Warnings to the Churches
A precis of the book by J.C.Ryle (1816-1900), with
some additions and alterations.
Ryle was a most wise and godly man, who became the first Bishop of Liverpool.
1. The True Church.
2. Not Corrupting the Word.
3. Give thyself Wholly to Them.
4. Pharisees and Sadducees.
5. Divers and Strange Doctrines.
6. The Fallibility of Ministers.
7. Apostolic Fears.
8. Flee from Idolatry.
1. The True Church
"On this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Math 1618
All things are passing away. They are all liable to change, corruption and decay.
There is one exception - The true Church of Jesus Christ.
This Church is not buildings, nor any denomination, but true believers.
It is those who have repented of sin,
who have fled to Christ by faith to be washed in his blood
and have been made new creatures in him.
Christ is the builder of this Church, it's only Saviour and Redeemer.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together in all its planning and construction -
stone by stone.
His building is sure, beautiful and completed on time in spite of much opposition.
There can be no cheap imitations or shortcuts.
It's foundation is not Peter (nor any man)
but the revealed truth that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.
God paid a very highest price to lay this foundation.
His full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for all our sins.
Christ, our High Priest, is only means of forgiveness, peace and hope.
He continues to intercede for us and is our strong Advocate. 1 Jn 21
Your public worship can be seen,
but Christ alone shall determine whether you are built on his foundation,
or be one of the pile of stones that lie near the foundation.
The "Gates of Hell" have always waged war on the Church.
The Pharoahs, Herods, Caesars, Popes etc
If Hell cannot beat you away from Christ, it will try to entice you away.
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you ..."
The "savage wolves" will not, (or need not) prevail.
Be alert shepherds and not allow them to distort the truth. Act 2028-31
They will also come as "angels of light" and preach compromise with the world.
The scriptures remain the consistent, reliable, enduring truth.
Where are the great empires of man?
Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome ? Only ruins remain.
The true Church cannot be destroyed. When it is pruned the fruit is increased!
The devil may rage but the blood of the martyrs is never wasted -
even if your name remains unknown.
Are you part of the one true Church of Christ?
Take heed if you can't give a satisfactory answer to this question.
If not, come to Christ and be saved without delay.
The old world will soon break into pieces!
Believers, live a holy, courageous life. Never be ashamed of Christ.
Live in joyful expectation. The Master Builder shall soon return.
The Saviour and the saved shall rejoice together.
The building of Christ's Church is all done well.
2. Not Corrupting the Word
"In Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God." 2 Co 217
Corrupting is like a tradesman who does his business dishonestly
or one who dilutes wine before sale.
We must never be dishonest with the Word of God.
Add nothing like the Pharisees, and take away nothing like the Sadducees.
Never throw any doubt on the inspiration of any part of Scripture, even if there are some difficulties.
Never give Church opinions or Church doctrine equal standing with the Bible.
Nor neglect one side of the coin.
e.g. Justification is by faith in Christ alone - in what he has willingly done.
The grace of God and our zeal and will are needed for holiness.
We must preach from all the Scriptures;
not just the popular stories or our favourite themes.
We must not discriminate or show favouritism
especially out fear, to the rich or the poor, the saved or the unsaved.
Speak clearly, with tenderness and compassion. Never with pride or rudeness.
Preach as in the sight of God. Do not dilute for fear of offence.
e.g. Latimer before Henry VIII (p.34)
Always speak as God has spoken to you. Jer 17
Do not be careless whether you are eloquent or feeble, pleased or offended.
Speak about Christ, concerning Christ.
It is him we must magnify, not the church and not ourselves.
Is there any part of God's Word that we shrink from expounding
because it is unpopular or seemingly conflicting?
Be courageous, be honest, without fear or favour to any man.
3. Give Thyself Wholly to Them
"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, ...
Watch your life and doctrine closely." 1 Tim 415,16
It refers to the same things as "Command and teach these things" (v.11).
i.e. How to be a good minister.
The minister must be of single purpose. To be 'a man of God'.
Some 'drawing-room soldiers' join for the uniform.
Others are 'every inch a soldier'.
A great lawyer may say to his robes, 'Lie there, Lord Chancellor.'
But out of the pulpit ministers cannot say this.
We must always be ready, consistent and practice what we preach.
a) We must serve whole-heartedly. Never 'Let me first go and ...'
b) Ministers should not be distracted by other employment.
Magistrates, farmers etc.
c) Ministers must be watchful over their social conduct and leisure activities;
indulging in our own pleasures and hoping to gain popularity.
d) We must 'Redeem the time'. Constantly alert, diligent, observant,
To have a good conscience is bound up with having high aims, pure motives
and a good quality of life.
