THE GOOD NEWS MINISTRY AND MISSIONS OUTREACH PROCLAIMING THE SOON RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST!
Revealing The Rise of a Counterfeit Christianity - The Great Pretenders!
"Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name ... and will deceive many' (Matthew 24:4-5).
Jesus Christ told His apostles to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in His name. Most people who are familiar with the Bible realize those apostles zealously embarked on that mission. Their converts were first called Christians in the city of Antioch (Acts 11:26). Since then, so many people have been born or inducted into the hundreds of denominations known collectively as "Christianity" that it is one of the world's most popular and dominant religions.
People assume that all, or at least almost all, who bear the name Christian follow the beliefs, teachings and practices of Jesus Christ. But the Bible tells us that not everyone who accepts the name of Christ is really a Christian.
Jesus predicted that many, a great multitude, would claim His name but deny Him by their actions. He said they would "call Me 'Lord, Lord,"' but "not do the things which I say" (Luke 6:46).
Christ and His apostles spoke of false churches, false teachers, false prophets, false apostles, false brethren and a false gospel.
They revealed that two opposing ostensibly Christian religions would emerge. One-a small remnant-a little flock-a very few- of the Church Jesus founded would be led by God's Spirit and remain faithful to His teachings. The other, the majority, a great multitude, would be beguiled - guided and influenced by a different spirit- that they would accept the name of Christ but twist His teachings to create a convincing counterfeit of the True Church Christ Founded.
Both would use Christ's name and claim His authority. Both would perform works that would outwardly appear good and right. Both would claim to be following Christ's true teachings. But only one, a little flock, a small remnant, a very few- would faithfully represent its founder, Jesus Christ. The other, the majority, a great multitude, would capture the minds and hearts of humanity by attaching the name of Christ to biblically insupportable religious customs, worldly traditions and doctrines that Jesus and His apostles neither taught, practiced nor approved.
The apostles repeatedly warned Jesus' followers to beware of false teachers who would introduce counterfeit-Christian beliefs. Jesus Himself warned: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name ... and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5).
The New Testament presents a concise historical sketch of the roots of these two religions that profess to be Christian one real, one counterfeit. Christ's apostles described the origin of each and their fundamental characteristics.
We have already examined the apostles' description of the True Church Jesus founded. Now let's look at the record they left us of another supposedly Christian religion-one that distorted and corrupted the truth and grew to become far more powerful and influential than the small, True and Faithful Church Jesus promised would never die out.
Teaching the traditions of men
Where do most professing Christian churches and Christian educational institutions get their teachings and practices? Most of their members assume they come from the Bible or from Jesus Christ Himself. But do they?
Jesus commanded His apostles to teach others exactly what He had taught, "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded and taught you" (Matthew 28:20, NIV). He condemned the replacing of God's commandments, the teachings of the one true gospel with human traditions and human reasoning. Speaking to the Pharisees, He said, "For laying aside the commandments of God, you hold to the traditions of men ... All too well you reject the commandments of God, that you may keep your traditions" (Mark 7:8-9).
Jesus taught that His True Church should keep the commandments and the one true gospel of God: "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). He warned: "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied [preached] in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many great signs and wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! "' (Matthew 7:22-23). He knew that false teachers would arise who would reject the commandments and the one true word of God for a distorted gospel of rebellion and disobedience!
Like Jesus, the apostles consistently taught obedience to God. Peter and the other apostles risked their lives to make it clear that "we ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Paul expressed the same commitment he shared with the other apostles of a life of obedience. "Through him [Christ] and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith" (Romans 1:5, NIV).
Paul later cautioned members of the congregation in Colosse to hold fast to what he had taught them. "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught. ." (Colossians 2:6-7).
Following Christ's example, Paul warned the Colossians not to accept the humanistic traditions and philosophies of men as replacements for the commandments and the one true gospel of God: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8; compare Mark 7:8-9, 13).
