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When Your ‘Church’ No Longer Holds To Biblical Truths
Realize The Seriousness of The Problem.. Beware The Leaven Of The Pharisees
The Biblical Method of Dealing With Heresy is a Two Step Process...
1) Heresy Has To Be Actively Confronted
2) Heresy Has to Be Shunned
Jesus Was Inclusive, So Why Shouldn't We Be More Accepting
It Will Never Be Easy
Common Excuses To Avoid Dealing With Heresy
Safety In Numbers, or Spiritual Titanics?
The ONLY Way To Recognize Heresy, or False Teachings in the Church
Levels of Variance With What The Bible Teaches
Please note that that this article is not concerned with minor differences in the church, about which the Bible says little or nothing and, therefore, may be a matter of opinion. Issues such as whether the Lord's supper should be observed weekly or monthly do not pose any danger to the spiritual life of the members of that church, and need to be resolved with as much charity and grace as possible. There are other bad teaching that do not necessarily affect one's standing before God in the here and now, and therefore are a matter of individual conscience and prayer, (noting that some of these teachings could at some point, and for some people, become very dangerous).
The concern is with the HUGE number of doctrines and practices taught by the so called church that, unless repented of and forsaken, will damn even a so called, believing Christian.
When Your 'Church' No Longer Holds To Biblical Truths
Many, many Christians today are increasingly being faced with some very tough decisions as they begin to realize that the church they once considered home, no longer holds to Biblical truths. There can be varying levels of apostasy ranging from the relatively insignificant to the extremely dangerous.
However this rarely happens overnight. The descent into full blown apostasy often takes months and years to come about. Compromise usually begins as a small hole in the dam which, if not immediately dealt with, gradually grows ever larger as the sheer weight of the water behind the wall expands the crack. The original trickle of water eventually becomes a flood, and before anyone wakes up and reaches for the life jackets, the water has swept many away to their doom.
Churches are turning in ever increasing numbers to mystical practices such as Contemplative Prayer, Walking Labyrinths, etc. These practices, or what is often called an “Ancient-Future” faith, are based squarely on the ideas, dogmas, traditions, and views of the Roman Catholic Church Fathers, many of whom borrowed heavily from Buddhist traditions (DETAILS). Others have allowed modern day "courses" such as The Alpha Course and Purpose Driven precepts, etc., to usurp the place of authority the Scriptures once held, becoming far more popular than Bible study.
More "liberal" churches have begun to question, or even openly deny, the Bible as being God's inerrant and absolutely infallible Word to mankind (See God and His Bible), and have therefore denied the sanctity of Biblical marriage by condoning, or even encouraging, homosexuality or same-sex unions etc.
Like the frog who takes a long time to feel the heat of the water that is gradually brought to the boil, many of the members of these churches often fail to realize the significance of the subtle changes that are taking place. Or, if they do, they are uncomfortably aware that something is wrong, but are having trouble putting their finger on exactly what that 'something' is. Others are uneasy about the fact that their church and congregation are being led step by step away from being a 'traditional church'. (which in no way constitutes a defense of how most traditional churches function). Often those that have had the courage to raise their voices and protest the changes are called "divisive", "troublemakers", "judgmental", or "Pharisees". In some cases they have even been informed that they must embrace the new methods and teachings, or leave.
However it may not be the church that has changed. Some Christians have learned that the doctrines and practices, which their church has assured them (possibly for years) are completely Scriptural, are anything but. Much to the contrary, so many seemingly Biblical beliefs and practices have actually been directly derived from the occult. All too many churches have been swept along on a tide of doctrine so tainted that it's origins can be directly traced back to the occult, and the nefarious hosts that govern these principles. (See Section Doctrines Directly Derived From The Occult)
Regardless of how it came about, the fact is, that a small percentage, or remnant, of believers have begun to realize that there is a disconnect between what the Bible teaches, and what their church teaches. This has, in many cases, brought up an extremely difficult situation as these people wrestle with the problem of what to do.
While the path Christians are to take under these circumstances is very clearly outlined by the Scriptures, these instructions are far easier to understand if people first...
Realize The Seriousness of The Problem
Jesus, and virtually all the apostles warned the fledgling church to beware of false teachers, Paul doing so repeatedly. (All Emphasis Added)
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:24)
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:2931)
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)
Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Peter 3:17)
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; (1 Timothy 4:1)
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
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. (2 John 1:9)
In the quotes above, the words in bold are very clear. The false prophets and teachers have but one aim in mind .. to deceive. And those that are deceived are described as being carried away by the error of the wicked, falling from steadfastness, and departing from the faith. Surely no one could seriously believe that a Christian who believes and practices doctrines directly derived from the occult, or even other religions, is still on the narrow path to salvation. What makes it worse is how this deception spreads it's poison.
