BEWARE OF THESE TWO POPULAR HERESIES
IN THE CHURCH TODAY
© 2021 by Philip A Matthews
“For doubtless there have to be factions or parties among you in order that they who are genuine and of approved fitness may become evident and plainly recognized among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19 Amplified).
There’s a great polarization happening in the ranks of Christians today. It goes beyond the previous disagreements over doctrines involving homosexuality, abortion, etc. We have blacks leaving “white churches” and even white people leaving “white churches” that are either too conservative or not conservative enough! This time it involves politics and social justice. But we need to beware of these two popular “heresies” in the church today.
First, let’s define what Paul meant by using this word, “hairesis,” here and in Galatians 5:20. Here in 1 Corinthians, hairesis means a “faction, a sect, a party or disunion,” a result of a division. In Galatians 5, it is a “work of the flesh,” a contention or division. In both cases, the word does not necessarily denote error in doctrine, but schism and division in the church. Thus, it doesn’t matter if it is erroneous doctrine or something else, but if it is the cause of a division in the church, then it is called a “heresy.” A “heresy” here is a “division” in the church.
The other important thing to note in this text is that God Himself allows these “heresies” or divisions in the church so “that they which are approved may be made manifest among you].” “The Greek is not simply ‘so that,’ but ‘in order that,’ as though God had permitted these evils and divisions to arise in order to test the faith and patience of Christian men” (The Cambridge Bible for Schools & Colleges). He actually wants to see who is going to stay true to Him and His divine purposes and who is going to go after some off-purpose that suits their own selfish fancies.
Division and confusion are tools of the devil, not God. However, as usual, God lets the devil test church people so that those who are “approved” can be revealed. In this current polarization, both sides are being revealed to be not approved. Both sides are missing the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is just how Satan likes it. This is how “heresy/division” is working among us today:
Heresy One: On one side, we have Christians who have fallen in love with and made an idol out of our “Christian” lifestyles, freedoms, privileges, nationalism, comforts and conveniences. We in this faction have managed to attach and associate a conservative lifestyle with the Kingdom of God. Then, when that lifestyle is attacked or threatened, we interpret those threats to be against Christianity, God, and His Kingdom. We then use the Bible to justify the defense of our lifestyle and spend a lot of time and energy on fighting to obtain or maintain our political clout. We start preaching more about presidential elections than we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Patriotism and nationalism are being confused with Christianity, when the truth is that Jesus Christ transcends and is not partial to any nation or culture, does not have a favorite nation or group of people that He sets up for special blessings and protections, does not favor a political party, or the like. Neither America nor any other nations or political entities are found anywhere in biblical prophecy to be some part of the “kingdom of God.”
Heresy Two: On the other side, we have Christians who are jumping on the bandwagon of the social gospel, apparently thinking that popular social justice issues are the responsibility of the church. We on this side see obvious gross injustices, inequality, and other social ills that need to be righted, then we adopt those causes because they sound nice. And they give us a comfortable feeling because we are “helping” those who seem to be oppressed. Also, we don’t want to be called “racist” or get “cancelled” by the “woke,” politically correct crowds seemingly running the show. Social Justice becomes the fad doctrine of the day.
We often see claims, supposedly the truth, that say that if your “gospel” doesn’t cause you to get out and march with the social justice protestors and make sure everybody gets their “rights,” then it’s not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And yet, we never see Jesus or His disciples pick up the social justice banner and fight the injustices of their day: the “police” brutality of the Roman Empire, discrimination against and oppression of women, returning slaves to their masters, Jesus calling an ethnically-diverse, non-Jewish, minority woman a “dog,” etc. Specifically, we see/hear Jesus Himself, when told about the government, “police” brutality against some Jews unjustly killed while worshipping in the Temple, ask, “Do you think these unfortunate people were the worst sinners in town? No, but if YOU don’t repent and don’t turn back to God, YOU guys are also going to perish!” That is, getting right with God is the ONLY thing that really matters! And that is the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
So, the truth about social justice is that, though it is a noble cause, it is not the CALLING of the church. THE CHURCH IS NOT HERE TO RIGHT THE INJUSTICES OF SOCIETY! The church is not here to fight for “voting rights.” The church is not here to eliminate poverty and economic inequality: It was Jesus Himself who said, “The poor you will always have with you” and “Tell John [the Baptist] that… the poor have the Gospel preached to them,” which is their biggest need. This does not in any way excuse or justify racism, sexism, inequality of any sort, or other such injustices, but merely states that these issues are not to be the primary focus of the church. I’m sure that I will be thoroughly excoriated for those statements by many church people, but the “Great Commission” is the charge and calling Jesus gave to His disciples and His church until the “end of the age” (Matthew 28:20): “Go into all the world, make disciples, and teach them everything I taught you.” We have been greatly distracted from that task by all these other noble causes! And now we are falling out with each other and separating over such “heresies!”
The biggest problem is that while we are out screaming for social justice or taking fanatical stands for patriotism, we are not getting anybody saved. The Gospel of Christ is not being preached but is being lost in the polarizing political confusion and divisions. Throughout church history, we continually have allowed ourselves to be successfully distracted from our primary purpose: TO SEEK AND TO SAVE THE LOST. This was Jesus’ SOLE purpose—when He was here and after He left and delegated this purpose to His disciples in the Great Commission. These distractions are the real reason for the existence of cultural Christians (CHRistian In Name Only [CHRINOs]) and the reason for there being “only” 2.382 billion and not 5 or 6 billion Christians in the world today, after 2,000 years of the Gospel and the should-be-unlimited power of the Holy Spirit.
One last explanation of why these “heresies” are distractions: True change in this world cannot happen without God producing millions of individual spiritual miracles. Neither marching and protesting nor being extremely patriotic is God’s way. Injustice will remain indefinitely because it all comes from the HEARTS of people, and the human heart is limitlessly EVIL! Neither political clout nor social activism have any answers to this spiritual problem. So, GOD’S way is to change people from the inside out, purifying hearts and minds and morals and consciences and, thus, changing behavior, prevailing attitudes, and social systems.
And that’s what the church should be concentrating on right now: Put ALL its hopes and efforts in SAVING & HEALING the SOULS of men and women, boys and girls, and even the precious souls of those who claim to be none of the above. While the country was protesting and rioting last summer, my fourth son and his missionary training school were part of a prolonged evangelistic campaign out on the California coast, from San Diego to Santa Cruz, where over 1,000 new believers were baptized in the Pacific Ocean! I dare say that those new believers will do more to change the world for eternity than all the protests in all the burning cities of America combined. PRAY for revival; STRATEGIZE on how to get the GOSPEL of God’s LOVE over to those who have never FELT it in ways and by means we’ve never used before; START FUNDING efforts to change people one life or family at a time; SKIP the acrimonious, polarizing politics; REJECT the tendency to spend most of God’s money on buildings, religious doo-dads, and just “having church” instead of spending it on getting people saved; RENOUNCE THE RAMPANT HYPOCRISY IN OUR MIDST; and START ACTING LIKE JESUS, Who gave us precisely the bottom line, paraphrasing: “Unless you repent, nothing else matters!” When are we going to get back to what really matters to the Father and to Jesus?
That is the question we need to each ask ourselves. God bless.