The true church of Jesus Christ is the apple of the Lord’s eye. Yet from the beginning, his church has experienced apostasies and false teachers. The earliest churches—those apostolic bodies founded by Paul and the apostles—had the full counsel of God taught to them. Nothing “profitable to growth and steadfastness” was withheld from Christ’s followers. They were given truth, not only in word but in demonstration and power of the Holy Ghost.
Paul warned Timothy that a time was coming when some of God’s people “will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lust 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 [so-called mystical truths]” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
History records that this happened just as Paul had predicted. After the apostles died—and the generation that sat under their teaching had passed away—a conspiracy of wicked error flooded the church. Believers were seduced by strange doctrines, and science and philosophy eroded the truth of Christ’s gospel.
Consider what Paul said of the purity of Christ’s church: “Christ…loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle…but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
God’s great concern is not about the apostate church. Even apostasies will not be able to kill or destroy the church of Jesus Christ. In spite of these problems, God has everything under control, and his mystical, invisible, overcoming church is not dying. Rather, the river of the Holy Spirit is flowing into the “dead sea” of apostate churches, exposing iniquity and lukewarmness. And it’s causing new life to spring up.
Those who are turned from the dead, lifeless churches may be but just a remnant. Nevertheless, Jesus declared: “The fields are ripe for harvest. And there is still time for laborers to go forth.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Holy Spirit has fled the scene, leaving behind a withered harvest. God’s Spirit is still at work, convicting, wooing and drawing the lost to Christ, including those in apostasy.
The cloud of heavenly witnesses would tell us not to look for judgment, not to focus on “holding the fort.” It is still the day of the Holy Spirit, who is waiting to fill every willing vessel.
God still loves his church, blemishes and all!