The church by the end of the apostles and prophets of the 1st century was exactly like God in Christ wanted it to be. We find that by the death of the apostles and prophets of the 1st century, all things that pertain to life and godliness was given to us, was written down, and we today when we read what they wrote, we know what they knew. Thus when we look at apostasies we look at departures from truth. Throughout the years from Pentecost, 33 AD, following the death burial and resurrection of Christ the faithful saints have always existed on earth. They were not the most influential and are they were (are) not the largest group, but they always existed. Keep in mind the dates of these apostasies may vary slightly depending on the historian that you choose to follow.
Sin is sin, false teaching is false teaching. It does not matter if it developed like in 154 A.D. with baptism for the dead or you go to 1870 and discuss the infallibility of the Pope, false teaching is false teaching. Just a sampling from the list in V. Glenn McCoy’s book “Return To The Old Paths”, pp. 16-9 are:
1. Distinction made between elders – A.D. 150.
2. Baptism for the dead – A.D. 154.
3. Prayers for the dead – A.D. 300.
4. Sign of the cross was practiced – A.D. 300.
5. Lighting of candles instead of individual prayers – A.D. 320.
6. The Lord’s Supper was changed into a mass and celebrated daily – A.D. 394.
7. The phrase “Mother of God” was applied to Mary by the council meeting at Ephesus.
8. Extreme unction (anointing of the newly dead or those about to die) – A.D. 526.
9. The actual formal establishment of the doctrine of purgatory (a second chance for dead sinners from which one could escape through money paid to priests who, offer prayers for them) by Gregory I – A.D. 593.
10. Latin became the official language for prayer and worship, imposed by Gregory I – A.D. 600.
11. Near deification of Mary as “queen of heaven.” Prayers made to Mary, dead saints, angels imposed by Gregory I – A.D. 600.
12. The title “pope” or “universal bishop” was given to Boniface III by emperor Phocas – A.D. 606.
13. Instrumental music was introduced in church worship in A.D. 670 by Pope Vitalia. However, it created such a furor that it was removed and reintroduced much later. (~900 AD)
14. Worshipping of the cross, images, and relics – A.D. 786.
15. Hagiolatry, worshipping of departed saints – A.D. 788
16. Holy water (water mixed with a pinch of salt and blessed by priest) used – A.D. 850.
17. College of Cardinals established – A.D. 890.
18. Dead “saints” canonized by authority of Pope John XV – A.D. 998.
19. Rosary invented by Peter the Hermit (counting of beads in prayer).
20. The sale of indulgences in sin began in 1190. (Pope Leo X financed a good part of the building of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome by this means. This was one of the 95 points included in the thesis of Martin Luther that was nailed to the door of the Wittenberg, Germany church in A.D. 1517.)
21. Confession of sins to the priest for the purpose of forgiveness of sins (auricular confession) was imposed by Pope Innocent III – A.D. 1215.
22. Sprinkling was approved for baptism by Council of Ravenna – A.D. 1311.
23. Tradition was declared by the Council of Trent to be equal in authority with the Bible – A.D. 1545.
24. Infallibility of the Pope – A.D. 1870
The definition of apostasy is people changing what God has given in the Scriptures. If you change one element of the church, if you change any part of that once delivered faith, then you are no longer a part of the church, that organization that was blood bought by Christ. He is the head of the church, He is still the head of the church, and He will always be that the head of the church. Nothing has changed.
The teachings we have today are the teachings that were practiced in the 1st century. When you worship with the Lord’s church and you sing without mechanical instruments, you pray, you give, you participate in the Lord’s Supper, and you listen to exhortations from the Word of God, you are doing exactly what they did in the 1st century. It doesn’t need to be changed, it doesn’t need to be altered, it cannot be made better. To begin to move from the truth of God’s Word, brings further and further movement away from the truth.
-Jerry D. Sturgill