Prophecy - Signs
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
''Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather, it is the difference between right and almost right and the difference between truth and error is not a chasm, but a razor’s edge.'' (Spurgeon/Murray)
It would seem that the tried and true doctrines that have guided the Church over the last two millennia are coming under increasing attacks from without and within Christendom. As it was at the beginning of the church age, so it is here at the end, that heresy and apostasy run rampant as every aberrant doctrine seems to be gaining new ground.
The early Church during Paul’s day was largely Jewish, but the Gospel had begun to spread to Greece, Rome, Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), Antioch, and other predominantly Gentile areas. As the Gentiles began to come into the body of Christ in greater numbers, there were those Jewish converts (Judaizer’s) who followed Paul around and began trying to introduce the idea that these new Gentile believers had to first become Jewish in order to obtain salvation and sanctification before they could be complete. An old adage from the Apostle Paul would have been equivalent in saying “addition to the work of Christ is the greatest subtraction of all”.
"And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. (Acts 15:1)
The apostles present there at the Jerusalem Council, soundly rejected this merging of Christianity with Judaism. Paul, who would later go on to write the bulk of the New Testament, specifically addresses this issue again and again in his epistles to the Galatians and the Romans. This idea of introducing the Law back into Christianity as a necessary step towards either salvation, or sanctification would prove to be the point of departure in which the Jews would begin to decrease in the body of Christ, while the Gentiles would increase therein. Although there were varying degrees of legalism as was imposed in these Judaizing sects as to which laws, feasts, and observances had to be kept, it became the dividing issue that drove a two thousand year wedge between the followers of Christ, and the followers of Moses.
If you were to fast-forward through two centuries of church history, you would see the early Church fathers that would help steer the fledgling Christians along the way. Most churches then did not have complete Bibles as the Gospels and Epistles were either still in the process of being written, or being distributed. Satan used this gap in coverage by introducing false epistles and gospels, which seemed to very effectively, mix the doctrines together producing confusion and division. Gnosticism had begun to become prevalent in many areas and God raised men up who would take a stand against damning doctrines of heresy and apostasy, which threatened to doom the fledgling church at its conception.
The early Church fathers such as Polycarp, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, and Tertullian had been combating these heresies through their writings and teachings, which had begun infiltrating the churches as early as the 1st century. But by the 3rd Century, Gnosticism had become so prevalent; that councils had to be held in order to cement Christian doctrine down and too determine what scriptural canon was and what was not.
The Gospel of Barnabas, Thomas, Mary, and others had been floating around as if they were written by the title’s namesakes, but in fact had been fraudulently written over 100-200 years later. Each of the early councils seemed to repudiate the latest Gnostic heresy going around, but over time, the Roman Catholic Church became the predominant face of Christianity and the councils themselves became corrupted as they sought to steer biblical doctrines into Catholic/Papal doctrines.
This is where the following heresies would spring forth trying to fundamentally change the nature of Christianity and of Salvation by attacking the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. Don’t let the names fool you though; many of these heresies have made full comebacks under different names in these last two centuries.
Adoptionism: Belief that Jesus was born as a mere (non-divine) man, was supremely virtuous and that he was adopted later as "Son of God" by the descent of the Spirit on him.
Apollinarism: Belief that Jesus had a human body and lower soul (the seat of the emotions) but a divine mind. Apollinaris further taught that the souls of men were propagated by other souls, as well as their bodies.
Arianism: Denial of the true divinity of Jesus Christ taking various specific forms but agreeing that Jesus Christ was created by the Father and had a beginning and the title "Son of God" was a courtesy one. The Council of Nicea in 325 AD effectively condemned this as a heresy.
Docetism: Belief that Jesus' physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die.
Pneumatomachians (Macedonians): While accepting the divinity of Jesus Christ as affirmed at Nicea in 325, they denied that of the Holy Spirit, which they saw as a creation of the Son, and a servant of the Father and the Son.
Nestorianism: A belief that Jesus Christ had two separate natures, human and divine, in one being.
Sabellianism: Belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three characterizations of one God, rather than three distinct "persons" in one God.
The Antichrist Spirit
"And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world." (1 John 4:3)
When we think of the Antichrist, we often think of evil men like Hitler, Stalin, and Caesar Nero. They were easy to label because they so embody a level of evil that was so antithetical to who Christ was. The truth is that the antichrist is not just against Christ, but when he does come, he will come in the place of Christ. Jesus said that in the last days, many would come in His name pretending to be Him.
