Apostate churches of Christ

Text: Revelation 2:4-5

As we consider the different churches that exist in the religious world, some of these churches can be classified as “apostate churches of Christ.” They are composed of brethren but have departed from Christ. This lesson will examine these churches.

Define “Apostate churches of Christ”

  • Departed from the NT pattern – therefore, they are wrong
  • However, in order to be right, they only need to repent – different from the “churches of men”; to be right, one must leave these churches
  • They do teach people how to be saved (Acts 2:37-38) – God adds the saved to the universal church (Acts 2:47); but they do not teach them to continue in “the apostles’ teaching” as they should (Acts 2:42)

Institutional Churches

  • We often call these “liberal” churches – good reason for that, but we will save that term for the next point
  • Institutionalism – often used for churches supporting human institutions to do its work (ex: missionary societies, sponsoring churches, orphan homes, etc.)
  • Some of the more “liberal” institutional churches may also be involved in other departures (ex: instrumental music in worship, Saturday night Lord’s Supper, women preachers, etc.)
  • Why do they exist? – they believe “the ends justify the means” (1 Corinthians 1:17; 3:6); they are bound to tradition (Matthew 15:2, 6); most were not alive or old enough when the division occurred, but they have not examined their practices for themselves in light of God’s word (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:15)

Liberal Non-Institutional Churches

  • Sometimes there is a temptation to think that a “non-institutional” church is necessarily a sound church – not always the case; some have the same “liberal” mindset as institutional churches, but it is manifested differently
  • Often seen in loosening NT rules of fellowship – for false teachers (2 John 9-11) and for erring brethren (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15)
  • Tolerance of sin and error – Jesus condemned this (Revelation 2:14-16, 20)
  • Why do they exist? – they do not want to draw lines of fellowship where God has drawn them (1 Corinthians 5:1-2); they value human relationships over their relationship with God (Matthew 10:34-37); they will object to this description, but people are known by their fruit (Matthew 12:33)

“Ultra-Conservative” Churches

  • This label is not completely accurate – no such thing as “ultra-conservative”; cannot be more conservative
  • But this is used to refer to those who bind rules that are in addition to what is required in the NT (ex: no Bible classes, one cup for the Lord’s Supper, no women teachers, head covering, etc.)
  • Important to note that simply practicing such things does not make them wrong (principle of autonomy) – error comes when they bind these practices and teach that others are wrong for not doing likewise
  • Why do they exist? – they are willing to take a difficult/unpopular stand (Revelation 2:13); this attitude is commendable; however, they cannot distinguish between God’s will and their opinion (Matthew 15:2-9)

House Churches

  • Many different kinds of “house churches” – some of these would be considered “churches of men”
  • For our lesson, we are looking at “house churches” comprised of brethren – they typically leave a congregation to start/join a “house church”
  • Not just about location (house) – nothing wrong with meeting in someone’s home (1 Corinthians 16:19); a “house church” has a different organization, worship, and practices (ex: common meals, no collection, no elders, no located preacher)
  • Why do they exist? – they want to do what is comfortable to them, but we must worship according to God’s will, not ours (John 4:24; Colossians 2:23); they want to worship with their friends, but we are not to divide based upon personalities (1 Corinthians 1:12-13; 12:21-23)


  • We must be part of the Lord’s church if we wish to be saved (Ephesians 5:23; Acts 2:47)
  • We must also continue in “the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42) – if we fail to do this, we must repent

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