Why did Jesus Christ and the apostles sound such urgent warnings to avoid the worldly traditions, psychology and humanistic philosophy of men?
Jesus warned us that our enemy, the devil, plants false Christians among the true (Matthew 13:24-30). Some of these "false brethren" (2 Cor. 11:26) directly attack True Believers. Others have and will continually try to introduce a false, ritualistic or cultic gospel within the True Church. (Gal. 1:6-9). Still others, either from within the church or through a cult, teach a counterfeit righteousness (Rom. 10:1-3). Jesus called these the tares "the sons of the wicked one" declaring that the one who sows the tares is "the devil" (Matt. 13:38-39).
Though proper discernment and church discipline can remove some counterfeits, these imposters and false teachers from the local congregation, we can't always tell the false from the true. It is impossible, therefore, to cleanse the church completely of its enemy agents of deception. Nevertheless, we need to be on guard at all times, measuring all things by the Word of God, testing not only the words of so-called believers, but also their behavior and attitudes. If you find a spirit of pride and stubborn willful deceit, be careful. Apply the word of God firmly with humility and gentleness (Matt 18:15-17 ; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; 2 Peter 2; 1 John 4:1-6)
Subversion from within the Church
As the apostles strove to establish still more congregations of believers among the nations, a phenomenon arose that eventually produced an alternate and outwardly Christian religion-but one quite different from the Church Jesus founded and His apostles established.
New and different doctrines were subtly introduced. Some began subverting the Church by challenging and contradicting the teachings of Christ's apostles. Paul warned, "For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain" (Titus 1: I 0-11).
To counter this trend, Paul instructed fellow elder Titus to carefully consider the background, knowledge and character of anyone being considered for ordination: "Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless ... He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (verses 7, 9, NIV).
Increasingly, "false apostles" began contradicting and undermining the teachings of the true apostles of Christ. Paul cautioned the church in Rome: "I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good and guileless in what is evil" (Romans 16:17-19, NRSV).
Competing religious leaders, masquerading as ministers of Christ, began teaching their own false doctrines of worldliness and humanistic philosophy "in opposition to" Christ's apostles and others of his faithful servants. At first they came predominantly from a Jewish background. But then false teachers emerged from people of other Philosophical backgrounds within the professing Church. The subversive doctrines that eventually grew to be the most influential were a blending of all the Roman, Greek and Babylonian pagan philosophies of humanism and the misguided Jewish philosophies synthesized with the philosophies of mysticism and gnosticism , that were all very popular in the City of Rome and throughout the Old Roman Empire at that time.
Simon the Sorcerer was one such false teacher mentioned early in the Scriptures. After his baptism by Philip, Simon attempted to buy the office of apostle from Peter, hoping to obtain the power to grant others the Holy Spirit. Motivated by his greed for wealth, power and influence, he faked conversion to appear Christian (Acts 8:9-23). Later historical sources indicate that he blended various philosophical elements of paganism, humanism, mysticism and gnosticism into a counterfeit-Christian theology of humanism and psychology.
A dangerous trend was established. Soon "False churches", "false apostles," "false teachers" "false brethren" and a "false gospel" abounded. A counterfeit Christianity was born.
A different gospel gains ground
The impact of distorted teachings devastated the early Church. For example, Christians in the Roman province of Galatia turned en masse from the teachings of the apostle Paul and to a corrupted, cunningly devised but counterfeit gospel promoted by these false apostles.
Paul described the approach they used and the effect the false teachers had on Christians in Galatia: "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-7). The brethren in that area were being swept into one of the many sects making up the emerging false Christianity. Paul had to contend with religious strife generated by Jewish and gentile elements in the Galatian congregations.
These cunning pretenders, these spirtual imposters, did not reject outright the gospel Paul taught. They simply perverted aspects of it. Then they seduced the Galatian Christians into accepting their- gospel- a false gospel- a deadly mixture of truth and error. It contained enough truth to appear righteous and Christian, but it contained sufficient error to prevent any who would accept it from receiving true salvation and the infilling of the True Holy Spirit. Instead they received a false sense of salvation and were infilled with an unholy spirit- the spirit of antichrist.