Beware The Leaven Of The Pharisees:
As both Jesus and Paul pointed out, a little "leaven" was a very dangerous thing. Note the the words of Jesus and Paul regarding leaven …
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (Luke 12:1)
And Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6); Luke 12:1)
And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. (Mark 8:15)
Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? (1Corinthians 5:6)
Ye were running well; who hindered you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion came not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. (Galatians 5:7-9)
Leaven, in the Bible always symbolized evil... sin and/or false doctrine. The question of why leaven was used as a symbol is probably best answered by the character and process of leavening, which is based on fermentation. Given time, the yeast reproduces, spreading throughout the dough or batter, biologically changing the chemistry of the dough as it works. It is easy to put leaven into the dough, but impossible to get it out again.
Note: On the feast of Unleavened bread, which began on the 15th of Nisan (the day following Passover), and continued for seven days until the 21st of Nisan, God commanded the Israelites to avoid eating any leavened foods (food that contained any fermenting product such as yeast or baking powder) during this period. Even modern day Jews who observe the traditional feasts go through a comprehensive, and exhausting, search of their houses for any form of leavened food (chametz), every last crumb of which is then removed from the house. The symbolism of the feast of Unleavened Bread is that God's people can not continue in the same old patterns, but have to search out and remove every speck of sin in their lives... only possible after putting faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. (See The Feasts of Israel)
Sin, like leaven, has a polluting quality. It doesn't stay small or contained for very long, but quickly spreads, eventually affecting our entire being. How sin and heresy imitate leaven is best described by the word "insidious", which means 'working or spreading harmfully in a subtle or stealthy manner'. As Paul warned the church:
You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is (Galatians 5:7-10).
In speaking of some false teachers, Paul likened their words to a canker.
It was a perfect analogy. Cankers infect with corruption or decay.
The early symptoms of many threatening conditions, are often so subtle that they go unrecognized for a long time. However, that is only part of the problem. Often, even when people realize that something is not quite right, they do not take the steps to investigate the source of the symptoms and therefore remain ignorant.
If the truth frees and saves, then serious error enslaves and damns... to the point where the people concerned "hath not God". It is a matter of light versus darkness, worship of the true Christ versus worship of a demonic counterfeit. It is a matter of spiritual life versus spiritual death.
In recognition of this fact, the Bible is unambiguous in it's instructions on how to deal with heresy.
The Biblical Method of Dealing With Heresy is a Two Step Process
1) Heresy Has To Be Actively Confronted.
We cannot keep silent about heresy, nor can we ignore it. Both steps are well summarized in the verse below.
A factious man (a heretic) after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11. Emphasis Added)
The word translated admonition, is a Greek word that basically means a rebuke or warning. It is used in 1 Corinthians where Paul reminds the church that those who once tried the patience and forbearance of the Lord perished by serpents (Numbers 21:6) or the destroyer, and that those very serious events were to be taken as a warning.
Neither let us make trial of the Lord, as some of them made trial, and perished by the serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer. Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come. (1 Corinthians 10:9-11)
If not directly confronted, erroneous teachings will, like leaven, silently, and surreptitiously, spread through out the body.
2) Heresy Has to Be Shunned
But what about the situation in which the person (or persons) who needs to be warned about one false doctrine or another, will not so much as listen to the admonitions and warnings and, if they do, will not heed them, often flatly denying that any kind of problem exists. It is often very difficult, if not impossible to get them to reconsider their position on the matter. In which case the Bible is very unambiguous about the path Christians are to take ... Returning to Paul's words in the book of Titus...
A factious man (a heretic) after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)
Everyone has to be given the opportunity to repent and abandon their course. However, in the whole spirit of Christianity, this warning must be given, not with the intention of proving oneself right, or superior in any way, but in a genuine caring for the soul and fate of the other person. However, should the person ignore the warnings and persist in the false beliefs and practices, the Bible is unequivocal in it's instructions to "refuse" or reject him.
Note that, at the most, there were two warnings to be issued. While I am sure that the number is not necessarily set in stone, the principle is that one warns, and then, after a relatively short period of time, walks away. (This is a far cry from innumerable forums where months and even years are spent debating (or even arguing) with the same people, about the same issues, without the slightest indication of a change of heart or belief)
The spirit of what Paul says in the book of Titus, is repeated in the sixteenth chapter of Romans.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses 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. (Romans 16:17-18)
And he doesn't stop there. Believers are instructed to withdraw themselves from people who follow false doctrine and practices. They are not to have these people in their houses nor offer them even a word of greeting. To do so, John says is to share in their evil deeds.
