It is inevitable, inescapable, and absolutely unavoidable. It is every inch as certain as “death and taxes” and ought to be added to that adage of the “dynamic duo” in order to transform it into the truer and more terrible “tragic trio.” The third element in this torturous trifecta, is the inevitable fact that people… are people; and that as such, they going to let you down in your life – and that also goes for God’s people in general, and also in some cases, their leadership in particular. And when they do, it is a pain that permeates your entire being. When the once strong, scripturally solid, faithful and obedient, eventually or suddenly turn away from, and either twist, torture, or just simply deny and abandon the Lord and humble obedience to His eternal word in favor of man-made or man-pleasing self-justifications for their reversals of conviction and direction, it breaks your heart, numbs your mind, shakes your faith, and shatters your spirit. And ultimately, if not handled quickly, correctly, and scripturally, it can cause you to lose your faith in everything too; including the Lord, His word, and His church as well!
Even King David, the “man after God’s own heart” and the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (Acts 13:22; 2 Sam. 23:1) had to deal with such senseless, sickening, soul-searching and disparaging desperation. Note his overwhelming and heart-felt horror – and almost incredible disbelief that such a thing could even possibly happen with his formerly-faithful companion in His Lord’s service… From the 55th Psalm:
“My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me… For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng” (vss. 4-5, 12-14).
Jesus and his first century disciples similarly experienced the excruciating pain of seeing some of their very own, once apparently faithful appearing and beloved brethren, deserting, abandoning, betraying and perverting God’s eternal truth in the first century (Jn. 6:60-66; Gal. 1:6 – 6:15; Col. 2:1-23; 1 Tim. 4 + 6; 2 Tim. 1:13 – 2:18, 3:1 – 4:18; Hebs. 10:19-38; 2 Ptr. 2 + 3; as well as others). No wonder the apostle Paul’s divinely-inspired warning to our first century Colossian brethren was so strong when he sounded the clarion call to, “Beware, lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8)!
Jesus’ disciples in the first century, as well as in every era and century since, have sadly, and tragically still continue to have to endure experiencing this excruciating pain today. It goes with the territory. And it’s about time we admitted, acknowledged, and learned how to deal with and address this tragic truth before it eventually adds us to its apostate ranks as well.
Now the point of this article is not to bash, berate, or belittle such formerly-faithful but now fallen away brethren; but simply to awaken those of us who would continually, faithfully go by what Jesus clearly said, to always be aware that no matter how faithful a brother or sister may be or appear to be today, that Satan is still incredibly strong and that we can therefore never afford to put our faith fully in any of our brothers and sisters, no matter how Scripturally strong and/or well-versed they may seem to be today. Because if we do, we are in for an overwhelming heartache and devastating fall of epic proportions in some cases. We must do everything we do in our Christianity because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ exclusively – and NOT in His people. Because even some of God’s most devoted and faithful-appearing people today, still have the capacity – and even tendency – to someday let you down, disappoint you, start redefining God’s terminology, reject and desert God’s truth, and go back into the world. And sadly, terribly, tragically, if your faith is in them when they go astray and fall away they are liable to take you with them! That is one of Satan’s best and most effective weapons! (See Deuteronomy 13, and Galatians, chapters 3-5).
And as to the ever-present threat, reality, and presence of such reversals of once faithful brethrens’ convictions in the Lord’s church, the apostle Peter explained that:
“…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive (“damnable”- KJV) 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 (“greed” – ESV, NASV) they will exploit you with deceptive words… (2 Ptr. 2:1-3).
From the divinely-inspired and eternal truth of this text we glean some terrifying tidbits of insight into such horrible and heart-breaking reversals of spiritual direction. For instance, these were once faithful, blood-bought children of the living God – a fact which Peter later, further reinforces when he refers to them as “accursed children” who have “forsaken the right way and gone astray” (vss. 14-15). We would also note from this passage, that in some cases, although they have “forsaken the right way and gone astray,” they have neither forsaken the assembly, nor gone from, but in fact are still amongst, God’s people – a sobering reality which Peter, later, also further reinforces (vss. 12-14). This is what makes their insidious effect and influence so much more imminently and intrinsically dangerous. If I may paraphrase David, “If this were an enemy, then we could more easily recognize, identify, and decisively deal with the situation. But it was you, my friend, my equal, my companion and co-worker in the kingdom; you with whom we used to take sweet counsel and teach together from the word of God…”
Let us never put our full and utmost faith in any preacher, teacher, elder, or bible class teacher, but only in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and Him alone. Even the great apostle, elder, evangelist, and divinely-inspired disciple Peter, had to admit to Cornelius and his household that even he was only a man (Acts 10:24-26). And as such, even he could – and actually did – make a massive doctrinal error that required immediate, public, congregational correction, in order to avoid and escape, widespread brotherhood corruption and destruction (Gal. 2:11-14). Anyone, no matter how strong in the Scriptures, can still be tempted to pull and drift away from the truth of God’s word (Heb. 2:1-4, 3:12-4:11; Gal. 5:4). Let’s make up our minds today to make sure that they do not take us with them when and if they do go.