Vol. 1 - No. 5 

May, 1982

Heresy Reveals The Faithful

by Harold Fite

 Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) Truth is what God says about a thing. There is no such thing as a "half-truth." A thing is either -true or it isn't. Truth is pure and absolute. The smallest alloy corrupts and changes truth into a lie.

Any teaching or action that goes beyond truth or stands opposed to it, is heresy. Originally heresy was not used in a bad sense, but simply had reference to choice. But because opinionated men. pushed their choices into parties and factions, it acquired an evil connotation.

The word "heresy" from "HAIRESIS" occurs nine times in the New Testament. It is translated "sect" throughout the book of Acts, (with the exception of Acts 24:14 KJ), and "heresies" in the remaining three passages. (ASV has "parties" instead of "heresies" in Galatians 5:29.)

According to W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, it denotes, "A choosing, choice; then that which is chosen, and hence, an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects, Galatians 5:20,"

A "sect" is a "division developed and brought to an issue; the order, divisions, heresies, in `works of the flesh' in Galatians 5:19-21 is suggestive of this." (Ibid.)

"Faction" has a definite relationship with heresy. It implies a departing in conduct. It indicates "ambition, self seeking; rivalry, self-willed being the underlying idea in the word; hence it denotes party making. It is derived not from eris, strife, but from erithos, a hireling; hence the meaning of seeking to win followers." (Ibid.)

Heresy, sect, faction, schism, division, parties, are related in n cause and effect. "Heresy is theoretical schism, schism practical heresy." (Word Pictures In The New Testament-Robertson) A heretic is one who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think. He becomes puffed up with his own sense of importance, which leads to a domineering attitude. (Cf. Diotrephes, 3 John 9, 10) In selfishly seeking his own, he becomes wise in his own conceits, and regard for the judgment of others becomes non-existent. He then begins to measure others by himself. Through his self-will and self-seeking he deliberately chooses, and adamantly holds to his own views independent of Biblical authority. His carnal spirit issues into factions, divisions, parties. After the first and second admonition we are to reject such. (Titus 3:10)

The church has always been plagued with heresy. Space will not permit me to name them all (even if I could) but for starters, there was the heresy that the resurrection was past already. (2 Timothy 2:18) Through their heresies, false teachers denied the Master. (2 Peter 2:1) The heretical anti-Christ denied the humanity of our Lord. In more modern times we have heard the heresy of Premillennialism, the "one container and anti Bible classes," and the more recent heresy of "Imputed Righteousness." The latter is rapidly forming into a party within the church, (at least in some areas).

The presence of heresies should not surprise us: "But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction." (2 Peter 2:1)

This passage is just as relevant today as when penned. Jesus said, "offenses will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!" (Luke 17:1) Those who bring heresies into the church bring upon themselves destruction, as well as upon those who follow their pernicious and shameful ways, and cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of. (2 Peter 2:2) Heresies come under the works of the flesh, and those "who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:21)

While heresy is deplorable, it is inevitable! Jesus said, "It is impossible but that offenses should come." To the Corinthians Paul wrote: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (1 Corinthians 11:19)

According to Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, the word "must" denotes any sort of necessity: "necessity brought on by circumstances ... or by conduct by others toward us ... or imposed by condition of mind ...necessity in reference to what is required to attain some end ... "

In the above scripture "must" conveys that which is required of necessary in bringing something about. Heresy is required to bring about approvedness. Heresy is to be expected; heresy is necessary for it reveals the approved of God.

The idea of "approved" is the approval which comes through testing: "to prove with a view to approval ... that which he approves or after having put the matter to the test." (Vine) It is used in connection with the work of the assayer, by which he determines the nature and value of metals. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:13; Zechariah 11:13)

The intrusion of heresy caused the approved to be revealed. A person must either take a stand against heresy, or accept it. There is no middle ground. Those who stand the test are those who are approved and revealed. as the true friends of God. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him." (James 1:12)

The results of heresy, therefore, are not all bad. It h a s a purifying effect on the church. Not only does it reveal the true friends of the Lord, but contrariwise, it reveals those who are not. (1 John 2:19)

This does not mean to imply that we are to do evil that good may come. But it does imply that God in His providence can so over-rule evil as to cause it to work out to the fulfilling of His purpose. Trials and persecutions are not desirable, but they provide for us discipline and patience. (Hebrews 12:11; James 1:2, 3; 1 Peter 1:6, 7)

May we all guard against heresy: "that we may be no more longer children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness after the wiles of error." (Ephesians 4:14) When heresy and truth have been joined in battle, and when it will have run its course, may we be numbered with the approved.