The Spiritual Decline of Once-Healthy Churches
One of the greatest warnings we find in the Bible we find in the epistle to the Galatians. It concerns the very real danger of spiritual decline in once healthy churches. It is the same danger found in several of the churches addressed in the book of Revelation (Rev. 2-3). The churches of Galatia had been planted by the Apostle Paul. They had "received him as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus" (Gal. 4:14). They had received the Gospel he had preached to them, and had become sons of God through faith in Jesus. The love that they had for him was evident in that they "would have gouged out their eyes and given them to him" (4:15). They did not despise his physical infirmity when he first came to them--though they way the apostle speaks of it, you get the sense that it was something reprehensible (v. 13). In short, these churches had begun the Christian life well. They had received the the minister of Christ and the Gospel of Christ with faith and love. But, it didn't take long for theses Gentile converts to be "courted" by false brethren with a false Gospel. Samuel Davies made the following observation:
Alas, how naturally do the most flourishing churches tend to decay. How frail and fickle is man! How inconstant popular applause! These promising churches of Galatia soon began to decline; and their favorite, St. Paul--their apostle and spiritual father--appeared in quite another light, appeared as their enemy, because he told them the truth.1
Oh, that we would be able to see the spiritual condition of our own hearts and the local church to which we belong. May we take earnest heed to God's word when He warns and instructs us in it as to the present reality of our spiritual condition. May we remember and heed those who have spoken the truth to us out of sincere love to Christ. May we ever distrust ourselves and our own ability to stand. May we ever be on guard and remember "how naturally do the most flourishing churches tend to decay."
1. Davis, Samuel Sermons on Important Subjects
(New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1854) vol. 2, p. 301