Both In The Ditch
Recently I was asked a question concerning the spiritual condition of the average, ordinary member in denominational churches. The questioner agreed that those who teach false doctrine will be condemned but was wondering if the followers of such teachers would also be condemned? In light of this question consider the following passages:
Matthew 15:14 "Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit"
In this context Jesus was discussing the Pharisees (15:12), yet He noted that both teacher and follower would end up in the same condition.
Matthew 16:6 "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees"
The "leaven" of the Pharisees and Sadducees is what they taught (16:12). Yet, if only the false teacher is condemned then why did Jesus warn His disciples about avoiding the teachings of these religious groups?
Acts 20:29 "I know that after may departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock"
Be impressed that false doctrine ravages the flock, the wolf has a disastrous effect on more individuals than just himself.
Galatians 1:6-9 In this section of Scripture, the man or woman who teaches another gospel is accursed (1:8), but this is not all the passage teaches. Paul was amazed that the Galatians were so quickly deserting Christ for this different gospel (1:6). Please note that to accept a different gospel, not as a teacher but merely as a learner, is to desert Christ. The false teachers disturbing the Galatian churches are condemned, but equally condemned is anyone who would accept their teachings and act upon them (Galatians 3:1; 4:11 "I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain"; 5:4 "you are fallen from grace").
Colossians 2:4 "I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument"; 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception"; 2:18 "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize".
These are warnings to average, ordinary members. They could be deceived, they could be taken captive, and they could in embracing error end up losing their heavenly reward.
2 Timothy 2:17 "And their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus"
In this context note that these two false teachers were destroying others besides themselves. It is not merely that these two men are dangerous, but what they teach is dangerous and it will spread because others will accept it. In accepting such errors, the listener, that is the member is ruined (2:14).
Titus 1:11 "Who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families"
Once again, both the false teacher and those who follow are both in the same condition and under the same condemnation.
Remember how God dwelt with Israel in the Old Testament. Not only did God condemn the false prophets, but He equally condemned the nation for tolerating and listening to them, read Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Many of our brethren across the country are sore distressed by the state of affairs in churches of Christ today. To say that many churches are undergoing change is a gross understatement of the situation. Radical changes in thought toward the authority of the Scriptures are allowing many churches of Christ to take very liberal views toward the work and worship of the church. With the "new hermeneutic" as their license (which denies that the New Testament reveals a pattern for our organization, work and worship) the movers and shakers of institutional churches of Christ are leading their people toward the wholesale acceptance of a myriad of innovations and compromises with denominationalism.
Our brethren are "rethinking" such issues as instrumental music in worship and the role of women in the leadership and worship of the church. Additionally, many brethren are abandoning "book, chapter and verse" preaching and teaching for a modernistic higher criticism which seized the pulpits of denominational churches years ago. Moral issues such as social drinking, mixed swimming, divorce and remarriage, immodest dress, etc. are no longer preached about in sermons lest we appear too strict and legalistic. Even the plan of salvation is under serious attack. Many leading, influential elders, preachers and professors are not too sure there is a "plan" as we have preached it. Baptism is being "re_thought" in some circles, and it appears that before too long the necessity of immersion for the remission of sins may be abandoned altogether.
Within many of the churches troubled by these issues are some brethren who sense strongly that the church is "leaving" them. They see these changes as apostasy, but it is hard to break longstanding ties with friends and family and leave such rank infidelity to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and His will. They know the church is not what it should be doctrinally, nor is it even moving in that direction. The preaching is no longer distinctive and could be served up in any denominational pulpit in town. They have tried to warn the elders, the preacher, their friends and anyone who will listen. But they are considered "old-fashioned," "non-progressive," "anti," and even "legalistic." Eventually, the elders no longer listen to them. The preacher berates them for trying to hold to a "1950 mentality." Each passing week brings more compromise, additional innovation, and bolder liberalism. What must concerned brethren do if they cannot get the church to listen to the truth?
A case in point: King Jeroboam of Israel introduced the apostate worship of idolatrous golden calves in an effort to keep the northern tribes from going to Jerusalem for worship (1 Kgs. 12:26-33). He appointed non-Levites to his new "priesthood." Unable to stop such apostasy, many Levites had no other recourse but to leave Israel and flee to Judah (2 Chron. 11:13-17). Remaining faithful to God mean separating from their homes and friends with whom they had previously worshiped. Doubtless it was painful to do this, but it resulted in the strengthening Judah (vs. 17). Men and women who stand for the truth always strengthen the people of God who are like-minded.
When John heard the announcement of the imminent destruction of "Babylon," he heard another angel warn, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities" (Rev. 18:4,5). While opinions vary regarding what "Babylon" is in this symbolic passage, the warning is clear that God's people must flee from Babylon or perish with her. Even Lot was warned to leave Sodom or be destroyed with the salacious city.
It is no different today. God's faithful people must no longer promote apostasy by tolerating it. "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord."