul said, “We labor and strive.” “Strive” is a wrestling term, giving all strength to win. Discipline means discarding hindrances. Paul encourages Timothy not to have anything to do with the random babbling of the false teachers. The Greek word for discipline implies stripping off hindrances – if we’re going to win, we must strip off the weights. Discipline means keeping your eyes on the goal. Paul tells Timothy that the goal is godliness, growing in conformity to God, taking God seriously, and recognizing the implications of a godly life.

How do we implement discipline?  By nourishing our faith with truths (4:6b), continually feeding on God’s spiritual nuggets.  Spiritual warfare involves the mind and affects the morals.  We must take in God’s Word by hearing it preached and reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on it.  We must be obedient to the truths that we are following (4:6c).  True wisdom is not intellectual knowledge, or an accumulative database of facts.  True wisdom reaches out and changes lives.

Timothy’s Walk and Work for Christ (1 Ti. 4:11-16).  Paul tells us in another place that God gave to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ep. 4:11-12). It seems as if there are droves who are either burning out on ministry because they are exhausted or bombing out of ministry because of moral failure. Timothy’s danger was that he would just fade out of the ministry because his timid personality tended to want to avoid conflict. The fact is that we cannot preach God’s truths without inevitably confronting error and offending some people. Timothy was in danger of neglecting his ministry (4:14), so Paul took him under his wing out of love for him.

Paul tells Timothy to pay close attention to himself (his walk) and to his teaching (his work.)  He gave similar advice to the Ephesian elders (Ac. 20:28).  The goal of every disciple is to develop godliness through daily discipline, walking with the Lord.  The walk and work of a preacher ought to be inseparable.

In ancient times, age meant a lot.  Often just having gray hair was a sign of a credential. The young Timothy was probably somewhere in his late 20’s or early 30’s. Paul tells the young man to not “let anyone look down your youthfulness.” Some might shrug Timothy’s teaching because, “Well, he’s too young to know what he’s talking about.” If your message is backed by a disciplined, godly life, then it doesn’t matter how young or how old you are.

Paul mentions five areas where Timothy needed discipline for godliness: speech, lifestyle, love, faith, and purity. No one would respect Timothy’s message if his mouth was full of sarcasm, profanity, ridicule, gossip, blaming, destructive criticism, angry words of threat and revenge, griping, complaining, lying, filthy talk, or dirty jokes (Ep. 4:29). Honesty, integrity, how we spend our time and money, priorities, attitude toward possessions, personal appearance, home, how we treat people…all of these factors would be important if any would take Timothy seriously. Without agape love, he would fail in crafting people into growth. If love does not permeate our life, then we will fail in our ministry (cf. 1 Co. 13). If Timothy was going to succeed in his ministry, he would need to be consistent in his life, unlike the hypocritical teachers that Paul mentioned earlier. If he was to succeed in his ministry, he would have to expunge sickly thinking from his mind. Timothy’s walk was essential if he was going to be successful.

Timothy was to focus on the public ministry of the Word. He was to read it aloud (especially in an illiterate society), apply it to life (“exhortation”), and teach it (4:13). Paul tells Timothy not to neglect his public ministry (4:14), to take pains to progress it (4:15), and to persevere in it (4:16).

Every believer has a gift whether in benevolence, evangelism, or edification. The elders laid their hands on Timothy, prayed for him, and empowered him via encouragement. Timothy had to develop his teaching. Paul tells him, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them.” “Pay close attention.” “Persevere in these things.” Paul later tells him to rekindle the fire (2 Ti. 1:16). Sometimes preachers get discouraged.

Timothy was a timid person. While timidity is not a negative trait, Timothy allowed it to affect his ministry. Paul tells Timothy to grow in confidence and authority, backed by a godly life (4:11). He tells him to grow thick skin for when opposition comes (4:16).  Going back to the seriousness of ministry, Paul concludes by saying, “You will save both yourself and those who hear you.” Timothy was to have a view of eternity.  Even if he was catching flak, he was to persevere.

Timothy needed to persevere in God’s truth with thankfulness. Because of what was at stake, Timothy needed to discipline himself for godly living. Timothy’s walk with Christ a necessary basis for his work for Christ.

As servants today, we need to persevere in God’s spiritual truths with grateful hearts. As servants today, we need to be motivated by what is at stake and discipline ourselves to godly living. As servants today, we need to make sure our walk with Christ is in step with our work for Christ. If we our ministry is going to be successful, we cannot allow our fear to paralyze us from performing these solemn, sacred duties.

