Table of Contents / Overview
DEPARTURE FROM THE TRUTH
It will be obvious to you by now that much of the Bible teaching set out in these lessons differs completely from the teaching of other churches and groups calling themselves Christian. It has also been stressed that those who believe and obey the true Gospel cannot worship with those who believe different teaching. Why is this? Why are there many different churches? Why do their beliefs and practices vary?
It will be shown in this lesson that there is a very simple reason for this. Christ and his apostles knew that men would arise in the church teaching different things from the Truth they had preached and leading their followers into a corrupt way of life. They foresaw that this corrupt Christianity would develop to such an extent that the true teaching of Christ would be almost lost: only a few would be found holding fast to the Truth. The object of this lesson is to show how this prophecy was fulfilled.
Departure from the Truth was foretold and the fact that it has taken place and exists today is an example of fulfilled prophecy. This is evidence of the truth of the Bible. (See Lesson 1).
The Apostle Paul wrote of a "falling away" before the return of Jesus and emphasized that this had already begun (in A.D. 54). He also warned of faith being spoiled by intellectualism and man-made teaching. He wrote of some who already (in A.D.65) had made shipwreck of their faith.
- II Thessalonians 2 v 3-4 & 7
- Colossians 2 v 8
- I Timothy 1 v 18-20
In the same letter he wrote of departing from the faith in both matters of doctrine and practice.
- I Timothy 1 v 9-12
- I Timothy 4 v 1-3
- I Timothy 6 v 20-21
Paul warned the elders of the ecclesia at Ephesus about men arising who would "speak perverse things" and then he wrote to them about preserving the Truth.
- Acts 20 v 29-30
- Ephesians 4 v 1-6
In his last letter (just before his death) Paul urged Timothy to stand steadfast and warned him of the time when the Truth would be completely abandoned.
- II Timothy 3 v 13-17
- II Timothy 4 v 1-4
"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." (II Timothy 4 v 3-4)
There are other references to this departure in the writings of Peter and John. Peter emphasized the need for being of one mind: and John wrote of those who had wrong beliefs about the nature of Christ.
- I Peter 3 v 8
- I John 4 v 1-3
- II John v 7
It is evident from Paul's writings that the introduction of false teaching was already causing considerable concern and this was the reason for some of his letters being written.
- I Corinthians ch. 15
- Galatians 1 v 6-9
- Galatians 3 v 1-4
"I MARVEL THAT YE ARE SO SOON REMOVED FROM HIM THAT CALLED YOU INTO THE GRACE OF CHRIST UNTO ANOTHER GOSPEL: WHICH IS NOT ANOTHER BUT THERE BE SOME THAT TROUBLE YOU, AND WOULD PERVERT THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. BUT THOUGH WE, OR AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, PREACH ANY OTHER GOSPEL UNTO YOU THAN THAT WHICH WE HAVE PREACHED UNTO YOU, LET HIM BE ACCURSED." (Galatians 1 v 6-8)
In about A.D. 96, letters were sent from the Lord Jesus Christ through the Apostle John to seven of the churches in Asia Minor. It is clear from these letters that people were already departing from the Truth. For example:
|EPHESUS||they had "left their first love"
Revelation 2 v 4-5
|PERGAMOS||"... a few things against thee"
Revelation 2 v 14-15
|THYATIRA||"... I have a few things against thee"
Revelation 2 v 20-21
|SARDIS||"... I have not found thy works perfect before God".
Revelation 3 v 2
|LAODICEA||"... wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
Revelation 3 v 17
This falling away would not have happened without there being leaders who loved to have the pre-eminence.
- III John v 9
In the first century there were elders (bishops and deacons) in every ecclesia. Although these elders were the leaders of the early churches it was made clear that their duty was to serve their brethren and sisters. This divinely appointed arrangement was eventually abandoned. By the third century there was only one bishop in Rome. In the sixth century he took the title of "Papa" or "Pope" and was declared to be "pure from all sin and exempt from all judgment".
- Acts 14 v 23
- Philippians 1 v 1
- Titus 1 v 5-11
- Acts 20 v 17 & 28-35
- I Peter 5 v 1-5
At the same time as these changes were taking place, the doctrines of the Christian community were also being radically altered.
