Have you ever wondered why you don’t hear much on this subject? Just what is HERESY?
What about in the COG today? Do we reflect on this and its plural, heresies, as much as we should in today’s world, where the COG is so scattered? Did you know that other religions (Called Christianity today) consider many of the teachings of the true Church of God to be points of heresy? How can that be if those teachings are solidly based from the Bible’s revealed truths? Does this, of and by itself, reveal that many are deceived on what Biblical truth is, even some in the COG realm? (Luke 21:8 & 1Cor.15:33-34) Please use your Bible and contemplate all of the Scriptural passages given in this article on heresy.
Many religions count anything that does not agree with their brand of religion, to be heresy. However, any true Christian should zealously examine doctrines to see if they are what the word of God reveals, as the Bereans did. (Acts 17:11) We should understand the fact that heresies are brought forth, even in the COG sometimes and if not corrected they can become set as doctrine and corrupt the whole COG organization. Some men do this in ignorance and will correct it later, while others do so deliberately to keep a following. This is not an accusation but a proven fact thru-out history, concerning the COG. We are warned against these aberrations of truth being used to deceive (which amounts to heresy) and are admonished to expose them. (Eph.5:11—See also “Differences in Beliefs”) Heb.13:9 “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.” We are also told not be carried about by every wind of doctrine (Eph.4:14) but how many today are really putting forth effort to find out if things they are hearing are all truth? This requires zeal in study and effort on the part of the individual, a desire for learning truth and will automatically reveal what is heresy, if the Holy Spirit is allowed to lead the mind.
To determine if a thing is heresy, the question needs to be; “can it really be Biblical revelation and true doctrine, if it seems to go against or is not compatible with other passages, also written under inspiration”? The Bible does not contradict or cast doubt on itself for truthfulness. For example; Scriptural understanding led to by the Holy Spirit, or given through vision in the concluding book of the Bible, will not contradict words of Christ or cast doubt on the truthfulness of any original manuscripts of other passages already written earlier. (2Tim.3:16) More on this will become apparent as we go.
That title above is a simple word with a mix of meanings; so for the sake of getting at Biblical truth, let us verify this by noting it in Scripture. (Hopefully you, the reader, will do so in your own Bible, depending on which translation you may use.) It is important to recognize this “heresy” and what it is, as it is the subtle method used to pull people away from truth and into error or confusion. Satan employs this tactic and has done so to deceive the elect if possible, (Matt.24:24-25& 2Cor.2:11) all down through time. It is appearing once more as “new understanding” about various subjects, among some COG organizations. I have heard people say, about some new understanding they now have; “It just came to me” or “I came to this on my own” which could mean apart from the Bible revelations on various subjects as well COG teachings, even after years of research. Once you focus on the definition of the word and have a history of diligent Bible study, you should begin to recognize heresy that is going on, when you hear it, instead of being sucked into deception and then finding out later (perhaps too late) that you have been deceived.
In the King James Version of the Bible and in the New Testament, the first and only place the word ”heresy” is found is in Acts 24:14, (“after the way which they call heresy,”-#139) which the majority of other translations list as “sect”, including the NKJ. This is in fact, one of the meanings this Greek word can portray; which in this verse, it actually should be translated SECT, as it also is in verse 5. (Acts 24:5----“ringleader of the sect (#139) of the Nazarenes:” KJV)
This is one place that it is evident that those following truth were considered by others in that time frame as a sect, or in heresy. So, does this mean that the word heresy really has no relevance in the NT Scriptures? Not at all, as the word found there as heresy, in Strong’s exhaustive concordance and Vines expository dictionary is #139 Shown above and actually comes from #138, haireomai (hahee-reh'-om-ahee); (meaning) to choose or “to take for oneself, i.e. to prefer:”— The plural of the word is heresies, also #139. This is found more than once in Scripture and so we should examine those passages to get the contextual meaning of why that word “heresies” is used and what it means. This is very important for those who claim to be true Christians today, in order to guard against possible deceptions and false doctrine being brought forth, even in the true COG!
One of the most fitting places to find this word in the Bible is in what is called the “works of the flesh” and the end of Gal.5:20, which is right in the middle of these works of the flesh. (Gal 5:20 “Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,---(KJV) So when the meaning of it here is searched out, we find something interesting. One source, Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, has this; HERESY—hairesis ^139^ denotes (a) "a choosing, choice" (from haireomai, ] "to choose"); 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, <Gal. 5:20> (marg., "parties"); such erroneous opinions are frequently the outcome of personal preference”----(again, the self-willed aspect—one’s own idea or opinion of something not necessarily total Biblical truth; and/or something that seems to cast doubt on the truthfulness of other passages.)