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us. (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
And if any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed. (2 Thessalonians 3:14)
If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting: for he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works. (2 John 1:10-11).
Note: Regarding 2 John 1:10 above, the word "your" in , was not in the original manuscripts, therefore it is possible that the "house" in question refers to the local house church. In which case John is saying that the possibly itinerant teachers should not be given the opportunity to speak to the church thus spreading their false teachings. On the other hand, if we consider that publicly greeting a false teacher could be construed by bystanders as an endorsement of their teaching and views, the verse may very well be applied to both church and home. Commentator certainly John Gill believed believed this to be true, saying
The meaning is, that with such no familiar conversation should be had, lest any encouragement should be given them; or it should induce a suspicion in the minds of other saints, that they are in the same sentiments; or it should tend to make others think favourably of them, and be a snare and a stumbling block to weak Christians. (1)
In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul made it very clear that these instructions did not apply to non-believers with whom we have to interact on a daily basis. These people will be judged by the Lord. Paul's instructions were to completely avoid sinners and those who persist in error in the church. Regardless of whether or not they happen to be leaders, or hold titles and degrees from this institution or that, they are still considered "wicked" men that we are not to even eat with.
I wrote unto you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators; not at all meaning with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world: but as it is, I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no, not to eat. For what have I to do with judging them that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Put away the wicked man from among yourselves.
I wonder how many people take Paul's warnings seriously.
In the spirit of our overly tolerant, anything goes society, we tend to look on confrontation as something to be avoided at all cost. But, on the surface it may seem more "spiritual" to be non-confrontational, and hide behind the politically correct, liberal view that we, as Christians, are not to judge anything or any one, this flies on the face of everything the Bible teaches. (See Judge Not... One of the four most dangerous mistake any Christian can make) In fact, what we have done is completely reject the instructions of the Bible in favor of our own opinions and emotions. We have elevated modern society's postmodern ideas of " tolerance" that rejects all moral absolutes, above the Bible's unqualified standards. The Bible says
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6)
Come Ye Out From Among Them
However, it is not only specific Bible verses that tell us what to do, but the general tenor of Scripture, as related to the separation of the righteous and unrighteous, leads in exactly the same direction. In the words of JP Holding... The very concept of "holiness" is not "good" but rather "set apart" -- and therefore, good. (See What Is Holiness)
The Old Testament is replete with instructions and warnings about not consorting with the pagan nations. Before bringing the nation of Israel into the land of Canaan, the Lord warned the people not to make any covenant with the Canaanites, nor to show them any mercy, but to utterly destroy them.
And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. (Deuteronomy 7:2-4)
One reason given is that these Canaanites could very well turn the sons of Israel away from following the one true God, causing them to serve other gods. Think... while you may be very secure in your own beliefs, are you needlessly exposing the younger and/or more vulnerable members of your family to extreme danger? If they, by your actions, are led astray, the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you. As Jesus said
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)
The bounden duty of a true believer towards men who profess to be Christians, and yet deny the Word of the Lord, is to come out from among them. Leaving, or separating oneself from apostasy and heresy is not optional, but commanded. In the Old Testament, the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and told them to instruct the people get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, lest they be destroyed along with them (Numbers 16). When they did so, the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up and they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into Sheol.
Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.
(14) Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? (15) And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? (16) And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, (18) And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Verse 17 is a paraphrase of Isaiah 52:11, which says
Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; cleanse yourselves, ye that bear the vessels of Jehovah.
Isaiah was speaking in the context of the end of Israel's exile in Babylon. The prophet was calling on the people to depart from Babylon, and to return to their own land. But they were to leave in a pure state and not contaminate themselves with any of the Babylonian's objects of idolatry. However, Paul was using Isaiah's words to emphasize exactly what believers in the New Testament were to do.
Jesus Was Inclusive, So Why Shouldn't We Be More Accepting
In the words of Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts
Without a doubt, the inclusiveness of Jesus was exceptional. But, it wasn't "absolute" in the sense that Jesus invited all people to join him without qualification or condition. Jesus offered, not just inclusion in God’s kingdom, but healing, wholeness, and transformation. He reached out widely to sinners, but didn't simply accept them as they were. Rather, he invited them to be forgiven and to turn around their lives as they responded to the good news of the kingdom of God....
