When men fail to clearly see God's revelation of the church, by allowing the Spirit to open their eyes to spiritual truths, they will interpret certain statements according to their own definition of what God's plan is. Once they move away from the truth into the power of the natural mind, the deceptive powers of Satan and self lead them further and further away from Christ and the truth. Men have made certain statements, and then built on them as if they were scripture. This is bound to lead them and those who follow them further and further away, deceiving and being deceived.
The devil always mixes a lot of good with a little bad, but the bad "leavens" the whole (Galatians 5:9). If he can just get us a little "off track," we miss the purpose of God, and in missing it we create something other than God's design. Anything other than the will of God is sin, and separates us from God and His plan. The Jewish people had the scriptures with all the prophecies, but they did not know the time of the Christ's coming. The religious leaders of Jesus' day did not know Him. We have the same trouble today. Some of the leading men of our day have missed seeing God's plan. In their own minds they have tried to understand God's ways and couldn't, so they have gone on to "juggle" the scriptures to match their own interpretations.
A man who has been used in years past to bring the truths of the church back into focus says, "The church...has failed and is failing today." This brother has lost the vision of what the church truly is, if he can make a statement like this. The church is only the church as long as its members walk in who Christ is and what has been accomplished in Him. Therefore, in light of this quote we must ask, "Did Christ fail in what He did at the cross?" The answer is, "No!" This man, and many others also, either have never had a revelation of the church, or have lost the revelation they had and begun to call what we see around us in the religious world today "the church."
But what we see around us may not be the church. If we are going to see the true church, we must look to God and His Word, and then measure that which we see around us by what God says. We must be faithful to what God has shown us. What God has begun, He is able to finish, and only the spiritual man can discern the working of God by His Spirit. The Spirit brings the church into manifestation in different localities as He would direct, and this can only be recognized by spiritual brothers and sisters.
When anyone does not see the purpose and working of the church, he attempts to make the church something God has never meant it to be, or he tries to accomplish things that do not even pertain to the church. We need a fresh revelation of the church, its function, and its purpose. That alone will eliminate all the false theories of our day. But we also know from God's Word that conditions will get worse and worse, and heresy will become more deceptive as we approach the end of this age. Thus we should not be innocent of Satan's ways and teachings.
These masterpieces of deception are always built upon assumptions drawn from the Word. But the church's foundation is not the written Word of God--it is Christ, who is The Truth. Rather than having the Spirit teach them what this means, many men have manufactured their own revelation, and built something that is a mixture of truth and man's thinking. Only those who are grounded in God's Word and filled with His Spirit will not be deceived by the devil working through these men's teachings. The apostle Paul said, "If anyone preach to you another gospel--let him be accursed." When man builds error on error he creates that which has no beauty. But once movements start, there are always men and women who will get behind them and entice others by their "cunningly devised fables" and half-truths, and deceive many (2 Peter 1:16).
The first safeguard against any false teaching is to know the real plan of God. The plumb line is Christ. What God has said and what God is doing in Christ will judge everything else. We shall know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). We can only see what is wrong after we see what is right. So our goal should be to know Him and to experience Him in our daily walk and in our fellowship in the body of Christ--spiritual fellowship, not in doctrine, but in the outworking of the life of God. Without a revelation of Christ and His working, many young or immature Christians will be open to inviting, alluring teachings of man which could have very damaging results in the lives of those taken in by them.
Another safeguard, after seeing God's plan, is to be submitted to the life of Christ as it is manifested in the local expression of His church. We should submit to those whom God has put in the midst of His church to watch over our souls.
Lack of knowledge will destroy God's people. Isaiah says God's people "go into exile for their lack of knowledge" (Isaiah 5:13). We can say that many in our day ate being led into bondage because of their lack of knowledge. It is important for each member of the church to know the nature and function of the church so they might measure up to the standard of God and not the standard of man.