STEPS IN APOSTASY
That there would be an apostasy among Gods people is evident from many verses. Some shall depart from the faith ... From among yourselves will men arise speaking perverse things and draw away disciples after them ... A falling away must come ... I will remove your candlestick from out its place ... It would come in a deceptive manner; not all at once; a step at a time.
The organization of the church of the New Testament was extremely simple. (I use the word organization as defined in The American Heritage Dictionary: A structure through which individuals cooperate systematically to conduct business.) When completely organized it is an autonomous organization made up of bishops, deacons and people who are called saints. (Philippians 1:1) Bishops are also called elders or pastors. Each church had a plurality of bishops. Paul and Barnabas appointed for them elders in every church ... These men had the oversight of the congregation. Their oversight began and ended with what the scriptures taught. Qualified men were appointed as deacons to serve in whatever capacity the church might have need.
The first step of apostasy was a corruption of this organization. A presiding elder was appointed and he soon began to be known as the Bishop of that particular church. A distinction was made between the bishop and the elder. No such distinction is made in the New Testament. The word bishop indicated their oversight, the word elder indicated that they were aged men and the word pastor indicated that they were to be feeders of the flock, teachers. But these words all applied to same group of men.
It developed that a bishop in a bigger church took the oversight of several smaller churches. These bishops formed themselves into centralized groups and the group took the oversight of the churches. This concept grew until in 325 A.D. Constantine called all the bishops of all the churches to a convocation called the Counsel of Nicaea. They handed down a decree that was known as the Nicene Creed and it became the rule of faith for all the churches. Apostasy was in full bloom, and it all started with a little unscriptural departure in organization.
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