Voices from the Past
Trends Toward Apostasy (I)
Apostasies do not occur overnight. Their final results cannot be fully known during their process of growth and development. Apostasies require three elements: (1) A lack of knowledge of the will of God and a disrespect for the same; (2) The exaltation of human leaders and human pronouncements; (3) Time. Only after a wrong attitude toward God and his word has become prevalent, and enough time has elapsed for this attitude to manifest itself in departures from God's will, can the full consequences begin to be seen and known. Apostasy results. Such has been the case, is presently true, and ever shall be. Many are the examples which stand as proof of these assertions.
Almighty God, exerting his power through faithful men such as Moses, Joshua, and Eleazer, brought the Israelites from human bondage to worldly success. They survived the wilderness wanderings, set at naught their enemies, drove out the inhabitants of the land of Cannan, and possessed it in accordance with the promise of Jehovah. Success was theirs because God's will was believed and obeyed, and the leaders of the people acknowledged their dependence upon him. But the process of decay set in and apostasy was the result. Joshua recognized the wrong tendencies and warned against them. (Joshua 23; 24:1-28.) After his death and the deaths of those faithful men who ruled Israel with him, "there arose another generation after them, that knew not Jehovah, nor yet the work which he had wrought for Israel." (Judges 2:6-10.) The attitude was developing and Israel was turning from God's ways to the ways of men. Time passed and a beneficent God raised up judges to deliver a rebellious people from their enemies.
In the days of Samuel the Israelites had so apostatized that they brazenly and openly renounced God's rule over them, desiring Samuel to "Give us a king to judge us" and "Nay, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles." (I Sam. 8:1-22.) Their ignorance of and utter disregard for the will of Jehovah grew more acute with the passing of time until the kingdom divided. Finally Israel was taken into Assyrian captivity about 721 B.C. and Judah into Babylonian captivity about 588 B.C. Thus ended the national economy of a people especially blessed of Jehovah but who turned from those blessings to the weak and beggarly elements of human ways and devices. Complete apostasy was the result.
The church of Christ, existing as the expression of the wisdom of Jehovah (Eph. 3:10), was fully and completely established and perfected during the days of the ambassadors of Christ. (Ephesians, chapters 1-5; 2 Cor. 5:17-21.) Those chosen, earthen vessels preached the gospel revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 9:15; 2 Cor. 4:7; 1 Cor. 2:8-13.) The church of Christ, as a mighty army marching under the blood-stained banner of Immanuel, uprooted sin, entered into the strongholds of error, conquered principalities and powers, and brought to nought the things that were contrary to the will of God. Every plant not planted by the heavenly Father was rooted up. (Matt. 15:13.) But during these days of the gospel's greatest successes, tendencies and attitudes began to be observable. Paul told the elders of the Ephesus church that from among them men would arise speaking perverse things. (Acts 20:29-30). He told Timothy that the Spirit expressly said that there would be a departure from the faith (I Tim. 4:1-6), and that Timothy should put the brethren in mind of these things. Paul wrote the brethren at Thessalonica, telling them that before Christ would come again there must be a falling away (apostasy), that the man of sin (lawlessness) must be revealed and that this mystery of lawlessness was already at work. (2 Thess. 2:1-12.) He further told them that those who would be deceived by this man of sin, deception resulting in their damnation, would be those who "received not the love of the truth." (2 Thess. 2:10-12.) Their disregard of and lack of love for the truth, with the passing of time, would develop this apostasy. Paul wrote Timothy a second time, telling him of the apostasy that was to come (2 Tim. 3; 4:1-8.) Paul was not an alarmist nor a hobbyist. The truth was too evident and the signs of apostasy too plain. As time passed the warnings of the apostles could be seen to be true. Men, supposed brethren, changed the organization of the church and corrupted its doctrine. Finally in 606 A.D. an apostate in Rome claimed to be the universal head of the church on earth. Apostasy was completed. The Roman Catholic Church stands today as living testimony to an apostasy that started with a wrong attitude toward God's word, exaltation of men instead of God, and which fully developed with the passing of time.
In the latter part of the eighteenth century men in the British Isles and America began to advocate a complete return to the New Testament in all affairs religious. Their idea was to rid the world of all the religious rubbish and trash accumulated with departures and apostasies through the centuries, and their plea was to restore the church of Christ in all its pristine purity and glory. Their salient cry was to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent, and to call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways. Never were more noble sentiments expressed and never was there a more apt time for such a clarion call. The Restoration Movement was successful. Thousands heard the gospel proclaimed by faithful men, deserted sin and error, and the Lord's church existed again as in the days of yore.