Timothy’s Charge

The last 22 verses of 2 Timothy are Paul’s final recorded words before the apostle’s execution.  Having just emphasized the trustworthy nature of that Word and its vital importance (3:16-17), he now charges Timothy to be faithful in heralding that Word (4:1-5). He then reminisces that he has fought and he is finishing well (4:6-8). He then asks a few things in the face of winter, a doxology, and a few other miscellaneous concluding remarks (4:9-22).

Preaching the Word (2 Ti. 4:1-5).  Why preach?  Preaching the Word is a serious charge.  Paul invokes Timothy to take an oath as in a court of law before God and Christ.  Timothy was to preach with a view of eternity, which reflects the seriousness of preaching and the solemnity that ought to be a trait of all preachers.  How many preachers today have taken this solemn oath in God’s court?

What to preach? We have a few clues in the immediate context. Paul references the Scriptures earlier (3:16-17), followed immediately by the command to preach. The Word (4:2) is the God-breathed Scripture (3:16). Paul gives the reason for preaching the Word (4:3). He refers to the Word as sound teaching. He has a solemn duty to herald the King’s messages for the people, as do we.

When to preach? Paul answers this question: in season and out of season. Preaching must not be play; it must be a life-consuming passion. A rhetorical question might be, “When not to preach?” As Timothy, we need to be ready in view of eternity, which implies readiness always.

How to preach? Paul charged Timothy to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. How? “With great patience and instruction.” We need to show people where their life is not in line with God’s truths and we need to show them how to make those steps back in line with God’s truths with patience and instruction in mind. People require time to change – they don’t always get it on the first time around. He gives them careful instruction to help them in view of eternity. We also need to be patient with the people we teach.

Hear the Word.  Paul charges Timothy to preach healthy teaching, which would result in healthy living.  Healthy teaching does not always mean that society and culture will like it.  Why preach healthy teaching?  Paul answers, “Because otherwise people’s ears shall turn aside to myths.”  Like Timothy, we cannot allow public opinion to override our personal convictions.  Like Timothy, we must confront sin, give encouragement, and strengthen the struggling.

Persevere in the Word.  Paul tells Timothy to persevere despite people not listening to him. First, Paul tells Timothy to keep a clear head.  Some preachers get so caught up in the little details that they miss out on what is going on around them. We must keep alert. Many young preachers tend to allow themselves to be easily influenced by things going on around them, perhaps also taking a side.  This is a danger we need to avoid.

Paul also tells Timothy to put up with flak.  A preacher is going to catch flak.  If he is going to remain a preacher for very long, he is going to have to grow thick skin…but still be patient!  We must find a healthy middle ground in that we must become resilient while not becoming calloused.

Paul then tells Timothy to get his job done.  Despite modern definitions of the word “evangelist,” the term euaggelistes simply means a preacher of a good report.  An evangelist’s true success is measured primarily on whether he is faithful in proclaiming the Word.

Paul also tells Timothy to discharge all his duties in his service to King Jesus.  This requires faithfulness in proclaiming the Word, suffering the hardship as a soldier.  What Paul is about to write concerning how he has fulfilled his service to his King and is about to die embraces this idea.

Finishing Well (2 Ti. 4:6-8).  Paul viewed his past, present, and future all with confidence and conviction.  How many of us as preachers live in such a way that we can say these same words when it is the time for our departure?  How many of us are passing the torch to the younger generation?

Paul views the present (4:6).  He reminds Timothy of his circumstances by basically saying, “I am about to die.”  The flow of thought is this:  “Even in opposition, Timothy, you must preach the Word because I am about to die.  I am passing the torch.”  Dying is easier when we know that we’re leaving behind people that can carry on with Christ.  Paul did not view his execution as tragic, but saw it as the culminating drink offering being poured onto an existing sacrificial life (cf. Ro. 12:1-2; Nu. 28:7).  He refers to his death as a departure, literally the unyoking of an animal from his plow, the loosening of a rope from a soldier’s tent, or releasing the mooring ropes of a ship.  Death means the end of our physical strains, that the victory is won, and our earthly vessel awaits the culmination which is to come.

Paul views the past (4:7).  While reminiscing about the past, he recalls, “I have fought a good fight,” using an athletic metaphor about either a wrestling match or race.  We are in an onslaught “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ep. 6:12, ESV).  If our living centers around comfort and pleasure, can we say we have fought a good fight?  Paul recalls, “I have finished the course,” using another athletic metaphor.  Per legend, the Greek marathon originated after a decisive battle between Greece and Persia, when a Greek soldier ran from Marathon to Athens with the gospel (good news) that they had won the battle in Marathon against Persia and then dropped dead from overexertion.  Paul said with confidence that he had finished his course.  He recalls, “I have guarded the faith.”  Timothy was to guard that deposit (1 Ti. 6:20; 2 Ti. 1:12, 14).  Paul is basically saying, “I have done precisely what I told you to do.  I have guarded it with my life, and now you do the same.”  Paul viewed his past with confidence and his present with conviction.