Prior to his death, Jesus wasn't exactly trying to make peace with the Jewish religious leaders, although He did not entirely cut off relationship with all of these leaders. In fact on more than one occasion he ate in the home of a Pharisee (Luke 7:36; 14:1). The Gospel of John records a conversation between Jesus and a leading Pharisee named Nicodemus. In this context Jesus explained that in order to see the kingdom of God, one must be “born from above” (John 3:3; or as the Greek is traditionally rendered, “born again”). In other words, Nicodemus the Pharisee could be included in God's kingdom, but only if he was reborn by the power of God, only if he believed in Jesus, the only Son of God (3:16). By implication, if Nicodemus rejected Jesus as God's Son, then he would not be included in the eternal life of the kingdom.
Consider the following passage from the Gospel of Matthew:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matt 23:13-15).
Notice that, according to Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees keep people out of the kingdom even as the fail to enter themselves. One would be hard pressed to say that that inclusiveness of Jesus extended to the majority of the religious leaders among the Jews. He seems rather to exclude them from the kingdom of God (or to note that they exclude themselves). (See Christian Inclusiveness And The Inclusiveness of Jesus)
It Will Never Be Easy
The fact remains that we cannot agree to disagree when it comes to serious error.
Following the Bible's instructions and leaving one home church/Bible study group etc. means possibly walking away from people we have known, and even loved, for possibly a long period of time. For some this will rank among one of the most difficult things they have ever had to do. But if Jesus warned that making a stand for the truth will even divide families and households, what then of friends and congregations?
Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in Heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in Heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to "set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”; and "a man's enemies will be those of his own household.” He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 10:32-39).
Our Lord died for us, and we must not deny Him for favor of men.
Common Excuses To Avoid Dealing With Heresy
How Can We Leave "The Church".
Please realize that the church is not a building or a denomination, but the believers who make up the body of Christ. Therefore no believing Christian can possibly leave the church. But, if the particular group you are referring to as 'the church' has not only failed to recognize false teachers and deal with them in accordance with Biblical instructions but, has even gone so far as to allow these men to be in charge, then that group is not part of the church, and has absolutely no valid reason to exist.
While no one verse in the Scriptures defines the purpose of the church, Acts 2:42, in describing what the three thousand souls did, after being baptized on Pentecost, provides as close a synopsis as there is. The verse says (Emphasis Added)
they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Note, the verse does not say that they merely met, prayed, and fellow-shipped together, but that they first continued "steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine". Other verses endorse this. (Emphasis Added)
Ephesians 4:11-12 says God "gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Paul instructed Timothy to "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" and commit Paul's teachings to "faithful men", who would in turn be able to teach others (2Timothy 2:1-2)
In the tenth chapter of Hebrews, the author exhorts believers to "hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering", and to provoke one another to love and good works.
In a nutshell these are the reason for believers to "assemble" together. If this assembly is not guarding the proper teachings of the church by continuing "stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine", is not committing the teaching of the apostles to "faithful men", and/or is not holding fast the profession of our faith "without wavering", then it has become a meaningless organization that cannot possibly help, edify, or encourage believers. It is a quasi-social organization masquerading as a church, which, instead of protecting the faith, actually becomes an instrument of the destruction of it's members.
Unity... At All Cost?
It is often argued that we, as Christians, are supposed to be one... to be united. The problem is that we are sadly misunderstanding the word unity. True Christian unity is grounded in the Word of God.. nothing more, nothing less. False unity is grounded in conformity to man made agendas, which amounts to little but a but a tacit endorsement of "another gospel", about which Paul had this to say.
But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8).
If an angel from heaven is to be accursed for preaching a different gospel, how much more so the charming charismatic person up on a stage, flashing his brilliant (and endearing) smile, all the while preaching a message that the Bible never heard of, much less endorsed.
Leaving does not cause a rift or rupture in the body of Christ. It causes a needed and necessary rift between truth and lies, light and darkness, life and death...
We Should Wait and See
Often people who adopt this attitude seem to believe that separation is always premature. In fact, I am not sure if, for them, the 'right time' ever comes.
To which, one has to ask the question... how bad is bad enough? Are you waiting for them to break out some long black robes and sacrifice a virgin on the altar? Or, will you take an honest look around you and realize that any church that has not dealt with the evil in its midst, is no longer a true church of Christ, and that fellowship with false teachers and their followers is not true Christian fellowship? Have you actually read, and taken to heart the words Paul wrote the Ephesians
and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them; (Ephesians 5:11)
If the fact that your church is either not sticking to the faith once delivered, or that it has adopted doctrines and practices directly derived form the occult, is not sufficient reason to walk away from it, then something is very, very wrong. Either that 'something' is complacency and/or lethargy on your part, a fear of being moved outside your comfort zone, or just that you don't want to leave your friends. However if your 'friends' are part of the problem, you desperately need to reconsider these friendships, in light of the Bible's clear stand on this issue.... "the friendship of the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4).