Notice Paul's blistering condemnation of that "different" gospel: "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1: 8-9).
Notice Paul's warning to the Corinthians about a false Jesus, a false spirit and a false gospel, that was being preached by false teachers. "For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. (2Cor:11:4)
A gospel of no law
Jesus warned His apostles this would happen: "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:11-12). Jesus explained that lawlessness, the key element in the message of the false teachers, would make their ideas appealing and popular. Disregard for God's law and His true gospel would finally become the foundation of a popular and successful counterfeit Christianity.
The false prophets devised their message and doctrines by verbally acknowledging Jesus as "Lord" while refusing to obey Him (Luke 6:46). Jesus Himself warned of their deceitful, cunning approach: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).
Jesus made it clear that teachers of rebellion and disobedience, who outwardly appear as innocent sheep performing devoutly religious acts, are not His apostles or servants: "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied [preached] in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many signs and wonders in Your name? 'And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"' (verses 22-23).
God's law: the religious Battleground
Controversy over God's law erupted within the Church as soon as the first gentiles (non-Israelites) were converted. Certain Jewish believers wanted to force circumcision and other physical requirements on the gentiles. They demanded that gentile converts be physically circumcised to receive salvation (Acts 15: 1).
The apostles refused. They pointed out that even Moses had taught that the circumcision that made one acceptable to God was a matter of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6; compare with Romans 2:29 and Colossians 2:11-12). Also, God had declared Abraham to be righteous in His sight before he was circumcised (Romans 4:9-12). Therefore, they explained, physical circumcision should not be regarded as a requirement for the gentiles' salvation (Acts 15:2, 5-10). For further proof, Peter noted that God had recently given the Holy Spirit to several gentiles without their being circumcised, demonstrating His will in the matter (verse 8; Acts II: 1-4, 15-18).
The same Jews also demanded that gentiles observe the temple ceremonies and rituals that pointed to the sacrifice of Christ. The apostles insisted that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient for the forgiveness of sins through the grace of God (Hebrews 7:26-27).
The temple sacrifices and rituals were only temporary institutions until the sacrifice of the real "Lamb of God" (John 1:29). The apostles taught that they were no longer required (Acts 15:1 1; Hebrews 9:1-15) because they were "concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation" (Hebrews 9: 1 0).
But the apostles never regarded God's spiritual laws, summarized by the Ten Commandments and the word of the true gospel, as being in the same category with "fleshly ordinances." They always supported obedience to God's commandments. Paul made this clear: "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters" (I Corinthians 7:19). He concluded: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law" (Romans 3:3 1).
Distorted view of God's grace
Just as Jesus had foretold, unscrupulous teachers pounced on the teachings of Paul and the other apostles and twisted their meaning (2 Peter 3:15-16). By distorting the apostles' words, first about grace and then about those "fleshly ordinances" that is the Jewish religious rituals that are no longer necessary, they discovered a way to excuse their unlawful behavior. "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness [shameful behavior] and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).
To them, grace excused sin-rebellion and disobedience- the breaking of God's law-by allowing them to disregard scriptural teachings they did not like. They twisted Paul's explanation that we cannot earn salvation with religious rituals or a lifetime full of our own "good works" into an excuse for making no effort to be obedient and to obey God.
Peter pinpointed their real problem. They "despise authority": "They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries . . ." (2 Peter 2:10). A dominant characteristic of these deceivers was their eagerness to verbally attack and undermine the apostles and elders who were the true shepherds of God's flock.
As a consequence, said Peter, "they have forsaken the right way and gone astray . . ." (verse 15). "For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption . . ." (verses 18-19).
Now a problem even more sinister developed among the scattered congregations of God's people.
