Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!
What Is Heresy
-by Tony Warren
he word translated heresy in scripture is the Greek word [hairesis]. It is from the root [haireomai], which literally means "a choosing," and by extension, the choice of one side over another--hence in relation to groups, it means an opposing faction, party or sect. This leads us to our frequently asked question, which is "what is heresy and who are heretics?" In the biblical Christian application (and this is an important distinction), heresy is embracing any new or distinctive laws, opinions, criterion or beliefs that contradict or undermine the core principles of the Christian faith once delivered to the saints. Any doctrine held by any faction or party that has departed from essential Christian truths in disunion with the established written law of God is heresy. Accordingly, a heretic is simply one who maintains profession of such sacrilegious doctrines alienating themselves from the body of Christ.
1st Timothy 4:1-2
These are an example of the people who can biblically be defined as Heretics. They are those who are without the Spirit of truth, but have the seducing spirit of deception, being in league with devils. They may outwardly appear and profess to be Christian, but in departing from essential Christian truths, they have in effect denied the faith, making them in disunion with the established principles of Christianity. A succinct and concise definition of heresy would be, "any provocative, ungodly doctrine or belief that is strongly at variance with the established lawful Christian faith." Thus those who depart from the doctrines of Christ to implement their own precepts and serve a god of their own devising, are called Heretics. That would include those who would change the written word or privately interpret it to conform to their own personal will or ideas. For the very heart of heresy beats within man's carnal desire to force God's thoughts to conform to his own (Isaiah 55:7-9), rather than his thoughts to God's. When anyone declares definitively that something is the word of God, which has its origin outside of the word of God, and contradicts the word of God, this is an example of heresy. The unpalatable truth is, many professing Christians do not really care for the God of the Bible, and so they willfully choose to believe in a god that (in their own eyes) is not judgmental (Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 30:12), winks at sin, loves all, or who rewards according to man's own works. It is this highminded thinking within man where he thinks he knows best and refuses to accept God's counsel, that breeds Heresy. His carnal desire is that things be done his way, instead of God's way. This weakness of man, grounded in pride or self esteem, leads to autonomous thinking and heretical beliefs. This haughty spirit is what the mind of Christ wars against. The great warfare, a battle of the will of man to believe what seems right in his own eyes, over the will of God as written in the Bible. The flesh versus the Spirit.
- "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
- Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;"
We wrestle against spiritual wickedness that would have us forsake God's will and laws for our own precepts and desires. Indeed, the question "What is Heresy" is one that has divided the Church for years. Nevertheless, Christian Heresy is not obscure, it is revealed in the spirit of disobedience of self-chosen doctrines gleaned by departing from the revealed ordinances of the word of God. And unless we are clothed with the whole armour of God, we may not be able to stand against the wiles of heresy that come from the evil one. For the essence of heresy is a belief system that is at odds with the essential received word of God faithfully witnessed in the word, by the Spirit, to the Church. When the Church teaches God's word faithfully (as it is written), it stands as an ambassador and representative Pillar of the truth of Christ. We are as mouth-pieces sent with God's word, messengers of God. But when we have those factions among us that are opposed to the faithful teachings of God's word so righteously portrayed in the reformation principle of "Sola Scriptura," then is Heresy revealed. And it is revealed in those who war against the established truths of the body of Christ.
- "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
- For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
- Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
1st Timothy 3:15
Christ is called the Word of God because He is the living word or the word made alive. He is the only pillar and ground of the truth upon which His Church is built. And without faithfully following His word, we cannot be following Christ, the Living Word. Nor can we be built upon that firm foundation (Matthew 7:24-27) that cannot be moved. We cannot be representative Pillars in the house of God if we are not conformed to His image so that we are Christ-like. All individuals or parties that are opposed to, or who are adversaries of God's word, are actually those opposed to Christ. They are in fact, anti-Christ. The false or Pseudo representatives of the body of Christ, false teachers espousing heresies. They may take on the name of Christ, but they are truly not the body of Christ.