Today’s cults and false religions always present a Jesus in their teachings in some form or fashion. To the Mormon’s, he is the spirit brother of Adam and Lucifer. To the Muslims, Jesus (Issa) was a great prophet, but not God. To the Buddhists, Jesus was a man who spent his “lost years” in India learning to become a Buddhist. To the Jehovah Witnesses, Jesus used to be Michael the Archangel. Every cult and false religion has to change something about the person of Jesus Christ in order to promulgate the lies they are peddling. They will call Him everything under the sun except for, God come in the flesh. This is the spirit of antichrist.
The Hebrew Roots crowd is seeking to persuade Christians today that by keeping the Law, they are in fact more honoring and pleasing to God. They equivocate obedience to the Mosaic laws, to love for God…thus necessitating the need to reintroduce the Law (various parts of it anyway) back into Christianity. The error in this is that the Law was a shadow of the reality, and was meant to point man to his need for Christ, not to go back and attempt to keep the unkeepable.
"For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation." (Galatians 6:13-15)
Possibly an unintended consequence of going back into the Hebrew Roots movement is the tendency to reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Instead of God the Holy Spirit being separate but co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son, He is now reduced to be being nothing more than God’s an impersonal breath (or power/force) that God utilizes to do His will.
They do this by claiming that the doctrine of the Trinity is nothing more than a concoction of Emperor Constantine’s ‘sun-god’ worship. The truth is, the Scripture’s may not spell out the word Trinity, but that does not mean the Scriptures don’t teach it. The Bible doesn’t use the word omnipotent, but no one would deny that God does not encompass that quality. Non-canonical writer and early church father Tertullian (155-230 AD) advanced the doctrine of the Trinity long before Constantine and the Nicene Council in 325 AD.
"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not." (Leviticus 10:1)
There are also a whole slew of televangelists and mega-church pastors today who preach another gospel. They preach a prosperity gospel, word-faith gospel, seeker friendly gospel, and emergent and ecumenical gospels, which water down, distort, and profiteer off the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe these men and women had good intentions at the outset, but somewhere along the way faulty doctrine corrupted them. Paul warned us about these men and women who would come along and twist Scripture for self-benefit and to gather followers after themselves.
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some." (2 Timothy 2:15-18)
It’s interesting to me as to what Paul singles out here as what constitutes straying from the truth for Hymenaeus and Philetus, but we’ll come back to this.
While it would be impossible to list every fringe offshoot of Christianity, or every false doctrine that has presented itself in the name of Christ, we need not worry. If we but heed the Holy Spirit’s advice to study to show ourselves approved, these doctrines of demons would present themselves quite plainly to us and by so doing, strange doctrine (fire) becomes easily recognizable and would not entangle us in its snare of deceptive destruction.
One of the clearest doctrines that you can use as a weather vane of sorts, when looking into a ministry or a teacher is whether they hold to a pre-tribulation rapture. This shouldn’t be the only thing you investigate, but right off the bat you can get an idea of where that person or ministry stands on a whole host of issues by just this one doctrine. In order to have that Pre-Tribulation eschatological view you’d have to:
- You take a literal, historical, grammatical view of Scripture. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
- You recognize that the Church is not Israel and Israel is not the Church. (Matt 16:18; 1 Cor 10:32)
- That although God has not changed the mechanism for salvation (grace through faith), He has dealt with mankind differently over the ages. (Gen 2:15-17, 9:1-17, 12:1-9; Ex 20:1-17; Matt 27:51, Acts 2:1-4)
- That God has progressively revealed Himself and His nature to mankind. (Mark 4:11; Rom 11:25, 16:25; 1 Cor 2:7, 15:51-55; Eph 3:1, 5:32; Col 1:26)
- Christ’s return is imminent, unknowable, and not predicated on an event to happen. No man knows the day or hour, but we can recognize the season. (Matthew 16:1-3, 24:36; 1 Thess 5:1-10)
The bottom line is, we sin when we don’t do what God asks us to do. But we can also sin when we go beyond what God has asked us to do. God doesn’t need us to do His bidding, He gives us work for our benefit, not His. The fine line is staying within the boundaries God establishes for each of us. Maybe this is why God had such severe repercussions for those who would stray outside of His guidance and do things that become abominable.
I think this is dangerously becoming the norm today within what is called Christendom, as many have moved away from the tried and true doctrines of Christianity to go after strange fire.
Note: This is Pete's 70th article and his last submission for a while as he prepares for the newest addition to his family, due in February. It's been a great run! Pete's contributions to the Omega Letter these past couple of years have enriched us and challenged us. Thank you Pete. May the Lord continue to guide you in your upcoming ventures.
About Pete Garcia
Last article: Out of Many, One
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