May we always stand before Jesus, unmoved by the world's smiles or its frowns
or its follies.
Strive always to have the mind of Christ.
4. Pharisees and Sadducees
"Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Math 166
All the words of the Master of the Church are precious.
Kind words, parables, prophecies, words of consolation;
and also those words of warning.
This warning was not to the ungodly, but to the righteous, to his disciples and friends.
These poor men had left their all and had no natural leanings towards Pharisees,
yet Jesus said, 'Take heed and beware'. None is so strong that he cannot fall.
Remember Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, Peter.
Ordination doesn't confer immunity from error.
The "Leaven" here refers to doctrine, not to love of money or pleasures.
Pharisees were proud of their adherence to the Law, and not like other men.
They were zealous for proselytes
but they also loved power, preeminence, and to appear righteous.
The Oral Law (that later became the Mishnah and the Talmud)
added much to the laws of Moses. i.e. Sabbath law, Human tradition and ceremony.
Sadducees were liberal thinkers, sceptical, rational, the Hasmonean rulers.
They subtracted much from the Law.
Caiaphas said, "It is expedient for one man to die for the people." Jn 1150
Both easily accused others. They lacked in charity.
Whether by being hard, narrow and dogmatic, or by being broad and liberal.
Jesus knew that within 40 years Pharisees and Sadducees would cease to exist.
History has well proved that their equivalents would live on in the hearts of men.
Many church-goers are not able, or do not care, to discern their error.
They are still busy either adding to the Law or subtracting from it.
Jesus carefully chose the word "Leaven" or yeast.
False doctrine grows easily, silently, plausibly.
We are not boldly asked to surrender to error.
It appears deceptively, like a wolf in sheep's clothing.
We must always obey Jesus and be alert,
ready to resist the first signs of such deception.
We are all continually in the greatest danger of sliding
towards Romanism, Liberalism or New Age. 1 Co 1012
It is the Holy Spirit who will keep us from falling.
After Saul was wounded by the archers,
David ordered Israel to be taught to use the bow. 1 Sam 313
Essential doctrines that are constantly under attack:
1. The total corruption of human nature.
It is more than partial, skin-deep.
No man has ever been born without this corruption.
No parents need to teach their children how to sin; it's natural.
We all deserve God's condemnation.
If the disease is wrongly diagnosed, the suggested cure will certainly be wrong,
or at very best partial.
2. The reliability of Scripture.
All is totally trustworthy; even parts that are not understood or seem contrary.
Maintain a right attitude to Scripture.
A man may speak very convincingly;
but does his speaking honour himself or God's Word?
All Scripture must be valued, not just the parts we like and agree with!
All of it must be used to mould our minds and hearts.
3. The atonement and sacrifice of Christ, the great High Priest.
His death was much more than a martyr's death or an example of self-sacrifice.
It was the perfect offering for sin made by the sinless Son of God,
without which there is no forgiveness of sin.
Jesus now pleads for all who cry and trust in what he has done.
We need no other Mediator.
Peace with God is not maintained by ceremonial acts of worship,
but by our daily repentance and the gracious forgiveness of our merciful God.
4. The work of the Holy Spirit.
His work in our lives cannot be hidden;
it must be both felt and observed in every area of our lives.
New motivation, knowledge, righteousness, morality, attitude, security.
It is he who convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgement. Jn 168
It is he who reveals the truth that sets us free; not by intellect or reason. Jn 832
See how the disciples of Jesus came to understand at last. Lu 2427,32,45-47
Jesus repeatedly calls him "the Spirit of Truth". Jn 1417 1526 1613-15
Does the reader have a saving personal religion for his own soul?
Is my heart right with God?
Every man needs to diligently and daily study the Bible, then apply and obey it.
Persevere earnestly and humbly, and your thirst will be quenched.
Avoid partiality. Never put man's word above God's Word,
nor Church above faith, nor ministers above Christ.
Learn to have right priorities and motives.
Learn to test all things against Scripture.
Do not rely on the zeal or the personality of men.
It is not wrong if it is old, or right if it is new. e.g.
Saul gave his life to build Christians whom he once persecuted.
Peter urged Jesus to spare himself the Cross.
'So called' Christians murdered Jews in the Crusades,
calling them 'Christ killers'.
The use of old/new hymns/songs in worship.
What is highly esteemed even in the Church is often abominable to God.
Let us examine our own hearts regularly.
In this age of hurry give God priority, quality time for prayer, study and meditation.
