Departure from Within

By Tony Williams

Very shortly after the success of the new church in Rome (historical sources reveal there could have possibly been as many as six million Christians there), one would expect that growth would continue. However, there is disappointment in this expectation. Some years prior to the close of the first century there was a departure from the faith. N. B. Hardeman points out that Paul, when writing to the brethren in Thessalonica says, “Let no man deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). In verse 7 Paul says, “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work…”

We are told by Paul to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). Why are we told this? For the same reason he instructed Timothy as noted in the next verses 3-4; “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, having itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside unto fables.”

When we read these words today, we think of those who have twisted the Word of God in their many denominations. However, in the first century, there were no such denominations in existence at the time Paul instructed this to Timothy. Thus, we are led to believe he was referencing those members of the church who had grown weary with the simple Word of truth and heaped up teachers for themselves turning aside unto fables. So, the falling away in the church happened before the first century ended. Just as some congregations today, once sound in faith, have departed from that faith by means of their own members within.

Let us all be diligent in study of God’s word so that we may avoid itching ears and continue in paths following the ancient order.