by Mike Ratliff
29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:29-30 (NASB)
Several years ago when I was doing almost daily battle with Rob Bell’s apologists I was asked by one of them what Bell had done that has so upset me that I would post some articles about him on this blog. His stance was that even though he disagreed with much of what Rob Bell taught, he read him and listened to him anyway because he liked to “be stretched.” Should we open up our hearts to hear the teachings of people whose stance on Christian essentials is marked by shades of grey? That begs another question. Is genuine Christianity made up of essential truths that are knowable? The more I study God’s Word the more I am convinced that there are no grey areas. God’s truth is always true and that part of it that we must know in order to know and serve Him is clearly taught in scripture and is knowable through reason.
What is a heretic? Professing Christians who are heretics are those who deny the very beliefs that set Christians apart from all other people. They deny those truths without which the Christians faith is impossible such as the veracity of the Trinity, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, His eternal existence, His ressurection, His atoning death on the cross, original sin, and Salvation is ONLY by Grace through faith, which is a gift from God. Heretics and their teachings have traditionally been withstood by the Church. That was the purpose of the gathering of most councils and the writing of creeds. These were used by God to define orthodoxy.
When confronted with the truth, heretics and their apologists almost never willingly admit that they do not affirm orthodox Christianity. However, the church prior to the mid-19th Century stood against heretics and their teachings using Church discipline to rid the Body of Christ of them and their heresies. However, things changed about 150 years ago when heretics became more and more successful in remaining in their churches. They were not disciplined as before. Those who became lax in not following through with church discipline sowed a crop that we are reaping today with actual unbelievers filling the positions of leaders in some Protestant denominations. The genuine believers in these churches have fled lest they be devoured by the wolves.
Much of the truth in our faith is knowable through reason up to a point. By reason we see that something is so, but by faith we know it as it is. For instance, it is understood that the Bible teaches that Christians should live moral lives and not sin aggregiously as they did before salvation. That is how many unregenerate people who profess Christ prove their disingenuousness by living unrepentant lifestyles. They view these commands in scripture as man-made restrictions that are based in self-righteousness. If we were commanded to be moral and live upright lives by our own will power and self-discipline then I might tend to agree with these folks, but that is not what the Bible teaches. In fact, Christ does does not desire us, being justified in Him, to live in self-confidence in our own strength at all. Instead He gives us the law of the Spirit of Life to enable us to obey Him.
This Spirit and His power belongs to those who rest on Christ’s death and no one else. The Spirit of Life within believers answers to the law without. Believers still sin, but they must not seek to justify sinning because that is so. No, instead they should be humbled daily under it. They should mourn for sin. They should understand that their sin is the reason their bodies shall die. They should also mourn over their sin because it is an offense to God and is what caused Christ’s death on the cross. Those who grasp these things with eyes of faith will also understand that their sanctification is the evidence of their reconciliation with the Father through their advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ.
These sheep have come to know the truth by reason and faith. All genuine believers understand that to know God is the highest and best form of knowledge. This spiritual knowledge is the source of strength to the Christian. It strengthens his or her faith. This spiritual knowledge is given to all who believe for they have been anointed by the Holy One (1 John 2:20). The Holy Spirit leads Christians into all truth. Why? It is so they will grow in their faith. This spiritual knowledge strengthens love as well as faith. It is through this working of the Holy Spirit that we are able to “see” our Saviour. As we study Sacred Scripture the Holy Spirit will work in our hearts to present a true image of our Lord to our Hearts. Through this we learn to love Him.
However, those who twist the truth about our Lord and our faith are not ‘stretching minds,’ they are pouring pollution in. Through their heresies they appeal to your reason. Our enemy works there to block any attempt to seek to discern what is said with the eyes of faith. He will cajole us. He will attempt to present what you are reading or hearing as obvious truth. For instance, I, like most of you, have grown up spiritually in a time in which hardly anyone ever preaches the gospel like George Whitefield or Jonathan Edwards did during the First Great Awakening. They preached original sin, hell, judgment, the reason for the bloody Cross of Christ, His sacrifice and why God sacrificed Him as the Lamb of God, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and the Great Commission. They preached this with no apologies. They preached the Gospel effectively because they would not let those who heard them off the hook about their depraved natures and their sin. Whitefield and Edwards were not ashamed of the Gospel. However, to many of us this type of preaching makes us uneasy. Why?
15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “ But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. Romans 1:15-19 (NASB)
Do you think that Paul was eager to preach the gospel that never mentioned original sin, death, hell, judgment, the blood cross, et cetera? No my brethren. He preached it all and was not concerned about angering anyone or driving people away because of its harshness. He was not concerned about those who were offended by the Cross. He wasn’t after being the most popular or most read Apostle. No, he cared only about obeying His Lord. He never twisted the truth. He knew that as long as He emphasized the Gospel, Jesus and Him crucified, via the Word of God that God’s people would be drawn to the truth and believe just as he was when he was knocked off his horse by the power of God.
Here is how I answered that fellow who questioned me about Rob Bell. I told him about viewing Bell’s Nooma video “Bull Horn Guy.” Then I shared the following, “In this video they show a fellow who has a bull horn and a lot of tracts who goes out onto busy streets to preach the Gospel. The way it is presented it makes the fellow look foolish and stupid. Then Bell is shown sitting on a bench on a busy street berating this fellow and all who do that. He became stern and stated that all this type of preaching does is anger people and push them away from Jesus. He stated that he knew innumerable people who love Jesus who came to Him because of that love instead of from a conviction about their sin. This is not biblical salvation. It is not how the Gospel works. This is salvation on one’s own terms.”
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:13-23 (NASB)
Soli Deo Gloria!