Jump Start # 2143
Galatians 1:6 “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel.”
Not long after Paul left the Galatia region, Jewish teachers followed. They were distorting, twisting and confusing what the new Christians had been taught. Now, they didn’t know. Were the Gentiles supposed to become Jews first and then Christians? Was certain aspects of the Old Testament law still supposed to be followed? The letter to the Galatians works through those questions and those issues.
What we want to look at today is the expression, “so quickly deserting Him.” It didn’t take long for the purity of the Gospel to become mingled with error. Church history attests to this statement, as well. By the second century, distortions were made among bishops and their power and control. A hierarchy was quickly developing. During this time the adoration of martyred Christians, referring to them as “saints” began. Infant baptism also began very early. I think this is shocking to many folks who have never looked deeply into church history. It is easy to believe that for three or four centuries things were running smoothly and everyone was sticking pretty close to the Gospel message. Then, later, gradually, things started creeping in and changing. That thought would be nice, but it isn’t historically true.
There are warnings within the New Testament of trouble on the horizon. Diotrephes, in John’s third letter, was running the church as if he was the boss. He was refusing to accept people and he was putting people out. No one person has such control, not according to the structure of the N.T. organization. But, it happened. Peter warned of false prophets arising among the people. Timothy was told that the people will not endure sound doctrine and will seek preachers who will tell them what they want to hear. Paul warned the elders of Ephesus that salvage wolves would arise among them, speaking perverse things to draw the disciples after them. Before the ink had dried on the New Testament, storm clouds were on the horizon.
Why did departures happen so quickly?
First, this was attacks by Satan to destroy the people of God. The message from the mid section of Revelation is that Satan could not wreck God’s eternal plan. He set his focus upon making war with the God’s children. As the gospel spread, so did opposition, resistance and the spirit of change. Glorifying man more than honoring God became a massive part of the powerful church in Europe. Statues adorn cathedrals of bishops, saints and leaders. Churches were named after men. While fooling the people into thinking that they were still following Christ, idolatry, power and control became dominate in what they did. The simple message of Jesus Christ, became so twisted and abused, that powerful men were becoming rich off of the common man. The church switched from a spiritual body to a political body and powerful men in the church were influencing world governments to their liking.
It’s easy to look at all of this and think, this is nothing like what we read in the New Testament. The lust for power, money and control, fed by Satan, corrupted hearts and twisted the church into what God never intended.
Second, the gullibility and ignorance of the people allowed this to take place. Instead of the people thinking for themselves and searching the Scriptures, as the Bereans had done, they were being told by these powerful church leaders what to believe and what to do. Few people had their own Bible. They were left to trust what the church leaders were telling them. If they disagreed, the heavy hand of the church came crashing down upon them. Discipline, not in the Biblical fashion to restore one back to Christ, but rather in the form of imprisonment, taking property, and even death, caused the common man to fear the powerful church. The church wasn’t a fellowship to help one get to Heaven, as the New Testament teaches. It became a powerful system that crushed any that opposed it. Ignorance isn’t bliss. The powerful church kept the people in the dark. There was period of time that a list of forbidden books was circulated among the people. If anyone had one of those books, they were subject to stiff punishment. On that list was the Bible. The Bible was a forbidden book, banned from the people. This is why the works of early reformers such as Wycliffe and Tyndale, who translated the Bible into the common language was seen as a threat to the church. Those men were viewed as a heretics to the church. Their bodies were degraded in death.
Third, the silence of the people allowed this. When people are afraid to act, they will hide in fear. They will go along with things that they know are not right, but they are fearful of saying anything. A powerful, distorted church that does not allow any questions to be asked, and keeps a heavy hand above the people will continue on it’s path of departure. There is no one to speak up. There is no one to warn. There is no one to question. Finally, after enough corruption and abuse, some started to speak up. They started to write. This led to what historically is called the Reformation Movement. We are talking about the 14 and 15 centuries, hundreds of years from the first century. A long time of corruption, departure and abuse.
Now, four lessons from this. Do not think that this is a walk down the halls of history. Our times are no different. The modern church today, with all the social and emotional emphasis, is a far cry from what we read in the New Testament. The organizational structure of the modern church is not close to what you read about in the New Testament. Every Sunday, mega churches are filled to capacity, listening to messages are distorted and twisted from the Gospel account. Our times are not much different.
First, we must realize that Satan is still after God’s people. He will use anything and anyone to put a wedge between us and Christ. He will use discouragement. He will use compromise. He will use false teaching. He will twist, change and present new ideas and new ways of looking at things. Any congregation that does not have their radar on and is not keeping a sharp eye out on Satan will suffer. Today’s twisted message is found on Social Media. There any fool can say anything he wants. People air their complaints. It can be a feeding frenzy for error.
Second, we must know God’s message. There isn’t much difference between those early years when people didn’t have their own Bibles and today when people simply won’t read the Bible. It’s not ownership that makes the difference. It’s spending time and getting to know what the message is all about. There is a difference between knowing facts about the Bible and knowing the message of the Bible. For instance, what is the purpose of the church? Is it to take care of the whole of man? Is it to provide a safe haven for teens to play and get together? Is it supposed to entertain us? Ignorance then and ignorance today, allows things to happen that never should.
Third, we need to take personal ownership of our faith and become actively involved within our congregations. Sitting back and saying, “Well, that’s what they decided. I don’t agree with it,” simply doesn’t fly. Abuse among elderships still happens today. Elders who do everything except shepherd the flock is still all too common. Raise questions. Look in the Bible. Don’t be a trouble maker, but demand proof from the Bible. Believing that you don’t have a say, leads right into the abusive church we read about in history. Now, don’t allow one wrong to make you do wrong. Your spirit, your attitude, your words—can lead people back to the Biblical pattern or you can just be seen as another power hungry person who wants to control things.
Finally, we must give the church back to God. It is His body. We belong to God. Our lessons, our classes, our interaction must be laced with Biblical references. We must honor Him by doing what He says. This attitude will help us stay the course that God wants.
So quickly, is what Paul said. How did you leave the Gospel so quickly? It happened then and it continues to happen today. Put a stake in ground for God and rally around that. Some may leave. Some may not have the disposition to stay with the Gospel message. They would rather run the church and ruin the church than to do what the Bible says.
We stand with God.