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HERESIES: THEN AND NOW
By Jason Barker

In 2 Peter 2:1–2, the apostle states, “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.”

The apostle accurately observed the spread of heresy in the first–century church, and his warning that false teachers would continue to arise can easily be seen in the growth of cults and pseudo–Christian religions in our time. Interestingly, the heresies that are popular today are simply variations of the same heresies that have arisen throughout the history of the Church. This article will briefly examine some of the most influential of these heresies, will list scriptures that refute the heresy, and will list some of the modern groups that continue to promote the heresies.

Judaizers — 1st Century Judaizers, or the Judaizing movements, is not a condemnation of Judaism or ethnic Jews. Instead, it has historically been the label for those who attempt to make observing the Mosaic Law a requirement for Christianity and salvation. The book of Acts refers to such people as “they of the circumcision” (Acts 10:45; 11:2), and the council at Jerusalem decisively ruled against them (Acts 15:23–29).

Despite this biblical ruling, Judaizing movements continue to grow in our time. These movements require such things as strict observance of the Sabbath on Saturday, mandatory tithing, observance of the Jewish feasts, and other regulations in order for a Christian to earn salvation.

Scriptural Refutation: Romans 3:24–28.

Modern Groups: Seventh-Day Adventists; followers of Herbert W. Armstrong.

Gnosticism — 1st and 2nd Centuries The Gnostics promoted three basic teachings: 1) matter is evil, and thus Jesus only appeared to be a man; 2) because the Bible teaches that God created matter, the God of the Old Testament Jews is an evil deity who is distinct from the New Testament God, Jesus Christ; and 3) ultimate Truth is a mystery that is available only to those who are initiated into the secret teachings and practices of the Gnostic groups.

Gnosticism has become popular in the latter half of the 20th century with the 1945 Egyptian discovery of the Nag Hammadi library, a collection of Gnostic writings. One of the most influential books in modern Gnosticism has been Elaine Pagel’s The Gnostic Gospels, an analysis of the Nag Hammadi documents. Modern Gnosticism is commonly found in syncretistic groups, which teach that Truth can be found by combining the beliefs and practices of numerous religions.

Scriptural Refutation: Genesis 1:4, 10, 18, 21, 25, 27; John 10:30; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; 1 John 1:1.

Modern Groups: Primarily found in the New Age Movement.

Docetism — 1st – 4th Centuries The name is taken from the Greek word dokein = to seem. The docetics believed that the seeming humanity of Christ, particularly his suffering, were imaginary. They taught that the divine God cannot suffer, and thus, since Christ is divine, his suffering was an illusion to teach humans a valuable lesson about the illusion of matter. Docetism was an integral part of Gnosticism. The heresy was a major impetus for the Chalcedonian Definition of 451, which describes that Christ is one person with two natures: human and divine.

The heresy continues among modern groups that deny the reality of suffering.

Scriptural Refutation: John 1:1–3, 14; Philippians 2:6–8.

Modern Groups: Christian Science, Mind Sciences, the New Age Movement.

Origenism — 3rd Century The career of Origen is one of the more unusual in Christian history. He dedicated himself to defending attacks on Christianity from paganism, Judaism, and Christian heresies. His apologetic book, Against Celsus, remains a classic piece of Christian literature.

Despite his defense of orthodoxy, Origen developed several heretical doctrines that were eventually condemned in 553. His most notable deviant teachings involve the preexistence of human souls, the subordination of the Son to the Father, and universalism. Few groups currently adopt all of Origen’s teachings. Nonetheless, groups influenced by Joseph Smith believe in both the preexistence of souls and the essential subordination of the Son to the Father, and many other groups believe in both the preexistence of souls (usually in the form of reincarnation) and universalism.

Scriptural Refutation: Hebrews 9:27; John 10:30; Matthew 7:13–23; 8:11–12.

Modern Groups: Mormons, Liberal Christianity.

Dynamic Monarchianism / Sabellianism — 3rd Century Although the heresy was first taught in 190 by Theodotus of Byzantium, monarchianism was most notably promoted by Sabellius in the third century. Monarchianism denies the Trinity by teaching that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not separate persons. Instead, the monotheistic God (called a monad) progressively revealed Himself as the creator and lawgiver through the “office” of Father, as the redeemer through the office of Son, and as the source of grace through the office of Spirit.