- "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
2nd Peter 2:1-3
Conscientious Christians understand that often scripture interprets scripture, and often defines its own terns. Note carefully the nature of the ruinous or damnable heresy spoken of here. These people cause the truth to be spoken of as evil, which means God's word (The Truth) is made to appear uncertain, false, unloving, wicked or void. As a practical example, God's complete sovereignty can be spoken against and made to appear wicked or unfair. God's law against divorce can be spoken against and made to appear callous and uncaring. God's rejection of Homosexuality can be spoken against and made to appear spiteful and evil. Anything that man desires, he can come up with a reason why God's law doesn't really apply, or how it doesn't really mean what we read it says. Through man's covetousness, will, desire, worldliness, lusts and pride, they pervert the word of truth among the brethren so that their doctrines do not appear caustic and ruinous. But in reality it is designed to eat away at the very fabric of the word of truth. The point being, the biblical use of the word heresy denotes more than a mere division in the body, but a ruinous doctrinal departure from the word of truth. That is to say, a departure from the essential truths of the Kingdom of Christ that has always characterized true Christianity. And this type of divisive Heresy in the Church is declared of God to be [apoleia] or damnable. Because you simply cannot truly be of God, and yet teach and believe in things that reveal that you actually "deny" the essential truths of God's word. Because then the works of the flesh and not the Spirit have become self-evident.
- "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
- And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
- And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."
These are those who practice damnable or ruinous heresies, being disobedient to the word of God in such a way as to deny the living Word. Clearly, that illustrates that they turn away from the word of God unto ruinous works of the Devil. And Christians giving place to these people is how heresies grow in the Church so that many end up following their pernicious, destructive or harmful ways. Just because they come with lips dripping with words of love, compassion and charity, doesn't negate their inward (Luke 11:39) works of disobedience as they serve themselves. They have an outward form or appearance of Godliness, but no inward power of Godliness (1st Samuel 16:7). And if after admonished and corrected by the Church, these people continue in their ungodliness, the biblical position is to reject them as of "another gospel" (Galatians 1:6-8). You don't suffer a heretic to continue in your Church to spread ruinous doctrines against Christ under the guise of love or compassion.
- "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."
2nd John 1:9-11
The problem today is, most professed Christians act as if heresy doesn't exist anymore, and everything is just a matter of differing opinions or Christian liberty. Of course I will be the first to say that every differing view is not heretical. But those doctrines that are contrary to the law of God to bring ruin or desolation to the Church must not be tolerated. Those of the Church who continue in their caustic and damnable doctrines after they are corrected and admonished several times, we are commanded (not suggested) to reject. We are to separate them from us, and not greet them as brethren that we keep trying to convince them.
- "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
- If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
- For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
Clearly God says we are to reject this man because he perverts the truth of the Gospel in damnable heresy, and is condemned of himself. He sinneth means he is one who violates God's laws (1st John 3:4). So it is by their doctrinal works, not their words, that the heretics of the Church deny the Lord. They can mouth all the right platitudes and give fair speeches about Christ, love and praise, but a tree is not defined because it has branches, it is known by its fruits. Caustic divisive Christians undermining Church doctrine should never be tolerated in God's house.
- "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition, reject!
- Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."
All that glimmers is not gold, and every smooth talker is not led of the Spirit of God. But outwardly they may appear to be, and that is why they are so hard to recognize and can deceive so subtly. They have a form of Godliness, but not the power of Godliness. For the Devil doesn't come preaching heresy with red suit, horns and a fish-hook tail, he comes as a messenger of light, and his ministers preach as ministers of righteousness (2nd Corinthians 11:13-15). They are self-absorbed with the desire to please themselves in doing their own will, and do not have the God given humbleness of spirit us to surrender to the authority of God's word. Rather, they have a spirit to search every possible avenue to avoid receiving the truth and surrendering to such authority. Yes, a heretics in the Biblical sense causes "division," but only because their doctrines are contrary to the law of God, and thus to the true body of Christ. They steadfastly refuse to receive the word of truth in love, whether by wresting it, ignoring it or denying it.
- "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
- For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple."
2nd Thessalonians 2:10
They will perish "because" they wouldn't receive God's word of truth. These divisive factions within the Church reject the word faithfully taught because in reality, they are still in the flesh. They have not received the Spirit of truth and thus are still led by the spirit and will of man. They have never been regenerated wherein they would become driven by the will of God. The true heretic wants to "choose" their own doctrines (the very literal definition of a Heretic), and by their works effectively deny the Lord in order to do so. You cannot deny the word of God without denying the God who spoke that word. Just as you cannot obey the word of God without obeying the God who spoke that word. It is by the gift of the Spirit of God that man receives God's word. So that if he is reprobate concerning the faith, then he is he lacks that Spirit and will be opposed to God's word.
- "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved."
