by Mike Ratliff
1 Ὃ ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωράκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς — 2 καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἐφανερώθη, καὶ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν καὶ ἀπαγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον ἥτις ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἐφανερώθη ἡμῖν — 3 ὃ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ ἀκηκόαμεν, ἀπαγγέλλομεν καὶ ὑμῖν, ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς κοινωνίαν ἔχητε μεθʼ ἡμῶν. καὶ ἡ κοινωνία δὲ ἡ ἡμετέρα μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ μετὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 4 καὶ ταῦτα γράφομεν ἡμεῖς, ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡμῶν ᾖ πεπληρωμένη. 1 John 1:1-4 (NA28)
1 What was from the beginning which we have heard–which we have seen with our eyes, which we beheld and touched with our hands—with respect to the Word of Life—2 indeed the life was manifested and we have seen it and we give testimony and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—3 what we have seen and we have heard we proclaim to you also that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write that our joy maybe made full. 1 John 1-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Eusebius was a contemporary of Constantine of Hippo. In his book The Church History, he covers the time of the Apostles and spread of Christianity over the Roman world during and after their time. He brings up an interesting point about a third of the way through the book in that while the Apostles were still alive as well as those who were eye witnesses to their lives and ministries and that included those who had actually seen our Lord Jesus before his crucifixion and after his resurrection, our enemy could only successfully attack with limited success from within the Church. Heresies were easily dealt with as John did in the passage above in dealing a deathblow to the major doctrines of an early form of Gnosticism. However, after these first generation leaders of the Church died or were martyred (which was more likely), our enemy changed tactics and so began the era of wolves coming into the Church to lead astray the sheep with deadly heresies such as Arianism. What is the solution? What has always been the solution? It is the same as what the Apostle John did in 1 John and the Apostle Paul did in 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, and 1 Corinthians and the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter. They commanded leaders to teach and preach the Word.
In our era we can easily find ourselves despairing, as it seems that the “whole church” is going after those whose motto is “deeds not creeds.” They use the social media networks to pass around their little non-doctrinal snippets that are only modernized versions of what the Gnostics of the 1st and 2nd Century taught. Here is a very simple breakdown of its major tenets:
- Man’s body, which is matter, is therefore evil. It is to be contrasted with God, who is wholly spirit and therefore good.
- Salvation is the escape from the body, achieved not by faith in Christ but by special knowledge.
- Christ’s true humanity was denied in two ways: (1) Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body, a view called Docetism, from the Greek dokeo (”to seem”), and (2) others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died, a view called Cerinthianism, after its most prominent spokesman, Cerinthus. This view is the background of much of 1 John (1 John 1:1; 2:22; 4:2-3).
- Since the body was considered evil, it was to be treated harshly. This ascetic form of Gnosticism is the background of part of the letter to the Colossians (2:21-23).
- Paradoxically, this dualism also led to licentiousness. The reasoning was that, since matter—and not the breaking of God’s law (1 John 3:4)—was considered evil, breaking his law was of no moral consequence.
One of the most painful things for me to endure is the mishandling of God’s Word. I grew up in the SBC. My Grandfather Ratliff was a Baptist Pastor and Evangelist. I have found letters written by him and to him where the topic within was almost entirely how the church of his day was abandoning adherence to the Word of God as absolute Truth, and belief that it was infallible and was the source for believers to know their God. This move away from this was like torture for my Grandfather, but he refused to cave in to the pressures to follow the crowd and always stayed firmly bound to the Word of God as His gift to His people for us to know Him and that it was indeed God’s absolute truth and was infallible. I have never wavered from this either and it is like being pierced with a sword or arrow when I read or hear of a supposed “Christian leader” misuse scripture to promote some heresy or some man-focused nonsense.
Eusebius was very clear that it was as the wolves entered the Church that aberrant sects and divisions began and not before. The solution for battling the lies and meeting these false doctrines is with God’s truth. Let us never stop contending. There are so many today that are clueless about what this post about. Why is that? Isn’t it a lack of knowing what the truth is? Isn’t it being comfortable in “safe religiosity” thinking that God just wants us all to get along? These same people are the first to have their jaws drop open as one of us who have discernment take that stand as God directs. To them this is wrong because we may offend. What about those who have offended the holiness of our God? How dare us not take a stand against these workers of iniquity who do their evil right in the midst of the visible church all the while calling it “Chiristian” and at the same time attempting to mark each of us God is using this way as the truly evil ones.
Never forget my brethren, do all with respect to the Word of Life.
Soli Deo Gloria!