How did the early church get corrupted?

Author: BibleAsk Team

The Early Church Corruption

Jesus gave messages of warning and admonition against corruption in the early church. He said that this will continue till His second coming (Revelation 2 and 3). The Lord lists seven churches by name to represent each phase of the church’s history.

To the first church He said that they at first resisted corruption, “thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Revelation 2:2). Jesus said to the church that you “hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate” (verse 6). This was when the church first began, the believers were watchful for the falsehoods coming into the church and were commended by the Lord for rejecting false doctrines.

However, the Lord said that later on, evil doctrines crept into the church and the church accepted them, “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:15).  Again we see the Nicolaitanes name appear, only this time it appears that the church is allowing this doctrine into the church.

But who were the Nicolaitanes and what is their doctrine? According to Bible commentators, the Nicolaitanes’ doctrine was basically that they abused the grace of God and preached that they could do whatever they wanted and yet still consider themselves Christians. This is congruent with the context of the chapter in the previous verse, “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (Revelation 2:14).

Peter warned of this very thing in the early church. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). And he added, “Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15).

Clearly, the corruption in the early church came from those who brought in the doctrine of “cheap grace.” This is an unbiblical doctrine that says believers can knowingly continue in sin and yet still be saved by grace. God forbids such a thing (Romans 6:1-2). The false teachers with the corrupting doctrines succeeded because they appealed to people’s selfish desires of wanting the blessings of God without obeying His law.

The evil teachers were able to seduce the people with carnal messages, “For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2: 18-19).

The cure from Balaam’s corruption is full repentance and adhering to the truths of the Bible. The Lord said, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to apply to your eyes so that you may see” (Revelation 3:18). And God promises that those that humbly acknowledge their wrongs will be given all the power they need to overcome sin (1 John 1:9).

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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