Truth and the Church
Would it surprise you to know that apostasy -- falling away or departing from the truth -- has been around since the very beginning of the church? This is because the church is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15), meaning it's ground zero in the spiritual battle for the truth.
This was the case in the church at Ephesus, where Paul's young protégé Timothy was a pastor. It had only been thirty years since Jesus was on the earth -- thirty years since the gospel first penetrated the ancient world -- and yet people in the church were dropping like flies, casualties on the battlefield of truth (see 2 Timothy 1:15; 2:16-18; 3:1-9, 13).
So what did Paul have to say to Timothy about it? And what can we do to protect against it? Second Timothy 4 kicks off Paul's instructions: "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word!" (vv. 1-2).
This is the number one obligation of the church: to preach the word. The Greek word for preach means to proclaim with authority. It was used to describe how an imperial messenger would march through the streets announcing some news or the presence of the king. Timothy was surrounded by all kinds of persuasive orators who were twisting the truth, but Paul simply said, "I'm telling you, buddy, before God, proclaim the word."
The word simply refers to the true message of the gospel and the Scriptures -- doctrine, in other words. Paul liked that word doctrine (see 2 Timothy 3:10, 16; 4:3). A lot of people will say, "Oh, I'm not into doctrine; I'm just into Jesus," which sounds really humble and hip. But the fact is, you wouldn't know anything about Jesus were it not for doctrine. Doctrine simply means the true, correct, healthy teachings of Scripture.
Multiple times in the Gospels, Jesus asked the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees, "Have you not read the Scriptures?" (see Matthew 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31-32). Here were these big-shot theological guys who seemed so spiritual, yet they didn't even know their Bible.
The Scripture is clear. The Bible is meant to be understood. And when it's preached -- when doctrine is clearly proclaimed -- the church will stay firmly planted in the truth.
Things really haven't changed: there were issues and concerns about truth in the earliest days of the church, and there are issues and concerns about truth in the church today. More than ever, we need to be aware of these things and stay on our guard, putting on the belt of truth (see Ephesians 6:14) and making sure the Word continues to be preached.
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