For my stands about the Bible and sound, orthodox doctrine I often encounter the cry of “you are too narrow” or “don’t be so legalistic” or the old antagonistic standby – “you are judgmental and pharisaical.” Frankly, I’ve gotten used to the antagonism. When those in opposition have nothing left to say, I’m also used to being personally denigrated by people unwilling to even identify themselves let alone have civil dialog. This kind of thing is just a small part of what many believers are experiencing today because of simply trying to obediently follow the Scriptures. However, the point here isn’t the fact that we receive these calls for moderation or how contentious some of them may be. The issue is where they come from as these complainers aren’t just from the secular world but rather most are from inside the Church – or at least they claim to be Christians. Based on the thinking expressed by some, one would think that in the Beatitudes Jesus included “Blessed are the compromisers!”
This is Nothing New
In surveying the early history of the Church, we see a rise of doctrinal confusion as charismatic and persuasive heretics rose, splintering the true flock. Upon the death of the Apostles, many throughout the Church were influenced to adopt a number of anti- and extra-biblical ideas. Surely, Peter and Paul warned of this and faced some of the same ideas during their ministries (I Peter 2:1, Acts 20:28-31, II Timothy 4:1-8, etc). However, the proliferation of error gained momentum at the close of the first century A.D. Heresy – being identified as “Christian” – rampantly multiplied in the void created by the deaths of recognized early leaders. Here are just a few examples of the errors that rose as time passed.
Marcionism – This Christian-turned-cult-leader led several thousands into cultic heresy. Marcion of Sinope believed that the God of the New Testament was separate from and superior to the God of the Old Testament. Though he seemed to believe Paul’s writings, Marcion rejected the teachings of the other Apostolic works (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Acts and the letter to the Hebrews, etc.) and went so far as to edit the Book of Luke down to 10 chapters to represent his own “gospel.” He was expelled from the Church in A.D. 144.
The scope and gravity of Marcion’s heretical influence compelled the early Church leaders to recognize the need for standard, universally accepted teaching across the Church. Thus, they began to consider carefully which of the many Epistles and Gospel accounts should be included as inspired text. This collection of Church-age teaching was about thirty years in the making and became known as the Muratorian Canon in about A.D. 170. It contained 24 of the 27 books and letters which would eventually become the New Testament.
Sabellianism – Sabellius introduced modalism (the belief that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are different aspects of one God rather than three distinct persons in God Himself). This is one of many erroneous aspects that are included in modern “Oneness” theology. He also introduced the heresy of Patripasianism, or the mistaken notion that God the Father suffered on the Cross along with Jesus Christ.
Arianism – Like Sabellius, Arius also opposed the Doctrine of the Trinity and emphasized the Father’s Divinity over the Son. This heresy was a major part of the basis of the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and the teachings of the now deceased cult leaders Herbert W. and Garner Ted Armstrong (Worldwide Church of God and splinter groups).
Docetism – The Docetists believed that Jesus wasn’t actually human but simply divine. Similar to contemporary Christian Science, to them, His physical body was an illusion. This heresy denied the incarnation of Jesus (I John 4:1-3) and was a doctrinal underpinning of the most dangerous, pervasive, and longest lasting cultic heresy – Gnosticism.
Thankfully there were many strong, anointed apologists who rose in those days to expose and refute various cults and their leaders. During what is known in Church history as “The Age of the Apologist” (2nd century A.D.), the church father Tertullian wrote an extensive rebuttal against Marcion (Adversus Marcionem i.e., “Against Marcion”). Tertullian (North Africa) and Hippolytus (Rome) were outstanding opponents of Seballius and his anti-trinitarian doctrine. Among others, Athanasius, Jerome, and the Bishop of Constantinople, Alexander, stood unified against Arius and his heretical views. Concerning Arianism, it is said that if it weren’t for these men the whole Church might have abandoned the biblical view of the Godhead.