Contend earnestly and fearlessly for the revealed truth of the full Gospel of Christ.
5. Divers and Strange Doctrines
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. Heb 139
It still remains Satan's desire to lead men astray;
like a pirate, "to sink, burn and destroy."
Since he cannot prevent water flowing from the Fountain of Life, he seeks to poison it.
God's chosen weapon to foil this is his unchanging Word,
made clear to the head and applied to the heart.
Three times when Jesus was tempted he said, "It is written."
Today many Christians shrink from anything controversial,
or from any accusation of being "narrow".
a) Broad Warning.
Beware of false prophets, ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing. Math 715 Act 2030
Also Gal 16 31,4 49-11 51 Eph 414 Col 28 1 Tim 41 2 Pe 21 1 Jn 41 Jude 13,4
We must be aware of the dangers and alert.
Else we are like a dumb dog or a sleeping shepherd.
Search the scriptures daily, diligently, and prayerfully.
If scripture loses it's authority then men can and do believe anything!
Beware of liberal rationalism, sacramentalism and ritualism, priesthood, prayers to Mary etc.
Beware of proud confident, plausible leaders with high-profile personalities.
Beware of the easier way, which emphasises freedom of thought and action.
Beware of triumphalism. Be honest with yourself, with God and with others.
Beware of replacement theology than steals the promises of God to Israel,
and leaves them only with judgement.
God remains faithful and will fulfill all he has promised to us and to the Jews.
b) Valuable Prescription.
We are "Strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods."
Were Christians (Gentile or Jewish) made unclean by eating "unclean" meat?
It was a small issue in the early church that became a mountainous controversy.
But "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink ..." Ro 147 also 1 Co 88 Col 216
All our 'life' - forgiveness, calling, hope, strength, ability -
it all comes from the free and abundant grace of God. Eph 17
Man's inventions and forms of religion may satisfy for a time, but they are a quicksand.
It is only by gift of God that we are both saved and established.
c) The Instructive fact.
"Meats have not profited them."
Feverish restless zeal often reveals a conscience that has not drunk of the water of life;
a soul that has not yet found it's rest in Christ. Jn 414 Heb 41
On the day of judgement, it is not what we have done for God,
but what he has done for us that matters.
"Jesus thy blood and righteousness, my beauty are my glorious dress ..."
c.f. "I never knew you!" Math 722,23 2512
They vainly hoped their works, their serving Christ, would be their passport to heaven.
But it is only by faith, by the total trust and reliance upon Christ our Redeemer,
that we are saved. Eph 28-10,13
With Christ as our Advocate, we are safe, even when pronounced guilty.
Our Redeemer declares the he bore the punishment that we deserve.
Do not be surprised at the rise and progress of false doctrine.
Nor where it shall arise!
It began in the earliest days and we are specially warned it will be rife at the end.
Let us be firm and resist it, even if the costs is high and everyone else is walking an easier way.
Let us be bold in our warning to others and be faithful watchmen.
Let us keep the Church of England free from the Popery that once enslaved us.
Today's ecumenical movement sounds good but is folly in the extreme.
Let us daily maintain our own assurance of salvation
with thankfulness to God for his grace and mercy.
6. The Fallibility of Ministers
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong ... He began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group ... But we know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ ... Gal 211-16
Paul, the younger man, publicly rebukes the older apostle Peter.
It is to the great honour of Scripture that such an event is not hushed up.
The Spirit of Truth has carefully included it for our learning.
Even great ministers, and Peter was one of the greatest, may make mistakes.
At Pentecost he had opened the kingdom of heaven to many Jews who believed.
Yet he had tried to stop Jesus from going forward to the Cross
and had even denied his Friend and Master 3 times!
Now he was urging circumcision and other Jewish customs on the Gentiles.
Such is the fallibility of all men.
No rank, office, intellect, learning or fortune can confer infallibility.
No man should dare to even consider it possible.
Peter was not alone. Abraham listened to Sarah and Hagar bore Ishmael.
Aaron listened to the people and made a golden calf.
Nathan told David to build the Temple and then had to reverse the word.
David committed adultery and murder. ...
It is good to honour and trust our leaders, but never forget that infallibility is impossible.
And that includes the Pope!
Infallibility was not seen in the great men of the Early Church, nor in any age.
Infallibility is only seen in Jesus Christ, the Word of God.
To keep the Gospel truth is more important than to keep the peace.
Paul often wrote about being of one mind. Ro 1216a 155, 1 Th 513b, 1 Co 922
Men naturally prefer to take an easy road;
so truth, especially when unpleasant, needs to be upheld.