If you have no stomach for this relatively small battle, what will you do when the times get really rough, and the decisions much harder? Or, are you one of those people that have falsely been taught that you will be 'raptured' away to heaven before all hell breaks loose. If so, you are in for the shock of your life. (See The Rapture)
Quite honestly, all of the above are only excuses for disobeying God. Are you secretly, or subconsciously, hoping that before you have to actively take a stand for something you will be rescued? Look through your Bible... when did this ever happen to any of God's people? Your inaction and compromise place you squarely among the members of the church in Laodicea, who were neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and who will ultimately be spewed out of the Lord's mouth.
We Should Stay and Fight
The problem is, that it is virtually impossible to gain any ground in a church run by men who are enemies of God. When the leaders are apostate then the roots of the tree are rotten and the entire tree needs to be cut down.
Recognizing, or coming to terms with this fact should make us realize that leaving does NOT constitute defeat. Some battles are never going to be won, and others may not be ours to win. Besides which, I am willing to bet that most people who use the 'stay and fight' argument, spend far less time 'fighting' than they do fellowshipping... with apostate men.
There is No Official Endorsement of the Heresy
One of the marks of a true church of Jesus Christ is that it deals with heresy by exercising godly discipline according to Scripture. If the gatekeepers, the religious leaders in positions of authority, are unwilling to take decisive action and confront heresy, God may raise up an individual to do so. However, if the leaders are too lethargic, cowardly, ignorant, or themselves compromised, then obviously that person is not going to receive any support, and nothing is going to be done. In which case you are in the wrong place.
Contrary to what many people think, it is not exclusively the church leadership, or those with a degree from some religious seminary, that have the right, or the ability, to distinguish right teaching and practice, from wrong teaching and practice. On the contrary, every born again believer has the right, nay, the responsibility, to stand up for the truth.
The gift of "discernings of spirits" in 1 Corinthians 12:10, the warnings to beware of man or angel that preached 'another gospel' in Galatians 1:8-9, the instruction to not believe every spirit but to prove the spirits whether they be of God in 1 John 4:1, the instruction to "Test all things; hold fast what is good" in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, and the warning that grievous wolves would arise from among the flock in Acts 17:11, were not directed to the leadership of the church, but to ordinary, every day, rank and file believers.
In Acts 17:11, Paul commended the Bereans for "received the word with all readiness of the mind" which meant that they were open minded, and rather than summarily reject what Paul and Silas were teaching, "examined the Scriptures daily" to see if what they were being taught, was true.
However, and a very important point has to be made here... examining the Scriptures to see if what is being taught is true, involves FAR more than just reading the particular verse referred to. No Biblical author simply strung together a number of lofty sounding phrases disconnected from one another. Since each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make, no one should read, much less base their beliefs on, stand alone verses. The reader can only be accurately informed by God's Word the way it is written… in its context. Understanding what the author meant comes not only from the words he wrote, but also by what the overall message of the chapter is intended to convey. But, since this takes a little more time, study, and effort, most Christians are content with allowing a verse to be wrested from it's context, and used to convey whatever meaning the speaker/author wishes it to convey, which, all too often, is nothing but a corruption of the truth. This perversion of Scriptures is done (whether intentionally or unintentionally) in order to persuade men that everything the false teacher says is based on Biblical truth. One of the most dangerous mistakes any Christian can make is to take Bible verses out of context... (See Context is CRUCIAL)
While there is no question that the elders of the church have a special responsibility to protest the flock and deal Biblically with error (See 2 Timothy 4:1-5), in the final analysis your eternal destiny is your responsibility. However, this does not mean that Christians have to jump up and get in the face of the pastor if he occasionally (or even inadvertently) says something that is slightly at variance with the Word. Pastors and church leaders are human and do make mistakes, which can be peacefully, and privately, dealt with.
What we are referring to here, are beliefs and practices that are an integral part of the church, and/or are practiced by a number of the congregation. Many, of these not only completely contradict the Word of God, but also endanger the salvation of the people.
And please be very aware of what is going on. The church's official statement of belief may not accurately reflect what is actually believed and taught. For example, while the Statement of faith on Kenneth Copeland ministries web site (2) mentions their belief that healing is included in the atonement, nothing in the entire statement gives the reader a clue that the Word of Faith, name-it-claim-it, prosperity doctrine is the mainstay of their organization, and that this teaching is loudly and overwhelming preached every opportunity they get. And, incidentally, the Word Faith doctrine, down to the very terminology used, finds it's roots not in the Bible, but in the occult.