Melito, Bishop of Sardis, spent nearly two decades compiling and studying Old Testament texts helping to prove Jesus’ prophetic Messiahship and Tatian wrote an apologetic harmony of the Gospels substantiating that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John comprised the only authentic and theologically sound accounts of the life of Jesus. Tatian’s work gave a powerful rebuttal against numerous erroneous gospel accounts thatwere circulating at the time.
These men and others fought for the doctrinal life of the Church. Similar to my commentsin the first paragraph above, they were undoubtedly targeted by those endorsing compromise who bemoaned their strong biblical stands. Throughout our 2,000 year history, Satan has constantly attempted to weaken the fabric of the Church in this way. However, the speed and magnitude of the attacks against truth in our day are surely symptomatic that we are indeed in the prophetic Last Days. Untold millions throughout the Church are now being slowly moved away from the standards and authority of the Scriptures by unfit leaders who have surrendered to political correctness, ecumenism, and/or universalism.
Compromise can be defined as settling on or accepting something just a little below where you know it ought to be. When it comes to doctrine and the goals and nature of authentic Christianity, compromise inevitably leads to destruction. This is indeed the issue at hand, isn’t it? Just as the early Church was faced with the decision to either stand strongly in favor of or, instead, slowly reject the core teachings of the Apostles, we too are faced with the same dilemma. If you doubt how subtle, seemingly inconsequential compromise can germinate into full blown error, just look around the landscape of what claims to be Christianity right now. Not long ago, theological liberalism’s deadly progression was confined to the waning mainline denominations. However, many who not long ago were perceived to be biblically sound have now fallen into theological disrepair similar to what deceived and undermined the Church several decades ago. We live in an era when once distinct Evangelical and Fundamentalist believers have been systematically led not only down the slippery path of classical liberalism but also into the errors and half truths found in the Emergent Church movement, Purpose Driven philosophy, seeker sensitive nonsense and any number of other man-centered ideas. Now, simply proclaiming anything as “right” or “wrong” because of what the Bible says is fast becoming irrelevant, archaic, and to some even threatening. Amazingly, many whom I never dreamed would do so are in the process of trading the Bible for modern intellectual superiority, just as Paul predicted.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
– II Timothy 3:1-7
Indeed, here Paul surely outlines the outcome of compromise. Truly, the apostasy spoken of in II Thessalonians 2:3 is in full swing.
Every Apostle except John, as well as many of the early Christians, eventually lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Compromise was not in their vocabulary. Thank God that those first century believers held fast and didn’t negotiate with truth, even when it could have saved their necks! The first apologist, Justin, isn’t know as Justin Martyr because it’s such a catchy phrase. He gave his life in A.D. 165 rather than compromise the Gospel. In A.D. 108, Ignatius lost his life rather than tone down his strong stands, in particular his belief in the bodily resurrection of our Lord. These and countless others stood for what was right, regardless of the price. How unfathomable it is today – in a land like the U.S.A., which is relatively free from persecution – that so many are willing to forsake these bloodstained truths, replacing them with a more humanly palatable yet worthless religion aimed at pleasing the flesh and gaining the favor of men! Yet with all of that, if you have made the decision to stand on God’s Word no matter how unpopular it may be, take heart. There is and always will be a remnant who, like the three Hebrew boys of Daniel, refuse to bow to error. Amen!
Dear friend, the Bible is replete with stories of compromise and none of them end well. If our ministry can turn just one wavering Christian back towards the Bible – let alone bring one soul to find Jesus as Lord and Savior – then all of the opposition we’ve endured is well worth it. Praise God, that’s what we’ve been endeavoring to do for over 27 years now!
Thanks for helping me continue to be a thorn in the side of those favoring conciliation and error over biblical truth. As you pray for Melanie and me and as you provide the needed financial support, we’ll keep shining the light of His Word into the dark crevasses, reminding everyone we can that God’s authentic Truth is found only between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22. As Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35) You can count on that.