2nd Timothy 3:4-8
Having a form or outward appearance of Godliness, but not truly being conformed inwardly to the image of Christ. Selah! Even as Jannes and Jambres were divisionists and Heretics in the Old Testament congregation, and they fought against Moses (and thus God) in their choosing to go their own way. They were those speaking heresies in their day, and are here set as examples for God's people today, that they not follow in their pernicious ways. Turning against God's servants as traitors, high-minded people who loved to please themselves rather than God. And in that rebellion, they chose to abide in their own counsel and understanding rather than God's precepts. And nothing has changed in rebellious man in all these years. As these caused division in the congregation Moses led, so many cause division with their false teachings in our day, even as many selfishly caused divisions in the apostle Paul's day.
- "Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
- Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
- For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
- Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith."
1st Corinthians 11:18-19
Divisions, factions, sects consisting of those who mishandle the word of God, and twist it to try and support their unsound doctrines. In a word, heresy! Such as the doctrine that all mankind will be saved, or the doctrine that Church leaders teachings are infallible, or that women can rule over men in the congregations, or homosexuals can be good Christians, etc., etc. God says there must be heresies among you that they which are approved, may be made manifest among you. In other words, it's a testing program for who will endure and who will succumb to these false doctrines. Those who are opposed to the established truths of the word of God are these heretics, and make no mistake, the unpalatable truth is, the Churches are full of them. We should be aware that in God's house there are both many who are truly saved, but also some whose words eat like a cancer that ravishes a healthy body. And a disease or cancer that is left unchecked will spread and contaminate the whole body beyond repair. As God illustrates in 2nd Timothy about Hymenaeus and Philetus:
- "For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
- For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."
2nd Timothy 2:17-20
Here again, their Heresy was that they taught the resurrection had already past. They had erred in departing from the truth (Heresy) and subverting it into their own private doctrines about the kingdom of Christ, which were opposite to the truth once delivered to the Saints.
- "And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
- Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
- Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
- But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour."
So when we ask "What Is Heresy," in the real sense, a heretic is synonymous with an antichrist. That is to say, anyone with the spirit of disobedience who comes opposed to Christ's teachings, or uses their own words as a substitute for the word of God. They are making themselves a substitute Christ (false Christ or false god), or antichrist. They are coming as spirits opposed to Christ, and as such are heretics, reprobate concerning the faith. In simple terms, Heresy is any departure from the truth. There is only one
truth and it is prescribed by the Word of God, and any thing that speaks against that truth is a Heresy. But we should also understand that this doesn't necessarily mean that there is always an evil intent by someone who has said something heretical. We were probably all heretics before coming to the knowledge of the truth. That is to say, most of us were speaking things which were opposed to Christ. But once we became saved, we were enlightened by the Spirit to know truth and depart from that Heresy.
There is the distinction between the doctrine of heresy, and the doctrine of Christ. By the Spirit of God within us, we now know the will of God. we have the Spirit to discern between the doctrines of devils and the true doctrine of the word faithfully kept. Therefore, no truly saved person will be a Heretic or a reprobate concerning the Faith. As Daniel was delivered from the mouth of the Lion, so we are delivered from that spirit Satan, that we no longer oppose the truth of Christ. Those who remain in Heresy, have not that Spirit of God, and remain in bondage adversarial to the love of truth. A tree is known by it's fruits. Those who will not listen to God's word, and yet want to call themselves Christian, are only kidding (lying to) themselves. As God so clearly demonstrated in:
- "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."
What Is Heresy? The bottom line is, Heresy is not a small matter in the Church, it is as important as our trial of faith. For God makes it clear in Luke chapter 6 that simply saying we are a Christian, or simply saying "Lord, Lord" is not the hallmark of Salvation. Heretics also say Lord, Lord, and they also think they are a servant of God doing great works, but the proof is in if they obeyed the word of God. Do they keep the word, or do they in works deny it. Will they receive the word when it is quoted word for word, or will they turn to the right hand and the left to avoid it? Do they privately interpret the word, or do they "accept" what scripture itself says, about being its own interpreter? These are the things which determine Heresy! The unconscionable departure from the truth of scripture once delivered to the Saints. This is heresy. What is heresy? In the Christian religion, Heresy, simply put, is ungodly, unsound doctrines held by Heretics, parties or sects that are in actuality outside of the Biblical Christian religion (thou perhaps professing it), that pervert the very nature of the foundational gospel message. it is no small matter, it is a doctrine that is damnable. Thus, let us be wise to recognize it and conscienous to speak out against it. For herein is the faith and patience of the Saints. To endure in time of trial.
- "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
- Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
- He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
- But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great."
May the Lord who is wise above all, give us the wisdom to understand His word, and the strength to stand in the whole armor of God, to fight the good fight.
Copyright 2008 Tony Warren
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