by Mike Ratliff
3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. 5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:3-5 (NASB)
This blog has been online since 2006 and over the years I have tried to address all of the forms of “Christianity” that were in fact “Strange Fire.” How did we know they were “Strange Fire?” They did not line up with what God’s Word says His people will do as they serve Him. It is amazing how no matter how “new” the attacks on God’s truth are, the more they consist of the very same rebellion that is exposed throughout both the Old and New Testaments of Sacred Scripture. The arguments of those who propose “different doctrines” rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith expose hearts that are spiritually blind. They may indeed have very different religions or doctrines from each other, but their opposition to the truth of God will all be according the very same rebellion found in the temptation from the serpent in Genesis 3:1, “Yea, hath God said,…?” Those who dwell and minister in this area of rebellion do so with a sense of self-confidence that they are “right” and “cutting-edge” and “not mired in the past” are actually guilty of casting doubt on God’s good doctrines given to the Church while constructing man-made theologies whose foundations are no better than wet sand and, even worse, they attempt to gain as many followers as possible to reject the truth and enter with them into the ‘New Kind of Christianity’ that is their version of the church founded on their different doctrines.
17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. Romans 16:17 (NASB)
17 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, σκοπεῖν τοὺς τὰς διχοστασίας καὶ τὰ σκάνδαλα παρὰ τὴν διδαχὴν ἣν ὑμεῖς ἐμάθετε ποιοῦντας, καὶ ἐκκλίνετε ἀπʼ αὐτῶν· Romans 16:17 (NA28)
17 Now I urge you, brothers, to watch the ones making the divisions and the obstacles against the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. Romans 16:17 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
What are τὰς διχοστασίας καὶ τὰ σκάνδαλα (the divisions and the obstacles) about which Paul is warning the Romans? These are doctrinal falsehoods and unrighteous practices of those are attempting take over or divide the church. They are after religious followers and they are using τὰς διχοστασίας καὶ τὰ σκάνδαλα to attract the naïve. Notice also that Paul makes it clear that these in the Roman Church have been taught correct doctrine according to righteousness and so they have and know the truth παρὰ τὴν διδαχὴν (against the teaching) they ἐμάθετε (learned). These people have been discipled and so have the truth and are being exhorted by Paul to discern false ministers and turn from them or avoid them. Why?
18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. Romans 16:18 (NASB)
18 οἱ γὰρ τοιοῦτοι τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν Χριστῷ οὐ δουλεύουσιν ἀλλὰ τῇ ἑαυτῶν κοιλίᾳ, καὶ διὰ τῆς χρηστολογίας καὶ εὐλογίας ἐξαπατῶσιν τὰς καρδίας τῶν ἀκάκων. Romans 16:18 (NA28)
18 For such men do not serve our Lord Christ but their own belly and through smooth speech and praise deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:18 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
These false teachers, ministers, preachers, or whatever they may be who attempt to infiltrate and change the Church via τὰς διχοστασίας καὶ τὰ σκάνδαλα are τοιοῦτοι τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν Χριστῷ οὐ δουλεύουσιν; they are not slaves or bondservants of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are apostates, false prophets, false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing. Their motivation is what? τῇ ἑαυτῶν κοιλίᾳ, it is their own appetites. No matter how much they claim to be concerned for the target of their false teachings, their motivation is totally selfish. This is proved to us by their methods for if they were truly from God, there would be no lies or deceit or eisegesis in attempts to validate their false doctrines. Instead, their deception is διὰ τῆς χρηστολογίας καὶ εὐλογίας, through smooth talk and flattery. This is why the naïve fall for what they say. They cannot conceive of such a nice, considerate person being a wolf. This naivety is exploited by these wolves to ἐξαπατῶσιν τὰς καρδίας of their victims, to deceive throughly the hearts τῶν ἀκάκων. The word ἐξαπατῶσιν means to seduce or beguile or cheat wholly. In other words, this is the description of those who exploit the lack of spiritual acumen of either the unregenerate or the lack of spiritual maturity of some to lead them into their “new type of Christianity,” which is, of course, only another form of old heresies that our enemy continues to repackage in attempts to divide and thwart the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church is commanded to withstand these evil people by exposing and turning from them. The visible church is in a deceived state right now. Of course, God has preserved His remnant as He always has and our call is to continue to minister and serve within the stewardship from God that is by faith. In other words, we are to walk by faith, not by sight and that means we do not forsake God’s good doctrines which He has graciously given His Church in order that those in it should be nurtured and live for His glory in their daily prayer, meditation and dealing with trials of suffering and persecution.
The truth of God is very precise. It is understood and followed by the few who have found the narrow gate that opens to the narrow, broken path that is the only way to God. The evil spirits in league with Satan are specialists in religion and they control the ungodly in their attempts to infiltrate and divide the Church. We must always be on guard against this and that means we must become educated in the truth of God so we will recognize the lies. My mother who died earlier this year at the age of 92 was a Christian for over 70 years. When she was 77 in 2003 I gave her Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, before God woke me up to His truth. In 2004 God took me to spiritual bootcamp and by the middle of 2006 I had become centered in Sola Scriptura and through that, I began shedding all mystical and extra-biblical stuff from my walk and ministry. I asked my mother what she had done with that book. She gave me that look that has always made me want to get out of her sight. She went to where she had put it and gave it back to me. She told me that she did not get past the introduction nor had she done any of the 40 days. I asked her why. She said that she could see the deception into self-focus and pride right off the bat and how the whole thing was not about the glory of God, but the elevation of man. It was not about grace, but about works. It was not Christian. She summed it up by saying, “The Holy Spirit warned me not to read it or do it so I didn’t.”
There is no “new type of Christianity.” There will always be liars and false prophets proposing something “new,” but it will only be a rehash of some very old heresies. It is such a paradox to see those who think that church must be culturally contextualized and become missional, but if you point out the unbiblical aspects of what they are doing, we are accused of being divisive as if what they are doing is the default for Christianity. No, the default is for God’s people to believe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, turn in repentance in surrender to His Lordship and trust as their Saviour because His substitutionary death on the Cross that paid the price for their sins. This is the atonement and this belongs to all who were bought by our Lord’s shedding of His blood on the Cross. These are saved and they remain in this life to walk the broken, narrow path of sanctification until God takes them home. These obey God and walk and serve within the stewardship from God that is by faith.
Soli Deo Gloria!