Friday, 25 December 2020

ARE ALL HERESIES EQUALLY DANGEROUS?

As believers, we may have doctrinal differences which divide—one party may view the doctrinal view of another faction as false. But if the error bears little or no eternal consequences, they are not critical.

Examples of non-essential doctrinal issues which do not jeopardise the eternal destiny of believers include the following: How worship should be conducted, how church ought to be governed, whether the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ is an essential experience for every believer after conversion.        

We can argue till our faces turn blue as we cross swords in a game of spiritual fencing. But is it really necessary to contend over issues that are not central, core doctrines?  

On the other hand, there are crucial doctrines that must be upheld without any compromise. Doctrinal errors in such cases must be viewed seriously as they may lead believers down the path of eternal damnation. The apostles view them as destructive heresies because core doctrines have been undermined.

  • “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:1-2).
  • “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Dangerous heresies include those that turn the grace of our God into licentiousness whereas God’s grace is meant to cause us to renounce sin and lead godly lives:

  • "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (Jude 1:4).
  • “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

What are the characteristics of these dangerous false teachers? Surreptitious in their ways, they slither their way into the church like serpents (Jude 4). They are likened to wolves in sheep’s clothing, not sparing the flock (Matthew 7:15, Acts 20:29). The danger to the church, then, is not from external forces but implosion from within. Thus many believers—unable to discern that the pulpit message is erroneous—will be deceived.

 

Some false teachers deny the Master who bought them, saying that Jesus set aside his divinity and performed miracles as a man empowered by the Holy Spirit. This false Christology is highly dangerous for it deifies man and denigrates Christ. http://bit.ly/1vnWGyq

Some may not deny Jesus openly but they undermine or contradict the teachings of Jesus. They declare as good what God calls bad and vice versa. For example, hyper-grace has a low view of obedience, saying that it nullifies God’s grace. http://bit.ly/1KVJQjt

Hyper-grace teachers treat sin lightly, teaching that believers merely need to rest in the imputed righteousness of Christ; God will see them as pure. It asserts that the Holy Spirit does not convict believers of sin, God does not point out their faults. http://bit.ly/1OczgqH

Dangerous heresies are often presented as a mixture of truth and error (half-truth). One truth (like grace or mercy) is overemphasised while another equally significant truth (like justice or holiness) is downplayed. https://bit.ly/34M90Bb

By selecting soothing and attractive verses, hyper-grace builds a false doctrine of God’s unconditional favour towards believers and the blessings of health and wealth that itching ears love to hear. However, it downplays counterbalancing truths such as God’s justice, judgment, the need for persevering faith and the need to overcome in areas such as sin, deception and persecution.


Theologian A. W. Tozer warns: "Heresy is not so much rejecting as selecting.” If we select portions of scripture that our “itching ears” want to hear, we are distorting the truth. We cannot solely highlight the agreeable parts and downplay the harsh truth in scripture.

Now we can see why different heresies are NOT equally destructive.

For “non-essential” issues such as mode of baptism or the necessity of baptism of the Holy Spirit, we need not dig in and make a tough stand on what we think is true. If we become rigid and parochial about minor issues, we can become guilty of schism, which is undesirable (1 Corinthians 3:3-4).

However, we need to earnestly contend against destructive heresies that threaten core doctrines and lead believers down the path of eternal destruction. 

 LEARNING FROM THE EXAMPLE OF APOLLOS

Apollos’ teaching: incorrect but not destructive heresy

Although he was a fervent teacher, Apollos did not have the full revelation of truth and had to be corrected by the two humble believers.

Apollos, a Jew, was a learned man, well-instructed in scriptures. He fervently preached in the synagogue. However his message was incomplete. He knew only the baptism of John—nothing about Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection or the power of the Holy Spirit that fell on believers at Pentecost. When tentmakers Priscilla and Aquila heard him preach, “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:24-28).

The couple could have humiliated him publicly and marked him as a false teacher. But they did not adopt such an immature approach. They quietly corrected him and the outcome was pleasing to God and pleasant for all three of them.

Some may deem Apollos’ teaching as false in view of its incompleteness. But it was a sincere, unintentional error on his part. He was not an instrument of Satan, had no hidden agenda to deceive other believers for any earthly gain or fame, unlike many of the false teachers today. More importantly, his teaching did not lead others down the path of eternal damnation.

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HERESY HUNTING

Some think that I enjoy taking up the task of ‘heresy hunting’. I do it with a heavy heart. Realising that so many believers have been deceived by a different Christ, a different gospel and a different spirit, it has to be done.

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WHY CHRISTOLOGY IS IMPORTANT

A person’s Christology, what he thinks concerning Christ’s identity and work, reveals whether his faith is genuine or not—and more.

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Wednesday, 23 December 2020

SHOULD WE DOWNPLAY WORKS?

A Facebook friend shared that born-again believers need NOT attempt to please God—gain His favour and acceptance—by doing good works. How far is his statement accurate in light of scriptures?

My take: Obedience is the spontaneous response to God’s grace in the lives of believers. This will result in good works and spiritual fruits.

However, not all works are synonymous with obedience. Works may be done for ostentation or out of ulterior, selfish motives.  ***

For believers, is living a life filled with abundant works or spiritual fruits in line with biblical teaching? Yes, if it is done out of obedience and primarily inspired, empowered by the Holy Spirit:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears MUCH fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear MUCH fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15: 5,8).

Furthermore, believers who multiply the talents given to them receive the Lord's commendation: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance” (Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14–30). 

When Jesus returns, how will He judge believers? On what basis will He separate the sheep (genuine believers) from the goats (professing believers)? Good works, which are the evidence of salvation (Matthew 25:31-46).

"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work" (Revelation 22:12).

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

So we must not downplay works; for, all over scriptures, it is seen as something positive. 

 WORKS WITH TAINTED MOTIVES   ***

“For we do not market the word of God for profit like so many. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

“Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to the needy, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men” (Matthew 6: 1-2).

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill” (Philippians 1:15).

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