Most Christians contribute their money, their energy, and their time to building up the church they attend, while others are at work destroying the work of the church. Some are blatantly hate the church, while most sincerely think they are doing a good work. The end result can often be one and the same. Which one is worse is often up for debate.
Subsequent to the stoning of Stephen, Saul “made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). All of the time that he was doing this, he thought he was doing what was best in his service to the Lord. Later he said, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (Acts 26:9-11). These things he did sincerely, yet sincerely he was destroying the work of the church.
The apostle Paul spoke of the damage false teachers can do to the Lord’s church. He warned the Corinthian Christians saying, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2-3). He described these enemies of Christ saying, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). False teachers will lead many astray by teaching soft words and good speeches in order to make monetary gain from them (Rom 16:17,18 f; 2 Pet 2:1-3).
Destroyers From Within
It was John who named Diotrephes as one who was destroying the church from within, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, receives us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbidding them that would, and casts them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that does good is of God: but he that does evil hath not seen God” (3 Jn 9-11). There are many today who have overtaken the Lord’s church with their money and influence, and are casting out qualified leaders and teachers in order to have preeminence.
Discerning Friend From Foe
We profess with our lips that we love the Lord and his church. Can we truly love the Lord’s church while destroying that which Christ bled and died for? Can we truly love the Lord’s church when we sit back and do not oppose those who are destroying it, whether sincerely or within intent?
It is note worthy to say that occasionally the church needs to be chastised even as John chastened the seven churches of Asia. Sometimes the church needs to be reminded that they have left their first love and have fallen away from the commandments of Christ and His apostles. Often the church needs to be reminded that it is vain worship to teach for doctrine the commandments of men (Mt 15:7-9). Sadly, John would have been labeled today as one who was destroying the church. Paul would have been called a trouble maker, for confronting the apostle Peter face to face and writing so many letters warning and reprimanding the churches.To this end Paul said, “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal 4:16).
To point out the error of the church is not destroying the church. We can destroy the church with apathy and the lack of knowledge (Hos 4:6). We all need to be reminded that despite the church of Christ is the only church which preaches the unadulterated gospel of Christ, not every member or local church are doing that which is right in God’s eyes. Many have fallen asleep, and need to be awakened before it is everlasting too late. Some have forgotten why we must speak only where the bible speaks, and remain silent where the bible is silent (1 Pet 4:11 f; 1 Cor 4:6). Some need to understand why it is imperative to study God’s Word in order that we might please God and rightly discern His Holy Word (2 Tim 2:15). Some need to be reminded not to forsake the assembly each Lord’s day (Heb 10:25). Some need to hear that despite the church of Christ being perfect to every good work, that the local churches are not necessarily perfected.
Nevertheless, there are enemies of the church who doesn’t want it to succeed but rather that it be destroyed. Denominations want to destroy the church, and often subtly do with the infiltrations of their false doctrines and attacks on the church. Adulterers and adulteresses, and those who have erred from the faith, destroy the church by their evil example and false teaching. Appeasing preachers, who love money more than they love God’s Word, lead many away by preaching fables as opposed to the truth of God (1 Tim 6:3-10 ff; 2 Tim 4:2-5 ; Tit 2:14). Let us be aware and rightfully discern between those who attack the church in order to destroy it, as opposed to those who love the church and are trying to lead it back to new testament doctrine (To this end I write and exhort daily).