Paul views the future (4:8).  He reassures Timothy and himself about the future.  Paul desired to meet the Lord, the righteous Judge.  Despite his dismal circumstances, he had security about the future.  He did not fear the final judgment.  Rather, Paul lived in view of that day when he would receive that garland wreath of righteousness, that prize given to the victor of the Olympian games.  Not all receive a crown, but only those who participated in the games (1 Co. 9:24-25).  Even though his earthly judge wrongly condemned him, he knew that the righteous Judge would vindicate him.  Even though he knew that evil wins the battle temporarily, he knew that the Lord would come in a day of reckoning.  Even though he knew life was unjust, he believed in the One who brings equalization to all.

Facing Winter (2 Ti. 4:9-22).  As Paul concludes his final letter to his beloved son in the faith, he urges Timothy to make every effort to come to him before winter.  Paul was human.  He is wrestling with his feelings and disappointments.  However, he was also confident in the Lord.  He triumphantly states, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever.  Amen” (4:18).  Such an amazing attitude is something we as preachers need to take to heart.

Committing to Christ (4:17-18, 22).  Even in a cold, dark dungeon in Rome, Paul reveals five things about the Lord.  He is sovereign.  Even though God could have rescued Paul from the evil deeds of wicked men, He delivered Paul through them.  He is ever-present.  Paul said, “The Lord stood with me…The Lord be with (Timothy’s) spirit.”  Even with no one around him, Paul had company.  He is saving.  Paul said confidently, “He will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.”  Even in the face of death, Paul would be saved.  He is glorious.  Paul said in a doxology, “To him be the glory forever and ever.”  Even in shackles, God retains His glory.  He is gracious.  Paul’s final words are, “(God’s) grace be with you.”  Paul was committed to the living Lord.

Committing to the Cause (4:11, 14-17).  Even in a jail cell, Paul is still strong.  Even in the face of death, Paul still refers to his ever-present ministry and service (4:11).  This is truly what it means to preach out of season.  Whatever circumstances we face, we seize our opportunities for ministry.  Nero was torturing Christians; testing in Nero’s court meant peril and danger.  Paul said, “No one stood with me.”  The Roman Christians were committed, but they were afraid.  Paul is gracious to them, shown by his words, “May it not be counted against them.”  Alexander opposed the cause.  Paul recounted how he had done him much harm.  While we don’t know who this was, it is likely he was a believer and perhaps the one who informed the Roman authorities to arrest him.  Paul said, “The Lord will repay him for his deeds.”  Paul was stating fact; while he did not desire personal revenge, he trusted in God to make everything right.  Demas was committed, but deserted the cause.  He used to be a fellow worker (Phile. 24), but he fled now that identifying with Paul meant death.  We do not know if he repented like Peter had after denying Christ, but in that moment he was not committed.

Committing with Others (4:9-10, 12, 19-21).  Paul was not a lone ranger.  He trusted in his fellow workers:  Timothy, Crescens, Titus, Tychicus, John Mark, Carpus, Prisca and Aquila, Erastus, Trophimus, Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia, along with all the brethren in Rome.  He was not  a loner.  He was committed with others, and they labored together.

Committing to Growth (4:13).  Knowing of his imminent execution, Paul wants Timothy to bring him his books.  Paul didn’t tell him, “Bring me my TV and movies.”  He wanted to use his mind to read and think.  He wanted to develop his mind.  He wanted to develop his soul, to know Christ more and more.  He wanted to take care of his character.  Even at the end of his life, Paul still had room to grow.

Paul was confident that Timothy would keep his charge (4:1-5).  He was convicted in and committed to his risen Lord (4:6-22).  This should be our goal as well.

scaggsstephen@gmail.com

 Stephen preaches at the Collinsville Church of Christ in Collinsville, VA.  He is a 2012 alumnus of the Memphis School of Preaching in Memphis, TN.  He is married to Rebekah and they have two children, Emmett and one on the way!

 

Advertisements

Departures From The Faith – Jon Mitchell

I remember well the first time I ever read 1 Timothy 4:1-3.  I was in college at the time and dating a Catholic girl who was interested in learning more about the Lord’s church.  After learning that we were studying the Bible together, my father suggested I show her Paul’s prophecy to Timothy while discussing the Catholic doctrines surrounding Lent and the celibacy of the priesthood.  Reading that passage for the first time, and then seeing the impact it had on her once she read it, had a profound effect on my faith, especially in regards to my trust in biblical prophecies and my high regard for scriptural teachings concerning apostasy.

