While it is true that heretical teachings are rampant in this day and time, far too often, Christians are quick to use the “heresy” label on anything with which they disagree. The Bible is clear that we are not to tolerate false doctrine; however, we are also admonished not to label people heretics concerning certain matters.
The Definition of Heresy
Heresy is defined as a belief that is contrary to religious doctrine, more specifically, orthodox religious doctrine. 1 John 4 also defines what is false. When you look at the scriptures in 1 John in context with Romans 14, you will find that a doctrine can only be declared Biblically heretical when it attacks the deity of Jesus Christ; suggests that salvation can be obtained by any other way than the Way, Jesus Christ (John 14: 6), or twists specific scriptures in the Bible to justify an act that is clearly a sin. Examples of this would be abortion, changing the Biblical definition of marriage, or stating that sexual sin is now acceptable to God.
Now that the definition of heresy is clear. We should be careful whom we label a heretic, or apostate. Many of God’s people are quick to state that certain people are false teachers simply because of a disagreement about doctrine that does not pertain to salvation. You might be wishing I would give some specific examples. Wish granted! I am getting ready to do just that.
Heresy: What It Is and What It Is Not
Although I support ministers who are women, I have no right to label as heretics those who disagree with me. There are many Christians who do not believe women should preach or teach in the church. I disagree, but that does not make those with whom I disagree unsaved. Why? There is no denying the deity of Christ nor claiming another way of salvation in this belief, so, we can agree to disagree.
Another example of what is not heresy is the following: I believe that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4) are for today. I have been blessed to see these gifts at work, and working in order, in the body of Christ. However, those who believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the Apostles are still my brothers and sisters in Christ. Why? Refer to the previous paragraph.
The following is an example of heresy: If a minister preaches another way to heaven, or another means to obtain salvation other than Jesus Christ, I can declare that preaching or teaching to be heretical because it goes completely against the Word of God and the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
Another example of heresy would be for someone to teach that Jesus Christ is not God. The Bible plainly declares His deity in John 1 and Colossians 2:9. The deity of Jesus, aka The Word in Flesh, is also declared throughout the Old Testament. It is fair and right to declare attacks on the deity of Jesus Christ heresy.
Agree to Disagree
On issues such as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, women ministers, the doctrine of Oneness, etc., we can agree that we disagree yet continue to love each other. Why? Jesus clearly stated in John 13:35 that our love for each other would be how the world would know we belong to Him. Love is the answer for what divides the body of Christ. Love is what points people to the way of salvation–not squabbling over doctrine.
We are living in what I believe is the season of Christ’s return. People are hurting and searching for something that is real and lasting. All that will fulfill people’s longings is Jesus Christ. Point people to Him. The rest can be sorted out later.
If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can know Him right now. Romans 10:9-10 states the following: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”