The Word of Life and standing firm

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 1:1-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Eusebius was a contemporary of Constantine. 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:

  1. Man’s body, which is matter, is therefore evil. It is to be contrasted with God, who is wholly spirit and therefore good.
  2. Salvation is the escape from the body, achieved not by faith in Christ but by special knowledge.
  3. 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).
  4. 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).
  5. 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. Occasionally I get comments on this blog from someone I have never heard from who has issues with some doctrinal point I have made. I find it amusing at times when they attempt to argue with me about what words in the text mean which I have translated from the Greek, however they attempt to say that a particular English translation is the only true source. What do we do? Do we argue? Do we strike back in the manner we were attacked? Of course not! The best response is to simply present the truth from God’s Word with no compromise and let the Holy Spirit do His work.

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. I have visited churches in which the gospel was mishandled to the point that it appeared that God was helplessly waiting for people listening to make the right decision so they could be saved, because He was powerless to do anything to help them. There are so many today that would have visited that church with me and would not have been offended and righteously indignant that the Grace of our Lord Jesus was being so misused and misrepresented. Why is that? Isn’t it a lack of knowing what the truth is? Isn’t it being comfortable in “safe religiosity” thinking that is what God wants from us? 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 “Christian” and at the same time attempting to mark each of us God is using this way as the truly evil ones.

The world is growing ever more evil. At least it seems that way to me. Christianity is outlawed in many countries as I write this. Christians are being persecuted all over this world. Some are being massacred by Muslims such as in Nigeria. In China the government is cracking down on Christians and attempting to wipe Christianity out there. Here in the United States there is a call by radicals to Criminalize Christianity. What is quite sad about that to me is that many who call themselves Christians will actually be all for this. What? Yes, you know those people who demand to be called Christian, but are living in immorality or refuse to repent of some sinful lifestyle. Yes, these people will actually help to persecute those who refuse to submit to the tolerant left who is intolerant of everyone who does not agree with them.

Persecution is coming. We have two choices. We do as the early church did and become martyrs and grow stronger spiritually or we submit and become absorbed. If you are a genuine believer and are living for the Lord the first option is your only one. During the reign of Bloody Mary many Church of England leaders were martyred because they would not recant and go back into the Roman Catholic Church. A few did recant, but then as they sat in their cells they prayed and then rejected their recantation. Of course this meant going to the stake, but that is what they did. I often wonder about my physical courage when it comes to something like that, but the Word says that if we keep our eyes on the Lord and His promises to us then when the time of persecution comes the Holy Spirit will give us the strength and words to make it through it. I would love to wake up in the morning to sound of trumpets and coming of our Lord, but if that does not happen in my lifetime I think I had better be prepared for what may happen if the evil people making all the threats get into power.

Soli Deo Gloria!