The term “apostasy” comes from the Latin apostasia, which in turn is derived from the Greek aphistasthai, the word Paul used under Spirit inspiration which is translated “will depart from” (1 Tim. 4:1, ESV).  Thus, “apostasy” means “to depart from.”  Accordingly, Merriam-Webster defines “apostasy” as “renunciation of a religious faith” and “abandonment of a previous loyalty.”

We see why secular dictionaries correlate a religious tone to the definition of “apostasy” when we read how the Spirit explicitly warned Paul just a few decades after the beginning of the church that some would apostatize or depart from “the faith” (v. 1).  This would be  the “one faith” (Eph. 4:5) that comes from hearing only God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).  This apostasy would happen “in later times,” a reference to these “last days” and “end of the ages” which began alongside of Christ’s covenant and church two thousand years in Jerusalem following his death and resurrection and continues on until he comes again (Matt. 28:20; Acts 2:14-17; 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:1-2; 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:20).

Before the church began, Jesus prophesied of those who would lead people astray (Matt. 7:13-27; 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22).  Almost from the very beginning of the church, attempts were made from within it to depart from the faith.  Judaizing brethren attempted to add to God’s Word by requiring Gentile converts to obey tenets of Mosaic Law, prompting Spirit-inspired teaching to the contrary throughout the New Testament (Acts 15:1ff; Rom. 3-11; 1 Cor. 7:18-19; 2 Cor. 3:3-11; Gal. 1:6-5:15; Eph. 2:1-22; Col. 2:8-23; 1 Tim. 1:3-11; Tit. 1:10-11; 3:9-11; Hebrews).  Other false doctrines and those who would promote them were warned about and condemned as well, some specifically and others generally (Acts 20:29-31; Rom. 16:17-18; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Col. 2:8; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; 1 Tim. 4:1-7; 6:3-6, 20-21; 2 Tim. 2:14-26; 3:1-13; 4:1-5; Tit. 1:9-2:1;  James 5:19-20; 2 Pet. 2:1-22; 3:3-5, 15-16; 1 John 1:8, 10; 2:4, 18-27; 4:1-6; 2 John 7-11; Jude 3-16; Rev. 2:2, 9, 14-16, 20-24; 3:9; 13:1-18; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8, 27; 22:15, 18-19).  The reader can see here the amount of scripture relating to apostasy in the New Testament alone, which should show how seriously God takes departures from the faith and why this subject is worthy of our attention and study.

Paul warned elders that false teachers would rise from among their own ranks, leading many astray (Acts 20:29-31).  He also warned of a “rebellion” which would come before and last until Christ came back, a rebellion which would reveal “the man of lawlessness,” also described as “the son of destruction” (2 Thess. 2:1-3).  This “man of lawlessness” would “take his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God,” and would come “by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception” lead astray the perishing who refuse to love the truth (2 Thess. 2:4, 9-12).  Paul also warned Timothy of insincere people with seared consciences who would apostatize by paying attention to the doctrines of demons which forbid marriage and require abstaining from certain foods (1 Tim. 4:1-3).

A study of church history reveals the fulfillment of these prophecies not long after the apostles died (cf. 2 Thess. 2:6-7).  It started when elders in the church started making changes to the governmental organization of the church, changing it from the scriptural pattern of autonomous congregations overseen by pluralities of elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1-2) to a collection of congregations in a particular region being under one bishop.  From then it wasn’t long before there was one bishop over all the other bishops, a man who became known as the Pope.  Roman Catholic history reveals that the Pope was thought of as God on earth, and that he consolidated his power among the superstitious by the performing of “miracles.”  He and the leaders under him came up with doctrines such as forbidding priests to marry and requiring parishioners to abstain from certain foods at certain times.  Other man-made doctrines such as instrumental music in worship, praying to Mary, the idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin and our intercessor, the paying of indulgences, Purgatory, apostolic succession, the Apocrypha, sacraments, transubstantiation, the canonization of saints, the forgiveness of sins by the church and assignation of penance for those sins, and many more.  Most recently, the current Pope made it known that he would grant indulgences to his followers on Twitter.