(See Section on The Word Faith doctrine as applied to Prosperity and Healing)
Safety In Numbers, or Spiritual Titanics?
All too many church-goers today seem to prefer to be associated with a mega-church or a mass movement. It seems that any deviation from the Word of God is tolerated provided enough people believe it. All doctrine is considered Biblical, provided the church or denomination that teaches it is large enough.
Believers have also forgotten that the situation in 1 Kings 19:13-18, in which God told Elijah that there were still seven thousand men in the whole of Israel who had not rejected God by bowing their knees to Baal, is exactly the same situation we see in the rest of the Bible. The percentage of people who have been saved has always been relatively very small.
Considering that the frame of reference was the entire nation of Israel, seven thousand was an insignificant number in Elijah's time. Similarly, in light of the number of visitors to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, the three thousand that were saved was probably a meagre number. While I have not been able to verify this, I have read that "Flavius Josephus recorded three million attendees at the Feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread in 65 AD". (3)
From cover to cover, the Bible talks about the few that find the way.. the remnant that God has reserved to Himself. Jesus once told people to...
Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
And since we can safely assume that Jesus knew what He was talking about, the number of people that find the narrow way to life are numerically insignificant. The vast majority happily traipsing down the broad path to destruction.
Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:13-23).
Do we not have the sense to wonder how in a world in which Christianity is apparently booming with dozens of Mega-churches, 24 hour “Christian” TV programs, countless Christian conferences and institutions, and literally thousands of "Christian"" books being published ever year... In a world in which the vast majority of Christians are churchgoers, who regularly watch "Christian" TV and tithe to one or the other (or even both), why it is that only a few that find the way? The truth is that one of the four most dangerous mistakes any Christian can make is to believe that we, or our pastor, or our denomination as a whole cannot be fooled. (DETAILS)
The analogy that Dr. Paul M. Elliott draws in his article Is Your Church a Spiritual Titanic? is an apt one. As he points out
On the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic, the largest ship afloat — of which it was said, "Even God could not sink this ship” — struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Within a few hours she sank in 12,000 feet of water, taking 1,507 people to their deaths. There were not enough lifeboats to carry all the people on board, but most of the boats that were provided pulled away from the sinking ship only partially loaded.
Why was this? It was because many of the people who perished believed it was safer to remain on the large but mortally wounded ship, rather than trust their lives to the safety of a small but sound lifeboat. (4)
And, in this day of great apostasy, this small lifeboat may very well be a house church, which is far more the Biblical model than an institutional church. In fact, The New Testament knows nothing of an inert, believer-priesthood whose only function is to passively absorb sermons and pass the offering plate. The early church succeeded so well at making disciples without any church buildings, professionally-trained clergy, Bible schools and seminaries, hymnals and overhead projectors, wireless microphones and tape duplicators, Sunday school curriculums and youth ministries, worship teams and choirs, computers and copy machines, Christian radio and TV stations, hundreds of thousands of Christian book titles and even personally-owned Bibles? They didn't need any of those things to make disciples, and neither did Jesus. And because none of those things were essential then, none are essential now. (See Section The Church...Then and Now)
Which brings us to the question of...
The ONLY Way To Recognize Heresy, or False Teachings in the Church
There is only one way to protect Christians from being deceived by false teachers. The infallible guide, or measuring rod, by which Christians can, and must, test all doctrine, teaching, or practice is God's word. Note what Paul told Timothy while encouraging him to continue in what he has learned..
But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them. And that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Timothy knew the Scriptures and Paul warned him to abide (to remain or continue) in them, because they alone are able to make the man of God complete and fully equipped to carry out every good work. Timothy's work or reproving, correcting and instructing is to be based not on personal testimonies, signs and wonders, or any "word of knowledge", but on the Scriptures. (For More on This Topic See The Second Most Dangerous Mistake Any Christian Can Make Is Attribute Every Personal Testimony and “Sign” To Being Of, Or From, God)
Levels of Variance With What The Bible Teaches
The Definition of Heresy
The dictionary meaning of the word heresy is... ‘An opinion or a doctrine at variance with established religious beliefs’. However, as far as Christianity is concerned, the better definition is... ‘An opinion or a doctrine at variance with what the Bible teaches’.
However, when it comes to the serious matter of separating oneself from one's church, or Bible study group, there is a little latitude here...