False teachers, instead of trying to impose more law on gentiles, began exploiting God's mercy-the grace of God-to advocate the idea that Christians have been liberated from the law and no longer need to obey it. However, God says transgressing His law is sin (I John 3:4).
These teachers misrepresented God's law as an unnecessary burden. John responded: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome' (I John 5:3).
Contrary to the idea of being liberated from law, James calls God's commandments a "royal law" and the "law of liberty" (James 2:8-12). God designed His law to guarantee that we would know the consequences of such evils as immorality, adultery, murder, theft, fraud and covetousness.
It is sin-rebellion and disobedience, not God's law, that enslaves us (Romans 6:6). We become free from the enslavement to sin by obeying God (verse 17). Paul explains that obedience and righteousness are inseparable. "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous" (Romans 2:13, NIV).
Satan the devil: master deceiver
Those who promoted these lawless principles were influenced by Satan. Paul said: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians II: 13-15).
Satan hates God's law. He is a master deceiver. Naturally, he will spare no effort to infiltrate and deceive and destroy from within, the Church Christ founded.
To accomplish his purpose, Satan uses people to mislead other people. It is easy for him to influence human beings who desire to teach others when they are motivated by personal ambition. This is especially true if they lack a proper understanding of the Scriptures. Satan simply takes advantage of their desire to be spiritual teachers. He seduces susceptible individuals to pay lip service to Christ while creating their own new sets of doctrines and ignoring or disobeying portions of God's laws. "He [Jesus] answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias [Elijha] prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." (Mark:7:6)
Paul told Timothy to "charge some that they teach no other doctrine" and have a "pure heart," "good conscience" and "sincere faith, . . . from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm" (I Timothy 1:3, 6-7).
Sincere but misguided religious leaders can and do accept doctrines that permit them to break some of God's commandments and to disobey the true word of God's gospel. Then they persuade others to believe as they do. Sadly, through the devil's influence, they convince themselves that their misguided concepts are righteous-that God is pleased with them. They believe the false doctrines they teach. Although sincere, they are sincerely mistaken.
Paul says, "The coming of the lawless one [a future teacher who will advocate doctrines contrary to God's laws] is according to the working of Satan ... with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie" (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11). Probably none of the misguided teachers perceives he is in reality advocating Satan's point of view.
However, by creating a counterfeit-Christian religion one that is not entirely different from the True Church but rejects some of the essential biblical teachings that lead to eternal life-Satan is attempting to thwart God's plan for the salvation of mankind. Remember, Jesus says, "if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). That is exactly what the devil wants to prevent. He promotes a lawless Christianity that teaches we can selectively obey or even ignore God's commandments and the true word of the gospel.
Lawlessness in varying degrees is the centerpiece of Satan's counterfeit doctrines. His purpose is to convince people that they are serving Christ while cutting them off from true salvation, by filling them with the false unholy spirit of antichrist and by clouding their understanding of what sin is so they will continue in sin-rebellion and disobedience so they will practice at least some degree of lawlessness.
To accomplish his purpose, Satan exploits human nature. He sways people to believe his deceptions (I John 5:19; Revelation 12:9). Satan retains just enough truth in his doctrines to persuade people they are following Christ. But he introduces sufficient error to prevent them from living the way that would ultimately lead to eternal life.
Why disobedience appeals to human nature
Satan is successful in deceiving humanity for good reason. The apostle Paul explains that the natural mind of man-the mind that is not guided by God's True Holy Spirit cannot always see the purpose behind God's laws and the true gospel. "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).
Most people are not overtly hostile toward many of God's laws. They usually recognize that deeds such as murder and theft are wrong. However, they are hostile-perhaps without recognizing their innate hostility-toward laws that challenge their own personal, natural way of thinking. In that sense lawlessness appeals to people.
Paul explains why disobedience can appeal to our baser instincts:
"The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). The carnal, or fleshly, mind not only lacks spiritual discernment, it resents God's authority as expressed in His laws. The New International Version translates this verse: The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.
