Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
Some Will Depart From The Faith
The beginning of the church was an incredible day when the Holy Spirit came upon the twelve apostles and as they began to preach the good news of a resurrected Christ, men from the audience interrupted the preaching seeking answers of salvation. Three thousand souls were added to the church that day as devout men repented and were immersed for the remission of their sins. Luke unfolds the story of the early church as a thriving, vibrant group of saints that had all things in common not only in spirit but in meeting the needs of others. More disciples came together with this small band of followers of the risen Christ over the next few months and years as the gospel was spread to Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. Men like Peter and Paul began to go into the regions of the Roman Empire to preach the gospel and establish churches in every city. There was great prosperity of spirit among the brethren with many souls being saved. As the church grew there became another element of growth that would one day bring great harm to the church. Satan was not going to allow the church of Christ to grow unabated without his attempts to derail and destroy the work of God. Peter and John were arrested and warned not to preach Christ. Then the twelve apostles were arrested, warned and beaten. Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying and a problem arose about the Greeks widows being neglected to cause murmuring and complaining among the brethren. The devil was slowly getting his wiles to impact the church. Persecution began early and progressed to the point of killing Stephen. Then Saul of Tarsus began a personal crusade against those of the Way bringing great persecution against the church. Through the grace of God Saul became a disciple of the church he was trying to destroy becoming one of its greatest defenders. Until the reign of the emperor Nero, the church enjoyed a period of calm following the conversion of Saul. It was during Nero’s tyrannical rule the church would begin a time of great persecution lasting for more than 250 years. Not until the Edict of Milan in 313 AD by the emperor Constantine did the church gave favor from the government. While the impact of severe persecution came to an end greater persecution had already arisen among the ranks of God’s people.
On his third missionary journey, the apostle Paul met with the elders or bishops of Ephesus and warned them of apostasy among their own ranks. He told them to beware of those who would speak perverse things and lead souls away from Christ. Writing to the church in Thessalonica, Paul warned of a falling away from the truth of those who would oppose and exalt themselves above all that is called God or that is worshiped as true. In his letter to Timothy, the apostle specifically declares the Holy Spirit warns of those who would depart from the faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. This is a very real threat and can only be appreciated when viewing through the time scope of two thousand years. In the early church, there were problems of false teaching such as circumcision being necessary for salvation, abuse of the Lord’s Supper, ignoring blatant sin within the church, women refusing to be in submission to the divine order, jealousies, party spirits, pride, arrogance and a host of things hurled by the hand of the devil against the church. The end of persecution did not end the threat of Satan. Church organization began to be challenged and reformed to mirror the Roman government leading to the exaltation of Boniface III as a universal bishop over an apostate church. Teachings began to change to suit the needs of the populace and the Roman Catholic Church began a stranglehold against any who would deny their power. The Greek Orthodox Church split from the Roman Church in 1054 AD as another symbol of an apostate church. Authority was no longer vested in the Holy Scriptures but the doctrines of men with councils and creeds guiding the leadership. Teachings such as monarchal episcopate and distinctions of clergy and laity were prominent. Original sin was taught bringing about infant baptism and changing the mode of baptism to pouring and sprinkling. Penance became a foundational doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church who after many centuries introduced instrumental music in the form of the Jewish teachings of old. Special days like Easter and Christmas were instituted without any Biblical authority. The falling away predicted by the Holy Spirit was in full swing and the masses were being led to spiritual slaughter as the apostate church of Rome took the world into a period of the dark ages. It must be noted that while the Roman Catholic Church was in power over much of the world the kingdom of God never failed to exist in its own right. There was a true church that manifested the character of truth in holding to the pattern of the New Testament which Satan could never destroy. History did not record the lives of the faithful in a world of religious apostasy by the Lord knew the names of those who never fell away from the truth.
The beginning of the sixteenth century saw a rise in a sincere belief to return to the teachings of the Bible. There were many who opposed the Roman Catholic Church and were cruelty repulsed with beheading, burning at the stake, imprisonment and banishment. Eventually, as the Roman Catholic Church began to disintegrate in its own mire of immorality and corruption, men like John Wickliff, John Hus, Jerome Savanarola, John Reuchlin and Erasmus began to preach against the long-held beliefs of Catholicism and begin a movement of protesting the doctrines of the church. Martin Luther set the world on fire with his attempts to reform the church and was followed with the works of Philip Melanchthon, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and John Knox. A period of reformation helped to move away from the apostate church but sadly never sought to restore the New Testament authority of the early church. Instead, illegitimate offspring of the Roman Catholic Church was born in the form of Protestant churches that would become the center of religion in the modern world. Churches called Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist dot the landscape. Other churches have been formed in the last few hundred years that continue to fulfill the words of the Holy Spirit of those who are departing from the faith. New Testament authority is no used to establish the pattern of worship, organization and teachings of salvation. On any given Sunday every church preaches a different doctrine under a different name showing a different way to God. Jesus said there was only one church and only one way and only one truth. Satan has done well to corrupt the minds of men to believe in God but to cast God into the image of a golden calf that men create to worship their own dogmas. The falling away continues in the hearts of those who will not allow the Bible to be the only guide of truth and righteousness. Every person who professes to believe in Jesus Christ must accept His word and His word alone for truth. If what you believe and where you attend church cannot be found in the Bible then it is part of the apostasy spoken of by the Holy Spirit. Let your heart speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent when God is silent. Book, chapter and verse; that is the divine pattern.