While virtually every single teaching of the Bible has been, at some point, vehemently and forcibly argued about, there is little question that the correct teaching CAN BE KNOWN. God has given us all the knowledge needed for salvation, and to live our lives in a manner pleasing to Him while we are yet on earth. If we can not be sure of what God Himself has said, then He has given us a completely useless book, which certainly does not provide a 'lamp for our feet'.
However there are a few issues that are not particularly related to salvation, and one's beliefs about these matters, one way or the other, do not have eternal consequences. To make these issues a standard of orthodoxy is completely ridiculous. Take, for example, the doctrine of
The Trinity. The vast majority of Christians consider the doctrine of the Trinity to be divine truth and a foundational part of the Christian faith... to the extent it is often believed that to deny it is to reject the Christian faith entirely. However the Bible is not exactly forthcoming on the subject, seemingly content to speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as being God, without explaining how it is so. In fact the lack of a clear scriptural basis for the Trinity was a disquieting problem in the early church. The development of the doctrine of the Trinity happened in stages, over a period of at least a couple of hundred years.
Additionally, 1 John 5:7, which is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible is widely believed to be a later addition, interpolated no doubt, in order to present unambiguous evidence for the doctrine. And there is more... (See The Trinity on THIS Page). Lets face it, there are many things that we will more completely understand only at some future time when “we see in full” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Questionable, And Potentially Dangerous, Beliefs
While it is true that bad teaching is not the same as heresy, and that there are issues do not necessarily affect one's standing before God in the here and now, but the fact remains that even these bad teaching could at some point, and for some people, become very dangerous issues. Two examples are
Baptism Is Necessary For Salvation: While it is certain that baptism is not necessary for salvation, and those that teach this have not sufficiently thought the matter through, this doctrine is hardly likely to affect a person's salvation one way or the other. However, the question "Is baptism necessary for salvation?", is not the right one. What we should be asking is "If you are saved, and you know what baptism means and that it was commanded by Christ, why would you not be baptized?" One does not become baptized to be saved; one is saved and is therefore baptized. Faith that does manifest itself in obedience is very questionable. Also, some very perilous situations can and do arise if indeed, as some people believe, baptism is a requirement for being saved. (See Baptism)
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture: Disagreements have arisen over the issue of whether certain momentous events such as the Rapture and The Millennium take place before or after the Great Tribulation. Again while this is not now an issue that will affect salvation, it is very likely that what one believes about the timing of the Rapture will matter very greatly. If the Pre-Tribulation view is correct, then the Great Tribulation is purely of academic interest to the Christian, and the whole issue is of little consequence. If, however, the Post-Tribulation view is correct, then the issue becomes of vital importance, as it means the Church has yet to enter the most extensive period of intense persecution and tribulation in its entire history. As said by pastor Tim Warner...
"Some say it really doesn't matter if Jesus is coming before or after the tribulation, as long as we are "ready." They think we should all just agree to disagree, and love one another. But, "ready" is a relative term! It begs the question, "ready for what?" There is a huge difference between being ready to be gently whisked away to heaven on a pillow, and being ready to become a martyr at the hands of Antichrist! Is surface harmony worth the risk of huge numbers of believers being caught totally unprepared spiritually, emotionally, and physically? (See The Rapture)
If one is a member of a church that adheres to these teachings, then what one decides to do is a matter of individual conscience and prayer. However, on the other hand, there are a HUGE number of doctrines and practices taught by the so called church that, unless repented of and forsaken, have the ability to immediately damn one's soul to hell...
Doctrines that Damn
Assorted Doctrines of Demons: There are a variety of teachings and practices that are DIRECTLY derived from the occult. Remember the verses In Scripture that talk of the “Falling Away” when some will give “Heed To Deceiving Spirits And Doctrines Of Demons”? THAT DAY IS ALREADY HERE. The church that should have been a bulwark against evil has, with apostate leaders and a Biblically illiterate population, latched on to the coat tails of the world and adopted practices that are DIRECTLY derived from the Occult .... cheerfully walking labyrinths, indulging in Contemplative Prayer, babbling in languages unknown to us, and treating God as if He were a celestial pageboy.
We are so busy congratulating ourselves on how "spiritual" we have become, that we little suspect that we have actually lost all rights to call ourselves "Christians". If anyone is still awake in those pews... the man of sin isn't far behind.
If your church teaches, practices or even condones any of the following... Tongues, Word of Faith, Labyrinths, Contemplative Prayer, Slain In The Spirit, Visualization, Yoga etc.... don't walk, but run to the nearest exit. Because, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not, that church has departed from the faith first entrusted to the saints. Satan has taken over as lord.