Scriptural Refutation: John 3:16; 17:22–23; 1 John 5:7–14.

Modern Groups: Oneness Pentecostals.

Arianism — 4th Century Perhaps the most significant heresy faced by the Church, Arianism (named after Arius) taught that, as the Son of God, Christ was created by God the Father. Arius thus denied the Trinity by teaching that Jesus is less than fully divine. This heresy became extremely widespread, even being promoted by many bishops. It was condemned at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 (which proclaimed that Christ is fully divine), and at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 (which proclaimed that the Holy Spirit is divine). Arianism remains one of the most common heresies to afflict the Church. Almost all pseudo–Christian groups deny the full deity of Christ.

Scriptural Refutation: John 10:30; 1 John 5:7.

Modern Groups: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, the Unification Church.

Pelagianism — 5th Century Pelagius, a Welsh monk, taught that humanity does not inherit original sin, and that salvation is earned by following the example of Christ. Grace is not necessary; instead, humans overcome the sin they gradually develop by using God’s grace to assist them in perfecting themselves and thus earning salvation.

This heresy, along with Arianism, is endemic to almost all modern pseudo–Christian groups.

Scriptural Refutation: Romans 3:24–26; 5:11–21.

Modern Groups: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, followers of Herbert W. Armstrong.

Nestorianism and Mono-physitism — 5th Century Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, taught that Mary bore only Jesus’ human nature in her womb, thus implicitly teaching that Christ was not divine while on earth. In an overreaction to Nestorius, the Monophysites taught that Christ was one person with his humanity and divinity fused into a single nature (the Greek roots of the word monophysite are mono = one, and physis = nature), thus implicitly teaching that Christ was neither fully human nor fully divine.

Nestorianism is implicit in those groups who deny the reality of matter. One of the most common forms of the monophysite heresy can be found in the New Age Movement, where many believe that Jesus was a man who developed his “Christ consciousness” and thus fully achieved his divinity.

Scriptural Refutation: Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:6–8.

Modern Groups: the New Age Movement, Christian Science.

Conclusion

Heresy is not new to the Church. The book of Colossians is Paul’s response to the syncretistic heresies present in the 1st century church in Colossae. Colossians 1:15–20, known as the “Christ Hymn,” is one of the best responses to the heresies that attack the deity and work of Christ.

Christians are commanded by God to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). One of the most effective ways to contend for the faith is to know the various ways in which the faith is attacked, and to know the biblical response to these attacks.

http://www.watchman.org/reltop/heresiesthenandnow.htm

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Trinity…equal or hierarchal?

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1. Given that there is God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is there a hierarchy in the Trinity?

 
The short answer is “yes” and “no.” Consider the biblical evidence.

 
Yes – there is a hierarchy in relationship within the Trinity.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:14-15, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” God is recognized honored as the One with Fatherhood.

Jesus tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. ” Jesus is recognized as being the Son with the appearance of coming after the Father and with unique characteristics: part man and fully God.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 that “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” Thus the Holy Spirit knows and understands the thoughts and depths of God. And Jesus tells us in John 15:26, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.”

The Father sent the Son whose purpose was to reveal the Father. The Son sent the Spirit whose purpose was to reveal the Son.

NO- no hierarchy exists in nature within the Trinity despite the different functional roles that They play.

Creation. Each personality of the Trinity created the world.

God the Father
Psalm 102:25, “Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands.”

Jesus Christ the Son
Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him.”

Holy Spirit
Genesis 1:2, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” 

Creation of man. Each personality of the Trinity created man.

God the Father
Genesis 2:7, “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Jesus Christ the Son
Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him.”

Holy Spirit
Job 33:4, “The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

The Incarnation. The power of God, ministered through the Holy Spirit, resulted in the birth of Jesus Christ.

Luke 1:35, “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”
Matthew 1:18-20, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”

The Baptism of Our Lord. When Jesus Christ was baptized, the Spirit descended on Him and God the Father attested to His Son.

Matthew 3:15-16, “But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'”

Death of Christ. Each personality of the Trinity was involved with the death of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 9:14, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

The Resurrection of Christ. Each personality of the Trinity was involved with the resurrection.


