Thursday, September 30, 2010

Divisions and Heresies

Why does God allow false teachers, false prophets and other deceivers to remain? Why doesn’t he deal with the problem of false teaching and remove its effect from the church and the world?

I think an answer is indicated in both Deuteronomy 13 and 1 Corinthians 11.

In the latter reference Paul writes:

“… when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”(ESV)

While the term “divisions” or its synonyms seem to be most commonly used across various translations, the KJV uses the term “heresies” which has much stronger implications in the Christian mind.
But while the ideas of “divisions” and “heresies” are seen mostly in negative terms, Paul highlights a positive outcome resulting from their presence – that is to bring to recognition those who are genuine.

Other translations state this positive outcome in different terms. The NIV puts it this way:
“…there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval”.

It seems there is something about the existence of divisions/heresies/factions that brings to light those who are genuine, those who have God’s approval and distinguishes them from others who are clearly not genuine and lack God’s approval.

I see a link here with a warning God gives in Deuteronomy 13.

“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Here it is clearly stated that false prophets are used as a test of a person’s love for God. There is a choice to be made whenever we come across a teacher, a prophet, a teaching, a sign or a miracle. Are they from God or are they leading us astray?
No matter how genuine they may seem, the ultimate test is whether we are being directed towards GOD or towards something else. The One True God or an imitation.
When there are divisions that call for a choice of path to be taken, how do we determine which (if any) direction leads to God?

Would it be wrong to suggest that God given us the needed direction in His word? That we should test everything and everyone according to His revelation given in scripture?

I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
(Psalm 119: 104-105)

Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
(2 Timothy 2:14-16 NIV)

I can see that “divisions” help determine those who have God’s approval and bring to light those who are genuine in two ways. Firstly those who put aside God’s word to follow man’s ideas (either their own or those of favoured teachers) are separated from those who give priority to God and His revelation.

The second relates to the way division is handled. Do we allow the differences to lead us into quarrelling and ungodly chatter?

It is in the second that I see myself needing the most help.


Sr Crystal Mary said...

You know, I think it all comes down to reading the gospel for oneself and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach. We are no longer a society with few learned persons, unlike a 150yrs ago when you had to be rich to have a schooling. Yet people are too lazy to pick up a Bible and read for themselves.
I had a lady show me her rosary beads in the Supermarket the other day and tell me "This is all of the gospel of Mark prayed on here,...DO YOU KNOW THAT."
She was a bit hostile.
Well it was not the place to talk and I know what the Rosary prayers are, and its not from Mark but a little from Luke, with a some added on..
This lady...I knew, believed something she had been told. Not something she had read for herself. I pray God reveals the truth to her.
I don't know everything, and I am not perfect, however, I will go to God before a person, to learn about Him...and I believe you do the same. God Bless.

Philip Robinson said...

This, for me, is a most timely and helpful post. Thanks to you and to the Lord for bringing it to me at just the right time.

I had just returned from an elder's meeting where I almost 'lost it' in a discussion about worship in our church, and said we were imposing a 'vision' of modernisation on a choir and (older) section of the congregation that was being genuinely hurt by the sweeping away of many things held dear.

Without going into the issues, I said that we were dealing with DIVISION rather than VISION, and I came home seriously contemplating resignation.

It is such an encouragement to realise the truth of what you said. Bickering - which is now the hallmark of our choir/instrumental leading of praise - is so inharmonious (in every sense) that it flies in the face of the 100-year old text on the wall above the pulpit:
"Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness".
Like yourself, I am having the greatest difficulty with dealing with this quarreling in my own mind. We do need help! But thanks again for pointing out that it is almost part of a proper 'testing' process.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post that brings a lot of hope to a frustration of mine. It is hard to see some of the church out and out going against the Word. I have never put it in this perspective. It really helps!! Thanks!!!

Onesimus said...

Thank you all for your encouraging comments.

In particular the last sentence in my post was difficult to write.

It's easy to see the error out there in others, and its easy to let that error lead us astray in other ways.

Those who recognise and avoid false doctrine and practices can fall victim to their own frustration and respond "inappropriately" to those who ARE caught up in the falseness.

Before we realise, we can become quarrelsome.
With the best of intentions we (I) can easily allow the intended promotion of the truth descend into something far too argumentative.
This ususally defeats the purpose by making the "opponent" more defensive and entrenched in protecting their own position.

BILL HUNT said...

Yes, God's Word or man's word? And we might add, God's Love or man's love, as we treat each other? "A new commandment I give to you. Love one another as I have loved you." When it came to the Word, Jesus would answer with the Word. No better an answer! But always in Love. Only Jesus is perfect....