- THE KINGDOM OF GOD
- THE UNITY OF GOD
- THE MORTALITY OF MAN
- II Timothy 2 v 16-18
- I Corinthians 15 v 12-14
The Bible teaching concerning the Kingdom of God has been covered in Lessons 15 and 18. Historians tell us how this teaching was gradually abandoned. Here is one extract:
"The ancient and popular doctrine of the millennium was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ ... The assurance of such a millennium was carefully inculcated by a succession of fathers from Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, who conversed with the immediate disciples of the Apostles, down to Lactantius, who was preceptor to the son of Constantine. But when the edifice of the church was almost complete, the temporary support was laid aside. The doctrine of Christ's reign upon the earth was at first treated as a profound allegory, but was considered by degrees as a doubtful and useless opinion, and was at length rejected as the absurd invention of heresy and fanaticism." Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. 15.
The Bible teaching concerning baptism has been explained in Lesson 17. The Church has substituted the sprinkling of infants. The transition from immersion to sprinkling was described in 1879 by Dean Stanley as follows:
"For the first thirteen centuries the almost universal practice of baptism was that of which we read in the New Testament and which is the very meaning of the word baptize, that those who were baptized were immersed in water ... but in practice it gave way since the beginning of the seventeenth century the whole of the western churches ... substituted the ceremony of sprinkling. The reason for the change was obvious. The practice of immersion ... was peculiarly unsuitable to the taste, the convenience and the feelings of the north and west."
Notice the absence of Bible authority for the change.
The following table shows the development of the doctrine of the Trinity which is not in accord with Scripture.
|A.D. 170||The word TRIAS first occurs in Christian literature|
|A.D. 200||The word TRINITAS used by Tertullian.|
|A.D. 260||Sabellius teaches that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three names for the same God.|
|A.D. 325||The Nicene Council agree to call Christ "God of God", "very God of very God".|
|A.D. 381||Council of Constantinople "three persons in one God".|
|A.D. 383||The Emperor Theodosius threatens to punish all who will not believe in and worship the Trinity.|
The Bible teaches that man is mortal because of sin, that after death there is no conscious existence whatsoever and that the only hope of deliverance from death is through resurrection (see Lessons 6 and 14).
Most Christian churches and groups teach that man has an immortal soul which goes on living after death either in everlasting happiness or eternal misery. Such teaching is a corruption of the Truth and it can be traced to very early days. Even in Paul's day some were questioning the doctrine of the resurrection and others saying "that the resurrection is past already".
In A.D. 150 Justin Martyr wrote:
"If you have conversed with some that are indeed called Christians and say that there is no resurrection of the dead, that the souls, as soon as they leave the body, are received up into heaven, take care that you do not look on these.
William Tyndale, one of the earliest translators of the Bible into English, wrote:
"The true faith putteth resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers denying that, did put that the souls did ever live. And the Pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together."
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is an ancient teaching of pagan religions which was incorporated into a Christianity which was rapidly becoming corrupted. It is a false doctrine which must be rejected.
Similarly a number of other false doctrines and practices have also developed with the passage of time and because they are unscriptural, they have to be rejected. These are listed in the document "A Statement of the One Faith". In its earlier sections this booklet outlines the doctrines which form the Christadelphian basis of Fellowship. There are a selection of Bible verses attached to each item and you should look these up in the Bible to refresh your memory in relation to previous lessons of this Course. These doctrines constitute what we call "The Truth" which is a Bible term. They are defined in the Booklet to ensure that the brethren and sisters of Jesus Christ meet upon the basis of identity of belief.
- II Thessalonians 2 v 13
- I John 1 v 6-7
We have seen how Paul wrote clearly and emphatically of departure from the Truth. He knew it would come and he knew how serious the consequences would be. The Gospel "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth". Only the true Gospel has this power. Those who preach anything else are turning men and women away from the way of salvation. As we have seen, Paul wrote very strongly of those who were doing this in the first century: "If any man preach any other gospel unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accursed".
Such words emphasise once again the importance of believing right teaching and of holding fast to that teaching. There is always the danger that having found the Truth we depart from it again. Our only hope of salvation lies in continually reading God's word, resisting all teaching which is contrary to it and meeting as often as we can with those who believe the same things and share the same hope:
"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine: continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." (I Timothy 4 v 16)
Using references where possible to support your replies, answer the following:
- How was the departure from the Truth foretold?
- "Finally, be ye all of one mind ... ", I Peter 3 v 8.
Explain what you understand by this statement.
- What was the position of elders in the early Church?
- What is the Millennium?
- Give two examples from the booklet "A Statement of the One Faith" of doctrines which have been corrupted.
- " ... chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and
belief of the Truth". II Thessalonians 2 v 13.
Explain what is meant by this statement.