Another place this word is found in Scripture, prior to the one quoted above, is in the first book of Corinthians. It is found in the context of Paul having to reprimand some about the Passover, as they were not all following what they had been originally given; 1 Cor.11:19 “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” (KJV) This word has also been re-translated to say “factions” in the NKJ, which in fact is what heresy causes. Let us note that from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; (Emphasis with bolding in these quotes are mine)
HERESY— Hellenike hairesis. It was used not simply for a teaching or a course followed, but also for those devoting themselves to such pursuit, namely, a sect, or assembly of those advocating a particular doctrine or mode of life.” (ISBE)
A little later on and in the same works, under the same word, we find this; “Its application, with censure, is found in< 1 Cor.11:19m>; <Gal 5:20> margin, where it is shown to interfere with that unity of faith and community of interests that belong to Christians. (True Christians—see the article titled Christianity or “Christianity” for more.) There being but one standard of truth, and one goal for all Christian life, any arbitrary choice varying from what was common to all believers, becomes an inconsistency and a sin to be warned against. ----- (the American Standard Revised Version "parties") "when the divisions have developed into distinct and organized parties"; so also <1 Cor.11:19>, translated by the Revised Version (British and American) "factions." (ISBE)
Is that not in fact the very thing we see having happened to the COG and many of its doctrines within the last three decades? We find this in “The American Heritage Student dictionary” (© 1988 by Houghton Mifflin Company): (1) “An opinion or belief that is different from the established beliefs of a religion” (2) “An opinion (or doctrine) that is contrary to prevailing views”---(Those “prevailing views” for Christians should be that of Christ and what the Word of God reveals. After all, didn’t Christ say He was the way, the truth and the life, (John 14:6) and without Him, no one comes to the Father?)
So the solid teachings of the Bible are the doctrines the COG must go by, and are to be in line with what the Bible actually says, which Christ expects of His one true Church to be in belief of!
One can find many other definitions by going online to Google and other search engines, even other Biblical views are given, which go hand-in-hand with what we have given here thus far. Here is one more example, from the online “Urban Dictionary” under Heresy; (Emphasis by italic bolding in the quote below are mine)
“Heresy is from the Greek hairesis meaning, (to) choose, and by extension in Theological terms, "doctrines of men who have chosen to follow their own views." In general, heresy is a self-chosen doctrine not emanating from God's word. Any doctrine or teaching which is contradictory to established Church doctrine based on the Holy Bible, is called a heresy.” (Urban Dictionary)
It does not get much clearer than that and should help anyone understand why “heresies” are among the works of the flesh—they have no solid Godly inspirational backing what-so-ever—only a mix of truth combined with error, private interpretation, speculations at best and a “leaning to one’s own understanding”-see Prov.3:5.
(Those who can see, read and know this and yet continue to practice going against the revealed word of God on various points, will also be the first to ignore this truth, because it exposes them in what they are doing.)
This is not how the true COG that Jesus said He would build got its doctrines—(2Cor.4:2) nor should it be the way they are “established” in today’s Church of God congregations. It must be obvious and solidly proven from the many Scriptures that are of the same subject, found throughout the Bible. (Isa.28:9-10) Not one Scripture can cancel out another (John 10:35) but the teachers of heresy try to confuse others, especially of their own organizations, by forcing their ideas or theories into Scripture. This is called “lewdness” or “lasciviousness,” another work of the flesh, but creates dissensions or division with others in the body of Christ who are striving to hold fast to truth on these same subjects by not accepting these heresies. (This also means the taking of license to re-arrange in the mind or self-interpret some of the meanings of certain passages. LASCIVIOUS, LASCIVIOUSNESS— aselgeia NT:766 denotes "excess, licentiousness, absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness"; "lasciviousness" in Mark 7:22, one of the evils that proceed from the heart;” (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
This is something all true Christians are urged to avoid because of spiritual contamination or deception that CAN infect the whole body, if let go long enough! (1Cor.5:6 &Gal.5:9) Error seems to travel much faster than truth and there are those today who are always looking for the “new truth” that turns out to be nothing more than heresy. Paul admonished true converts in Rom.16:17-18 “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” (The “simple” here are “innocent or unsuspecting”—having not yet learned that putting confidence in human leaders, friends or even a mate (prone to dishonesty) is also warned against in Scripture. Ps.118:8-9 & Micah 7:5) Our confidence for Spiritual growth and a right understanding must be in God and His word, along with letting the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth. (John 16:13)
Paul also wrote the Corinthians about being subtly deceived by “another Jesus” with differing or contradictory doctrines, concerning the Gospel and other truths, being led away by another spirit! (2Cor.11:3) This was going on then and has come down to the COG organizations of today, some going from one heresy to another and never getting any closer to where they need to be Spiritually. (2Tim.3:7) Rev.3:19—is admonition for all the COG today and we should take note that one can be zealous for their own heresies, being in unity in them—which is still not true repentance or conformity with the Body of Christ and its doctrines. As we have already seen, heresies are works of the flesh, being ideas and opinions of men; a path chosen without the guidance by the Holy Spirit—but another spirit. (2Pet.1:20-21, 1John 4:1) However, those teaching subtle heresy may have an effect on more than just their “own people” with their doctrine, as time draws down to a close. (Matt.23:15, 24:24-25 & 2Pet.2:1-3) Christ did ask the question; “will I find faith when I come”. Some are having their faith diminished by false doctrine, lukewartm-ness or heresy of different sorts, (2Tim.2:18) under the guise of “doing the work” and learning “new truth”! Are there still new things to learn? Absolutely, but they will never make other truths already learned and solidly supported by Scripture less truthful than they originally were. Satan does a very good job of deceiving people into believing, then trying to “add in” their false reasoning (heresy) into some subject by claiming that it is being revealed by the Holy Spirit!
(Editor for TCOGMSO)