Meanwhile, during the first thousand years of Christianity other departures from the faith were taking place outside of the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church.  After the Judaizers and Gnostics of the apostolic era, other man-made doctrines emerged in the form of Marcionism, which promoted rejection of the Old Testament and limited usage of the New Testament; Montanism, whose founder, Montanus, and his followers were a copy of the future Charismatic movements when they claimed to be given uncontrollable miraculous spiritual gifts of prophecy; Monarchianism, which taught that Jesus was born a man and became God at his baptism; Manichaeism, whose founder, Mani, believed that he was the manifestation of Christ on earth; Donatism, a movement which taught that those who gave communion to others must be free from sin; Arianism, a copy of the future Watchtower movement in that they believed the Son of God was a created being; Nestorianism, whose founder, Nestorius, taught that Jesus as man and God was nothing more than a “merging of wills;” the Paulicians, who held the writings of Paul to be inspired while teaching that the rest of the Bible originated from an evil spirit; there were others also.

The next five hundred years would see the rise of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which eventually would denominate and organize itself into various Orthodox Churches along national lines; the Waldensians, who preached a doctrine of “apostolic poverty”; the Cathars, who were Gnostic in their theology; and the Hussites, precursors of the Protestant Movement about one hundred years before Martin Luther, who would usher in the Reformation in earnest.  His followers, who would call themselves Lutherans, initially sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church, and, failing that, formed their own denomination.  Around the same time, the Anabaptist Movement would form and coalesce behind Menno Simons, thus forming the Mennonites.  From them would split another group who followed Jacob Amman and became known as the Amish.  Meanwhile, John Calvin established a theology around the notion that God has already determined the fate of every person, and thus saves man by grace alone.  His Calvinism would produce the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, later Puritanism in England, and from them the United Church of Christ of today.  English King Henry VIII, upset that Catholicism would not grant him an annulment to his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, formed the Church of England, known as the Anglican Church in England and the Episcopalian Church in America today.

  

The 1600’s saw the rise of the Baptist movement begun by John Smythe, a group who – initially, at least – taught the need for immersion in water for remission of sin, only to later embrace several Calvinistic tenets.  Meanwhile, George Fox started the Religious Society of Friends after supposedly receiving divine revelations; his followers came to be known as “Quakers” due to how they shook with emotion during their worship assemblies.  After the Pietist movement split from Lutheranism, John and Charles Wesley would be influenced by them and decide to attempt to reform the Anglican Church by founding within it a “Methodist society;” eventually in America the Methodists would split from the Episcopalians to form their own church.  The “holiness theology” promoted by Methodists would form many Holiness Churches, which would consolidate into the Church of the Nazarene in the 1900’s.  About one hundred years before that, Ireland would produce a group known as “the Plymouth Brethren,” whose promotion of dispensationalism and premillenialism would influence many American denominations in the 1800’s and the modern Evangelical movement.  The 1800’s would also see the rise of Mormonism, the Watchtower Society (also known as Jehovah’s Witnesses), and Pentecostalism.  In 1865 William Booth of England would modify aspects of Methodist doctrine to form the Salvation Army, called such due to its organizational doctrine literalizing biblical military metaphors.

Around forty years earlier, Thomas and Alexander Campbell would seek to restore pure, unadulterated New Testament Christianity in America.  Congregations who remained true to the biblical pattern would come to be known as churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16; Matt. 16:18), but over time the congregations who decided to stray from the New Testament doctrine would form other man-made churches.  The Christian Church, known also in some circles as the Disciples of Christ, began over their decision to embrace the Catholic doctrine of instrumental music in worship; in recent months they have voted to allow unrepentant homosexuals in leadership roles.  The International Church of Christ, also known as the Boston or Crossroads Movement, was also started recently by Kip McKean.

The current and previous generation has seen the rise in popularity of various religious movements in Western society such as evangelicalism, which promotes a “salvation by faith alone” doctrine mixed with various Calvinistic tenets; ecumenism, which attempts to embrace unity among all churches by ignoring differences in doctrine; and fundamentalism, which sprang from evangelicalism in its efforts to promote not only biblical doctrine but also human tradition.  The Community Church movement has resulted from a combination of evangelicalism and ecumenism, the largest congregations of which have come to be known as Megachurches.  Most recently, many evangelicals have embraced the Emergent movement, which promotes post modernistic concepts of Christianity.

Sadly, we see now how far Christendom has come from the unity prayed for by Jesus and commanded by divine inspiration by his apostle (John 17:20-23; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:1-3; Phil. 2:1-2; cf. Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4-6).  Our God knew this would happen and why: the selfishness, greed and arrogance of unmerciful, hedonistic man who purposefully turn from the truth towards liars who will scratch their itching ears with myths (2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:3-4).

Let us pray that we instead remain faithful and preach nothing but God’s Word!  (2 Tim. 4:1-2)

jonandelizabethmitchell@hotmail.com