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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 2


2. False Apostles.



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But not long after he had written to the Household of the Deity in Ephesus, the things of which he forewarned them began to display themselves. This appears from his second letter to Timothy, in which he says, "This thou knowest, that all they which be in Asia are turned away from me, of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him, that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day (of his apocalypse,

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2 Tim. 1:10,15-18; 4:1,8); and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well." The Star-Angel at Ephesus was perhaps a principal party alluded to as an element of the "all in Asia turned away" from him. Phygellus, Hermogenes, and the house of Onesiphorus, were probably all residents of that city, which with Smyrna, was chief of the cities of Asia. Paul had been long a prisoner in Rome, and could no more personally look after the congregations, to encourage the faithful and to restrain the presumptuous, who sought to supersede him, and constitute themselves authorities in his stead. They were "grievous wolves," who, in "drawing away disciples after them," of necessity "turned them away from Paul." We see the working of the same thing in our own day. The world has gone off after the priests, clergy, and ministers, of "the great city." All who are considered as belonging to a godly, pious generation, are disciples of these grievous wolves, who glorify the traditions of those who lead them to perdition; and in proportion to the intensity of their moonstricken admiration for these, so are they turned from the teaching of Paul and his co-workers. While in their discourses they may pay Paul and the other apostles a few passing compliments, their authority with the "religious world" they have effectually nullified and destroyed. None of their disciples venture to do anything because Paul commands it, but because it is the opinion of some clerical authority that it may be done. Thus it was when all Asia had turned away from him. His authority was disregarded by the Star-Angels of Asia, in which men stood up and proclaimed themselves "apostles," and taught "perverse things," destructive of the truth. "Who is Paul? A prisoner in Rome as a disturber of the peace of society; a man of weak personality, and contemptibility of speech! Are not we the people of the Lord, and are not we endowed with the earnest of the Spirit, as well as he? Are we not inspired with 'the word of wisdom,' the word of knowledge,' the gift of tongues,' 'the operation of powers;' and does not the Lord speak also by us? Having these endowments, we claim apostleship as well as he; and by virtue therefore, of our gifts we affirm, and appeal to them as the proof, that we are the ambassadors of the Anointed Jesus, called and sent of God as Aaron was; and successors of the apostles to the end of the world!" Such were the assumptions of this class of men after Paul's departure; grievous wolves, not sparing the flock, for with them godliness had become craft, and the feeding of the sheep a merchandize of gain.

But before they were abandoned to utter perdition in their own corruption, the Spirit addressed them through John in Patmos. He addressed them as the Potentate who held the Star-Angels in his right

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hand, and walked in the midst of the Golden Lightstands. If the Presbyteries of Episcopals shone as Stars, it was by the right-hand power of the Eternal -- by the effluence of His substance, shed abroad by the ministration of Him at his right hand, who was dead and buried, and afterwards ascended on high, leading captivity captive, and receiving gifts for men. By this effluence in the endowed, he walked in the midst of the Ecclesias, and by his shining converted them into stands effulging light upon the sons of day.

The Spirit, then, radiant from the eternal throne, and focalized in the Anointed Jesus, said to the Star-Angel of Ephesus, "I have known thy works, and thy labor, and thy patient waiting, and that thou art not able to endure wicked men; and hast tried them who assert that they are apostles, but are not, and hast found them liars; and thou hast suffered, and hast patient endurance; and thou hast labored on account of my Name, and hast not tired out." This was the Spirit's knowledge of them in relation to the first estate of the Presbyteries symbolized by the Star-Angel of the Ephesian ecclesia. The "first works" and the "first love" are illustrated in the narrative of the Acts of Apostles. The primitive zeal of the Star-Angels is illustrated by that of Corinth. A case of wickedness occurred in that ecclesia, in which they were thought to sympathize. Paul wrote in reproof of what he had heard. When his letter was received, it produced a great and salutary effect upon them; so that hearing of it, when he wrote again, he said, "Ye sorrowed after a godly sort; what carefulness it wrought in you; yea, what clearing of yourselves; yea, what indignation; yea, what fear; yea, what vehement desire; yea, what zeal; yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." And he told them, also, that one reason of his writing was to put their obedience to the test; "to this end," says he, "did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient IN ALL THINGS." Having put their obedience to the test, and found them ready to do right "in all things," he brought before them another case of wickedness, namely, that they had been visited by men professing to be Christ's, who preached another Jesus, another Spirit, and another Gospel, than he; who commended themselves; charged him with being crafty, and catching them with guile; spoke of his speech and person with disrespect; boasted in the circumcision of their flesh; in being Hebrews, Israelites, and the Seed of Abraham; ministers and apostles of Christ. Now these he regarded with indignation and contempt, and likens their operation upon the congregations in Corinth and elsewhere, to that of the serpent who beguiled Eve. He styles them "False apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no

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marvel, for he, the Satan, is transformed into an angel of light. It is, therefore, no great thing if his ministers also are transformed as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works" (2 Cor. 11:4,13-15).