Shortly however, disconcerting attitudes began to appear among the brethren. Outstanding men began to be discontented with the simplicity of the Lord's way and began to devise human means and methods to harness the vast potential power of God's people. They so soon forgot that human means cannot promote spiritual matters, and that God's will and work can only be done in God's way. Eminent brethren turned from God to their own wisdom. They established a human society in 1849 to accomplish the work of the divine and glorious church of Christ. The attitude of disrespect for God's word was present, human wisdom began to be exalted, and all that was needed for apostasy was time. With the passing of time, the organization of the church was changed, the worship of the church was corrupted, and the apostles doctrine was buried in the dirt of humanism. Faithful brethren tried to stem the tide of digression but were criticized. The greater portion of a once faithful people apostatized. A wrong attitude, exaltation of human wisdom, and time did the work. The so-called Christian Church stands today as a horrible reminder of the power of disrespect for God's will. It is a sect among sects, a denomination among denominations, a religious garbage pail having no conviction and no distinct plea. It is an apostate body.
We have not yet learned our lessons. We can view the apostate and unbelieving Jews, we can see the Roman Church with all its wicked pride and vanity, we know of the Christian Church with its denominational ties and beliefs and practices, but many still cannot see. in our generation we are witnessing the formation of another apostasy in the church of Christ. The ignorance of God's will is prevalent, the attitude of disrespect for and disregard of God's will is present, and human leaders and human wisdom are being exalted. A decade of time has shown the tendencies to be all too pronounced, and all that is needed for a full-grown apostasy is time -- time for these attitudes and tendencies to reach their full fruition. A new generation has arisen that does not know Jehovah. Our brethren are comparing themselves with and desiring to be like their religious neighbors around about. Human leaders with their titles, human plans and promotions with their greed and thirst, abound among us -- erring people of God. The simplicity of the gospel and the church of Christ has been lost in the maze of traditions and errors which are propounded, pronounced, preached and promulgated by the divines among us. There is a dearth of the "love of the truth" among the brethren and condemnation will be the final result of this attitude. Complete apostasy is imminent and sure, and only a complete return to the truth of God's will can keep its present participants from experiencing the wrath of God which cometh upon the children of disobedience.
In an article to follow, we will show how the tendency toward apostasy is manifesting itself in many brethren by their associations with and seekings for the favors of the denominational world.
How true! Apostasy is ever promoted by those who are ignorant of God's will or disrespect it, and by those who think more of man than of God (Hab. 4:6; Gal. 1:10). The article clearly outlines past apostasies (Catholic and "Christian" church) as well as the then developing and now fully manifest apostasy of institutional liberalism. What brother Cavender then noticed and condemned, is now far beyond its beginnings. Our liberal brethren have waxed worse and worse (2 Tim. 3:13). They have not only accepted the support of human institutions from the Lord's treasury, corrupted organization in establishing sponsoring church arrangements, and promoted a social gospel, which is not another gospel, but some of them are also using women in leadership roles in worship, "experimenting" with instrumental music, and exchanging pulpits with denominational preachers. All it took for those who sowed the seed of disrespect for God's will and promoted ignorance on Bible authority was time! Time produced the fruit of the seed sown. "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind..." (Hos. 8:7). Now, many of those who thirty to forty years ago publicly defended (in debates and writing) institutional liberalism are fighting "tooth and nail" to stem the tide of further apostasy among them.
Now then, what about us? The parallels between the article and the present day are frightening! Men have "propounded, pronounced, preached and promulgated" error on the deity of Christ, distinction of the covenants, false teachers, fellowship, marriage, divorce, remarriage, and on and on. Either out of disrespect for God's will or ignorance of the same.
Though they won't admit it, many are giving heed to earthly friendships and long time associations with others -- esteeming the praise of men greater riches than the suffering of Christ (cf. Jn. 12:42; Gal. 1:10; Matt. 10:37-39). Time is proving, and will make crystal clear, that such error and practices are growing into a full-blown apostasy among us. The time is at hand for us to give warning, to raise up our voices in defense of the truth, to expose evil communications, and redeem another generation to carry the truth through the next century (Eze. 3:17-21; Isa. 58:1; 1 Cor. 15:33; 2 Tim. 2:2; cf. Jud. 2:10).
"Brethren, we are drifting."
- Steven F. Deaton
[The second article, "Trends Toward Apostasy--(No. II)" appeared in the June 30, 1960 issue of The Gospel Guardian. It documented evidence of the further developing apostasy among the liberals of that time.]
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