Christianity’s Hidden Apostasy
Do today’s prominent Christian doctrines and practices have biblical roots? Did the New Testament writers warn of false doctrine entering Christianity?
Thousands of Christian denominations around the world are convinced that their belief system is based on the Bible—and the New Testament in particular. Are they right to believe that? Do they have the same beliefs and practices as Jesus Christ, His apostles and His New Testament Church? Does it matter?
Many are unaware that just a few hundred years after the New Testament was completed, nonbiblical doctrines moved stealthily into Christianity. At the same time many of the God-ordained biblical doctrines were belittled and abandoned. For example, religious leaders thought they could take the place of God and make certain days holy.
The great Christian apostasy had begun, and it has continued down through the ages.
The right source for doctrine
In the New Testament we find doctrines of the early Church that are utterly different from present-day mainstream beliefs.
Why do so few Christians today really look to the Bible for God-given doctrine? Why, instead, do humanly devised beliefs prevail?
Instead of teaching obedience to the Bible—as Christ and His apostles did—the later system of doctrines and beliefs abandoned biblical teachings. Thankfully, the true Church has survived the centuries and today still practices the true religion—biblical Christianity. But it is small and widely unknown.
Several of the foundational apostles of the Church warned of nonbiblical beliefs creeping into the Church.Three very concerned apostles
Several of the foundational apostles of the Church warned of nonbiblical beliefs creeping into the Church.
The apostle Jude, for example, cautioned Christians to “contend earnestly” for the original beliefs delivered to the saints. He wrote, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all [time] delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3, emphasis added throughout).
The faith that was once delivered is not the universal beliefs and practices of today’s popular forms of Christianity. Nowhere are today’s prominent beliefs concerning Christmas, Easter, heaven, hell or Sunday worship, to name just a few, found in the New Testament. See the following articles to learn more about how these pagan beliefs and practices were accepted into Christianity:
- Christmas: Should Christians Celebrate It?
- Origin of Easter
- Do We Go to Heaven When We Die?
- What Christianity Gets Wrong About Hell
- Was the Sabbath Changed to Sunday?
The truth is that the saints of biblical times had not even heard of many such so-called Christian beliefs.
The apostle Peter was very aware of the doctrinal changes to come. He warned, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
Looking back over the almost 2,000 years since that time, there is no doubt that the warnings of these three apostles were unheeded.
Just a few hundred years after Christ, we see a very different church emerging. It was a church that had abandoned the New Testament beliefs that it once shared in common with Jesus Christ—the same beliefs they were told to “contend earnestly” for. Christ and His apostles after Him issued warning after warning, time and time again, about fruitless and pointless worship emanating from supposed Christians.
How important is it to avoid apostasy?
Tradition and truth
Warnings of apostasy are not confined to just the New Testament. In the Old Testament the prophet Isaiah was inspired to issue a warning that it is possible to worship God in a futile manner. “Therefore the Lord said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men’” (Isaiah 29:13).
It just is not good enough to worship God—even to have “fear toward” Him—by the commandments or traditions of men. It is worthless worship and no more effective than the worship of nonexistent gods. When tradition and truth go hand in hand, it is of God; when the tradition of men is not sanctioned by God, it is futile.
The words of that scripture in Isaiah were so important for mankind that Jesus Christ repeated them. He told the Pharisees, “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do” (Mark 7:8).
Continuing, Jesus said, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your [own] tradition” (verse 9). The Pharisees were adding their own tradition to God’s Word.
The point is, He is emphatic that it is absolutely pointless to worship God using doctrines or commandments of men. Tradition without the truth of the Bible is futile.
Are your Christian practices taught in the Bible?