Troublemakers in the Early Church

Text: Romans 14:19

Within the Lord’s church, we are to pursue peace. Unfortunately, not everyone does this. Furthermore, some from outside of the church try to cause trouble for Christians. This lesson looks at four examples of troublemakers in the early church to see what we can learn from them.

Saul

  • Saul was a persecutor (Acts 8:1-3) – began with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:57-60); spread throughout Jerusalem (Acts 8:1); he went as far as Damascus in order to persecute Christians (Acts 9:1-2)
  • Saul did this while outside of the church – but even those who appear to be brethren can cause persecution (Acts 1:16-17; Philippians 1:15-17); be ready
  • When Saul persecuted the church, he did so in good conscience (Acts 23:1) – some may cause harm to us, sincerely believing they’re doing good (John 16:1-2); but they are acting in ignorance (1 Timothy 1:13; Romans 10:1-3)
  • Despite his opposition to Christians, Saul repented (Acts 9:3-9, 17-19) – example that God is willing to save anyone who will obey, regardless of their past (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Hymenaus and Philetus

  • Hymenaus and Philetus were false teachers (2 Timothy 2:16-18) – taught that the resurrection was past; their message was contrary to those who would accurately handle the word (2 Timothy 2:15); this is the basis of one being a false teacher, regardless of motive (cf. Acts 23:1; 17:11)
  • There will be false teachers today (2 Peter 2:1) – the threat must be taken seriously
  • False teaching spreads like cancer/gangrene (2 Timothy 2:17) – error cannot be ignored because it will spread (2 Peter 2:1-2); the spread of error is a problem because it brings about spiritual death (2 Peter 2:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12)
  • False teachers upset the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:18; cf. Titus 1:10-11) – they encourage people to live as they please, regardless of God’s law (1 Corinthians 15:32-34)

Diotrephes

  • Diotrephes wanted control (3 John 9-10) – loved to have “preeminence” (KJV)
  • No authority in the NT for one man to rule over a congregation – goal is to have a plurality of qualified elders (Acts 14:23; cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9); if not, mutual decisions are made by the men of the church (Acts 6:1-6; cf. 1 Timothy 2:12)
  • In his arrogance, Diotrephes rejected the truth (3 John 9) and refused to fellowship the faithful (3 John 10) – the word of God is the basis for our unity (John 17:20-21), not the will of men
  • Contrast between Diotrephes and Demetrius is the difference between good and evil (3 John 9-12) – men like Diotrophes have no fellowship with God (v. 11; cf. 1 John 1:6-7; 2 John 9); they suppress the truth and must be exposed (v. 10)

Demas

  • Demas was a deserter (2 Timothy 4:10) – the trouble he caused was not active (like the other examples), but passive
  • He had previously been one of Paul’s “fellow workers” (Philemon 24; cf. Colossians 4:14) – his falling away was a discouragement to Paul (“Demas…has deserted me“); everyone in the Lord’s body is important (Ephesians 4:16); one who falls away is not only leaving the Lord, but is being a discouragement and hindrance to his brethren
  • It is a reminder that Christians can fall away (Galatians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 9:27)
  • It is a warning against the problem of worldliness (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17) – the world is not worth the loss of our soul (Matthew 16:26); your citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20)

Conclusion

  • Some will cause trouble in the Lord’s church
  • Do not become discouraged and be led astray by them
  • Do not become one of them
  • Prepare to stop them from leading others astray

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