We call this sinful tendency human nature-a combination of human weakness and acquired attitudes resulting from Satan's influence on people. Satan exploits human nature. He uses his false teachers to convince other people that they are "liberated" from the laws and the true word of God, thus excusing their tendency to be hostile toward God's laws. So, rather than abandoning a life of lawlessness, those led astray by this deception continue in sin-rebellion and disobedience. Thinking their rebellion and disobedient actions are permissible to God, they fail to recognize, at least in some of their beliefs and behavior, the gravity of their sinful actions.
But the apostle James makes it clear that this approach and attitude to God's royal law are entirely wrong. "For whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2: 10). The context shows James is speaking of the Ten Commandments (verses 8-9, 11). God's fundamental law is made up of 10 points, and He requires us to observe them literaly all-in letter and spirit.
A failing away from truth begins
Christ praised the church in Ephesus for refusing to follow false apostles who tried to take advantage of their human nature and seduce them. "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars" (Revelation 2:2).
But not everyone in every congregation followed the example of the church in Ephesus. Many accepted the humanistic teachings of the false apostles and reverted to sinning-rebellion-disobiedience and unbelief. That is why Peter wrote: "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandments delivered to them" (2 Peter 2:20-21).
People began turning away from the teachings of Christ's true apostles. They accepted the humanistic and worldly philosophies of false teachers. Peter had explicitly warned that this would occur. He said false teachers would arise "among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And if any will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed" (2 Peter 2:1-2).
Peter anticipated that not just a few-but a majority of professing Christians would turn aside from the truth of the true word of God to follow humanistic worldly doctrines and philosophies that were more appealing to the carnal mind. Later John confirms this happened. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us" (I John 2:19).
Barnabas and Saul (later renamed Paul) encountered a false prophet determined to turn people away from the truth. "Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus ... But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith" (Acts 13:6-8).
On other occasions the problem lay with false brethren (Galatians 2:4). Paul referred to his trials "in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren" (2 Corinthians 11:26).
These false Christians had not become a genuine threat just to Paul's safety and effectiveness, but they had also become a significant part of the visible Christian community. Some may have finally gone out from God's special people but continued calling themselves Christian.
They started new sects and denominations Others became members of these new and supposedly liberated sects and denominations that retained the name Christian, but they were only counterfeits of the real thing Still others probably remained in the fellowship of true believers and over time subverted those congregations to their own heretical teachings. A false Christianity was beginning to take a firm hold.
True Christians forced out of congregations
As the teachings of false ministers gained in popularity, their followers gradually grew to be the majority in some congregations. The apostle John records one such tragic example: "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-eminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church " (3 John 9- 10).
Incredible as it sounds, those true believers who were faithful to the teaching of the apostles were expelled from this congregation. They had become the minority. The majority had chosen to follow Diotrephes, who, in his own lust for power and influence, falsely accused the apostle John. Satan had succeeded in placing his false minister over this congregation, expelling the faithful servants of Jesus Christ.
Remember, Jesus had already warned His true servants that this would happen: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction (Hell), and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life (Heaven) , and there are very few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:13-15).
He also said: "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 'These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men" (Mark 7:6-8, NIV).
Now we can understand why Paul explained to Christians in Rome the appropriate response to those who were stirring up division within the Church. "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17).
Counterfeit Christianity dominates
By the end of the third century the true servants of God had become a distinct minority, a small remnant, a little flock, the very few, among those who called themselves Christians. The counterfeit Christianity had become the majority.
False teachers had successfully gained a far larger following than the faithful ministers of God. However, history shows the counterfeit sects were not united in their beliefs. Many factions existed among them.
Nevertheless, divided and unconverted as it was, this new brand of Christianity rapidly expanded its membership and became the visible Christian church. Purporting to offer salvation, but without the necessity of real faith or real repentance and obedience to the true word of God, it held just enough truth to appeal to the masses.