This class of men were a serious and fatal trouble to Paul and the ecclesias. They first made their appearance on the page of New Testament history, in Acts 15:1-5. Their new-fangled crotchet was, that the belief of the Gospel of the Kingdom, and baptism, were not sufficient for salvation; but that a Gentile must besides, or in addition to these, be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses. This dogma was their stock in trade -- the basket of small wares, with which they began in the world, and set out in life to make their fortunes. The simple assertion of their dogma brought them into direct collision with the apostles, and especially with Paul. They were the Judaizers, styled in ecclesiastical history, the Ebionites. Their dogma was tantamount to a denial, that "the blood of Jesus Anointed, Son of the Deity, cleanses from all sin" (1 John 1:7) and that "his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24); for if salvation could not be attained without circumcision and obedience to Moses, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, were an insufficient sacrifice for sin. The apostles seeing this, unanimously repudiated the dogma, and labored incessantly to prevent it from obtaining a lodgment in the public mind. Paul being "the teacher of the Gentiles," was particularly and acutely argumentative against the Judaizers, or Ebionites; who, consequently, denied the divine authority of the epistles, and accused him of being an Antinomian, because opposed to seeking justification in Moses and in Jesus combined. Thus "they turned away from him."

They seem to have acquired great influence with weak-minded professors in Galatia, so as to alienate them from Paul. In writing to these, he says, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the favor of Christ to another gospel: which, however, is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But, though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." This is plain and unmistakable language. They were preaching "another gospel" than Paul's, which was communicated to him by the Anointed Jesus himself; and, therefore, he pronounces them "accursed." Upon this principle, all the pulpit orators of the "Names and Denominations," are accursed of Paul; for they none of them preach the gospel promulgated by him. They are all Ebionites, upon the principle of perverting the gospel of Christ by their insane traditions, only that the Ebionites, heretical as they were, had more intelligence

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of "the truth as it is in Jesus" than the ecclesiastical leaders of the priest ridden populations of our day.

Paul understood these pretended apostles thoroughly. He styles them, "false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty." "They zealously affect you," says he, "but not well. I would that they were even cut off, which trouble you. They desire to make a fair show in the flesh, therefore they constrain you to be circumcised; but only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ." They had no objection to be Christians; but they did not like the tribulation the faith brought upon them by the Jewish power. They determined, therefore, to blend Moses and Jesus in such a way as to avoid persecution. But Paul would admit of no compromise; and all that adhered to his teaching renounced them. In the words of the Spirit, "they were not able to endure these wicked men, who asserted that they were apostles, and are not, and had found them liars." And, though by joining their faction, they might have become popular (for "they spake of the world, and the world heard them"), they preferred to suffer and patiently endure, and to go on laboring for the Name, unweariedly.

Such was the first estate of the Star-Angels of the apostolic ecclesias. So long as they continued faithful, the congregations flourished in the midst of persecution; but when men stood up as the opponents of apostolic teaching and authority, affairs began to go wrong. The hidden principle of lawlessness began to work like leaven until the whole body was leavened with iniquity, and Satan triumphed for a time.

At the crisis, when the Spirit addressed them through John, the Star-Angel of Ephesus was in a fallen state. They had forsaken their "first love." Grievous wolves had secured a foothold, and were ready for every evil work. The opponents of Paul's teaching were among the presbyters, and from them nothing but perversion of the truth could be expected. The abandoning of their first love was the effect of their influence; still there was scope for recovery. They had not gone to the extent of denying the faith, or of holding principles subversive of it. Though Phygellus and Hermogenes might be presbyters, there were many of the presbytery who had tried them, and found them to be liars, and would not endure them. Hence, the Spirit exhorted them to "remember from whence they had fallen" -- to recollect the spiritual health they enjoyed when Paul went in and out among them for three years, declaring to them "all the counsel of the Deity." They were exhorted to retrace their steps. To put themselves in their original mode of thought and disposition when in their first love, and to do the first works, lest the Spirit should come and remove from

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them the gifts he had bestowed; and so leave them in outer darkness, a prey to all the wiles and ravening of the grievous wolves. This would be removing the light, without which the stand would be of no account; and, therefore, equivalent to "removing the lightstand out of its place." But the Star-Angels of the epoch did not recover from their fall. Instead of changing their mind they went on from bad to worse, until at length the time referred to by Paul arrived, when "prophecies (the gift of speaking to edification, exhortation, and comfort, by inspiration) failed; tongues ceased, and (the word of) knowledge vanished away." The gifts of the Spirit were withdrawn, because they had been abused; and "faith, hope, and love" only remained to a remnant of the saints; and "the greatest of these is love;" for "it rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things; believeth all things; hopeth all things; endureth all things;" and "is the fulfilling of the law" (1 Cor. 18:6-7). Hence, "love" is the major term, and comprehensive of "faith and hope;" while a man may believe and hope, but not rejoice in and obey the truth. "Love does not rejoice in iniquity," therefore, it is hostile to the clerical apostasy in all its forms. Love is the greatest of the three; yet a houseless wanderer in the "religious world," where none will take him in!




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