By Loren N. Raines
We often hear it said that “history repeats itself.” This may not always, but it is often true because human nature remains very much the same. Only the gospel of Christ can change man’s nature, and not many people are willing to receive and wholly submit to the Lord’s will as revealed in the gospel.
When we carefully analyze the great apostasy which all but destroyed the church of our Lord from the face of the earth we can better understand some things that have taken place, and are taking place today in religious circles. The same things that caused the apostasy, foretold by Paul (2 Thess. 2), have caused and are causing others to apostatize from the faith which was “once for all delivered unto the saints.”
One of the underlying causes of all apostasy is a lack of proper respect for divine authority. After Jesus had driven the money changers from the temple the Jews asked Him: “By What authority doest thou these things, and who gave thee this authority?” It was presumptuous on their part to ask Jesus such a question, but it is a good one for us to ask ourselves, and to ask others. Apostasy results when men hold the wrong attitude toward the Scriptures. In his book, The Disciples In Kentucky, professor A.W. Fortune points out two widely divergent attitudes which have been and are now prevalent among professed followers of Christ. He said:
There have been those who believed it is the Spirit of the New Testament church that should be restored, and in our method of working, the church must adapt itself to the changing conditions.
In other words, the church should be made to conform to prevailing conditions in the world; as conditions change the church must change. Then he said:
There have been those who regarded the New Testament church as a fixed pattern for all time, and our business is to hold rigidly to that pattern regardless of the consequences.
In view of Peter’s statement, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11) it is clear that the latter position is both safe and scriptural. To the degree that the former position prevails apostasy becomes inevitable.
Another cause of apostasy stems from an attempt on the part of liberal-minded men to modernize and streamline the gospel. We would naturally expect this when in n believe that the church should adapt itself to changing conditions. Some of the leaders of the early church were so anxious to see the church grow and become a powerful influence in the world that they were not careful about the methods they used. They ignored the Scriptures, adopted methods of the pagan religions, modernized the gospel, and the result was the church of Rome. Those who advocate a streamlined, modernized approach to scriptural problems, and who preach a social gospel would do well to pause, ponder and profit by the experience which all but wrecked the early church and made necessary both the Reformation and the Restoration.
Paul said, “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: but the other of love, knowing that I am setfor the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1: 15-17). Only to the degree that men today, like Paul, are “set for the defense of the gospel” can apostasy be avoided. Unfortunately, many today are so busy making a living and pursuing pleasure that they do not take time to familiarize themselves with the teachings of God’s word.
Lack of knowledge is always a source of danger. In anticipation of this danger arising, Paul said, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). In Hebrews we read, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of, God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Heb. 5:12-13). Not only are the clouds threatening, they are ominous.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 18, pp. 564-565
September 15, 1983