God the Father

Acts 3:26, “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

1 Thessalonians 1:10, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”

Jesus Christ the Son
John 2:19-21, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body.”

John 10:17, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.”

Holy Spirit
Romans 8:11, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

The Provision of Our Redemption. Each personality of the Trinity is brought together in providing for man’s eternal salvation.

God the Father chose us for salvation, Jesus Christ the Son was the offering to God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit set us apart.

Hebrews 9:14, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
1 Peter 1:1-2, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure.”

Indwelling Believers. Both Jesus and God the Father dwell within Believers through the person of the Holy Spirit.

John 14:23, “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.”

John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.”

The Great Commission. The name of each distinct personality of the Trinity is invoked at baptism; but note that they are declared in one name.

Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'”

http://helpmewithbiblestudy.org/4Trinity/DeityEqualOrHierarchal.aspx

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Acts 2:38   Satan’s Favorite Bible Verse!  By James L. Melton

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

The above verse of scripture is a favorite among many religious groups. One can hear it several times on Sunday morning radio programs, as well as from the pulpits of numerous groups, and it can be found in much religious literature. The verse is a favorite because, on the surface, it seemingly states that one must be baptized in order to be saved, and without baptism one is not saved. So, those who believe that water baptism is essential for salvation make it a regular habit of using Acts 2:38 as scriptural support.

The problem is that Acts 2:38 isn’t the only verse in the Bible which deals with salvation. While many claim to “speak where the scriptures speak and remain silent where the scriptures are silent,” they practically ignore most of the New Testament teaching on salvation. The only verses that such false teachers quote and reference are the ones they feel they can use to promote their “water gospel.” The fact is that most of what the New Testament says about salvation doesn’t include baptism at all! (John 5:24, John 11:25-26, John 14:6, Romans 4:5, Romans 10:9-13, Eph. 2:8-9, etc.), and the few places that do mention water baptism do not include it as part of one’s salvation. Water baptism follows salvation as one of the first steps of obedience for the new believer.

In spite of this obvious truth, the cultists remain steadfast in their heresy, insisting that Acts 2:38 sets forth water baptism as a requirement for salvation. Thus, this verse of scripture has become Satan’s favorite Bible verse. In fact, many are trusting water baptism alone for the salvation of their souls! Indeed, Satan has deceived multitudes by his perversion of Acts 2:38.

Rather than ignore Acts 2:38 by quoting “our favorite verses” instead, it is more appropriate to face this popular verse of scripture and see if the cultists are right in what they claim it teaches.

The Truth about Acts 2:38

First, please notice that verse 38 isn’t the only verse in Acts 2. In Peter’s message, a great deal was said before verse 38 came out of his mouth. In fact, he even told his listeners how to be saved before verse 38! In Acts 2:21, Peter quotes from Joel 2 and says, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” His words preceding verse 38 were so convicting that his listeners were “pricked in their heart” in verse 37. So, to use verse 38 out of its context causes a misrepresentation of God’s word. The verse does not stand alone, and, in fact, a totally different meaning is conveyed when one makes it stand alone.

Another error that many make with Acts 2:38 is the error of assumption. It is assumed that the word “for” must mean “in order to get.” That is, being baptized “for” the remission of sins supposedly means to be baptized “in order to get” remission of sins. However, a closer look at the scriptures will reveal that this isn’t the case at all.

Notice Luke 5:12-14: “And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” Jesus made this man clean in verse 13, yet in the next verse, verse 14, Jesus tells him to go offer a sacrifice “for thy cleansing” as a “testimony.” Here the word “for” cannot mean “in order to get” because he had already gotten his cleansing in verse 13! It obviously meant “because of” his cleansing. If a man goes to jail “for stealing,” then he goes there “because of” the stealing that he’s already done, not “in order to get” a chance to steal again.

Some like to argue that the Greek word “eis” means “in order to,” but this isn’t always the case. Jesus said in Matthew 12:41, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at (eis) the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” The Greek word for “at” is “eis.” Does this mean that the men of Nineveh repented “in order to get” the preaching of Jonah? No, they repented “because of” the preaching of Jonah. So, even “the Greek” doesn’t demand the popular interpretation of Acts 2:38. The word “for” can be used different ways, not just one, so it is wrong to assume that it must mean “in order to get” in Acts 2:38.