Who was the true 'troubler of Israel', was it Elijah or Ahab?
The rejected Jeremiah had to speak the unpopular truth for 40 years.
Who dares to speak of Islam being an idol worshipping, violent delusion?
Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Tyndale and the Reformers
resisted unto death the errors of Rome.
We do ourselves great mischief if we forget what they did for the Protestant truth.
Never forsake of truth for a quiet life.
These godly men dreaded false doctrine and practice as they dreaded sin.
Paul shows here that he considered heresy worse than schism.
Many today value tolerance, unity and popularity so highly
that they are afraid to preach the truth.
They daren't condemn homosexuality, abortion, promiscuity, or easy divorce.
They are afraid to teach on the 2nd Coming for fear of controversy.
Men desiring popularity more than truth serve the Church badly.
Other faiths are not another way to God.
Christ remains the only and necessary way of salvation.
ALL 'Other ways' are a deception.
We are justified by faith without the deeds of the Law.
Peter once rejoiced with believing Gentiles and 'fellow-heirs' of the Gospel;
now he was in effect saying, believe on Jesus and be circumcised.
Our justification is by faith in Christ alone.
We should not add the Law, Church sacraments or anything else.
If Satan cannot seduce men that salvation is unnecessary,
he will spare no effort in trying to dilute it;
either by adding a little or subtracting a little.
But this 'little' soon destroys the whole.
Rome adds purgatory (2nd chance to be saved), priestly absolution, penance,
sacraments 'transformed' by priest etc
But "They are all rotten props to support weary consciences";
or are the cunning means of enriching the church's coffers
by playing on their sensitive souls at a time of personal stress.
Read the written Word of God thoroughly.
Know the complete 'touchstone' by which all may be truly judged.
The 39 Articles in the Prayer Book are a good check for any minister.
Do not seek controversy, but be sure to maintain the truth.
If reproved, follow the humble example of Peter; accept it and learn.
Pray earnestly and regularly for the church and its leaders.
7. Apostolic Fears. 2 Co 113
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Co 113
Even the great apostle Paul was anxious, uncertain about some matters concerning the Church: their weak faith, scanty knowledge, dim hope, and low standard of holiness. All these made them especially liable to being led astray by false teachers. Gal 16 31
We all need to fear the possible corruption of our minds.
How can our minds be susceptible to false un-Scriptural doctrines?
Satan was unable to stop the Fountain of Life being opened,
so he tries to poison the streams.
By the Middle Ages the church was steeped in superstition and ignorance.
Without the scriptures in their native tongue,
there was no way for the people to check what the priests told them.
Man always like an easier, less demanding road. Holiness is often costly.
Most people desire power and riches,
but both are more likely to corrupt than to enliven the soul.
The craving for popularity will certainly lead to obscuring the truth.
Remember the way the serpent beguiled Eve
The fall of Adam and Eve is not a fable, but a true account of an historical event.
Satan (and his demonic angels) are not mythical legend.
Both the Scriptures and life experience show that he is all too real.
The serpent did not say the fruit was forbidden;
he just said is was good, and would make her wise. But it did neither!
What God had said was quietly put in the background,
and her own desires ('needs') were highlighted.
Let no man pour contempt on this Genesis story (or any other Biblical accounts).
It reveals the source of all man's misery and suffering throughout history.
Beware of all who suggest that there is no harm in 'little sins'.
Eve was only the first of many to be thus beguiled.
False doctrine and sin are nearly always dressed is fine language.
e.g. Freedom, not under law, tolerance,
ecumenical movement, modern scholars say ...
none of us are perfect ...
It is easier to ignore the errors of Popery
than to bear the accusation of being narrow, critical or proud.
A false teacher may be humble, kind, zealous, clever and sincere;
how can he also be a vendor of poison?
Many succumb to the same subtlety that beguiled Eve,
and do not learn the lesson Paul taught here.
They have not learnt to discern when error is mixed with truth.
We should welcome, even encourage men to test what we say;
and then listen to their appraisal and be released from error.
The corruption takes us from the simplicity of Gospel of Christ.
Simple here means single, straightforward and unmixed.
It does not imply that it is easy!
In Corinth Paul had one main message, Christ crucified.
The guilty conscience will only find true peace in believing
that Christ died for all my sin.
Peace through confession to a priest, baptism, various forms of asceticism,
attending Services, church sacraments, is a delusion.
Salvation is "by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone".
Jesus Christ is our only Priest and Advocate.
We do well to respect our leaders and ministers, but they should not be 'priests'.
Never should they come between us and Christ.