In spite of its faults, it appeared to offer a hope unequalled by any pagan religion at that time. None of the pagan religions offered a believable way for people to receive forgiveness of sins and obtain eternal life. This new religion seemed to offer just that. Little did its followers realize that its promises, without obedience to the True Word of God and without real faith, without real repentance and without a proper adult baptism, were made in vain.
By the end of the third century this counterfeit Christianity was a squabbling, bitterly divided religion. But at the beginning of the fourth century two things happened that abruptly altered the course of Christian history. First, the Roman emperor Diocletian intensified the policy of many previous Roman emperors of persecuting the True and Faithful Christians and ordered that all the true, original Christian manuscripts be burned. This dramatically renewed a climate of fear throughout the Christian community.
Ten years later another emperor, Constantine, came to power. He had defeated another powerful contender for the right to replace Diocletian as emperor, but he still had many enemies, and his political position remained insecure. In all the empire, only Christians were unaligned politically. Constantine immediately saw an opportunity to use this formerly persecuted and politically alienated religious body to strengthen his hold on the empire.
First he legalized Christianity. Then, only two years later, he called all the divided professing-Christian groups together to hammer out a unified system of belief. He wanted a united religious body that was spiritually, physically and politically committed to him and the Roman empire.
To achieve this, Constantine presided over doctrinal deliberations and dictated statements of belief whenever disagreements could not be resolved amicably. He soon successfully molded the bickering groups of counterfeit Christians who were willing to succumb and accept state control, into a strong and unified vassal of the Roman Empire. He successfully molded ancient Roman political and pagan doctrine with Christianity to form a new universal Roman controlled religious System- a False and counterfeit Christianity was officially born.
Williston Walker, former professor of ecumenical and ecclesiastical history at Yale University, tells us that, in 323, "Constantine was at last the sole ruler of the Roman world. The church was everywhere free from persecution ... But, in winning its freedom from its enemies, it had come largely under the control of the occupant of the Roman imperial throne. A fateful union with the state had begun" (A History of the Christian Church, 1946, p. 111).
A religion transformed through syncretism [Political Correctness]
As this new religion-now supported by the Roman emperors grew in power and influence, it sought to become a truly universal church. In its ambition to add more members, many new inductees, with all their old worldly traditions, humanistic pagan practices and worldly ambitions-were welcomed into its fold.
Constantine had successfully succeeded in incorporating not only roman pagan customs into this new universal, state sponsored, counterfeit Christian religion, he also brought in and sanctioned all the politicians, the rich, the businessmen, the traders, the tradesmen and merchants of the Roman empire. They were now by Roman law, allowed to be called "Christian". Thus the terms "Christian businessmen", "Christian politician" "Christian This and Christian that", etc. was born and propagated by this counterfeit Christian religion. You could add the term "Christian" to anything and everything.
Here we have the First instance of a Roman derived [Political Correctness] just as we have around the world today. All this in opposition to and contrary to the teachings of the one and only, True Christian Gospel. The early roman church under the auspices of the roman government eventually sold indulgences to this wealth oriented, materialistic class of merchants, businessmen, politicians etc. They were to give a certain portion of their income, or profits, to the church in exchange for the church's blessing and "seal of approval" upon their worldly business, their political ambitions and upon all their other worldly, personal materialistic, humanistic endeavors.
Charles Guignebert, professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Paris, described the process: "Now at the beginning of the fifth century, the ignorant and the pseudo/false-Christians thronged into the Church in numbers ... They had forgotten none of their pagan, worldly customs and traditions ... The bishops of that period had to content themselves with redressing, as best they could, and in experimental fashion, the shocking malformations of the Christian faith which they perceived around them ... "[Properly instructing converts] was out of the question; they had to be content with teaching them no more than the symbol of baptism and then (Properly) baptizing them was (postponing) until a later date (along with) the task of eradicating their superstitions, which they preserved intact ... This 'later date' never arrived, and the Church adapted to herself, as well as she could, to them and their worldly customs and beliefs. On their side, they were content to dress up their paganism in a Christian cloak" (The Early History of Christianity , 1927, p. 208-210, emphasis added throughout).
