EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of planned articles by this author regarding the history of the Lord’s church. To be clear, it is more an observation of its history during my time in the Lord’s church (1966 to present), with attention to the changes witnessed during that time. Several readers would be much more adapt to penning incidents. This author desires to focus on the “attitude” of such realities. Names of individuals, journals (commonly called “church magazines”), and even the identifying of “issues” by name, are purposely omitted that the reader might more fully comprehend the focus on the “attitudes” that have changed within God’s children through the years from spiritual to temporal matters. Further, my prayer is to help reverse that historical reality and return the minds of God’s children to the fervent hunger and thirst for righteousness of which His children were once well known!
History – part 3
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim. 4:1-2) Beginning at Acts 2 when Peter and the rest of the apostles first uttered the saving message called “the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Paul’s inspired admonition has been the “battle cry” of those who truly hunger and thirst for righteousness. Sadly, however, even Paul had to warn of the realities to come: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim. 4:3) He had done the same when speaking last to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20: 29 – 30). The saddest history of the Lord’s church is to note the fulfillment of these prophecies!
“Where did all the denominations come from?” is a frequently asked question of history students. Again, the sad answer is found within God’s sacred truth: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19) That those who once loved God’s word enough to obey it would so soon depart from it, (Gal. 1:6 – 9) giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4: 1- 5) is indeed a sad reality of history. The apostle Peter warned of this reality as well (2 Peter 2), and yet, those who once defended truth and righteousness departed from it to imbibe their sinful lusts (Jude 16).
While the departure from God’s word to the acceptance of man’s word should not surprise the student of God’s word (for such students realize its unerring counsel), it remains a sinful pattern among all too many. Instead of following the example of the Bereans who “searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things be so” (Acts 17:11), many who once insisted on God’s word have lessened their study of it and therefore their recognition of the same. Soon, history repeated itself and many of God’s people were once again “destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6) The time arrived when instead of insisting proclaimers “prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” (1 Thess. 5:21), this was seen: “… this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” (Isa. 30: 9 – 11)
When the preaching of God’s word is reduced to fables and the tickling of itching ears, the defensive armor of the Christian (Eph. 6:10 – 17) is set aside as well; thus, letting the fiery darts of the wicked one find their target! Further, when the gospel is hidden from souls in need of its saving power (2 Corinthians 4: 1-6), those who hide it are complicit in costing precious souls eternity with God! Yet, because of the works of this world (1 John 2:15 – 17), history will continue to repeat its ugly realities. This is the reason for Paul’s statement at 2 Timothy 3: 10 – 17, and most assuredly at 2 Timothy 4:1-8.
Within the past fifty to sixty years, the phrase, “walking Bible” has been lessened in characterizing gospel preachers. The expression “hellfire and brimstone” seldom describes sermons from the pulpit. Instead of “remove not the ancient landmark” (Prov. 22:28), many hear, “The newest way of converting souls is …” Instead of making the scriptures the appealing element for souls, many have endeavored to make the meeting house the enticement. Sadly, such actions have become a rejection to the poor and less fortunate, as they do not see themselves “grand” enough to enter the lobby of such edifices, let alone stay and hear the message of Christ which is of tantamount importance! Entertainment rather than the wholesome teaching of God’s word has also contributed to the fulfillment of 2 Timothy 4: 3- 4 and other such passages within the New Testament.
Again, while we cannot ignore the prophecy of such events, nor ignore the historical fact of their existence, neither can we ignore the Lord’s directive of Revelation 2:10. How will history record our obedience?