The Dangers of Heresy
The Dangers of Heresy
The Dangers of Heresy
Heretics pose a grave danger to the Church and should never be taken lightly. Heretics come in as many varieties as Campbells soups. They range from those who claim to have received special vision to those who flatly reject the major doctrines of the Christian faith; but whoever they are, and to whatever degree they deviate from the truth one thing is certain- all who pervert the fundamental teachings of Scripture must be counted as heretics and therefore viewed as the enemies of the Gospel.
The Cults for example, with their quiescent Christian approach and religious sounding phrases, are leading thousands astray. The influential clergy-men of some of the established denominations use their position, power and prominence to promote godless, anti-biblical beliefs.
A.Heresy is Destructive:
In the first verse of II Peter chapter 2 the apostle used a form of the word “destruction” twice indicating the danger heretics pose to the Church. Peter did not mean, by this strong term total annihilation. If any of God’s creatures were no longer capable of fulfilling the purpose for which they were made, the Bible spoke of them as having been destroyed. A Greek historian would say that a cavalry horse has been destroyed, if the enemy severed a tendon to cripple it. In a very real sense we can say today that a government official who corrupts himself so that he is impeached has been “destroyed” for he can no longer successfully keep the office for which he was elected.
What a person believes can bring him eternal life or it can destroy him. This is the reason heresy is so dangerous, both for the one who promotes it and for the one who may be misled.
In using the word ‘believe’ it does not mean an intellectual commitment to a church creed or doctrinal statement. James wrote “The demons also believe and tremble (James2:19)”. It is not enough to believe all the facts about the Lord Jesus. They must be accepted, affirmed and appropriated personally if one is to experience salvation. To deny these tenets is heresy, and both the proponents of the error and those they influence are in serious danger.
B.Heresy is Defiling:
The second danger of heresy is that it defiles those who are deluded by it. Peter wrote, “and many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (Peter2:2). The Greek word ‘aselgeia’, translated pernicious ways is a strong term conveying the idea of extreme debauchery. It expresses the most reckless and debased kind of unbridled lust and licentious living.
While we aren’t sure what the specific sins were, we do know that the false doctrine fostered by some in the early Church resulted in gross, immoral behaviour. One erroneous philosophy, for example, taught that God is concerned about the soul but not the body. Its proponents claimed that since the body perishes at death, no one will be held accountable for the sins of the flesh. This would give license to live as one pleased and some in the Early Church apparently did exactly that.
Heretical teaching does not necessarily lead to extreme wickedness; however some who reject or distort certain doctrines live on a relatively high moral plane. Nevertheless when a person denies basic truths like the deity of Christ, the blood atonement the judgment of sinners or the inspiration of the Bible, he is guilty of heresy. He poses a special danger to the purity of the church, for he is subtly undermining the doctrine of God’s holiness the - foundation for all morality.
C. Heresy is Defamatory:
Not only are the heretic’s teachings destructive and defiling, they are also defamatory to the cause of Christ. Speaking of these apostates, Peter wrote “and many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of (2Peter2:2). The “pernicious ways” the evil behaviour of these false teachers and their followers, will give people outside of the Church a reason to despise and defame the name of Christ.
The language used here to describe the contempt engendered among unbelievers is strong indeed! The Greek word translated “evil spoken of is 'blasphemeo'. We get our term 'blasphemy' from it. This implies that the promoters of false teaching cause the Gospel to be maligned and to be brought into reproach before the world.
When people of the world look upon Church goers who live on the same moral level as their contemporaries; but who exhibit no peace or joy, they naturally conclude that the Gospel is a force. Thus heretics and their teachings give cause for the way of truth to be evil spoken of”.
D. Precautions against Apostasy and Heresy:
In the book of Jude, Jude firmly warns against apostates in much the same way that the book of Hebrews does.
Apostasy is serious. Jude gives examples of how God dealt seriously with Israel, with the angels that fell, and with Sodom and Gomorrah; but God is now dealing with apostasy more seriously than He ever was, because it is a rejection of Jesus Christ. God is no respecter of persons. He didn’t respect His own people who were unbelieving. He destroyed them He didn’t respect His own angels who were apostate; He incarcerated them. He didn’t respect Sodom and Gomorrah who knew the truth He wiped them out.
Jude reminds them of these Biblical truths and warns them of God’s Judgment on such apostates. He further states example of Cain, Baalam, Cove (Korah Num16:1-35) with his pronouncement of “Woe” unto them. Such men can have but one destiny. For them have been reserved the gloom of darkness for ever.
Peter warns about the danger of the false teachers because many in the Church follow their pernicious ways (2:2). The word translated “pernicious ways” is actually a single word meaning reckless and hardened immorality. Secondly the danger is that the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. Their way of life conducted brings great discredit to the Christian cause.
Growth in the disciplines of the Christian life must follow our initial step of faith if believers are to resist the lure of the false teacher.
Peter's expose and warning of false teaching could be categorized under three principles:
1. Recognize that he is dangerous.
2. Acknowledge that he will be judged by the Lord.
3. Repudiate and reject his sinful and self-centred way of life.
Immature believers should be warned about them. If we fail to recognize or ignore the infiltration of the apostates, then we are heading for grave dangers and the Christian faith is dead.