Like John Baptist they should always be saying,
"Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Jn 129
God's Word remains our ultimate authority, not Church tradition nor Church authority.
The Jews were unable to keep the Law,
and today no one can just chose to follow Christ. Josh 2419,22,23
Christ did not come as an example to follow,
but as Redeemer to do what neither we nor any other man could do.
The justice of God demands a perfect sacrifice which I am totally unable to offer.
Christ, the Son of God had to be crucified for my sin. There was no other way.
Corruption comes when any man tries to append to what Christ has done;
or to deny any part of its vital necessity.
As John Owen said to the House of Commons:
Christ is the Way: without him all men are 'Cains', wanderers and vagabonds.
Christ is the Truth: without him all men are liars like the devil.
Christ is the Life: without him all men are dead in trespasses and sins.
Christ is the Light: without him all men walk in darkness.
Christ is the Vine: without him all men are like branches withered
and prepared for burning.
Christ is the Rock: without him the flood carries all men away.
Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the sole author and finisher of our salvation:
without him man has no beginning of good and no end to his misery.
Let us arm our minds with a thorough knowledge of God's Word.
A superficial acquaintance of the Bible is the root or all error and sad perversions.
There is no labour that will be more richly repaid
than diligent, daily, prayerful study of the Scriptures.
Let all Churchmen know well the 39 Articles in the Prayer Book,
and discard none of them.
Today knowledge abounds, but wisdom is as rare as the 'fear of the Lord'.
The timely reading the history of the Reformation is also rare.
We ignore what they learnt and died for at our peril.
Not only is there the great danger of the intrusion of Romish doctrine,
but also now of the world's 'other faiths'.
Satan could never be so bold if we were not so careless.
8. Flee from Idolatry
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 1 Co 1014
Many would say that Englishmen today do not need such a warning.
But they would be wrong!
What is Idolatry?
It is the worship due to God that is given to his creatures or to their inventions.
It can vary from the 'adoration of the host' in Rome to the latest scientific achievement.
Idolatry does not necessarily mean that God is rejected.
Israel did not renounce God when they made the golden calf.
They worshipped both.
The first two commandments said,
"You shall have no other gods before me"
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything ..." Exd 202-6
For God says, "I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols." Is 428
We can easily worship idols without making a silver or wooden image.
The basis of Humanism is idolatry - humans are exalted and God is ignored or ridiculed.
The basis of Hindu and New Age is idolatry - they say we are all 'little gods'
and only have to find our true selves and the good within all of us.
The sin of idolatry has often caused God to be angry with the Jews, and with the Church!
Why do people worship idols?
The cause is the natural corruption of man's heart. Mk 721,22
The seeds of idolatry are in all of us. Only God can stop their growth.
Men worship idols out of fear or for what they hope to gain.
Children were offered to appease the god Molech;
Baal was worshipped to glean a better harvest and a prosperous lifestyle;
Asherah were worshipped in the hope of increased fertility.
Christians worship God for what Christ has already done for us,
giving us forgiveness and new life.
We worship God for who he is.
Creator, Redeemer, Advocate and Friend for ever.
Where is idolatry seen in the Church?
That it should be seen at all in the Church should not be a surprise. 1 Tim 41
Rome has for centuries encouraged the worship of Mary, the saints and many dubious relics.
In the doctrine of transubstantiation they also 'elevate the host' and worship it.
The Protestant Church in the Western world is not immune to idolatry.
Many desire and honour, wealth, success, old buildings and an easy life-style.
"The love of money is the root of all evil."
Many 'worship' popular, high profile personalities,
hanging without question on their every word.
'Seed faith' uses a small gift to try and bribe God into giving great prosperity.
We all need to examine our motives and our goals and check there is no idolatry.
How can idolatry be stopped?
No man or Church can be free of the seeds of idolatry until Jesus returns.
We long for the purification of the Church,
but the idolatrous Roman system will never be destroyed;
except by the brightness of Christ's coming. 2 Thes 28
Even for one born-again and given a new heart,
there will remain a tendency, a possibility of idolatry.
In this world we are never free from temptation, sin can still be attractive.
But Satan can only tempt us if we like what he offers.
Pray earnestly that we may learn to hate sin and love holiness.
Be honest with yourself and with God, who knows our every thought and deed.
Be quick to repent and never excuse sin.
Beware of drifting with the general tide of humanity.
Remember that unity without truth is useless.
Christ alone is our Priest and King. Let us ensure we worship God alone.
Christ rightly known, Christ truly believed, Christ heartily loved
is sure to preserve us from idolatry.