What time is it for the Church of God? Let Scripture judge; let Scripture tell us. In 2 Timothy 4:3, Paul tells Timothy and God tells us, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." This is not one of the more pleasant themes in the Bible and I would not advocate dwelling on it, but God did say it, so it must be important for us to know.

There are several things to note right at the start. First, Paul warns Timothy of a coming bad time, so we must ask, "Has that time come?" Second, there is a group of people who are not going to tolerate sound doctrine (Greek, "healthy teaching"); Who are these people? Third, these people are characterized by making decisions on the basis of what they think best rather than what the Word actually teaches. The Greek word translated "lust" in our English versions means powerful desires, good or bad; in this case bad. Fourth, these people accumulate (literally, "pile up") teachers; they want authorities, "experts"; their ears "itch" for them. Fifth, they will reject the Truth and be turned aside to "myths;" they will go off on tangents.

That the time when all this would take place was at hand is evident, for Paul enjoins Timothy in subsequent verses to do everything in his power to combat it. That the people in view are professing believers is also evident, for unbelievers never have tolerated sound doctrine.

Another thing to consider is that while Paul indicates a beginning for this period of widespread apostasy, he does not indicate an end. Does this mean that God and Paul were telling the Body of Christ that, as wonderful as the Dispensation of Grace would be, our Dispensation would be characterized by failure...that the "Church" would fail? Simply stated, Yes! Many good Christians will object to my saying this because they believe that saying that the Church has failed, is tantamount to saying that God has failed. God has not failed! But the Scriptures predict and history confirms that the "Church" has failed miserably. No one can prove this to another, but each of us can discover this for himself simply by taking a highlighter and highlighting every instruction given to the members of the Body individually and collectively in the Pauline Epistles and then grading ourselves on our obedience!

Others may find this concept objectionable on the grounds that it is too negative, but, "every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable." Also, while Paul shared this "negative" teaching with Timothy for his profit, and God shares it with us for ours, neither meant for this to become our focus. Our focus is always God and His success, not man and his failure. The truth of the matter is that Godís successes viewed against the back-drop of our failures accord Him even greater glory. Was not God glorified by His faithfulness to Israel in spite of Israelís faithlessness to Him?

What does all of this mean to us? It means that every morning that we open our eyes on another day of ministry on Planet Earth we can better appreciate the comforting, strengthening truth of Godís faithfulness and not be confused and disheartened by thinking that the mess that we are in reflects some failure or some lack of faithfulness on the part of God. God is succeeding today just as He always has and always will, but our faith must always be in Him and His success and not in some imagined success on the part of the "church."

Also, recognizing that, while God is succeeding the Body is failing warns us against accepting as authoritative any consensus offered in support of some teaching, however popular that teaching may become. A God who is Truth is always to be trusted! A "church" that is in error, having preferred error from the beginning is NOT to be trusted (Romans 3:4). Just as Bible believers should always stay true to the Word and oppose any consensus that seeks to controvert it, so we should also prefer the plain teaching of the Word to the voice of any expert. Experts rejected Pauline Grace right from the beginning, but then, it was experts who crucified our Lord!

We cannot expect much from any "church," not even from the true "church"...the Assembly (literally, "out-called") that is His Body, simply because we cannot expect much from man. God has not told us to trust in man, but to trust in Him. We only trust God as much as we trust His Word.

When the Roman Catholic monk, Martin Luther, stood before the Diet at Worms, he answered the demand that he recant by saying, "Unless you can convince me by Scripture and reason, here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God." A good prayer for you and I to pray would be, "Dear Lord, help me to stand with you and your Word even if it means, as it did for Noah, standing against the entire world of men."

Error does not become Truth because it is widely accepted; Truth does not become error, even when it stands alone!

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