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who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thess. 2:1-4, 7, 9-12.
Some of the Thessalonian brethren, it seems, had an idea that the second advent of Christ would take place in their day; but the apostle disabused their minds of that idea by assuring them that before that day there would come a falling away. What can this mean but an apostasy, a retrogration from the pure apostolic plane? The apostles saw this thing only a little way ahead of them. This falling away is the same as that predicted in 1 Tim. 4:1-3, where it is said, “Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils." “The faith once delivered to the saints” was the pure faith of the gospel. This faith taught but one God, but one Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:5, 6). At a very early time heresies were introduced, teaching a plurality of gods in heaven above and that Christ and Jesus were two separate persons.
This theory was taught by many, and thousands were led away into this mythology and were never reclaimed. An account of these heresies will be found in the writings of Irenæus. He wrote his notable work between A. D. 182 and 189.
Through the faith of the gospel people received full salvation from sin and found grace to live free from sin. They entered the holiest and
made perfect through sanctification. Through faith in the name of Jesus the sick were healed of all their diseases, the lame were made to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak; devils were cast out; and great power and grace rested upon the entire church.
The reader can readily judge what the result was when men fell away from that faith; they lost all the foregoing blessings from God. So it can easily be seen how such a departure and falling away brought darkness and superstition and all conceivable doctrines of devils into the world. The ordinances were corrupted soon after the apostles' death. Feet-washing was lowered from a church ordinance to a practise in the home, to a mere act of hospitality. Baptism also was corrupted. In case of sickness, sprinkling and rubbing were substituted for immersion. Oil was sometimes used instead of water. At times the candidates were divested of all clothing. About Tertullian's time triune immersion took the place of single immersion.
The faith of the gospel teaches that there is one fold, one body-the body of Christ, which is the church; that salvation constitutes us living members of the same; that these members have one mind, one doctrine, are all of one heartand of one soul: but when men fell away from that blessed state of unity, it became necessary for them to be identified with some other body, to enter some other fold and adhere to contrary doctrines. Thus it was that an apostate church was organized in the earth.
We have already seen the humble equality of the apostolic ministry. As the saints began to fall away and drift from the primitive faith, they lost sight of this humble equality and exalted man, as seen in Second Thessalonians. Paul said that the mystery of iniquity was already working. The spirit of it was then seen in some. In John's time it was in public manifestation. In the third epistle of John it is evident that three elders of the church are spoken of; namely, Gaius, Demetrius, and Diotrephes. The first two he commended. They were straight, humble men. But Diotrephes loved to have the preeminence among them. He no doubt wanted to be a bishop, to be higher than
the common presbytery. He did not want to receive the apostle John (verse 9). He knew that John was against any such exaltation. But John comforted Gaius by saying, “When I come, I will remember his deeds.” Verse 10. Here is the first mention in Scripture of one man seeking preeminence above the other elders in the local assembly, seeking a position over the others. This was A. D. 90. Just as soon, however, as we pass beyond the sacred writings, in the second century, we find a man exalted to a higher office-a bishop over the common presbyters or elders. This was apostasy already at work.
I will here quote from the Church Fathers to show that in their early day, one man had been already exalted above the rest. Instead of elders and deacons, as the New Testament reads, it was one bishop, elders, and deacons; three classes of officers instead of two; one over the rest.
"Wherefore it is fitting that ye should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also ye do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to thie harp.”—Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chap. IV. “Since, then, I have had the privilege of seeing you, through Damas your most worthy bishop, and through your worthy presbyters Bassus and Apollonius, and through my fellow servant the deacon Sotio.”—Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chap. II. “There is but one altar for the whole church, and one bishop with the presbytery and deacons."
Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Chap. IV. “Give heed to the bishop, and to the presbytery, and deacons."
– Chap. VII. “The bishop, and the presbyters, and the deacons.”—Ignatius to Polycarp, Chap. VI.
The above quotations from Ignatius, who wrote in the first part of the second century, show that at that early date the humble equality of the apostolic order was already inverted and a third office created, by exalting in each local congregation one man as bishop over the common elders, or presbyters. How differently the above quotations read from the sacred Scriptures! At Philippi, Paul addressed the bishops and deacons, but Ignatius taught that at the time of his writing there was “one bishop, with the presbyters and deacons." When Paul sent