I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel ; which is not another gospel only there be some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema (Gal. 1:6).
Again: “O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21).
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the apostles preached the gospel in every section of the civilized world, even before the close of the first century. To the church at Rome Paul wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: -for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel is not a power, nor one of the powers, but the power of God unto salvation. All conversions of the New Testament resulted from preaching the Word. You may begin with the conversion of the 3,000 on Pentecost, and go with the apostles to the uttermost parts of the earth, and in every community where men were saved from their sins, the gospel was first preached. Paul charged the evangelist Timothy to,
…preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season ; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts ; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables (2 Tim. 4:1-4).
The apostle Paul had hardly laid down his pen till corrupt men began to introduce into the worship of the church, things unauthorized by the Holy Spirit. The great apostasy of which we read in church history, did not come in a day, nor a year, but through the march of the years. I can only hint at what occurred. Many subtle influences were at work. Monarchs had their ideas about the kingdom of God. Paganism, philosophy, and ambitious power to rule, not only over one local congregation, but over several at the same time, turned the stream of pure doctrine out of its original channel.
In the New Testament church, elders or bishops directed the church in its spiritual aspects. Deacons managed the business affairs of the local congregation. In every congregation organized under the preaching of the apostles, there was a plurality of bishops, or elders and deacons. But the change gradually came when one of the elders became the leader in the local church and was especially designated as the bishop of the church. Later, over a given group of churches one of these bishops was given authority, and over a province there was the Arch Bishop, and over a nation the Cardinal. The Pope as the vicar of Christ on earth, was fully developed when old Boniface III assumed the title in the year 606.
The history of Christianity shows that most of our present day confusion has been engendered by a departure from the “pattern of sound words.” When the “sincere milk of the word” is strained through a speculative, human intellect, it always results in something other than the pure Word of God. The very moment one departs from the word of God as the guide book in religion, he has begun to apostatize.
Let us always remember that the word of God is not a dead letter. I have read of but one person in the Bible who considered the Word of God a dead letter, and he was in hell (Luke 16:27-31). By His word God created the universe. By the command of God, mountains may be removed. (Matt. 17 :20) Men are saved by the word of God, “for the word of God is living, and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). No wonder Paul said, “Preach the Word.”