A. IN THE BIBLE THERE ARE MANY WARNINGS AGAINST APOSTASY.
1. Acts 20:29-30; 1 Tim. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 4:3-4.
2. The solution to apostasy( 2 Tim. 4:1-2 ).
B. OUR TEXT TELLS OF A GENERAL APOSTASY.
1. Not one of the skirmishes like those over circumcision, immorality, etc.
2. These heresies cost souls and must be fought as they arise.
3. Paul speaks of a historic apostasy where all but a few fall away.
4. The solution is the same( Acts 20:26-27, 31-32 ).
C. TO KEEP THIS TO A BEARABLE LENGTH, WE WANT TO DISCUSS SOME
OF THE HIGH POINTS FROM N. T. DAYS TO THE SPLIT OF THE
CATHOLIC AND GREEK CHURCHES.
A. FIRST CENTURY CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. One bishop different from elders and deacons.
2. A variety of heresies - Gnostics, Docetism, Adoptionism.
a. Gnostics and teaching on Jesus' flesh( 1 John 4:1-6 ).
b. Attitude of the Gnostic:
"These Gnostic teachings also had a disruptive effect on fellowship in the church.
Those who were "enlightened" thought of themselves as being superior to those who
did not have such knowledge. Divisions arose between the spiritual and the fleshly.
This attitude of superiority is severely condemned in the New Testament.(from
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
B. THE SOLUTION OF THE "CONSERVATIVES."
1. IGNATIUS: Be careful, therefore, to employ one Eucharist, for there is one flesh of our
Lord Jesus Christ and one cup for unity with his blood, one altar, as there is one bishop
together with the presbytery and deacons who are my fellow servants, in order that whatever
you do may be done according to God. (Philadelphians 4)
No one should perform any of the things pertaining to the church apart from the bishop.
Let that be considered a dependable Eucharist which is done by the bishop or by whomever
he appoints. (Smyrnaeans 8)
Ignatius was martyred about 110 A. D.
2. HIPPOLYTUS: Let the deacons present the offering to the bishop. When he lays his
hands on it, with all the presbyters, let him say the thanksgiving. 'The Lord be with you.'
And the people shall say: 'And with your spirit.'... And the bishop shall give thanks
according to the aforesaid. It is not altogether necessary for him to recite a prayer according
to a brief form, no one shall prevent him. Only let his prayer be thanksgiving to God, but
let each one pray according to his own ability. If indeed he is able to pray suitably with a
grand and elevated prayer, this is a good thing. But if on the other hand he should pray and
recite a prayer in a moderate manner, no one shall prevent him. Only let his prayer be
correct and orthodox. (Apostolic Tradition iv; x) .
C. HOW DO YOU ANSWER THE GNOSTICS? THE CATHOLICS( Matt. 23:9 ).
A. IN THE DAYS OF THE APOSTLES.
1. Each church independent and had its own officers( Acts. 14:23; Titus 1:5 ).
a. Phil. 1:1. Deacons.
b. The words elder, bishop, overseer, presbyter, pastor and shepherd
used without distinction of rank or office.
2. No Synods, Councils, Conventions, or Conferences composed of delegates
from different congregations constituting an Ecclesiastic Legislative Body.
3. The mystery of iniquity was working in the days of Paul( 2 Thess. 2:7 )
B. FIRST DEPARTURE.
1. The distinction between bishops and presbyters.
2. "What we find existing in the 2nd Century enables us to infer that soon after the apostolic
age the standing office of President of the Presbytery must have been formed, which
president, as having pre-eminent oversight over all, was designated by the special name of
Episcopas (Bishop) and thus distinguished from the other presbyters. Thus the name
came, at length, to be applied exclusively to this presbyter, while the name presbyter
continued at first to be common to all." (Neander's Church History.)
C. THE SECOND STEP: BISHOPS GIVEN CHARGE OF A DIOCESE.
1. A diocese often included too large a district for one bishop to rule in person.
2. This called for the creation of a new class of "ecclesiastics" called the
Chorepiscopi i.e., Country Bishops who held rank midway between the
"City Bishops" and "Presbyters." (See Mosheim, p. 22.)
D. SYNODS AND COUNCILS APPEAR LATE 2nd CENTURY.
1. Delegates from churches called together to settle disputes.
a. These meetings soon partook of the nature of Legislative Bodies
b. "These Councils, of which we find not the smallest trace before the middle of this
(second) century, changed the whole face of the Church and gave it a new form.
For by them the ancient privileges of the people were considerably diminished and the
power and authority of the Bishops greatly augmented." (Mosheim, p. 41 .)
2. Presiding officer - bishop of capital of province where the Synod was held.
a. Title given him to "magnify his office" - Metropolitan.
b. Office made permanent with increase of dominion and authority.
c. Soon Metropolitans claimed to have been "empowered by Christ to
dictate to the churches authoritative rules and manners."
