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"THE APOSTASY AND RESTORATION"
 
INTRODUCTION
 
1. The New Testament reveals the establishment and early growth of the
   church...
   a. The church Jesus said He would build - Mt 16:18
   b. The church Paul wrote that Jesus loved - Ep 5:25-27
 
2. The Lord's will is that there be one church...
   a. He prayed for the unity of His followers - Jn 17:20-23
   b. Paul later wrote that there is one body (i.e., church) - Ep 4:4-6;
      cf. 1:22-23
 
3. Yet we see around us so much religious confusion, so many different
   churches...
   a. How did it happen?
   b. What can disciples of Christ today do about it?
 
[In the first place, we really should not be surprised by the plethora
of different churches.  For in the Bible itself we read that there would
be an "apostasy" (falling away)...]
 
I. THE APOSTASY FORETOLD
 
   A. BY THE APOSTLE PAUL...
      1. In warning the Ephesian elders - Ac 20:27-31
         a. Of "wolves" coming in from outside the flock
         b. Of men "from among yourselves" drawing disciples away
      2. In warning the church at Thessalonica - 2 Th 2:1-3
         a. Of a great "falling away" that must come
         b. Revealing "the man of sin", "the son of perdition"
      3. In warning the evangelist Timothy - 1 Ti 4:1-3; 2 Ti 4:1-4
         a. Describing how some will "depart from the faith"
            1) Giving heed to "deceiving spirits and doctrines of
               demons"
            2) Forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from meats
         b. Describing how some will "not endure sound doctrine"
            1) Getting teachers who will tell them what they want to
               hear
            2) Turning from the truth, turning aside to fables
 
   B. BY PETER, JUDE, AND JOHN...
      1. Peter warned of false teachers to come - 2 Pe 2:1-2
         a. Who will bring in destructive heresies
         b. Whom many will follow
      2. Jude warned of false teachers who were present - Ju 3-4
         a. Who had crept in unnoticed
         b. Who were turning the grace of God into lewdness
         c. Who were denying the Lord God and the Lord Jesus Christ
      3. John warned of "antichrists" who had come - 1 Jn 2:18-19
         a. Many, in fact, had come!
         b. Indicative of living in the "last hour"
 
[As Jesus had warned, there would be false prophets (Mt 7:15).  Before
the canon of the New Testament was completed, the apostasy was already
underway.  As one examines early church history, there are further
indications of...]
 
II. THE APOSTASY FULFILLED
 
   A. A GRADUAL PROCESS...
      1. In many cases, innocent at first
         a. Attempting to deal with errors in and out of the church
         b. Leading to a change in the organization of the church
            1) From autonomous and independent congregations overseen by
               a plurality of elders
               (also known as bishops and pastors) - cf. Ac 14:23; 20:
               17,28; 1 Pe 5:1-2
            2) To a collectivity of churches under one bishop - e.g.,
               Ignatius
         c. Resulting in centralization of power and influence among key
            individuals
      2. This subtle change made it much easier for error to spread
         a. When those in power began teaching false doctrine
         b. Before long, the very errors foretold by Paul were being
            taught - cf. 1 Ti 4:1-3
      3. Through slow but gradual changes, the seeds of modern churches
         were sown
         a. Producing what later became known as the Roman Catholic
            Church
         b. But also many other "orthodox" churches (Greek, Egyptian,
            Russian, Armenian, etc.)
      -- Just as foretold, many departed from the simplicity of the
         Lord's church
 
   B. WHAT OF THE LORD'S CHURCH...?
      1. I believe the Lord's church continued on
         a. For not even the gates of Hades could prevail against it
            - Mt 16:18
         b. It is a kingdom that cannot be destroyed - cf. Dan 2:44; Lk
            1:32-33
         c. Wherever there are faithful disciples, though few and
            unknown, the church exists - cf. Ac 2:47
      2. Faithful disciples would have undoubtedly been treated as
         heretics
         a. For refusing to follow those in "power"
         b. By those presuming to have "authority" over the Lord's flock
      -- History may not record (or may misrepresent) the existence of
         those who remained faithful, but the Lord knows His own!
 
[Throughout the history of the apostasy, many have come to realize what
has happened, and efforts made to rectify the problem...]
 
III. REACTIONS TO THE APOSTASY
 
   A. EFFORTS OF REFORMATION...
      1. Attempts by those within to reform what they saw as the
         "apostate" church
      2. Some reformers were persecuted, either executed or expelled
         (e.g., Luther)
      3. Followers of such reformers often started new churches (e.g.,
         Lutheran)
      -- The end result was denominationalism
 
   B. APPEALS TO REVELATION...
      1. Some claimed modern day revelation as a solution (e.g., Joseph
         Smith, Ellen G. White)
      2. Believing the Lord was using them to lead people out of
         religious confusion
      3. Followers of these "prophets" started many more churches (e.g.,
         Mormon)
      -- The end result was even more denominationalism
 
   C. CALLS FOR RESTORATION...
      1. There have been many calls for "restoration"
         a. Some seeking to restore the Lord's church (as though it had
            been lost)
         b. Others seeking to restore people back to the Lord's church
            (which has always existed)
      2. In both cases, efforts usually centered around restoring the
         New Testament pattern for the local church (organization,
         worship, work, etc.)
      3. In many cases, the efforts appear to have been short-lived
         a. One generation may have truly been restored to the Lord's
            way
         b. Yet some in that generation and others to follow simply
            repeated the process of apostasy (e.g., the International
            Church of Christ)
      -- The end result often being even more denominationalism!
 
CONCLUSION
 
1. Of the three (reformation, revelation, restoration), I believe the
   Biblical response is restoration...
   a. As illustrated by the restoration of the Jews after Babylonian
      captivity
   b. As illustrated by the restorative work of John the Baptist - cf.
      Lk 1:16-17
   -- We must be restored back to the church of the New Testament
 
2. Yet the principle of restoration works provided we...
   a. Allow the Word of God to be our only guide and authority - cf. Ac
      20:32; 2 Ti 3:16-17
   b. Do not allow traditions of men to replace the commands of God
      - cf. Mt 15:3-9
   -- Otherwise we plant the seeds of apostasy and denominationalism all
      over again!
 
3. As followers of Jesus, we do well to imitate His service to God while
   on earth...
   a. Living under the Law of Moses which was in force at that time, He
      was simply a Jew (not a Pharisee, Sadducee, etc.)
   b. Living under the law of Christ (1 Co 9:21) today,  we should
      simply be Christians, not members of some denominational party
      - cf. 1 Co 1:10-13
 
What are you religiously?  Involved with the descendants of the apostasy
foretold in the Scriptures?  One of those whose response to the falling
away has resulted in only another denomination?
 
Why not simply be a Christian, by letting the Word of God restore you
back to the church of our Lord as revealed in the New Testament...?
- cf. Ac 2:36-42,47

 

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