What Heresy Is and Is Not

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

christ like pixabay (2nd pic)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.

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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.

UnityWe 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.”

 

Unity with Christians

Our unity with Christ and each other, as Christians, is so vital that Jesus labored in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before His death over those who would be His.  John 17 provides a detailed look at the prayer of Jesus.  He labored in prayer to the point that His sweat became blood.

Unity with Christ

UnityBefore you or I can be in unity with each other, we must first be cultivating our own individual relationships with Christ.  In Matthew 22: 37-40, Jesus first instructed those around Him to love the Lord with everything in them.  After quoting these words from Deuteronomy, Jesus finished the rest of the command which was to love your neighbor as yourself.

If you or I fail in loving God, we will fail in loving each other.  God is love, therefore, it is vital that I am found in Him so that I can love Him in return, then, love my Christian brothers and sister.

A relationship with God has to be cultivated through prayer and time in the Word.  If I avoid speaking to God and fail to listen to Him, what kind of relationship would I have with him?  If you avoid communicating with your spouse, friends, or family members, can you truly have good relationships with them?  If you avoid listening to your loved ones, is a good relationship with them possible?

Unity with Each Other

I have heard some Christian teachers say that unity does not mean uniformity.  In other words, I do not have to become just like others in order to love them.  In fact, I do not even have to agree with all they do to love them.  Love is not dependent upon uniformity.  The love of God is so much more.  Love still chooses to seek a relationship with an individual although there are differences.

God made us all unique (see Psalm 139).  He did not want us to become clones of one another.  He knows we all look at things differently.  He knows that we are not going to serve Him in the same way.  I believe He did this intentionally.  Unity 2

When you listen to a band or an orchestra, you notice that the instruments are not all the same.  They have different sounds.  With practice, those who play the instruments learn to harmonize their sounds so a beautiful symphony is heard.  It is the same with God’s people.  Our different gifts can come together and harmonize to accomplish the spreading of the gospel and building up of the kingdom of God on the Earth.

How to be in Unity

There is no magical formula to the challenge of unity in the body of Christ.  It is a matter of working together despite differences.  Accept that there are issues on which you will disagree with your brothers and sisters.  Accept that they are not just like you.  Be willing to work together despite the differences.

It is time for a disclaimer.  I am not saying that we are to accept the message of those who claim there is another way to God besides Christ nor am I suggesting that we go along with teaching that is blatantly false.  I am suggesting that we lay aside those differences that are not a matter of eternal salvation and work with each other to win people to Jesus Christ.  There comes a time when we must decide to only know Christ and Him crucified. The rest can wait while we point the lost to Jesus.