E. THE 3rd CENTURY AND ANOTHER DEPARTURE. THE BISHOP SYSTEM.
1. The conflict between bishops and presbyters.
a. Bishops claimed supreme power in the guidance of church affairs no
longer called upon the Presbyters to assist them or counsel with them.
b. The Episcopal system triumphed.
c. Synods no longer "occasional assemblies called for the settlement of
disputes" but met at stated seasons and became permanent institutions.
d. The bishops assumed more and more authority and finally secured
absolute control of the Synods. Up to the fourth century these Councils
or Synods were held in the various provinces over which the
Metropolitans ruled and each Metropolitan was independent of all the
other Metropolitans in the government of his province.
e. 325 A.D. Constantine called the first EcumenicaI Council. Composed
of Commissioners from all the churches, represented the Church
2. Result: No more pretense of autonomy.
F. THE EMERGENCE OF EXARCHS OR PATRIARCHS.
1. Political rulers of the large divisions of the Empire were called "Exarchs;" this
title also given to the ecclesiastical rulers of these districts, later changed to
a. At first only three; the bishops of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch
b. Later the bishops of Jerusalem and Constantinople made Patriarchs.
2. "Would to heaven there was no primacy, no eminence of place and no precedence of rank;
that we might be known by eminence of virtue alone. But as the case now stands, the
distinction of a seat at the right hand, or the left, or in the middle, at a higher or a lower
place, of going before or aside of each other, has given rise to many disorders among us to
no salutary purpose whatever, and plunged multitudes into ruin" (Gregory of Nazianzus ).
G. IN 451, COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON ELEVATED THE BISHOP OF
CONSTANTINOPLE TO THE SAME LEVEL AS THE BISHOP OF ROME.
1. Opposed by Leo, the Great, Bishop of Rome.
2. The emperors threw their weight into the balance and thus supported the
decision of the Grecian Bishops.
3. Conflict for supremacy between Roman and Constantinople bishops.
H. 588 A.D., JOHN THE FASTER, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE
ASSUMES THE TITLE OF "UNIVERSAL BISHOP OF THE CHURCH."
1. Gregory the Great then Patriarch of Rome. Considered by Catholics one of
the greatest and best of popes; canonized a "saint."
2. Gregory's letters to John and the Emperor( attached ).
I. 606 A.D. ROMAN BISHOP TAKES THE TITLE, "UNIVERSAL BISHOP."
1. "In the year 601 the centurion Phocas rebelled against Maurice, slew him and his family
atrociously and usurped the throne (as Emperor of Rome). 'Never,' says Maimbourg, 'was
there a more infamous tyrant than this wicked man.'" (McClintock and Strong, p. 1000.)
2. Boniface III., in the year 606, engaged this Phocas to transfer the title of
"universal bishop" from John the Faster to the "Roman See" and "thus was
papal supremacy introduced."( Mosheim ).
3. We can but exclaim, "O tempora! O mores !" Now, according to the
testimony of Gregory the Great, Who is the anti-Christ?
4. 606 really marks the beginning of what is now known as the Roman Catholic
Church, with the Pope of Rome as its head.
The word "pope" is derived from the Latin and means "father." It is said that Bishop
Siricius, who lived in the fourth century, was the first to use the word as a title. It was
applied in a general way for several centuries and "expressly made the exclusive prerogative
of the Roman bishops by Gregory VII.," in the eleventh century.
5. Papal power reached its height in Gregory VII, who became pope in 1073.
J. CONFLICT BETWEEN THE GREEK AND ROMAN BISHOPS EVENTUALLY
FORCE SEPARATION AND THE FORMING OF THE GREEK CHURCH, July
K. TO SUMMARIZE:
-- JERUSALEM, A.D. 34. Pentecost after Christ's ascension. The first congregation of
the church of Christ under the New Covenant. In the year 64 Paul wrote to the
Colossians that the Gospel was "preached to every creature under heaven" (1:23),
and congregations of Christ were found in all parts of the known world.
-- ROME, A.D. 606. The establishment of the Roman Catholic Church,
Boniface III, its first pope, in the sense in which the word "pope" is now
used and understood. This was accomplished through a succession of
departures from New Testament teaching, viz.:
1. Distinction between the words "Bishop" and "Presbyter."
2. Standing office of "President of the Presbytery."
3. Creation of a new class of officers called "Country Bishops."
4. Occasional conventions, composed of delegates from different congregations, for
the purpose of settling disputes, which conventions assumed legislative authority.
5. General Synods and Councils with permanent presiding officers.
6. Use of the title "Metropolitan" designating this officer.
7. "Bishops" claiming supreme power and no longer counseling with the "Presbyters."
8. Use of the term "Exarch," later changed to "Patriarch," to designate the
Metropolitans of the large divisions of the Roman Empire.
9. General or Ecumenical Councils, the first called by Constantine in A.D. 325,
representing the Church Universal.
10. Special rights, honors conferred on the "Patriarchs" of Rome and Constantinople.
11. Patriarch of Constantinople, John the Faster, assuming the title of "Universal Bishop
of the Church," A.D. 588. (Gregory the Great, Patriarch of Rome, denounced this
assumption as anti-Christ and diabolical.)
12. Boniface III., Patriarch of Rome, had this title transferred from John the Faster to
himself (A.D. 606).
Note how many departures from the teaching of Christ, the "head of the body," "which is the church,"
were necessary to establish the "Pope of Rome" as the "head of the Roman Catholic Church."
NINTH CENTURY. Origin of the Society afterwards called United Brethren, July 16, 1054.
Final separation of the Eastern and Western churches, and establishment of the Greek Church.