The other day I was reading from a book that gave attention to the history of the church through the first five hundred years. As I was reflecting on that which I was reading, I took notice of what the book said about the church and compared it with what the New Testament said about the church. The two were different. That brings to mind the words of the Holy Spirit in 2 Timothy 4:3-4: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts 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 (KJV). Paul wrote to Timothy these words also, Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
I want you to notice the two passages again. First, people will not endure sound doctrine; that means there will be some who will not want to hear a “thus saith the Lord” from the pulpit or in the Bible class setting. Yet, the Holy Spirit said that if any man speaks, let him speak the very oracles (words) of God (1 Peter 4:11). Second, these same people who will not endure sound doctrine (words) are people who have ears to hear, but will only hear what they want to hear (they have itching ears). If/When something new is being done elsewhere, there is a tendency to give thought to “Why can’t we do that here?” which then translates into “We need to do that here!” Third, the “itching-ear-person” then turns to a preacher who gives an ointment that sooths the ear, and this is not a good thing! The Lord said this is a turning away from the truth unto things that are not true, but instead are fables in relation to God’s will. Fourth, this turning away results in departing from the faith, buying into the teachings of man so one does not look out of place in the religious world.
The church in the New Testament and the church in church history are not the same. They may have started out the same, but they turned into something different from one another. The church in the New Testament is a church with Jesus at its head, the foundation being Jesus and the words of the apostles. This means that the teachings of the church are to be, and only be, the teachings of the Lord and His designated servants. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). Again, …. the household of God…built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone… (cf. Eph. 2:19-22).
Because of such dangers, leadership in the New Testament church is a crucial issue. Leadership that respects and insists on the Lord’s way, and only His way, is in prime position to promote the Lord’s way in a dark world. the leadership of which I speak is not a reference to preachers or elders, but to each New Testament saint who love the Lord. They must exercise leadership in this dark world, for many who are lost are looking to them for guidance.
A failure of leadership is disastrous. RT