Another factor which is commonly ignored is the JEWISH factor. Every person in Acts 2 is a Mosaic law observing Old Testament Jew. In fact, they are all gathered together to observe a JEWISH FEAST called Pentecost (verse 1). A fair reading of the whole chapter (especially verses 4, 14, and 36) will clearly reveal that no Gentiles (non Jews) are present. Since this involves Jews, it involves a NATION (verse 36!!), not individuals. No one asked, “What must I do to be saved?” The question asked concerned the NATION of Israel: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (verse 37) Not, “What shall I do,” but rather, “What shall WE do?” Acts 2 presents a NATION of people who come to realize that they have murdered their blessed Messiah and they’re asking what THEY must do. It’s a question concerning NATIONAL salvation. Isaiah 66:8 says, “. . . shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” The “nation” is Israel! Romans 11:26 says, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” Acts 2:38 is dealing with NATIONAL salvation. The Messianic Kingdom is still available to the Jews (until Acts 7:60 when they kill Stephen), so national salvation remains an issue until then.

This is clear from what follows Acts 7. In Acts 8, an individual from Africa is saved (before baptism). In Acts 9, an individual from Asia is saved (before baptism). In Acts 10, an individual from Europe is saved (before baptism). Why didn’t these individual conversions occur before Acts 7? Because the first seven chapter of Acts deal with Israel (1:6-8; 2:36; 3:12; 4:8-10; 5:31; 6:7-14; 7:1-60). The question of INDIVIDUAL salvation is asked and answered in Acts 16:30-31: “. . . Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Those who fail to make this distinction are guilty of violating II Timothy 2:15 where we are told to RIGHTLY DIVIDE the word of truth.

The Bible says the gospel is to go to the Jew FIRST (Rom. 1:16), so they are the FIRST to receive the gospel in the book of Acts (chapter 2), but they are not the last to receive it. Acts doesn’t end with chapter 2, so we should be cautious of anyone who develops their doctrine in Acts 2 while practically ignoring the next 26 chapters! If God didn’t stop in Acts 2, then why does anyone else? Could it be that the later chapters in Acts contain information which the cultists want hidden from us? Could it be that there are other scriptures in Acts which do not agree with the wording of Acts 2:38? Could it be that Peter himself, the one preaching in Acts 2:38, says something different when speaking to individual Gentiles like you and me? One only has to read Acts chapter 10 to get the answer. Peter is preaching again in Acts 10, except only to individual Gentiles, and something very interesting occurs. In Acts 2:38, the Holy Ghost was promised to be given to the converts AFTER they were baptized, yet in Acts 10:44 the Holy Ghost falls upon the Gentiles BEFORE they are baptized! Now, Paul tells us in Romans 8:9, ” . . .if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Having God’s Spirit is synonymous with belonging to God or being saved (John 3:6-8), so the Gentiles in Acts 10 were saved BEFORE they were baptized in water. Why don’t the Acts 2:38 cultists ever point this out? Answer: It destroys their perverted doctrine that water baptism is essential for salvation.

The fact is that Acts 2:38 is NOT the “model” plan of salvation, nor are any of the other “water verses” which the cultists use. Only by taking such verses out of their context can one teach such heresy. All of the Bible is true, not just the favorite “proof texts” of the cults. Baptism saves no one. It only serves as a testimonial picture of the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ AFTER one has believed on Christ (Acts 8:36-38). Paul said in I Corinthians 1:17 that “. . . Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” This “gospel” is defined by Paul in I Corinthians 15:1-4, and it does NOT include water baptism. The dying thief was not baptized, yet Jesus saved him (Luke 23:42-43), and John wrote that we are washed in the BLOOD of Christ (Rev. 1:5), not in the water. In fact, the saints in Heaven claim to have gotten there by the blood of Jesus (Rev. 5:9), not by water. By faith in the blood of Jesus Christ one is saved (Rom. 3:25). Water baptism only follows this faith as an outward step of obedience.

Friend, if you have fallen for the water gospel, why not repent of your sin and trust Jesus Christ alone? Acts 10:43 says, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Why not believe on Christ 100% right now and quit trusting something you DO for salvation? “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1) Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Why not right now?

Copyright © 2000 James L. Melton

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http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Doctrines/Baptismal%20Regeneration/acts_2-38.htm

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