What was the result? This state-dominated counterfeit Christianity became a bizarre synthesis, a conglomeration of beliefs, worldly practices and customs from many sources.
As Guignebert explained: "It is sometimes very difficult to tell exactly from which pagan rite a particular Christian rite is derived, but it remains certain that the spirit of pagan ritualism became impressed upon Christianity, to such an extent that at last the whole of it might be found distributed through its ceremonies" (p. 121).
In those early centuries the counterfeit Christianity that the apostles of Jesus Christ had fought so hard to contain grew in size and popularity. In later centuries this religion would fragment repeatedly into competing denominations. Some 400 to date. Tragically, however, none, except a very few, have returned to the original practices and teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles. This fact is recognized by many modern biblical scholars. (See "Changes in Christian Scholars' Perspective on God's Law," p. 44.)
This Counterfeit Christianity had and still has: No True Holy Spirit Conviction, No True Repentance for Sin, No Complete Immersion Water Baptism as adults (Acts 2:38) and No True Holy Spirit Conversion, , No True Holiness, No True Separation from the World and the Things of the World and No True Loyalty or Obedience to the True Word of God and the True Teachings of Jesus Christ.
The tragic result is that "The Great Multitude", "The Many", "The Majority", along with their deceived and deceptive leadership are on the fast track to an eternity in Hell.
Meanwhile, that "Little Flock" of True Bible Believing Christians who, through these many centuries, have faithfully been baptised and faithfully continued to yield their lives to God in sincere OBEDIENCE to His laws and the Word of His True Gospels are still, comparatively speaking, only a "Small Remnant" (Joel 2:32), a "little flock" (Luke 12:32), the "very few" of (Matthew 7:13-14) and (Luke 13:22-28) amongst the many, that great multitude of the professing and counterfeit Christians, as well as of those of all the other false religions that have now dominated a confused and chaotic world.
In conclusion all God’s True and faithful Bible Beliving Ministers were instructed: "Preach the WORD! Be ready in season [when they like it] and out of season [when they don't like it]. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to FABLES"(2 Timothy 4:2–4).
COUNTERFEIT - Being an imitation of the Original, intended to mislead or deceive
*Sham *Pseudo *phony * False * Bogus *
The Great Pretenders - Matthew 23:1-2,23-33
"You also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" - Matthew 23:28
For 11 years a Massachusetts man kept his secret hidden from others. No one suspected that anything was wrong. Even at home his behavior appeared normal. He would sit down with the newspaper every night after dinner, and not even his wife knew of his problem. But the day came when he couldn't take the strain of covering up any longer. After years of guarding his secret, he finally confessed - he couldn't read. He had been a great pretender.
Many people put on a front in their spiritual lives. They appear to be real Christians. They speak the language, join a church, and are careful to hide their sins. They act piously and try to make a good impression, and people assume that they are real Christians. But deep down inside, these spiritual actors know they have never admitted their sinful condition to God and placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation. "Outwardly", they "appear righteous," but inwardly they are "full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew 23:28).
Have you been faking it? You may fool others, but you can't fool God. He sees what's in your heart. Don't be a Great Pretender. Receive God's Son as your Savior. Experience the real thing.
YOU CAN HAVE TONS OF RELIGION WITHOUT AN OUNCE OF SALVATION.
Audio Bile Study
Let Us Pray Together--
PRAY: "God be merciful to me a sinner. Receive me now for Christ's sake. Cleanse me from my sin by your precious blood, shed on the cross for me; lead me to be Baptized and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Teach me to pray each day; to read Your will for my life from your word, the Bible; and help me to worship and serve You in the fellowship of your church. I thank you Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!