Eternal Security or Once Saved Always Saved is preached as Biblical truth, even in many conservative churches. Proponents believe that, once a person has made the once and for all decision to "accept" Christ as savior, they are in the enviable position of being eternally secure in their salvation since there is not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand. Some carry this doctrine to ridiculous lengths even teaching that, since the potential for being 'unforgiven' has been done away with, a believer can proceed to live the rest of their lives just as they please, and still remain saved. There will be no repercussions other than possibly losing a reward or two. (See Rewards in Heaven)
The Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is the belief that everyone truly regenerated by God's grace will never fall away and perish. Although it is similar to the doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved, inasmuch as both views have the 'always safe' idea in common, they take dissimilar paths to get there.
The problem is that all versions of this totally false doctrine is potentially lethal.
While there is no question that many, if not most, of those who teach Perseverance of the Saints, also preach that only those who continue living holy lives will enter the Lord's presence, there are all too many people that do not take this warning seriously. Human nature is human nature and, if a person can see their way to eating their cake and having it too... they will. In other words, they figure that if eternal security is true, and there is no fear of serious eternal consequences, then why should they not live their lives on earth just as they please? Makes sense to me.
See Perseverance of The Saints, When the Gospel Becomes a Lie And Assurance of Salvation,
and Articles on Eternal Security HERE
The church of Rome is particularly fond of the Greek word anathema using it to ensure conformity to it's man made doctrines. They use the word, not only in the sense of excommunication from the visible church, but also in the sense of condemning a person to hell.
Similarly, the elders of some Protestant churches have taken it on themselves to do exactly the same thing should a person oppose their church doctrine.
However anyone that opposes, or walks away from a church that are no longer true to God and His Word is simply obeying the Scriptures which is far more important than loyalty to man made doctrines, regardless of who invents them. No elder or church leaders man can tell you that you are under God's curse, or call down God's curse on you for obeying the clear instructions of Scripture. But it pays to take a look at how the Greek word anathema (sometimes translated curse) is used in the New Testament. The five uses are...
For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh: (Romans 9:3)
Wherefore I make known unto you, that no man speaking in the Spirit of God saith, Jesus is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Maranatha. (1 Corinthians 16:22)
But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema. (Galatians 1:8-9)
In Romans 9:3, Paul says that he wishes to save his fellow Jews, even at the cost of eternal death for himself, if that were possible. While the point of the other three verses is consistent and clear. If a man says Christ is accursed, if he does not love the Lord, or if he preaches another Gospel, he is condemned to hell by God. There is absolutely nothing in these verses that even hints at any man being able to curse a person to hell or even excommunicate him from the body of Christ.
An unrepentant sinner in a church that is itself true to Christ is to be treated as an unbeliever (Matthew 18:15-20). In other words, the members of the church are to cease having religious contact with the sinner, or to acknowledge him as a Christian brother, but this is a far cry from pronouncing someone to be under a curse. True anathema is a fiat, or decree, of God not man. And I doubt He takes kindly to having His place and authority usurped.
If a person is opposing apostasy and heresy in the visible church, the most the elders of that church can do is disallow him or her from being part of a particular building, which in the long run means very little.
It is significant that the word accursed as related to the city of Jericho, was translated anathema in the Septuagint, the third century BC translation of the Old Testament into Greek. According to the Old Testament, the Canaanites and other tribes in the land widely practiced child sacrifice, incest, bestiality, and other behaviors that almost everyone in history, including today, rightly regard as unspeakably, grossly immoral. (See Joshua's Conquests .. Holy War or Genocide?)
And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. (Joshua 6:17)
Note that related word anathematizo, was used in the sense of people invoking God's curse on themselves if they should violate a vow that they had made
And when it was day, the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they came to the chief priests and the elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, to taste nothing until we have killed Paul. Do not thou therefore yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, who have bound themselves under a curse, neither to eat nor to drink till they have slain him: and now are they ready, looking for the promise from thee. (Acts 23:12, 14, 21)
I am not sure whether we take Paul's words about the armour of God in Ephesians seriously enough. Let's read the passage again with particular attention to verse 12.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints... (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. It is only logical that those spiritual forces would set their sights on bringing down the bastion of the Christian faith.. the church, or body of believers.
And, as the situation currently stands.. they are winning. (See Section Doctrines Directly Derived From The Occult)
Which side do you want to be on? If Christ's, then stop fraternizing with the enemy
(3) The Feast Of Pentecost. http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/The%20Second%20Great%20Pentecost.htm
(4) Dr. Paul M. Elliott. Is Your Church a Spiritual Titanic? http://www.teachingtheword.org/articles_view.asp?articleid=61948